#DesignTop5 4-door saloons

Thanks to a car designer named Matteo Licata I wanted to expand on another Twitter discussion. At this link Matteo complied a nice write up of his Top 5 saloon cars (with 4 doors). Since the first day I saw the Rover SD1 that my father bought from our neighbour (in 1987?) I have always preferred a more sleek silhouette to the 4 door 3 box type of car. As a family we grew up with hatchbacks, estates, and even that Rover fastback. At some point my dad was forced to drive company cars which included some saloons, such as a Sierra Sapphire (a comfortable little shed), and even a Ford Orion (not as bad as we expected it to be), but mostly given a choice we had hatchbacks. I’ve only ever owned one saloon car myself in 24 years, and that was a Hillman Avenger. Nevertheless I decided to choose my own favourite designs in this globally popular car shape. In no particular order…

Firstly I agree with Matteo that the Citroen DS is possibly the greatest “saloon” car ever designed. It looks nothing like a traditional 3 box saloon! It is so different I don’t even count it myself, it is just so far removed from all preceding or following designs. So that might be my no.1. and 5 runners up could be…

Mercedes W124

Surely the definitive Mercedes? Solid, but light, formal but elegant. Not too big, not too small. I’ve driven one briefly and it felt (and looked) like granit formed into a car shape, from exterior right through to it’s wonderful interior. Never to be bettered?

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Alfa Romeo 164

Yes the Alfa 156 is truly stunning. Beautiful and interesting at the same time. The 164 though, is outstandingly restrained and beautiful. Formal, and informal. Quite utilitarian looking for an Italian car, with its many plastic panels and rubbing strips- but at the same time it is elegant and sophisticated. Pure magic that only Italian designers can conjure up!

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Rover Sterling

Yes, I loved the SD1 and was amazed that Rover replaced it with a saloon (but rapidly added the fastback style too). I had a Matchbox model of this, and it predated the Alfa 164 with a similar look (two-tone body) by one year (1986, then 1987 for the Alfa). I loved this linear, modern high-tech look in my youth. It is so wonderfully 80s, but at the same time expertly executed in it’s design details. The original styling model is shown here, from 1983! Find out more from Keith Adams excellent website.

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Lincoln Continental 1961 – 1969

The definitive long, low, wide and truly American saloon car design. The Wachowskis new what car was needed to represent the peak of the 20th century in The Matrix, and it was this one (a 1963 model actually).

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Jaguar XJ40

Controversial, but again my love of rectangular saloon shapes means I genuinely prefer the XJ40 over the XJ series III that it was supposed to replace. The subtlety of this design is fantastic. It borrowed from global design trends then expertly mixed those with more traditional forms of Jaguar.

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Audi A6 (C5)

The design lecturers example. Perfect proportions, almost to the point of not knowing if it’s FWD, or RWD or perhaps AWD (Quattro as intended). The arc of the DLO and it’s perfectly balanced placement within the wheelbase, combined with the dangerously unadorned rear end (imagine a tow hook added, or an exhaust pipe!) this was the Apple iPhone of saloon cars.

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Skyline R32

An oddity. When I discovered these existed I was amazed. Did they design the 2 door first, then just extend it to be a saloon? Like coach built limousines. To see a sporty shape like this, as a core part of a saloon design (not bulged and added post-design) is unusual. Subaru used this theme on many saloons after, but Nissan did it first!

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Lagonda Taraf and Aston Martin Rapide

Declaring a personal interest here as quite a lot of my friends, and even family, work at Aston… but I really can’t help loving all the 4-doors they have produced over the last few years. The Rapide was a beautiful if somewhat impractical +2 development of the DB9 shape. Then later Lagonda was reborn with the astonishing low volume Taraf model. Enormously long, but aimed at giving a massive amount of rear passenger space, the shape reminds of the original William Towns Lagonda while also connecting with other Aston form language. This design might have inspired many other big saloon designs that have followed, such as the VW Arteon or the Mazda Vision Coupe. I’ve cheated a bit here including both, but there’s actually 7 cars mentioned in this post!

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Update: my inspiration for this post has now created a YouTube video showing his choices! Check it out, it’s fun! https://youtu.be/CcbLSEBHyNA

CX-5 + 12 = C-X17 (pt2)

CX-5 + 12 = C-X17 (pt2)

Rear view… comparison of Jaguar and Mazda design language for their crossover vehicle designs. Both look great, but so similar…

CX-5 + 12 = C-X17

CX-5 + 12 = C-X17

Comparison of just how close the Jaguar and Mazda design language has become recently… (both look great in my opinion).

the car industries coolest brand…?

I received this email from our co-blogger here, regarding a design talk given some months ago by current head of Advanced Design at Jaguar, Julian Thompson. It relates to the CX-17 crossover concept, and also gives us clues to the deep rooted changes in Jaguar management that have enabled the design-led (Apple like?!) resurgence of this great brand. Thompson and Ian Callum have fully vindicated the new management’s confidence in them, surely?

Julian Thompson at the talk pointed out that Jag were stuck in a rut. Ford had transformed the quality and reliability of the products but they had stuck to the same look. This was because Ford used ‘consumer focus groups’ where they asked the consumer, the customer, what they wanted. Even worse Thompson pointed out they did this in the USA as that was Jags biggest market at the time. So what did the consumer say they wanted? Well as they were mainly 55 year old company directors they wanted the cars to STAY THE SAME, to LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME as the previous model. Jag listened, and the S-Type, previous XJ and X-Type were born. Sales figures went from bad to worse. Average consumer age went from bad to worse too! Or at least didn’t improve. Profits evaporated.

The new management threw this out of the window.

The next bit I am adding myself, as Thompson didn’t say it:

I believe they decided to look at what consumers are actually DOING rather than what they were saying. What they were DOING was buying super modern, sporty, diesel BMWs.

So this spawned the XF (commercial, diesel) and the new XJ (stunning modernity) and what happened? They sold THREE TIMES as many XFs as S-Types and now look at Jag! Making profit and storming on to be one of THE hottest brands on the planet. Even if you include any brand, not just cars, Jaguar is COOL. The F-Type has already sold 1000 units within 2 months!!! Despite the high price.

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throw away your sketches

Great video here of Jaguar designer Wayne Burgess showing how much designers “store” that image of the car they’ve just spent 2 or 3 years designing! The lesson here my friends comes at the end of the video (no spoilers!). Learn not to be precious about your work… something young artists find hard at first. You can always draw it again! It is simply a few lines on a piece of paper, what is in your head is what really counts.

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The summer of next year will be the final chapter in Jaguar’s design turnaround it seems, thanks to the long awaited release of the F-Type sports car. 50 years have passed since the legendary E-Type, and the many false starts that I can remember of a successor in name, or abilities. Since the scoops of the 90’s, that turned out to be named XK8… to the year 2000 F-Type concept car, by Keith Helfet’s team (Helfet had form, by designing the wonderful XJ220)– which we were assured would be going into production, it seems that a Jaguar free from corporate conservatism under Ford and with strong design leadership of Ian Callum and Julian Thompson, it finally has the balls to do it! I’m also writing this blog- thanks to another stunning embrace of modernism by the normally old school Jaguar, a viral marketing company contacted this blog. I’m very glad to hear from them, and happy to share the images and info sent to me. Bravo Jag, now you’re really talking to the next generation of Jag buyers and we want to welcome the new Jaguar into our arms, as our very own, very cool British brand! So- what did they send me? Well, we have some great videos showing the prototypes testing, and just listen to that engine… glorious. A couple of pics of the prototype, where we can clearly see the design is based on the CX-16 concept car, but in convertible guise. There’s also a website, hashtag #FTYPE, and twitter account for us all to bookmark information whichever way we like in the year leading up to launch. There’s even a Facebook page…


try this poll to let me know what you think!

The full press release is below:

Further information about F-TYPE

Announced at the New York Motor show, and over fifty years since the launch of its predecessor, the iconic E-TYPE; the stunning two-seater F-TYPE sports car will be the newest addition to Jaguar’s model range.

Utilising Jaguar’s industry-leading knowledge of all-aluminium construction, the F-TYPE will launch as a convertible, and a strict two-seater with the focus uncompromisingly on delivering driver reward. A range of petrol engines will be available (V6 and V8) – and all will deliver stunning sports car performance.

Currently undergoing development prior to going on sale mid-2013, the F-TYPE is being thoroughly tested ahead of its launch; taking on the most challenging roads, extremes of temperature and the harshest environments.

The core appeal of Jaguar’s cars is their sporting heart, and that heart will beat stronger than ever before in the F-TYPE. Its development is a vivid representation of the confidence and ambition of the Jaguar brand, and the desire amongst the engineers and design team to produce a world-leader in a market segment that we have been absent from for too long.

Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, said: “A true sports car needs to be pure in both its purpose and its form; to have the opportunity to produce such a car for Jaguar has been a privilege both for myself and for my team. The C-type, D-type and E-type Jaguars were all sports cars that held true to this principle in their era, and the F-TYPE will hold true to that same principle in its time, a time that is soon to arrive.”

The F-TYPE will join Jaguar’s existing range of cars – the XF saloon and Sportbrake, XJ saloon and XK coupe/convertible. Full F-TYPE technical and range details will be announced later in 2012. It will go on sale in mid 2013

I do love current Jags- and this is a dream family car for me right now.

inspirations & icons: the birth of the jaguar C-X75

Lovely video here of a stunning concept car

right, wrong and french- the future of the electric car

A glimpse of the future right now in 2011, are the new wave of electric or hybrid cars. Like the late great Steve Jobs achieved with the iPad, the car manufacturers of this world are attempting to move our vehicles from one age to the next. Where Jobs has moved us from the PC age, to the true home computing age, cars are about to move from using fossil fuels to much more environmentally friendly means of propulsion. The interesting thing here is that the car manufacturers seem to have got this all wrong, a lot like Microsoft did with tablet computing, they are applying their old business models and old engineering brains to this new problem. So I’d like to explain my point by putting each new hybrid/electric or whatever vehicle into right or wrong categories. So let’s start with wrong:

These cars just haven’t been designed with the correct attitude or market positioning in my opinion- the result is a product inferior in almost every way to a standard fossil fuel car. We can look to other product categories, such as computing with the ipad, or a more mature analogy of the flatscreen TV market. Here the manufacturers and innovators of plasma and LCD flat panel TVs absolutely did not aim to replace the average cheap tube TV. Remember we all had 21″ cheap brands, from Argos? Did Pioneer launch a decontented, basic functionality, 21″ plasma TV? No. Flatscreens entered the market at 42″ size, and they were not at all affordable. In fact the first one on sale was a Phillips 42″ which cost $15,000 in 1997 (Pioneer launched theirs later that year). People had literally never seen or heard of TVs as expensive and as large as these new generation. Early adopters with plenty of cash loved them, and “the big plasma” TV remains a status symbol, as the recent riots news stories were keen to remind us (despite them being cheap Argos items themselves now). So, early adopters are charged huge prices for extremely advanced technology- and the profits from these sales are used to push innovation and manufacturing into larger volumes and cheaper methods so that gradually prices dropped. We are now at a stage where all TVs are slim, LCD (an even more outrageously expensive technology at first) and larger than we ever had before. So why on earth do car manufacturers think they can immediately offer a car- with completely new technology, at the same price and to the same customers as current fossil fuel cars which they have spent the last 70+ years refining into a cost effect product? Complete madness, and the result is severely compromised vehicles using cheap underdeveloped technology solutions, which are still not cheap enough, so the manufacturers are forced to subsidise the true cost and make no profit at all! Here’s my list of the worst offenders.

Honda Insight: A rough, cheap feeling and sounding hybrid (according to journalists) which was designed with only one purpose- to undercut the price of the Toyota Prius. No thanks Honda- and you should know better (in fact your engineers do… see the FCX Clarity).

Nissan Leaf: A loss making marketing exercise aimed at making Nissan famous for introducing the first proper electric car. I owned a Nissan which beeped and warned me frantically when it’s petrol-filled fuel source reached only 100km range left. The Nissan Leaf’s total range when fully charged? 100km….  let’s hope they didn’t use the same dashboard warning software.

Reva G-Wiz: Not much to say about this- except it exploited a loophole in one particular city’s laws. Barely even a car, simply a plastic box with a close resemblance to those trolleys you can sit your kids in at the supermarket.

Mitsubishi i-Miev: Too narrow and unsafe looking- but a decent design effort for a city car, still aiming at being cheap rather than cool though. Marketing nightmare, I mean look at it? Who is it for?

Ok- so those guys got it wrong- but guess what, some manufacturers are getting it right and it is no accident that they are either totally new companies not tied down by traditional or restricted thinking (some have been started by total novices!), or they are companies that are so old they actually needed to think radically to stay alive and relevant. These companies are charging- quite rightly- a premium for this future technology. They are designing state-of-the-art transportation, that uses extreme engineering and new technologies and they are aiming those expensive and exciting products at rich and excitable new age consumers. The early adopters are of course very happy to lead the way, to show the world they are changing it with their wallet. These are the future success stories in the automotive arena- perhaps Telsa or even Fisker might in future become the Apple of cars? Who wants to bet that Tesla will be number 1 auto manufacturer in the world (currently Toyota) 25 years from now?

Tesla Model S: Not completely ground-breaking in exterior design, but it does have that modern electric car aesthetic of smooth surfaces and less body openings than usual. It also has an astonishing touch screen interior (as does the Fisker) and the entire company is doing things very differently, run by an ex-internet billionaire (paypal founder). This is Tesla’s second model, the first being a product that had almost no practical application other than to show-off the technology and to tempt those rich early adopters into joining in the development party. Genius.

Fisker Karma: (see my previous post): Made in Finland, designed by a Dane in California- who set-up his company there because he realised silicon valley was about to become the new Motor City…. I would bet that he will be correct. He (Henrik Fisker) also designed the Tesla Model S, to which they had a little falling-out over because they claimed he made it purposely less sexy than his own car! The Karma breaks all the traditional design rules because it starts from an entirely new packaging proposition- much like the plasma TV gave us “hang-on-the-wall” thinness. There is even a version that revives that ultimate luxury car product- the shooting brake!

Rolls Royce 102-EX: A real no-brainer here, Rolls Royces are for people to be driven in, who keep them in garages with an attendant driver to charge it up for them and electric motors ensure properly silent running. Owners are also willing to spend any amount to have the world not hate them for their opulence…

BMW i8: The i3 and the i8 from BMW are such radical thinking from BMW, they decided to create an entire new sub-brand, with a new design language also. They are made from materials that BMW have never used in full production before, and in the case of the i8 they emphasize pure performance. It has perfect 50/50 weight distribution, and 0-60 of 5 seconds, both cars use unique packaging only possible because of their EV or hybrid design. A lot like the Karma this new space utilisation creates a completely radical shape- not just design details, but the entire form and layout of the car moves us into the future. Wonderful!

Jaguar CX75: I absolutely love this car, look at how utterly gorgeous it is. Concept car perfection- and now destined for production in 2013. This is Jaguars first hybrid car and they have chosen (unlike Toyota, Nissan) to put it right at the very top of their range, as a halo product. This is of course genius, and makes our rich friends pay for the technology that we might all be driving with in the future. The CX75 concentrates on performance by using absolutely amazing turbine engines to charge the battery packs!

The French!

Renault Twizy: Now this is simply too odd to call- typically the crazy French are doing neither a premium halo product, nor attempting to simply give us an ordinary car with EV tech (ok, so Renault are actually rolling out a whole range which includes the most boring cheap looking saloon I’ve ever seen). No, Renault have decided to make a vehicle that is hard to label- a four wheeled covered motorbike for city streets. It is hard to guess exactly who might buy this device, or if we might see bunches of them droning up the slow lane of the M6 in the UK, or tottering through the vast long forest roads here in Finland (no is the answer to both) trying to swerve around a Moose. This is not a car- but it looks like fun!

As usual, here’s a gallery (and slideshow) of my research for this post.

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