Demand for Lagonda Taraf and why Porsche canned the 989 four-door

To no-one’s surprise the Lagonda (ok, Aston Martin) Taraf will be sold in the UK, Europe, and not just in the Middle East as the company originally planned. This makes me wonder why did Aston Martin not make this car in the first place, rather than the unloved, too-small Rapide?… Continue Reading …

New Audi R8: nice, but why does it look like a facelift?

The all new R8 (no, not a facelift!)

Even as a big Audi fan I have to admit the new Audi R8 looks too much like a facelift of the old one. What’s more, the new details disappoint, from the new hexagonal snout (too blocky, especially the thick vertical parts either side of the main opening) , the loss of the “side blades” which made the previous car more distinctive, and finally the rear lights that somehow look cheap. I really wish the front was more like the spy-shot/fan-made rendering shown below, with its aggressively thin LED lights (never really learned whether this supposed “leaked picture” was real, but it could be it was a proposed treatment for the scrapped R4 baby brother).

Continue Reading …

Will the Range Rover Evoque Convertible be a success?

Range_Rover-Evoque-Convertible-ScoopIt’s been almost three years since Land Rover showed the Range Rover Evoque Convertible Concept at the 2012 Geneva Autoshow, and despite the fact that the concept looked very production-ready and roadworthy, Land Rover claimed they weren’t planning to take it into production. But rumors kept surfacing about production plans for the droptop Evoque, and earlier this week, spy shots were published of a camouflaged Evoque soft top being tested on public roads. From the pictures you can see the production version looks very similar to the concept, with the rear quarter reminding somewhat of the Audi A3 convertible, despite being higher on its wheels.

This won’t be the worlds first-ever luxury SUV-convertible crossover, as the world (or at least North America) has already seen the hugely unsuccessful Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet brought to the market, which looked even more strange than the Evoque. And there have been numerous “utility” SUV convertibles,… Continue Reading …

Fleet of Tesla Model S electric taxis at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Tesla-Model_S-taxi-Schiphol-Amsterdam-AirportAmsterdam Schiphol Airport has recently introduced the Tesla Model S as the preferred airport taxi for arriving passengers who need transportation to their destination. This means a total of 167 Tesla Model S 85 kWh sedans are currently in use by two taxi companies, giving Schiphol the largest fleet of all-electric taxis of any airport in the world. A third company, Taxi Electric, has run a Model S between Amsterdam and Schiphol airport for a few months already, in addition to its fleet of Nissan Leaf zero-emission taxis. The Tesla taxis will serve Schiphol for a period of at least four years, with an optional extension of up to eight years.

“This represents a crucial step in our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and become one of the world’s top three most sustainable airports’, explained Jos Nijhuis, Schiphol Group’s President and CEO, who happens to drive a Tesla Model S company car himself. The Tesla taxis are expected to run just over half of all taxi rides from the airport, as they’ll be supplemented with regular diesel-powered taxis during peak hours.… Continue Reading …

Paris Auto Show 2014: new models, part 3

Renault Espace

Renault-Espace-Paris-Auto_Show-201430 Years after the introduction of the groundbreaking first generation Espace and 11 years after the Espace IV, the long awaited fifth generation Renault Espace is shown as a production model in Paris. The exterior design isn’t exactly a surprise, as Renault have made no secret that the Initiale Paris concept car would be a clear indicator for the new Espace. That means it looks much less a large MPV and more a large crossover, although the Espace V will remain front-wheel drive only. After a number of canceled projects, the final production version will be built on Renault-Nissan’s Common Module Family platform that’s also used on the Nissans Qashqai and X-Trail and will be used for Renault’s version of the Qashqai as well as replacements to the Laguna and Megane line-up. That doesn’t sound good for the interior dimensions of the Espace, and from what I could see at the Paris Auto Show, the third row of seats is only suitable for little children, which leads to the question what the Espace has to offer what the Grand Scenic doesn’t. Renault has not yet announced plans for a stretched Grand Espace, but considering this was the most popular version of the previous model and also considering the cramped third seating row, it certainly would make sense to build such a version. European sales of the Espace peaked at just under Renault_Espace-Paris-Auto_Show-201465.000 units in 2004, but have declined to 8.200 sales last year. Renault anticipates 25.000 sales for the new generation, of which Germany and France would each take more than one quarter. But I don’t think those sales figures will be enough to outsell the Ford S-Max and take back the crown of the large MPV segment.

Skoda Fabia

Skoda-Fabia-Paris-Auto_Show-2014The third generation Skoda Fabia was the star of the Skoda stand, introduced as a five-door hatchback and a station wagon simultaneously, although the station wagon will arrive in showrooms a few months later. Renault and the VW group are the only ones to offer a station wagon version of a subcompact car, with the Renault Clio Estate, Dacia Logan MCV, Seat Ibiza ST as the only competitors to the Skoda Fabia combi. Skoda seems to have adopted the same design strategy that’s proven successful for Volkswagen and Audi, which is to slowly evolve the exterior design of their vehicles instead of trying to come up with a revolutionary new look. Skoda_Fabia-Paris-Auto_Show-2014The new Fabia is therefore still very recognizable as a Fabia, although critics may say that it looks too much like the old one. Nevertheless, the Fabia should again be able to peak at 200.000 annual sales in Europe, as both previous generations have done by a large margin.… Continue Reading …

Paris Auto Show 2014: new models, part 2

Jaguar XE

Jaguar-XE-Paris-Auto_Show-2014After the much maligned, but commercially relatively successful (9 years of production and 400.000 worldwide sales, of which half in Europe) Mondeo-based X-type, the Jaguar XE is the brand’s second attempt at a premium midsized sedan. This time they’ve developed the car from scratch and are hoping its rear-wheel drive layout will help make it the new benchmark of the segment in terms of driving pleasure. The XE will be equipped with an all-new generation of engines, also developed in-house, which will spread across the Jaguar-Land Rover line-up. The XE’s styling resembles that of the larger XF, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but they could’ve been a bit more flamboyant in my opinion. It absolutely looks stunning with the optional sport-pack but I think the standard version, like the white one on the picture, is a bit too uninspiring to compete in the tough premium midsize segment. However, making all their cars look alike has worked out for Audi for years, so I see why Jaguar chose to give the Jaguar_XE-Paris-Auto_Show-2014XE a familiar face. Jaguar is rather modest with their sales projections, as 30.000 units a year in Europe (of which two thirds in the UK) is meager when compared to the 200.000 sales of the BMW 3-series, but it would still make it the brand’s best selling model by far, and it would double total Jaguar sales in the continent.

Kia Sorento

Kia-Sorento-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Kia has shown the third generation of its Sorento large SUV, which has grown larger and wider, but is lower than its predecessor. The exterior design of the 7-seater has been softened, with a more rounded look to appear more crossover than SUV. The Sorento shares its platform with the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Carnival large MPV, the latter of which is no longer available in Europe. Fuel economy has become increasingly more important in Europe, and as a result the large SUV segment has shrunk considerably in the past decade. The second generation Sorento has never been able to come close to the sales figures of the hugely popular first Kia_Sorento-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Sorento, which peaked at almost 45.000 units. I expect the new generation to reach no more than one third of that figure as well. But with European sales of the Hyundai Santa Fe limited to supply shortages, that means the Sorento should be able to lead the large SUV segment in Europe again.… Continue Reading …

Paris Auto Show 2014: new models, part 1

Fiat 500X

Fiat-500X-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Fiat has taken the covers of its 500X small crossover in Paris. It’s technically identical to its cousin Jeep Renegade, but they are completely different in styling. Whereas the Renegade shows the square and rugged lines of a true Jeep, albeit in a Playmobil size, the 500X is easily recognizable as a member of the Fiat 500-family, with its rounded and huggable looks. Both will compete in the fast-growing small crossover segment, and will stand out from their mostly French competitors thanks to an optional four-wheel drive system, which is expected to make up about 20% of the 500X’s volume. Fiat projects a volume of around 60.000 units in Europe, which would place it in 5th position of the segment. Fiat_500X-Paris-Auto_Show-2014The Renegade will add another 25.000 to that tally. Europe’s most important market for the 500X besides its home market Italy is France, as that’s where small crossovers are the most popular. But the biggest market worldwide will be the USA, which are expected to take about one quarter of 500X sales worldwide.

Ford Mondeo

Ford-Mondeo-Paris-Auto_Show-2014After having already been on display at the Paris Auto Show in 2012, the Ford Mondeo is finally ready to hit the European market. Even though its design is already almost three years old, it still looks fresh and from some bystanders I heard they liked it much better than the new Volkswagen Passat, which has been styled very conservatively. The engine line-up will start with Ford’s already famous 1,0 liter 3-cylinder Ecoboost engine which also powers the Fiesta and Focus. It offers more power and more fuel economy than the 1,6 liter 4-cylinder engine it replaces. This engine should prove especially popular in markets with government subsidies on the most fuel efficient vehicles. Besides the diesel engines, which will take the bulk of sales, Ford will also offer the Mondeo Hybrid. It will be priced similar to the diesel version, giving buyers who’d rather not drive a diesel an alternative powertrain. A plug-in hybrid version, as offered in the USA as the Fusion Energi, is not planned for Europe, but it’s ready to be launched if demand for such a vehicle justifies bringing it to the market. Ford-Mondeo-Wagon-Paris-Auto_Show-2014Ford has not disclosed sales projections, but it won’t be a secret they’re aiming for a number one spot in the midsize segment. But I don’t think the Mondeo will outsell the Passat and I see a potential for 150.000 sales per year in Europe for the Mondeo, the bulk of which will go to the UK and Germany.… Continue Reading …

Spyker B6 Venator ready for production

The small yet ambitious Dutch supercar company Spyker has revealed the production version of its B6 Venator, which is planned to go into production in 2015. A concept version of the Venator, which is Latin for “hunter”, was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 2013, and a convertible Spyder version was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Both concept vehicles were based on the German Artega GT. Spyker promised to have the Venator production ready by now, they decided to make some last minute changes to the compact sports coupe, although the delay will undoubtedly also be related to the need for a capital injection into the company.

Spyker-B6-Venator-front

Spyker B6 Venator. Photo credit: Spyker

The past couple of months, Spyker has been working to a new design for its smallest car yet. “After careful research of our potential market we’ve concluded that we could make the Venator appeal to a larger audience with just a few tweaks to the original concept.” according to John Walton, Chief Commercial Officer at Spyker. As a result, the sports car has returned to the drawing board shortly after its initial introduction. The final result is a car that’s been slightly stretched to offer increased interior space and luggage room. “The car will have a longer wheelbase, giving us the possibility to add a rear seat while offering more capacity for baggage. We’ve found that our potential customers appreciate practicality more than we initially thought.” The new layout is either a 2+2 with only room for small children in the rear seat or a 2+0 in which the rear seats are removed to create a larger storage area with leather straps. … Continue Reading …

Book preview: Spada. The long story of a short tail

ercole-spadaBelgian automotive writer Bart Lenaerts and his wife, photographer Lies De Mol, have published a new book. People familiar with their previous work will know that this means something special has been created once again. The creators of the already legendary automotive bible “Waft” and its equally must-read sequel “Waft 2”, always capture the imagination of the reader and don’t follow the beaten track.

“Spada. The long story of a short tail” describes the history and career of the Italian automotive designer Ercole Spada and his son Paolo. Over his 50-year long career, Spada has designed and worked on a number of famous and price-winning designs, like the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ and Lancia  Flavia. Together they have created the spectacular Spada Codatronca. But knowing Lenaerts, don’t expect a simple recital of Spada’s work, this book will read like an exciting story about passion for automotive design, and the relationship between a father and his son. Lenaerts is always in search of a different perspective, and his wife tops it off visually with exquisite photographic decoration.

The new book is in the same size and layout as their previous books, so 30cm x 30cm hardcover, 304 pages and can be ordered through their website waft.be. Early birds ordering the book before June 6th get a € 10,- discount on the € 90,- purchase price. If you think that’s a lot of money for a book I agree with you, but bear in mind this is not just another biography, more like a passionate narrative of the man behind the design, and features Spada designs that have never been published before. The connoisseurs who have read the limited edition “Waft” books and “Masters of modern car design”, know these are true collector’s items worth every cent.

Regular readers have been personally invited to pick up their copy on the evening of June 5th in the Brussels Automotive museum Autoworld, signed and presented by Ercole Spada himself. The museum will have a special collection on display featuring some of Spada’s designs, like the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, Alfa TZ1, de Alfa Junior Zagato and the Lancia’s Fulvia and Flaminia Zagato.… Continue Reading …

Geneva Auto Show 2014: details of every new production model, part 1

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Alfa Romeo’s 4C sports car has been well received, at the Geneva Motor Show Alfa Romeo launched the convertible version, which will have a total weight of less than 1,000 kg. The body of the 4C Spider is made from the same fiberglass and has the same four-cylinder 1750 Turbo petrol engine teamed with the TCT automatic twin clutch transmission. Alfa-Romeo-4C-Spider-Geneva-Autoshow-2014

Audi S1

Audi launched the new flagship models of the A1 range: the S1 and S1 Sportback. The S1, which also previews the upcoming A1 facelift with a new design for headlamps and bumpers, is fitted with a 2.0 TFSI engine, which produces 231 hp. The top speed is 250 km/h, while it accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 5.8-5.9 seconds. The average fuel consumption is 7.0-7.1 l/100 km and the equivalent CO2 emissions 162-166 g/km. … Continue Reading …