This past summer I drove the Citroën DS5 for a month. To work, to Belgium and to Italy and back. It had its drawbacks and quirks, but I loved driving it. It felt special. It made me feel special. In a good way. One of the more risky and experimental videos we have ever done featuring the DS5 just went up on the Bright website. It’s in dutch, but the beautiful camerawork, edit and music are quite enjoyable as well.
I am incredibly fortunate to travel to the most beautiful locations and drive the newest cars for magazine and website Bright. Last week I was invited to Morocco and drive the new Range Rover. It was the best business trip you can imagine. Land Rover makes a big deal about their cars being able to drive over and through almost everything. Without special tires, bullbars or roll cages. So we hit the dunes, crawled over rocks and waded rivers in next year’s Range Rover in the same spec they will drive out of the showrooms. The absolute highlight was balancing on two wheels. The lowlight seemed to follow only a second after when I felt my car slowly tipping over into what seemed to be too big a hole to crawl out of. I expected to hear a big thump, a crash and a smattering of glass. But the wheel was extended so far, that it kept the car at an impossible angle, which I then summoned the big supercharged V8 to drag me out of. And it did. Without any fuss. If you buy a Range Rover, treat yourself to some impossible obstacles every now and then.
Last week I got to visit Istanbul for the Audi Urban Future Award. A great trip in a lot of ways. I got to meet some great colleagues like Harm van Til (editor in chief of De Architect) and Leonard van den Berg and enjoy some of the city on the edge of Europe and Asia. Most interesting though were the interviews with the architects that had submitted their ideas for the competition. They all came up with ideas for the future of the urban areas they work in. Winner Höweler + Yoon presented the Superbundle. An idea in which railway, metro, highway and other means of transport all come together in one bundle, to make transfers easier. CRIT from Mumbai presented the idea of packets to change the urban environment. Strategically intervening and tweaking the city instead of trying to wrestle it into submission with a masterplan. Superpool from Istanbul went bottom up with the idea of shared transport based on social networking ideas. I will write an article on the subject for Bright #49 in which my main question will be: who decides the city’s fate?
Making videos for Bright has been a joy from the start. But both me and videomakers Schwung Visuell have been critical about our own efforts. Making something that works for the web, but that is more than a bitesized cliché has been a challenge. From our very first effort with the Porsche Panamera, via the Audi A6 to the Golf GTI at the Mille Miglia, we’ve been improving steadily during the past few years. And trying to grow from ‘online review’ to ‘visual essay’ along the way. First we tried to say something funny and interesting about the car, now we are trying to talk more and more about the environment of cars. What does a certain car stand for, or the other way around: how does a car visualize something else going on in the world. With our latest project featuring the Chevrolet Camaro we discuss the collapse of the American Dream.
Bright #48 just dropped on the doormat. And it is gorgeous. It features Daniel Craig looking ferocious on the cover. I had the distinct pleasure of giving 007 some tips for future transport in this issue of the magazine. From Tesla Model S to Yves Behar motorbike, if the Bond franchise picks up on our tips, the Bond movie (after Skyfall) will be a bit more environmentally friendly, but looking gorgeous as always. The trip to Denmark’s finest audio engineers is featured in this issue as well. With some beautiful photography by Mieke Lindeman. Pick it up at your local newsstand, buy it online or be a friend and take out a €25 subscription.
I had never driven a true American muscle car. So I jumped at the chance to drive this year’s Camaro. It has 400 horsepower, an iconic retro look and an old school 6.2 liter V8 under the bonnet. In the States it costs under €20K, in the Netherlands it is nearly 5 times as expensive at €95k. You can buy a Cayman R for that kind of money. Quicker and better equiped. The Camaro has to do without sat-nav, climate control or even adjustable seatbelts. The Camaro is a simple, blunt tool of force. With a serious drinking problem. You could dismiss it, but for a single feature that is not in the Chevrolet brochure. It is a car that puts a smile on peoples faces. Kids look at it. Think it is Bumblebee (of Transformers fame) repainted. The bluntness and naivety of this car make it accessible. Easy to talk about. Sympathetic. And walking up to it and opening the drivers’ side door is a treat. The sound when you start it or rev it up is a bit of a disappointment, but push the accelerator down like you’re linedancing and the kick it gives is addictive. Anyone who buys this car must be embracing his inner child fondly.
And give him one hell of an allowance.
Last week I was invited to come to Struer, Denmark and get to know Bang & Olufsen. Beforehand I knew very little about the brand. I have some vague acquaintances that have paid top dollar to buy a B&O tv-set and I have glimpsed into their store every so often. The new B&O play subbrand had drawn my attention though and by complete coincidence I was invited by their automotive partner Audi to have a look in the factory.
What I have seen there is attention to detail on the very highest level. Every single part they make is constructed with the absolute minimum of tolerance imaginable and quality checked by humans and machines. No low-paid workers. No cutting corners. And that sometimes warm, sometimes eerie Danishness. We had an introduction to measuring and filtering sounds by Geoff Martin in the Cube and got to listen to some speakers in the listening room. The men responsible for getting Audi’s fantastic B&O system just right explained us how their system constantly monitors the engine management, the airconditioning and the sound in the car to change equalizer settings and volume as you drive, making the music sound absolutely fantastic under all conditions.
My story about Bang & Olufsen behind the scenes will be published in Bright #49.
After weeping for a week for not being included in the making of Bright #46 I picked myself up and went to work. Bright #47 features no less than 3 articles by yours truly. An introduction to the new Volvo V40, an inside look in the world of Ford’s Sheryl Connelly and my love poem for the Citroën DS5. All you lovely subscribers will find it in your mailbox soon. It’s on sale in good bookstores next week. So go out and buy it!
Photos for the Sheryl Connelly interview were made by Mieke Lindeman. Michael Danker shot the epic and colourful picture of the DS5.
I’d been writing about cars for the Bright website for years. What concept cars interested me, who won an epic race, what new technology they’d came up with. A long distance relationship with a phenomenon that had captured my imagination for years. Up to the point that my editor asked me to write three articles for three issues of Bright magazine. The first subject was an electric bike. It was delivered to my house, I rode it for no more than 5 kilometers, because it sucked, and sat down to write my first big article. I felt like a million bucks.
Then I waited for my next assignment. Turned out: I had to come up with something myself. So this idea popped into my head: as a kid you dream of a sportscar, when you can finally afford one, it’s too small for you and your family. What if I reviewed a car that claimed to be both a true sportscar and family friendly. As far as I was concerned there were three options: the Aston Martin Rapide, the Maserati Quattroporte and the Porsche Panamera. The last being the best candidate, because it was truly like a 5 door 911. So I called Porsche and to my genuine amazement was told: ‘I’ll get the agenda and see where we can fit you in’. I said ‘yes, hahum, of course’. Picking my jaw back up from the floor. A couple of weeks later two men showed up at my doorstep with a Porsche Panamera 4S. Mine for 24 hours.
Of course it had snowed. That’s Murphy’s law in effect. So my plan to drive down to Arnhem and up the A31 in Germany was axed. I did however drive to Hilversum to pick up two friends and drive them back home in the snowstorm. I felt like 10 million bucks. The gas station attendant asking one of my passengers what car we were driving. A girl on a bike smiling at me. The sense of being in control of a car that will push it’s 2000kg forward faster than almost anything you will encounter on the road. I fell in love with that odd Porsche. For me it was the merger between childhood dream and all the real life applications you’d want a car for.
Since then I have driven a Ferrari 458, a Nissan GT-R and a Jaguar XKR-S, to name a few. So you’d expect my interest in the five door rocketship to be waning. But when Porsche’s Hannie Steeman told me I could drive the new Panamera GTS to the Red Dot Design Museum and back, I was ecstatic. None of it’s magic had faded and sitting in the bucket seats with a view on those 5 magnificent clocks in the instrument cluster was like I had owned a Panamera since january 2010.
I drove it on the Autobahn at 170 km/h most of the time. Somewhere in between the speed of a sports car and a family friendly hatchback. It will do 288 km/h if you feel your wife will get mad at you for being late for dinner. But I wanted the trip to last a little bit longer.
I will be honest; when I first got the invitation to drive part of the Mille Miglia course with the new VW Golf GTI cabrio I was both excited at the opportunity to go see one of the most historic races on earth and also a bit lost. Cause how could I fit the GTI Cabrio together in a coherent movie for Bright? The answer was obvious: I’d been driving eco-friendly cars for months, trying to get that last single kilometer out of the last drop of petrol or electricity. So the joy of driving was a distant memory. For sure the people that drive the Mille Miglia could tell me how to get that joy back.
For Bright.nl (the website accompanying the magazine) I am testing a series of vehicles with green technology. Going full electric with the Nissan Leaf, half-electric with the Opel Ampera and non-electric with the Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost. The latter was utterly impressive. With only a single liter of room for mixing fuel and air it produces an astounding 125bhp and 170Nm of torque. So while it seems like you are driving an absolutely regular car, you will notice at the gasstation that it is anything but. 1 liter of fuel will take you 20 kilometers if you ease up on the pedals.
Next in line is the Hyundai i40, a car that proves the Koreans have caught up. They’ve done so in sales a year ago (being the fourth best selling car company in the world), but design and features are picking up too.
In between all this eco-fun I got to enjoy the Volkswagen Golf GTI cabrio on the streets of the Mille Miglia and 10 different Porsches on a circuit in Lelystad. I’ll share the videos as soon as they are available.
Bright #45 is out and will be presented tonight at the Bright Night at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. It’s one of the best issues yet with stories on a couple of bad boys: Kim Dotcom, Anonoymous and the Pirate Bay. I contributed a story about the excellent Fisker Karma with pictures by Michael Danker (video here).