Porsche's pullme-pushyou.

Reviews of cars, trucks, and other autos.
June 23 2003 6:29 PM

Porsche's Pullme-Pushyou

Plus: Honda's Element doesn't drive as cool as it looks. But it's close!

Not "partners": Hip-hop entrepreneur Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' recently announced plans to sell an $85,000 Sean John Navigator based on the $55,000 Lincoln Navigator SUV. A Lincoln-Mercury spokesman had this to tell Gearbox about Combs' car-making plans--plans that led some news organizations to report that Combs (who famously was acquitted  after fleeing in a Navigator from the scene of a 1999 nightclub shooting) had "partnered with Lincoln":

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There isn't an official connection nor is there any kind of partnership with Lincoln and Mr. Combs or the group putting together that particular Sean John Navigator. What they are doing is taking Lincoln Navigators and customizing them on their own, so there's no special edition that's coming from us.

Nor is Lincoln, apparently, giving Combs any special deal on the Navigators he plans to purchase and customize. ... 3:46 P.M.

AutoWeek has spy photos of the hastily revised BMW 7 Series. Doesn't look like an improvement to me. ... It's hard to even tell what's changed in the controversial trunk-left-open rear end (which I like!) except that the license plate indentation is now cheaply flared. ... As for the new nose, it's gothic. It may also have sacrificed the 7 Series' most appealing feature, the imposing thrust of its front flanks. ... Can't BMW design chief Chris Bangle draw a straight line? Yes, he can, as the rear end shows--so we have a $70,000 car with a Hundertwasser snout and a German battleship ass. Seems conflicted. But I'm sure it's acceptably branded in all relevant global markets! [Link via DriveTimes.] ... P.S.: The insider nuance here is that (according to the NYT's Phil Patton) Bangle is really supervising the work of two designers, Adrian van Hooydonk, who did the smoothly powerful pre-redo 7 Series, and Chris Chapman, who produces the gothic "flame surfacing" of the Z4. It sure looks, from the outside, like the 7 Series redesign represents the triumph of Chapman over van Hooydonk. Big mistake! ...The redesign also marks the end of the "two style" strategy suggeted by Patton. BMW seems to have settled on a single "design language," visible in the luxury 7 Series, the entry-level 3 Series, and the just-revealed X3 SUV--a sort of corporate expressionist mush. ...P.P.S.: I admit the X3 looks very handsome in this photo, but that's because you don't notice the fussy,  fungus-eaten headlights. And here's an overdone taillight that seems more Isuzu-sizzled than "flame-surfaced." ... 2:32 A.M.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The new Porsche Cayenne super-SUV had a reputation as a badly styled vehicle long before it went on sale in the U.S. But the photographs don't do it justice. In real life, it's actually much uglier! Why? Road stance. That's hard to judge from a static photo. ... The Cayenne's road stance is decidedly conflicted. The front seems to be trying to lean the car back on its haunches--an effect amplified on acceleration--while the actual haunches (e.g., the rear) try to thrust forward like some kind of leaping animal. These discordant postures both peter out somewhere in the massive, stupefyingly dull central passenger blob. ... Calling it a pushme-pullyou (like the old Porsche 914) is an insult to pushme-pullyous. A pushme-pullyou wants to go both forward (from the front) and backward (from the rear). The Cayenne wants to go neither forward nor backward. ... Then there are the thick, tacky chrome pillars, and the embarrassing, comically "branded" front. ... Watching one of these awkward $75,000 bullies shoulder through traffic is not a pretty sight. ... P.S.: Not that it might not be a great car! They say all really great cars are a bit ugly. Porsche is at least halfway there. ... 4:28 P.M.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Bamboozled by Bangle? "Hold your keystrokes, folks," the July Automobile magazine chides  Internet activists opposed to BMW's new gothic designs, "because, as BMW Chairman Helmut Panke confirms in his interview on page 64, BMW design chief Chris Bangle isn't going anywhere." ... Well! That settles it! I mean, that's the same sort of vote of confidenceNew York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. gave editor Howell Raines, and as a result Raines is still in his job. ... Isn't he? ...

P.S.: Actually, Panke doesn't give Bangle much of a vote of confidence in the interview. As far as I can see, Bangle's name isn't even mentioned in the published version ...

P.P.S.: In truth, it's a pretty negative interview. Panke seems to be a former McKinsey consultant--that explains everything!--and Automobile'sGeorg Kacher pointedly notes the "conspicuous absence of all-around car guys" in BMW's current top management. ...  Kacher also mocks Panke's use of alliterative "McKinseyesque buzzwords." (Sample: " 'I believe in the four Ps,' he says. 'The right people; passion in the way we deal with the job and with each other; premium positioning in everything we do; and remaining process driven [snip] ...' On a different day, in a different meeting, Panke postulates four Cs, as in continuity, consensus, cooperation, and cadre.")  No wonder Panke was impressed with Bangle's  pretentious rap. ...