Autocar’s best of 2017: top 10 opinion pieces


From the rise of electric cars to the decline of diesel, to really understand the car industry you have to read beyond the headlines.

That’s why Autocar’s team of journalists provide opinion, insight and analysis alongside the big news stories and new model launches. From the serious to the slightly more spurious, here are the 10 opinion pieces you read the most this year.

Autocar’s ten most popular opinion pieces of 2017 

10. The best and worst things I’ve seen this week

Every Friday, Jimi Beckwith gives his personal take on the best and worst things he’s seen across the car industry that past week (including his views on the Suzuki Alto Turbo RS). Autocar readers don’t think it’s the worst thing they’ve read, as they keep coming back to it.

9. The Williams FW40 shows F1 is back with a bang

The Formula 1 rules were revamped this year, not least to make the cars look more aggressive. Williams was the first team to uncover its 2017 machine, the FW40, and it got Sam Sheehan all excited for the future. Those commenting on the piece were less convinced.

Spoiler alert: the Williams might have looked nice but, Lance Stroll’s Canadian GP podium aside, it wasn’t quite as fast as the team would have hoped.

8. Artico – it’s vinyl upholstery by another name

Remember when cars were swathed in vinyl? Vinyl interiors, roofs and the like? Well, you’ll still find vinyl in cars, but it’s usually presented under a different name – such as Artico. 

Richard Bremner presented a brief history of vinyl, as well as informing everyone just how far vinyl has come, from the sticky, sweaty 1950s and 1960s fad-level vinyl mania to becoming almost indistinguishable from genuine cow hide. But more on that later.

7. Insight: Why has PSA bought Opel and Vauxhall?

It’s the big buyout that grabbed headlines – PSA Group’s buyout of venerable British brand Vauxhall and its European parent Opel from General Motors was one of the big industry stories of the year. 

Here, Mark Tisshaw shed some light about why the PSA Group did the deal, who is set to gain from it and what kind of impact it will have on Vauxhall’s future cars. 

6. Why the Mercedes G-Class outlived the Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender and Mercedes-Benz G-Class share similar origins – both have their roots in military vehicles – but in recent years they’ve taken very different paths. The Defender is no more and will take on a different form when it returns in 2019, while the G-Class is merely being tweaked before returning to service. Rachel Burgess explained why one died while the other survives, delving into the models’ histories, futures and demises. 

5. Range Rover Velar interior: the leather-free luxury car? Yes, please

Why do cars have leather interiors and why do cow skins need to be used in cars? Jim Holder pondered the question after seeing the cutting-edge optional non-leather interior of the Range Rover Velar

You make your own mind up, but Jim makes a compelling argument against leather. His viewpoint is likely to be in the minority, given the proliferation of leather in the German car industry, which has “set a blueprint that we haven’t questioned – until now”.

4. The not-so-curious case of the Ferrari 488, the Autocar road test and the ‘cup’ tyres

Road test editor Matt Saunders revealed some behind-the-scenes details of road tests, with the strapline: “Why you won’t be reading our performance benchmarks for Ferrari’s mid-engined 488 GTB supercar in future.”

He continues: “Likewise, I’ll leave it to you to decide how Ferrari’s decision – using a technicality to gain a performance advantage in a test in which it knew lap times, acceleration and braking would be tested – reflects on the company. True, it’s not as if Ferrari fitted non-road-legal hillclimb tyres. But, chances are, this didn’t just happen once; this was the car used for every performance test in every major publication across Europe.”

3. ‘Not Lewis again!’ – Mercedes boss Zetsche’s reaction to Rosberg quitting F1

Our second motorsport entry involves a legend, a retirement and a fresh-out-of-the-shower Dieter Zetsche. It’s the brief but entertaining tale of Zetsche’s reaction to 2016 Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg’s retirement. No further explanation needed.

2. Is it time to say goodbye to diesel?

It’s a question that has been asked numerous times in 2017 and a question that will still get asked during 2018 as diesel continues to decline in popularity. 

Used car editor Alex Robbins explained why the end for oil-burners might not be as nigh as some might have you believe, and why confusing and damning media and government scorn hammers nail after nail in diesel’s coffin. 

The figures speak for themselves: since Alex penned his opinion, diesel sales have started to plummet, with sales down by around a third from this time last year. Whether they’ll dwindle completely or taper down to a hardcore of loyal diesel drivers has yet to be seen but, meanwhile, the future-friendly electrified market goes from strength to strength. 

1. Musk has pulled off the oldest trick in the book

When Elon Musk revealed the Tesla Semi (a five-seconds-to-60mph lorry) and the new Roadster (a 1.9-seconds-to-60mph sports car with 620-mile a range), Rachel Burgess looked beyond the headlines.

The new vehicles caused plenty of excitement, which seemed a good way of distracting from Tesla’s production woes with the Model 3

The excitement around Tesla is great for the car industry, but it’s important to look beyond the hype and ask why the company has so far not been able to fully deliver the most important product in its history. 

Read more

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Top 10 Autocar videos of 2017

Top 10 Throwback Thursdays of 2017

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