OCTOBER 2019 | CARMAGAZINE.CO.UK 7
We l c o m e
‘Your car will
be free: free
to commit to
the pursuit of
Everywhere you turn, the car as we know and
love it looks to be on borrowed time. In The
Economist, a story on the post-car European
city raises the very valid point that, by virtue
of pre-dating the automobile, the European
city was never going to get on well with the
car: streets too narrow and labyrinthine,
little spare space... Just as it was a nicer, more
humane place before the advent of widespread
car ownership, the European city will be better
off after it, and not just in the obvious ways. Yes
pollution, both air and noise, will be reduced,
but the democratisation of green, quiet and
open spaces within the urban environment is
undoubtedly also A Nice Thing.
For a long time the cleanliness and tranquil-
lity of your urban address has been inextricably
linked to your wealth. As roads, streets and car
parks are reclaimed for bicycles and scooters,
that may no longer be the case.
And then there’s the self-driving, Uber-style
vision of future mobility. Many are sceptical,
pointing at the huge swathes of the population
still living well outside any urban centre –
people for whom the idea of parting with their
car is about as attractive as heading back into
the woods for a pre-Neolithic, hunter-gatherer
existence. Hypothermic half the year, with
nothing to eat but pine cones and squirrel
sushi? Nein danke.
So, it’s not looking good. At least, it appears
to be not looking good. But perhaps it’s all in
the perspective, and we just need to get a bit
more Renault about it. Yep, Renault.
Back when the French marque was
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bombarding motor shows with self-driving,
app-hailed concepts of every shape, size and
conceivable purpose, its director of concept
car design, Stéphane Janin, told me to think of
his creations not as the harbinger of the car’s
demise but as the end of the boring car.
‘Cities will be very clean and quiet, because
the cars – if are there any – will all be electric.
But when you want to escape, you’ll take a
sports car – and a real one, not a compromise,’
Janin told me, clearly excited at the prospect.
By compromise he meant the kind of thing
most of us own, or at least aspire to own:
Volkswagen Golf R, 330d BMW, maybe an
Alfa Romeo Giulia. Fine driving machines all
of them, but inevitably compromised by rear
seats, sound insulation material, usable boots
and suspension that, while at the keen end
of the spectrum, still has the bandwidth to
smooth the morning drive to work.
Follow Janin’s thinking and the cars we
choose to own won’t need any of this stuff,
because they’ll be purely for pleasure use. The
kids will cycle to school, or go via self-driving
pod. Anything you buy will make its way to
your place in either a driverless van (with
bespoke, ultra-aggressive mapping in line
with DPD’s brand values...) or slung beneath a
drone, like a Vietnam Huey supply drop with
less small-arms fire.
And so your car will be free. Free to commit
itself exclusively to the uncompromised pursuit
of hedonism. Free to be an Ariel Nomad, in
fact. Mine’s just arrived (page 126). I couldn’t
wait for the purge of the car from European
cities or Level 5 autonomy.
Enjoy the issue.
Everyone’s first reaction upon seeing John
Wycherley’s photos of the new Defender:
‘Oh, now I get it.’ His images (p66) get right
to the heart of this reborn British icon.
Months of planning – and then it’s all over in
two days. This year’s Sports Car Giant Test
(p82), organised chiefly by James Taylor
and Ben Pulman, is one of the best ever.
Abandoned factory? Supercars old and
new? A talkative boss? Yes, Chris Chilton’s
genie came up with the goods. See p104.