Sunday, October 19, 2014

Can The Tesla Model S P85D Really Outperform the McLaren F1?

Having considered how legendary luxury brands can both be challenged and learn from Tesla and its continued drive for improvement let's take a closer look at what the dual motor P85D can do against its competition. And perhaps more importantly can it really outperform the legendary McLaren F1? Officially Tesla quotes the P85D and its combined  691 all wheel drive horsepower as  needing only 3.2 seconds to reach 60 mph and 11.8 for the quarter mile. Given the right conditions we can see someone dip under 3 seconds in the signature test, once though to be an almost unbreakable performance barrier.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tesla As Foil To German Luxury Brands

The news that Mercedes sold a couple of thousand more cars than Audi in September wasn't particularly noteworthy in itself. It was however a great reminder at the total volume that the leading German luxury brands including BMW are doing worldwide putting them ahead of many "mainstream" brands. The brands all claim that sales aren't what they are chasing but sales are linked to profits and combined the two powers certainly impact the cars the brands produce. The other piece of news from last week, the Tesla D intro, actually serves as quite the foil for the Big 3 German luxury brands. Tesla's worldwide sales for all of 2014 will be about what Mercedes and BMW do in one month in the US alone, but it's the progression of improvement over at Tesla that makes it noteworthy. The D is set to match if not even surpass comparable AMG, M and RS models acceleration wise well up into big ticket range. The leap in performance and assistive technologies over the original Model S looks like an incredible commitment to the product and the vision of creating their version of the best possible car out there. It's the kind of product improvement that makes you question how true to words are the German brands to their famous taglines and what more that they could do if they were focused more on product rather than profit. Could they push even more performance today or make designs that much more daring and stunning? It will be intriguing to see over the next few years how the Big 3 change their products in response, if they do at all. Possibly completely uninfluenced, the Audi LA Auto Show concept is something to watch with Audi letting go of some of its design restraint. It's the kind of thinking that the established brands might need in the future.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Biggest Technological Failure of This Decade

Each on their own the engineering teams of BMW, Chrysler, General Motor and Mercedes have produced some amazing products over the years. In a rare case of teamwork, cooperation and perhaps desperation the four diverse brands teamed up on the Dual Mode Hybrid System in a project called the Global Hybrid Partnership. The combined engineering synergy resulted in a much hyped hybrid powertrain too complex to explain yet one promising the world. As with many overhyped projects the Global Hybrid Partnership began to dissolve literally as soon as the first models hit dealerships and saw some of the brands sell fewer hybrids than Ferraris Enzos.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Most Memorable Cars on the Screen

Cars and movies have been around for about as many years and it didn't take long for the two to form an inseparable bond that would yield many classics over the years. From James Bond and the DB5 to Steve McQueen and the Mustang and Marty McFly and the DeLorean, cars have starred in movies just as much as the actors. Likewise Miami Vice, Magnum P.I., Knight Rider, and Dukes of Hazzard have made their corresponding cars famous on the TV screen. While these iconic collaborations have withstood the test of time here are a few recent ones.

Breaking Bad: Pontiac Aztek

Before Breaking Bad swept all the Emmys this past year and Walter White entered the empire business the Pontiac Aztek's only claim to fame was making essentially every ugliest car list there is. These days the first thought spotting an Aztek is to quickly scan the area to stay clear of any possible kingpin danger. The show came too late to help the Aztek or Pontiac but it does leave the Aztek with a slightly more respectable legacy.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We Will Buy What We Want To Buy

The power of a simple yet bold design is something that is hard to put in perspective at times. It may come as a surprise but the "Geländewagen " G class AMG is the best selling AMG model in the United States. The slowest, heaviest, worst handling AMG you can buy is the most popular one in the land. AMG is spending millions on its Formula 1 program but its most popular model relies on recirculating ball steering, live axles and aerodynamics of a box. The AMG model makes up over 60% of all Gs sold and sales worldwide are surging this past decade. Equipped with the same twin-turbo V8, the ML63 and even the larger GL63 AMG easily out accelerate the G class and slay it in every performance category. In fact even the Ford SVT Raptor and Ram Power Wagon on knobby tires demolish it on the skidpad, as does a 4 ton dually. This matters little to the G class as sometimes a design catches fire and the image it projects becomes everything. The G class enjoys tremendous popularity among image conscious celebrities many years after the Hummer lost its popularity even though the G is the thirstiest SUV on sale in America today. Brands will spend billions on developing new platforms and designs and then millions more advertising them but sometimes as the G proves one of your hottest products will be the one you don't spend any money on. It's hard to understand but people will buy what they want to buy! And all you can do is give them what they want.

The G Still Looks Great

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Outside Perspective Can Be Awesome

At times you think you know it all and you have considered all the angles to the story only to be rudely awakened when something new appears. The common perception is that the minivan segment is on a permanent decline never to be relevant again. Perhaps a Volkswagen hippie bus revival could make it exciting, but that ain't happening. Enter a little outside perspective from France that shows there is something still left to be done with the minivan shape. The Renault Espace has always had spacey styling and Renault even stuffed an 800 horsepower Formula 1 V10 into it before. Thus it's not unexpected that the newest Espace is the most stylish looking van you will ever find. About 10 inches shorter than American vans and lacking sliding doors the Espace nevertheless has an abundance of style that makes you believe that the van isn't quite dead, yet. Perhaps Nissan can take a gamble on it as you can almost pass it off as a crossover.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Baby Designs That Rule

Shrinkage in general is never a good thing whether from the warehouse, your bank account or from your favorite sweater. It's also true in design as at best a shrunken-down design ends up being cute but rarely fierce or gorgeous. Fortunately there are exceptions as the following three recent "baby" designs prove that a tailored slim fit look can do wonders at times. Not only do all three do an excellent job of adapting the brand design to their smaller proportions but arguably end up with better and fresher designs than their more expensive brandmates.