Friday, February 28, 2014

Geneva Preview: Audi TT MKIII

Toughest job in the automotive design? A tossup between creating the next generation of a retro inspired model and creating the next generation of a style icon. In both cases you have to make progress, give your creation a fresh new look but you are limited with how far you can push the boundry. Go too far and you break the lineage and upset some people, do too little and you are guilty of being lazy and unimaginative. Surely a sought out challenge for many designers, but the reality is that aside from the Beetle, Mustang and 911 there are few other examples of sucess with multiple generations of a unique design. The Audi TT faces the same dillemma, the first generation had as big of an impact on automotive design as any. The second generation brought a modern design that was undoubtedly stylish yet didn't capture the hearts in the same way. Sportier dimensions were offset by a look that made the TT blend in a bit more with the rest of the Audi lineup. In just a couple of days we'll find out what Audi brings for round three, from first glance the shape is very much second generation but the previously released sketches hint at some first generation influence. It certainly doesn't look like the newest TT will betray its namesake but will it advance its game enough to satisfy the critical?


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Geneva Preview: Future? Shape of Volvo

Imagine the shape of a Volvo, the commercial asks. Curvy and swoopy is what comes to mind even if you are supposed to think boxy as you remember the last Volvo you saw. When was the last time you even saw a Volvo? Volvo has been making pretty curvy cars for a generation now even if its legend has been built on boxier shapes. The updated S60 and XC60 are curvier still as the commercial shows, and the V60 is pretty far away from the traditional Volvo wagon shape as you can get. It can masquerade as any other brand easily. Yet, just as the public finally imagines a curvy Volvo and forgets all about straight edge Volvos for good, the company is unveiling concept after concept that brings back edges. The latest estate concept from Volvo looks closer to what Volvos did last decade and it would not be a stretch to say that it certainly fits better in my dream of how a Volvo should look. It's evident that Volvo realizes that perhaps it went too far from its roots in its most recent cars and is now looking for a sharper design more coherent with its past image. And it's not a bad thing at all as the last few concepts have been interesting.  Perhaps the long overdue XC90 will be more chiseled than curvy regardless of what the latest commercial sells us.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Geneva Preview: Mini Fixes Its Biggest Mistake

Guess who's back? Back again. After a lengthy hiatus Kill It With Fire is back to blogging about cars. Going forward the goal will be to cover the day's most interesting automotive story. Occasionally, longer features will deviate from the plan from time to time.

Mini, as a brand has enjoyed a unique trifecta of almost unanimous praise from the media, respect from auto enthusiasts and appreciation from the general consumer. A brand that started with one core product and developed more variations than one can keep separate has made few mistakes. If one had to pick its weakest product, the easy choice would be the Clubman. A Mini that just never quite looked right as if someone forgot to check the "constraint proportions" box when enlarging. Looking a bit too long and narrow for its own good (Ford Flex syndrome) the Clubman clearly showed that Mini was too cautious in expanding its lineup in fear of critics claiming that "it's no longer Mini". The half-hearted Clubman effort was lukewarm critically or sales wise and Mini has done much better with the better proportioned yet "roots forgetting" Countryman. The Paceman follow-up was even better and for the second generation Clubman, Mini ditches the stretched look for a proportional Paceman inspired design. No longer is the Clubman an afterthought to fill a niche but rather a product with its own identity and direction from the start. In all honesty I would have not been surprised if the Clubman never made it to the next generation as it seemed redundant after the Countryman but apparently there is space in-between and this time around it won't be so awkward.