Driving Torque

Articles, reviews and opinions about cars and all things automotive

Archive for the tag “Volkswagon”

VW buy Porsche, what’s the big deal?

vw buys porsche logoSo, in a bizarre twist of events, Volkswagen have finally bought the remaining 50.1% shares it didn’t already own in sports-car giant Porsche in a deal that cost VW  a whopping £5.4bn including repaying Porsche’s £1.9bn debt. I say bizarre because in the not too distant past, Porsche were raiding their own copper-jar to amass the funds needed to buy Volkswagen. Confusing, eh?

If you’ve been living on Mars for the last four years, you’ll be blissfully unaware of the changes that have occurred to the global economic climate. Porsche haven’t been afforded this luxury however and it’s this worldwide recession, coupled with tragic timing that has left them in a position of unaffordable repayments on the loan they acquired in order to purchase Volkswagen.

1970's Porsche 914 in green

Porsche 914

So, that’s a brief history of how we came to be in this position but what does this unification mean in the real world? Volkswagen and Porsche have been inextricably linked since a certain German megalomaniac ordered Ferdinand Porsche to build him a car for the people and the VW Type 1 (Beetle) was born. Since then, the two marques have never been poles apart, even co-producing the mid-engined Porsche 914 in the 1970s. More recently, the two companies have shared various components on their Touareg and Cayenne models, along with Audi and their Q7.

This new German ‘supergroup’ contains more than just VW and Porsche however. Volkswagen also bring to the party Skoda and Seat and when you add Audi to the equation, there’s all of their models and, as if we could forget, Lamborghini to throw a bucketload of spice into the mix.

audi a7 sportback grey

Audi A7 Sportback

It has been suggested that there are too many elements here to make up a happy family, that certain models from this amalgamation of brands are competing against each other and will simply take their market share from within the group, particularly from Audi. I’m not sure that I subscribe to this theory however; Both VW and Porsche haven’t proved themselves to be highly resilient manufacturers in tough economic climes without good reason. If we take the models that Porsche bring to the fold, they are very much in a sub-category that shouldn’t affect the rest of the group. As previously mentioned, the Touareg, Cayenne and Q7 have always shared components yet seemed to have found their own niche in the large 4×4 segment. The Cayman is a class above the TT coupe and a class below the R8, both in terms of cost and appeal. The Panamera is too much car for Audi’s A7 to compete and the upcoming 918 Spyder is an unknown quantity as yet that will undoubtedly now be marketed to avoid it detracting from the Lamborghini stable.

1963 porsche 911 in red

1963 Porsche 911

That leaves the Boxster and the 911 which could be argued to face direct competition from the TT and R8 respectively. This is certainly feasible but in the case of the Boxster vs TT, I feel that the different drivetrains and layouts of these models means that they can co-exist in their current guise and with a little tweaking from within the group, they’ll start to drift apart in terms of consumer appeal. That leaves just the 911 and the R8 but the evergreen Porsche with its four seats and rear engine layout seems to offer so many ticks in so many boxes that it’s hard for anything else to compete. This, combined with a seemingly infinite choice of models may explain the longevity of the 911 which now covers nearly 50 years.

What’s pertinent to remember  is that this wasn’t some oil baron buying a football club on a whim. This multi-billion pound deal will have been scrutinised to within an inch of its life and, historically speaking, both marques are prone to making good decisions where others have fallen. In my opinion, both VW and Porsche will profit hugely from their coming together and form a beautiful union. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

By Ben Harrington

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Anyone for Golf? Why Volkswagen’s Hatchback is truly a car for the people

Volkswagen Golf mks1 - 6

The Volkswagen Golf through the ages

Whenever anyone asks my advice regarding what car they should buy, I have a one size fits all answer. Without the need for any further questioning, I can almost guarantee that there is a car which in one of it’s many guises will suit your needs. It may come as no surprise to some of you that this seemingly magical automobile is, drum roll please, the humble Volkswagen Golf. I know, I know, surprise surprise I hear you chant but I truly believe that there’s a Golf to suit every need and I just can’t shake my own personal desire to own one.

I’ve recently decided that, excellent as it is, it’s time for the Audi to go. I can’t fault this truly amazing car but I’ve owned it two and a half years now and anyone who knows me will testify that this is the equivalent of nearly three decades in Ben’s car ownership years (it’s a little like dog years). As many men grow bored of perfectly fine women and play the field, I find a similar compulsion with cars. It’s a blessing really as changing your car undoubtedly results in miniscule financial and emotional suffering when compared to divorce.

Inevitably, one decision has spawned another question and that is which car to purchase as the Audi’s replacement? I’m fairly certain that I don’t need such cavernous proportions anymore, although reasonable storage is still necessary and five doors is still a must. I’ve made no secret of my desires to get away from diesel but a fairly frugal petrol engine is the only acceptable alternative. Having read many, many car reviews, I’m aware that the Ford Focus is an excellent all rounder, as is the Mondeo and oh my god, who am I kidding, all of this reasoning and weighing up is completely irrelevant because I just know that I’ll end up with a Golf.

I can only put this borderline-obsessive behaviour down to certain automotive perceptions developed during my formative years. As a young child, I was brought up on a strict diet of Jaguar and Ford but as my more opinionated teenage years loomed menacingly, the quality control departments at both marques were seemingly redundant. The German brands however were all conquering with their seemingly effortless cool and their reputation for indestructible build quality.

But what was the big deal about the Golf? On the surface it appeared to be an ordinary hatch like any other but we all knew that this couldn’t have been further from the truth. If you wanted ordinary, you bought an Astra or an Escort, buying a Golf simply screamed that even in an every day family hatch, you demanded excellence, and that was the fundamental difference.

Back to the present time, in my head I know that many of the Golf’s competitors are in many ways its equal, some have even surpassed it. Unfortunately though, we all know how events in our youth can leave an indelible impression upon us and for me at least, the Golf will always have a special place in my heart.

By Ben Harrington

(Not so) Big Bulli – Volkswagen’s MPV is shrinking

Volkswagen's Bulli Concept at the Geneva Motor Show

Volkswagen’s Bulli Concept

So, it seems that Volkswagen have decided to jump on the same bandwagon as BMW and Fiat, with the Mini and 500 respectively and resurrect an ancient model that was a huge hit way back when. I am of course referring to the Bulli concept which was unveiled recently at the Geneva motor show to mixed reactions.

Being the owner of a ‘proper’ Volkswagen – my ’74 camper, this story immediately demanded my undivided attention and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I knew the exterior styling reminded me of something and it took a while for the penny to drop – it’s strangely reminiscent of the Nissan Cube.   Like the original, the whole concept is a clever one, offering the owner many vehicle layouts in one e.g. MPV, van or camping tool. Different wheelbases will be offered in certain countries reflecting demand and it will come with a choice of powerplants including an 85kw electric motor.

1974 Volkswagen Type 2 Campervan Black and cream

My Volkswagen Type 2 – ‘Matilda’

This is pretty much where the similarities end however and where I feel the problems begin. You see, unlike my ’74 VW, the interior of this concept looks cramped and restrictive. This is due partly to the Bulli being significantly smaller than it’s predecessor – 3.99m x 1.75m x 1.7m compared to 4.5m x 1.7m x 2m. It’s also due to the Bulli not making full use of the space it was given. The beauty of the original Transporters was that the engine was neatly stowed under the boot at the rear of the vehicle, resulting in the entire length of the body being useable as no bonnet was required. If you look at the Bulli concept however, around a quarter of the overall length is used to accommodate the powerplant, stealing valuable cabin space. Somehow, Volkswagen would appear to have taken a design which can be traced back over 60 years and fiddled with it to the extent where it isn’t as useable as the original.

Vw transporter concept 2001

Volkswagen’s Ill-fated Transporter Concept from 2001

When pictures of a new Transporter concept were released in 2001, the styling seemed to reflect the original more accurately. This lead to many people warming to the idea as it wasn’t only attractive but, perhaps more importantly, overwhelmingly practical as well.

Before any final production plans are made, I hope the good folk at VW dust off the pictures of the 2001 concept for inspiration. I also sincerely hope someone has the balls to remind them what a hash they made of reinventing  the Beetle!

By Ben Harrington

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