Bamboozled by Bangle?
Plus: Honda's Element doesn't drive as cool as it looks. But it's close!
Rear-drive trend gathers momentum! Now, here's a significant car: The Chrysler 300C. Why? Because it represents another laudable attempt by DaimlerChrysler to bring a Mercedes feel to Detroit? Sure. But mainly because it marks the return of the big, rear-wheel drive American sedan. In this, Chrysler appears to have stolen a march on GM and Ford, both of which still seem committed to the aesthetically inferior but more efficient front-drive format. (Click here for why front-drive is inferior.) ... What about the 300C's styling? It's pompous ... but in a good way! I love it. ... While the gifted J Mays has seemingly been wasting his (and Ford's) time with retrofuturistic nostalgia exercises, Chrysler may be on the verge of building a car people will one day be nostalgic about. ... 2:48 A.M.
Angry appliance, unplugged: GM's Pontiac Aztek, long considered the most pathetic vehicle for sale in the U.S. market, will go out of production in December of next year. ... It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes the Aztek so instantly ludicrous. Probably the awkwardly empty and square front wheel wells, and the gratuitous, fierce animalistic snout, which may have been what prompted incoming GM executive Bob Lutz to famously say that many of the company's products looked like "angry kitchen appliances." Plus the sheer, grandiosely lame corporate delusion of thinking that this tippy box with cheap zoomy cladding would somehow become the hip, cool plaything of America's youth. ... I still claim that if the Aztek had been a great or even good car it would have soon been considered lovably homely. But it wasn't (though reliability actually isn't bad, according to Consumer Reports). ... 2:45 A.M.
What's worse than BMW design chief Chris Bangle's force-fed Gaudi-esque eccentricities? Answer: BMW models in which the painful struggle to mute and pasteurize Bangle's force-fed eccentricities is all too obvious. ... The latest tortured half-Bangle is the crucial 5 Series sedan, shown here (click on the picture to enlarge). ... The Kia Rio influence is apparent, especially in the rear three-quarter view--what a mess!--though I think I see a bit of homage to Hyundai in there as well. ... BMW sales fell 7.3 percent in the first quarter of this year. That must be because Bangle's new designs are the "greatest breakthroughs in visual art since Michelangelo," or whatever it is he says about them! ... BMW blames the effect of model changeovers, with several models (such as the 5 Series) about to be replaced. ... 2:30 A.M.
Photographs of: Honda Element from American Honda Motor Co.; Chrysler's 300c concept car © 2003 DaimlerChrysler; 2003 Pontiac Aztek © 2003 General Motor. All rights reserved.