Friday, April 27, 2007

Mercedes super 4-door coupe

The spectacular BMW CS concept previously presented (just check Bangle 2.0) will not be alone in its fight against super-luxury 4-door coupes such as the Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide. We are pretty sure Mercedes will present something similar in a size above the S-class. A previous CGI from Autozeitung previews how the car could look like. The reader can see it below and guess what… it seems impossible to design a 4-door coupe that doesn’t look fantastic. All of these uber 4-door coupes from the real luxury brands are great but we wonder when something in the size and price of a Passat will arrive for the rest of us common folks. Precisely, the latest rumours on the 4-door coupe derivative of the VW Passat suggest that it’s late.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Peugeot 308 out in the open

Just weeks before the first official pictures are presented the new Peugeot was found uncovered in French auto-route. Thanks to the person that posted the pic in Peugeot forum. A bit of inside info: does the reader find the new PUG gorgeous?... well the interior will be spectacular in both design and quality.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bangle 2.0

Just a couple of weeks ago I was checking some Opel Vectra spyshots and noticed what looked like a Bangle-butt in the rear design. Then thought to myself: “if a brand like Opel starts copying such design feature maybe it’s time for BMW to introduce a new design language… of course, something freakish,… perhaps asymmetric…”. At the time didn’t anticipate that Bangle was going to mess with the front grille!...

The spectacular concept seen below is the new flag that signals the introduction of another evolution in BMW’s design language. The amazing object is a concept car that predicts a future 4-door coupe although it will not be in direct competition with the CLS. The new coupe will be bigger than a 7-series and pitched directly against the Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide. The relevance of this news bit (probably most of the readers have seen the concept) is in the following inside information: although the car will not end up looking exactly like the concept, the most controversial feature will be carried over for the production version and other cars from BMW. That’s right, that front design is for real! Apparently current front designs of BMW were not menacing enough…

Another interesting bit is related with marketing strategy: BMW did not want to appear to just follow Mercedes CLS so they didn’t make a 5-series based CLS competitor (although we believe it will arrive sooner or later). Furthermore, the 7-series based super-4-door-coupe is believed to be out of reach for Audi since Porsche would not allow its newly-owned brand to compete directly against the Panamera. It will be interesting to see how the now strong position of Porsche in VW-Audi group will influence future decisions on future cars.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Saab 9-3 restyling + AWD

Saab is getting ready a restyled 9-3 that will give the car a similar front design to the 9-5. That has not been a very successfull design although in fact the 9-5 is now a very old model having difficulties to compete with other cars in that class. Interestingly the 9-3 will also introduce the availability of AWD, probably of Haldex-type. We wonder if such new technology would not justify a deeper model change? The restyling does not seem enough to give new life to this model.

A completely new interior design is not expected altough it would be important due to the lacklustre of the current design. The 9-3 achieved a very strange feat: altough being based on a mainstream car platform (the Opel Vectra) and pretending Saab to be a sort of premium brand, it managed to have interior design and quality that is actually worse than on the original Vectra... We never understood this but such strange event might be related with the lack of direction, focus, strategy, etc. of the Saab brand in GM group.

Monday, April 16, 2007

3 Megane III

Pictured below are three CGI of possible interpretations of the Renault Megane III. These were presented by French magazine AutoPlus some weeks ago in an article that stated that the design of the next Megane was not frozen yet and that these were the alternatives on the table. We don’t consider AutoPlus a reliable source so did not bother too much about the article. However, this can be seen as an interesting exercise: how about putting ourselves in the decision-making position, pretend we are Mr. Ghosn when deciding (and BTW, the design of the Megane III is now frozen so this is really just an exercise) and choose the best version from the designer’s proposals. It’s very easy for enthusiasts, when seeing pictures of a new car, to say “this is wrong, they should have done this or that…”. Decision-makers have a much more difficult task because they have to think 3 years in advance and consider how the competitors could look, what are the design and technology trends, they have to think in the future, the auto-future!

The first proposal (the blue one) is highly unlikely. It has the new Renault face (like the other proposals) but the glass in the C-pillar is wrong. In the current and close future of cars in the European compact class the litlle window in the C-pillar doesn’t make much sense. Golf VI, Peugeot 308, next Astra, current Megane… only the Focus has a small one already assumed in its design language. Others like the Mazda 3 have it but these are not big-mainstream so don’t expect the next Megane to have the litlle window.

The second proposal is also wrong. Unfortunately, too good to be true. The design is more caricature than real life and we don’t expect Renault to be that brave. Particularly, the small greenhouse and large metal area in the profile are very un-French. We can see people in consumer clinics bitching about that “pas de lumi√®re… on se sent claustrophobe…”.

The third (the red one) is the closest to the final version. A more mature evolution of the current Megane adequately rounded in the most controverse features of the current model. A more composed design for a more composed car thanks to the new super-platform, already found in the Nissan Qashqai, that beyound multilink rear suspension and possibility of AWD will really stretch French superiority in suspension design and active and passive safety. Classier, safer, more mature… fitter, happier, more productive.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Caricature design

The nice sketch you see below is not of a future VW model but it is indeed one of the official sketches done during the design development of the current Golf Plus. Doesn’t look much like the final design, right? Unfortunately this is a very common event, the initial sketches are fantastic but very exaggerated, almost like caricatures.

This brings us to the idea, what if car manufacturers would be able to bring to life those caricature features of initial sketches? We can remember two cars where that actually was done: the Chrysler 300C and the BMW 1-series. The exaggerated proportions (very high shoulder line for example) and the way these cars look with big wheels are signs of this approximation. Both are great successes, design-wise and also in sales and image. So just maybe this features will be found in more new models… The frequent reader of auto-future might have noticed that sometimes we like to follow or anticipate new or future trends (like our EV-future series), and this time let us trademark caricature design, just in case.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mercedes C-sportcoupe

The next Mercedes sportcoupe follows a new trend in compact cars: upgrade to a new car without really making a new car. That is, keeping the most part of the platform unchanged and only making new panels and interior. This is rumoured to occur with the next Mercedes compact but also with the Peugeot 308 and VW Golf VI, for example. If one considers the level of sophistication that cars in this class achieved it seems rational to keep development cost low by keeping the most part of the underpinnings unchanged. Other key feature: compact cars have grown up a lot in recent years - there isn't much more margin to keep increasing width and length of cars in this class. This is another point for relaxing on the development of completely new platforms.

So the next Sportcoup√© will be just a major restyling of the current model. The platform and underpinnings are kept the same but a new skin will appear with a front design more closer to the new C-class W204. This will keep development costs very low and Mercedes can sell it for less money. But they won’t cuz they are in this business for profit and this will make them earn a lot of money.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

2008 Alfa Romeo Junior...

... or maybe Alfasud. How should it look like?... it should look gorgeous and agressive as a true AlfaRomeo. Based on the platform of the Grande Punto it could be the retro-car of Alfa Romeo. However, since all classic Alfas are RWD we think it is difficult to have iconic status in a Grande Punto package,... unless maybe if we consider the first Alfasud a classic!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

BMW mid-engine Z10 (Not)

Pictured below is a conceptual drawing of a future (in the words of site topspeed) mid-engine BMW Z10. The news is from some weeks ago and was received here with satisfaction, physically expressed in the form of drooling. The drawing has some McLaren F1 inspiration which is interesting and appropriate considering that the vintage supercar had a BMW V12 engine. Although very happy with the idea we were sceptics about it since no information was available on future BMW mid-engine cars but… there is a new top management at BMW so maybe they had new ideas and our dreams would come true. Since then several inside informers have been contacted in order to try to find some truth in the rumour but … nothing! Three well informed and reliable persons have clearly stated that there will be no mid-engine F430 fighter from BMW. Front-engine super-GT SLR competitor yes! Mid-engine, no!

Such was the disappointment that we asked again but no. Too much investment, no recent experience with mid-engine, not enough possibilities for sharing components with other models, etc. Considering the success of the Audi R8 as an halo model and the future F430-like mid-engine from Mercedes-McLaren we wonder if BMW is doing the right thing. Maybe if fans support the idea and strongly ask for it… The only thing for sure is that the folks at topspeed had a dream of a future supercar from BMW and decided to draw it themselves.

Monday, April 02, 2007

2008 Ford Ka

Small and with a Ford face, that must be a CGI of the new Ka. This small car joins one of the fastest growing segments in Europe fighting the infamous triplets (C1/107/Aygo), the new Twingo and the Fiat 500. The Fiat 500 will be a twin model of the Ka being both based in the same platform in a joint development and manufacturing program of Fiat and Ford. Incidentally, the European market and the small car segment seem to be popular for collaborations between different manufacturers... we have the PSA/Toyota job on the triplets and now the Fiat/Ford partnership for the Ka/500. A future trend for other market segments and manufacturers?... In any case the Ka will have a hard time in the market particularly considering the success of established players like the triplets and the supe-cute and iconic status that the Fiat 500 will have.