One of most common complaints that traditional “car guys” have about the modern auto industry is that cars have become so complex and computerized that repairs and modifications have become too complex for their mechanical skillset. But, on the other end of the car guy spectrum, EV enthusiasts are taking over the mantle of the homebrew automotive modifications. The New York Times reports that Nissan Leaf owners are taking the lead to fix issues with the first mass-market electric car, creating more reliable state-of-charge indicators and rapid-chargers, tipping the balance of power from the manufacturer back to the savvy, hands-on consumer. And as EV enthusiasts build communities, share their experiments and improve vehicles like the Leaf, automakers like Nissan are listening.
Despite the antipathy between old-school auto enthusiasts and their new-wave EV counterparts, these two groups have more in common than you might realize… which can only be good news for the larger automotive culture.
I’m no fan of tuned cars, particularly the garish, over-the-top bodykit jobs that seem to curse the high end of the European sportscar market. And yet, when I saw these pictures of the new Porsche 991, as tuned by the Russian house TopCar, something strange occurred to me: this was the first picture of the new 991 that I could instantly recognize as the new model. And then I read, over at Pistonheads, that the 991 will be sold with only minor design changes through 2025, a 14-year lifespan for a model that’s barely distinguishable from its predecessor. And all of a sudden, this garish Russian tune-job started looking a lot better. It may not be subtly tasteful, but there’s an undeniable hunger to its flared-and-scooped styling. It’s trying to be something different, while Porsche’s design evolution has ground to halt. We hear that Ford, which has enjoyed great success working a retro groove with the last couple of Mustangs, is “moving on” to craft an entirely new, non-retro Mustang for the next generation. It seems that we’re going to have to wait about 14 more years for Porsche to similarly realize the benefits of making its flagship a “living document.” In the meantime, if you want a 991 that looks like it has moved with the times, you may just have to look at the aftermarket…
The source of today’s Quote Of The Day, a BMW M Division engineer, is clearly not a native English speaker, but he reveals just where performance cars like the new M5 are going when he says:
More and more demand is from our test engineers from the referring(?) departments and they come over and 80%, 90% are only working on the electronic systems. The other 10, 20 percent are working at the car, under the car….
Of course, the M engineers aren’t developing a car from the ground up here, but it’s still amazing that the workload is so unevenly weighted towards electronic rather than, for lack of a better term, “greasy hands” work.
Since cementing its premium-retro-cutesy positioning in the marketplace, MINI’s been leveraging its two platforms into a niche-munching binge. Soon the MINI lineup will range from cozy Coupe to two-door “Sport Activity Vehicle,” and will include two convertibles, multiple versions of the two-door hatche, two-and-a-half-door hatch, and four door SUV. So what’s missing? A Moke? A Delivery van? What about a re-interpretation of the old Mini Pick Up? You and I may feel like the MINI brand already has plenty of niche offerings, thanks, but here is indisputable proof (found in a supermarket parking lot) that the market thinks MINI hasn’t chased enough niches. Carry on then, lads…
Typically, when a focused, well-branded company like BMW buys storied brands and then tries to combine them, the results are less than ideal for all involved. Thus far, BMW had actually been doing a fantastic job with its MINI and Rolls-Royce franchises, expanding into new niches while revitalizing potent brands with high-quality products. But putting the two together? It’s not clear how many buyers will line up for this Rolls-fettled MINI Goodwood (price estimated as high as £50,000), but at least the thing has good historical precedent in the Peter Sellers Mini-Rolls. And compared to some of the modern attempts to create premium city cars (hello Aston Cygnet), that makes this über-priced MINI-mashup something more than a mere cynical play for profits and C02 emission average reductions. In fact, it’s something of a tribute to BMW’s stewardship of two brands that could well have been botched over the past decade or so. Hit the jump for details on the Mini Goodwood’s posh appointments.
What is it about human nature that forces us to destroy the things we love the most? Jaguar’s E-Type died long ago, shuffling off this imperfect mortal coil to take its place in automotive Valhalla. And, if we really loved the XKE, that’s where we’d let it stay, swathed in the immortality of the glorious yet out-of-reach past. Instead the E-Type is being destroyed in the name of love… and on the 50th anniversary of its birth, no less. For between €500k and €1m (depending on the number of takers) Switzerland’s Robert Palm will modify a new Jaguar XKR into this hollow mockery of the E-Type’s epic proportions and classic design cues. Called the Growler E 2011, this 600 HP beast is neither a high-quality, faithful resto-mod like the Eagle E-Type, nor a truly modern interpretation of the classic. Instead, what we have here is a wire-wheeled lesson in learning to let go.
I just returned from the press launch of a certain, shall we say unexpected convertible. The kind of vehicle that makes you stop and wonder what’s being put in the water at a certain product planning department. Look for a review tomorrow, but in the meantime, as a kind of innoculation, consider this Subaru STI drop-top modified for Manchester Subaru. It’s one thing to chop the top off a car that doesn’t lend itself to convertible versions, but it’s quite another to add picnic basket-handle roll bars and then top it all off with a huge rear spoiler. It’s no Transvertible, but death is still too good for this little monster.
struggled to make this 5,995-pound, technology-packed, luxurious SUV make sense.
Apparently he’s not the only one. From the looks of things, the Japanese tuning house Invader Technologies is having a hard time making the LX570 make sense… at least to anyone who’s not a drug-addled, mobbed-up Russian gangster. I suppose that, by post-Mansory tuning standards anyway, the Invader L60 isn’t exactly breaking new ground… still, I’m amazed by how freshly insulted my optical nerves feel.