By on August 2, 2018

Tesla Motors’ refresh for the Model S and and Model X has been in the works for quite some time, with efforts focused on the vehicles’ interior above everything else. While we’re not about to call the present-day cockpit of either vehicle dated, they’ve been operating mostly unchanged for quite some time.

However, the update will surely rub some customers the wrong way. That’s because the new interior design is expected to be heavily influenced by the minimalist cabin of the Model 3. Scheduled for the second half of 2019, both of Tesla’s larger models will see their own adaptation of “less is more,” with a full exterior refresh to follow in 2021. Both are big deals for the company, which typically introduces small changes to its vehicles every so often rather than expansive alterations.  (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2018

Thanks to an interested and better-financed populace, luxury purchases have been on the rise in China for the past decade. Chinese consumers currently drop around $7.6 billion per year on premium goods, accounting for almost a third of the global luxury market. This has resulted in a massive influx of high-end items and brands that want to capture the public’s attention and, more importantly, cash.

This includes automotive brands — all of which are desperate to expand into the Chinese market. But finding the correct approach is tricky. Plenty of fashionable brands attempted to incorporate authentic Chinese elements into their designs, but failed to do so in an elegant or convincing way. There’s a bit of a balancing act required. Market research shows younger consumers like clean designs and a little bit of bling, but don’t want these established brands catering too much to Chinese tastes. Older consumers, however, are willing to enjoy a little bit more ostentatiousness and adherence to tradition.

That’s one reason why you see so many new cars showing up at auto shows painted red. In China, red represents good fortune and crops up on significant items on important dates all the time. Wedding dresses are traditionally red, as are envelopes containing monetary gifts to commemorate the birth of a child or the new year.

However, we have to wonder if some brands aren’t going a little overboard. Mercedes-Maybach, which just released a hideous concept SUV intended to whet Chinese appetites, has followed up that eyebrow-raising effort with “the pinnacle of luxury living.” (Read More…)

By on August 4, 2017

2016 Jaguar XJ interior - Image: JaguarYou don’t need to suffer from metathesiophobia to be uncomfortable with the wide variety of changes in the modern automotive industry.

Monostable shifters provide no firm detent when you’ve selected Drive, and often require a separate button for Park. Handbrakes that offer a level of modulation are quickly disappearing, replaced by electronic parking brakes. Touchscreens that require multiple menu steps — and seconds in which eyes are diverted from the road — are increasingly part and parcel of new car purchases at high and low price points.

Change is happening so fast and so often and in such unnecessary ways that there was much rejoicing when Honda revealed the 2018 Accord with both a volume and tuning knob, as if that was a bigger story than the dead V6, the discontinued coupe, and the seats being moved closer together to create an aura of space.

Fortunately, Jaguar will remain among the puritanical ranks. Jaguar will stick with the spartans. Jaguar will forego flashy transformations for the sake of primitive positioning. Jaguar’s climate controls will be operated via knobs for the foreseeable future. For old times’ sake. (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2017

rusted truck interior old

You might not have noticed, but car interiors are growing increasingly more complex — not just in how they incorporate technology but also in the materials used. While the 1990s were awash in gray or beige plastics and upholstery, today’s vehicles source furnishings from a vastly broader palate.

Hyundai’s Ioniq is a prime example. In addition to using recycled plastics, it also uses bio-fabrics for the headliner and carpeting. Hyundai has also touted the use of sugarcane as a component for the interior’s soft-touch materials, while powdered wood and volcanic ash hides in harder surfaces.

OEMs are always trying to provide customers with something they can’t get elsewhere. More colors, different trim pieces, eco-friendly materials, and little embellishments that could be the deciding factor. Higher-trimmed vehicles from 2o years ago were primarily set apart by their upgraded mechanical components, adjustable seats, and superior electronics. With today’s vehicles already so well appointed, manufacturers are implementing custom stitching, chrome accents, and decorative lighting on a mass scale to inform occupants, “This is not a base model!”

It’s great news for consumers, but suppliers are scrambling to predict what automakers and their buyers will want next. (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Interior - Image: HondaThe 2018 Honda Accord is not a refresh. It’s not a refurbished, reconditioned revamp.

The 2018 Honda Accord is very much a new car, a 10th-generation follow-up to the five-year, 2013-2017 run of the outgoing Accord. That’s obvious when you look at the design of the new Accord — another midsize car attempting to banish boredom in an attempt to maintain healthy U.S. car sale volumes when more and more people want crossovers. You see it in the 2018 Toyota Camry, the 2018 Hyundai Sonata’s new grille, and the 2018 Accord’s squarer nose and faster roofline.

But Accord buyers will spend far more time inside the car than they do looking at its exterior. For owners, Honda wanted to make the 10th-generation Accord roomier, more capacious, better suited for ferrying five passengers.

So Honda moved the two front passengers closer together. (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2017

panamara-sport-turismo

Refuting everything we assumed we knew about the North American car market, some Porsche dealers are claiming the Panamera Wagon is already getting a lot of positive attention. Could that could be down to Porsche offering a more practical seating configuration?

While the rear of the Sport Turismo does provide extra storage space and easier access, it’s not a game changer over the standard sedan. What it does offer is room for five, something the German carmaker couldn’t bring itself to implement on the standard Panamera. Of course, that was likely preordained. Porsche understands most people actually care about the ability to bring all and not just some of their children with them on a journey. By omitting a seat in the sedan, it gave consumers another reason to take a look at the wagon.

(Read More…)

By on January 23, 2017

1

Car shows take Vellum Venom down a psychotropic styling journey: elaborate displays with brilliant interior design elements, dazzling lighting, stunning product specialists (if you’re into that gawking thing), free top-shelf crap everywhere and perfect machinery refreshed by an army of detailers. Many years passed since my last auto show, but I had to come back to get the latest bits of car design. And interior design. And architecture.

Those three in mind, the Hyundai section was a remarkable letdown: the architecture brilliantly absorbed Cobo Center’s impressive amounts of negative area, marred by the mediocrity of a bland-toned Accent occupying prime real estate. Why ruin my Architectural-Digest worthy photograph?

(Read More…)

By on November 13, 2015

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I was driving around the other day, and I got passed by a mid-2000s Mercedes M-Class. If your brain doesn’t immediately pull up an image of this particular M-Class, I’m not sure how to describe it to you. Just think of a dull SUV with a Mercedes badge on the front.

I remember when this particular M-Class came out, back in 2006, because it was panned for including a column shifter. A lot of automotive journalists — and, frankly, vehicle owners — laughed at the idea that a modern luxury brand would use a column shifter, the mark of the full-size pickup in the 1980s.

“And now Mercedes is using one?” they would say. “Mercedes?! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!”

Then the journalists laughed and laughed, while Mercedes was simultaneously developing autonomous cars that would one day render these journalists useless.

(Read More…)

By on May 22, 2014

GM RenCen Storm Clouds

Detroit Free Press posits the endless recall parade General Motors has been leading since late February 2014 may be doing more harm than good for public perception or its bottom line. Though spokesman Greg Martin claimed the recalls were an effort to make his employer “a first-class safety organization” by focusing hard upon the consumer, a survey by AutoTrader found 51 percent of auto consumers were less confident in the industry’s overall safety record as a result of the actions by GM, up from 44 percent who thought the same five days’ earlier. In addition, the automaker will take a $400 million charge in Q2 2014 for the recalls since April 1 as of this writing, while its current stock price of $33.07 per share is a few cents above its IPO price from November 2010.

(Read More…)

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