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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Summer 2017 [w/ poll]

After each motor show Bart and I put together our thoughts on the latest debuts, looking at them from the perspective of someone who’s passionate about motoring, but also trying to peer into our crystal balls and see whether each model will be a market success or a dud. This time, though, we’re running the article off-season, following a period of a few weeks when a few crucial cars made their debut.

Audi A8

Kriss: so-so

To me the new Audi A8 is a very frustrating car, because there is so much here that is interesting and truly cutting-edge, and yet the end product is not that you would call a “slam dunk”. On the plus side, the new car will offer the possibility (key phrase, will come back to that latter) of Level 3 autonomous driving, it features a top-drawer mechanical setup with a fully-hybridized engine lineup, a new design direction and, as always, a stunning interior with a world-first feature… the foot massager for rear passengers. OK, so that last things is a bit of a joke, but you sort of have the feeling that they threw the kitchen sink at the A8 to make it stand out against the 7-series and S-Class. But it’s not whether they’ve done enough, it’s whether they did it well enough that has me worried for this model. And so, the much vaunted “new design direction” amounts to little else than, at the risk of oversimplification, some extra creases, a super-wide front grille and a car-wide LED strip at the back. The interior is also a mixed bag: it features some really bold shapes and touch-screen controls that appear to be as good as it gets, yet overall it’s hard to escape the feeling that it all feels like a Passat Plus Plus. And to top it off the claim of Level 3 autonomy is misleading – yes, the car has the capability to do it, but right now no country will allow it, so in effect you’re buying tech you can’t (yet) use. 

Bart: so-so

I have to agree with Kriss on this, the A8 has never reached the same status as its two German rivals, even though the Audi brand as a whole has moved up to par with Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and even though every generation has been up there from a technology perspective. As Kriss explained, this won’t change with the new generation, which will go further in autonomous technology than any other car has ever gone so far, although there is one way in which the new A8 appears to take a (small) step back: ever since the first generation, the A8 has prided itself on its Aluminium Space Frame which reduced weight in order to compensate for the A8’s standard all-wheel drive technology compared to the rear-wheel drive setup of its competitors. In the outgoing generation, 92% of the bodyshell was made of aluminium, but this will be reduced to just 58% in the new generation, increasing the weight of its body from 230kg (509 lb) to 281kg (621 lb), even despite the use of some carbon fiber for the rear seat back. This is the result of steel offering better crash protection for the batteries of the plug-in hybrid version. In terms of design, the A8 makes a larger step from its predecessor than Audi’s recent launches A4, A5 and Q5, but Audi remains very conservative in a segment where buyers are more open to daring design than you’d expect (p.e. BMW 7-Series E65, Porsche Panamera).

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Honda shows off new Accord [w/ poll]

Today Honda released pictures of its new Accord, the car it hopes will not just take the brand back to the top of the mid-sized segment, but also buck the trend and lead to absolute sales rise in a segment that has been suffering from customers migrating for the last few years. 

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Hyundai Kona: this is it [w/ poll]


After what seems like years of teaser and leaks the first official pictures of the Hyundai Kona have been revealed, and we finally get a proper look at what Hyundai’s new challenger to the Nissan Juke looks like.

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Look-a-like: VW Arteon and…

I have to admit I have a soft spot for the outgoing VW CC (née Passat CC) – it was a handsome car, especially once the facelift sharpened up its front design and rid of the weird oval graphics in the rear lights, and it seemed like a reasonable step up from the more humdrum Passat (in fact, the nickname the press gave it before it was launched, “Passat Plus”, captured its market placement pretty perfectly). What’s more, it sold pretty well, reaching around 30,000 units in its best years both in Europe and in the US. But now VW has grander ambitions for its indirect replacement, the Arteon, and wants the model to go after Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4-series Gran Coupe. To enable this the carmaker has allowed the Arteon to grow in size, and given it sharper styling which it hopes will imbue the model with a sense of classy sportiness. So far so good, it’s just a pit that in the process the Arteon ended up looking quite a bit like another decidedly non-premium model…

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Look-a-like: Fiat Argo interior and…

There are many ways in which Fiats have stood out over time: innovation, good looks, spaciousness, charm and value-for-money. You’ll notice that one of the things not on this list is interior design, with Fiat interiors more often than not being just a sea of gray plastic (notable exceptions include the 500 range, especially the original small 500, and cars like the mid-1990s Coupe and Barchetta). Given the lack of form in this respect it makes sense that Fiat would look elsewhere in the industry for inspiration for the interior of the newly-revealed Argo, and what better place to look than at the carmaker that is seen by many as leading the industry in terms of interior design (if not always quality).

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Look-a-like: VW Atlas and…

When the VW Atlas was finally revealed after what felt like the longest gestation period the main responses that could be heard were those of disappointment. “This is it?”, most people said, “it’s way too conservative”, said others. And then there was a sizable group of people who thought the Atlas was straight-up ugly, mainly because of the character line that runs down the side of the car. In fact, not only is the concave/convex line controversial, it’s also very reminiscent of the side-treatment another less-than-beautiful SUV received a while back…

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Smaller-engined versions of top-end cars [w /poll]

The past year has seen an interesting development in the arena of exotic and ultra-luxurious cars – the emergence of smaller-engined versions of cars that were previously available only with super-high-output 12-cylinder options. First was the facelifted Ferrari FF, now called the GTC4 Lusso, which in addition to the all-wheel-drive V12 version became available as an “entry level” model with rear-wheel-drive, powered by a turbocharged V8 engine taken from the 488 GTB and California T. Then Bentley released the oft-rumored Bentayga powered by, the sacrilege, a V8 turbodiesel seemingly taken straight out of the Audi SQ7. Are they a sign of things to come, smart decisions by the brands from a marketing perspective, or foolish endeavors to chase short-term profits at the expense of the brands’ long-term allure?

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BMW 1-series hatch going front-wheel drive [w/ poll]

Photo credit: CarScoops

We don’t usually devote much space to spy shots here at CarSalesBase, but in this instance I figured I’d make an exception given that it might lead to an interesting discussion. In particular, after years of speculations and anticipation, we finally have the first pictures of the third-generation 1-series hatchback, which unlike the first two generations will be primarily front-wheel drive.

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Look-a-like: Bentley Bentayga and…

The Bentayga Bentayga has gotten plenty of flack ever since it came out, and pretty deservedly in my opinion. First, there is the shape with its long front overhang, which largely determined by hard points inherited from its platform twin, the Audi Q7, and which lacks the gloriously long hood that gives the Mulsanne and even the Continental GT their recognizable look. But Bentley did itself no favors with the detailing either – the oft-maligned cock-eyed front, the gauche fake air outlets in the front fenders, or the overdrawn “power curve” over the rear wheels that was cribbed from the Continental GT and forced onto a slab-sided SUV surface. But my biggest disappointment was always the rear, which is the worst thing for a luxury car – anonymous. The blame here lies mostly with the rear lights, which on top of being rather bland also remind of those of a mainstream non-premium car…

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Look-a-like: Opel Insignia and…

The new Opel/Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport is a fine-looking machine, though I may be a little bit less hot on it than some of the more enthusiastic commentators on the web. In particular, I feel that its detailing is a bit under-resolved, the rear is bland, and the whole looks less sporty than the model it replaces. One thing that I have to say I like a lot on the new model is the new prominent grille, which gives the car an aggressive aura that was maybe missing from the previous model. It also gives it, however, a more than a passing resemblance to one of its more premium competitors…

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