Why cosmetic surgery sucks for most cars
11 October 2007 09:00
Ben Pulman wonders if tuned cars break mass-produced monotony or just ruin your car
Before the new Mercedes C-class was launched, more than 15 million miles were covered by prototypes in one of Merc's most arduous testing programmes to date. The automotive industry is spending money like never before on R&D - and in the Tuning Hall at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, all this progress was being undone.
A company called Mansory decided that a lurid two-tone Rolls-Royce Phantom was a good idea (bottom right). Somehow Techart found a way to make the Porsche Cayenne even uglier with its Magnum (bottom left). And that’s before we even get to the Hamann version, the Cyclone (top left).
Brabus off-shoot Startech showed a concept based on the Dodge Avenger: the Starster is apparently a sign of things to come (top right). ‘A non-Starster?’ joked our road test editor. I hope he’s right, because these are tuned cars for a minority with a massive bank balance and rather less taste.
Or have I missed the point entirely? Tuned cars are bought because they appeal to certain people - and are especially popular in Germany and Switzerland. Don't they provide some sorely needed uniqueness in a mass-produced world, even if it is to the extreme? Personalisation is the next big thing in the automotive industry, and business is booming in the US.
I've long had a sneaking admiration for the manufacturer-endorsed tuners like AMG and Alpina. It takes the latter four years to develop a car, and it shows. But I still think the vast majority of tuned cars end up being OTT. I'm right, aren't I?