Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A matter of style versus substance

  • Print

In late March, after a great day of skiing, my friend Steve and I headed south for the Vancouver International Auto Show.

In terms of these events, Vancouver is small-time, nowhere near the glitz and glamour of the big events like Geneva. That's okay -- you don't see many concept cars and exotics, but the displays are accessible and the atmosphere is pleasant rather than dramatic.

Nor can you beat the venue, Vancouver's new waterside conference centre., and it took less than a minute to collect my press credentials.

I brought Steve along because he's an absolute car enthusiast, and also a graphic designer. I'm more of a professional driver than a car nut, so how a vehicle looks is far less important to me than how it works.

Certain things about a vehicle's appearance do put me off, however, especially surface busyness and useless add-ons. Beyond that, all I want is a design that ages well. Steve, on the other hand, has strong views about styling elements -- what works and what doesn't.

First stop was the Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel. Steve said some Jeep traditionalists were complaining about the front-end styling, which has a few Range Rover cues. I didn't mind -- my interest was in the Italian-made diesel, which produces 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. That's combined with an eight-speed automatic. I look forward to doing a road test.

The one almost-new concept car worth mentioning is the Honda Gear, which was first revealed at the Montreal Auto Show. Something close to it really needs to go into production. A clean sub-compact hatchback, with what Steve considered "well-integrated, organic lines," it would be a great combo of fun and practicality.

Chevrolet had two compact concept cars that were introduced at last year's Detroit show. Steve chose the Code, for what he termed "a skilled execution of a Camaro profile on a smaller platform." My choice was the sleeker Tru -- I can only take so much retro.

As we wandered around, Steve made observations about how each manufacturer kept its brand identity throughout the model range. He thought Buick was doing well, with sleek new models that still have a few family styling cues. He was less complimentary at the Lincoln stand, saying the rear-emds of the sleeker models didn't match well with the toothy chrome fronts.

I, of course, don't care as long as the vehicles drive well, which they do. However, I might be tempted to back the thing into the driveway to avoid being dazzled in the morning by sunshine glinting off what is admittedly a lot of chrome.

Infiniti's styling harmony came in for a few jabs. Steve said it wasn't bad, just a bit busy. He liked Volvo's new look, which is kind of funny because, not that long ago, you'd have been hard-pressed to use 'styling' and 'Volvo' in the same sentence.

The star of the show for both of us was the Jaguar F-Type. The styling, by Ian Callum, is gorgeous and will certainly age well when compared to more gaudy designs. Like model Adriana Sklenarikova or actress Sophia Loren, some beauty is timeless.

On the F-Type's dynamic side, start with a stiff, lightweight aluminium chassis and go from there. There are three model choices. A racing colleague, who is doing a Jaguar track intro as I write this, has already assured me that even the base model drives exceptionally well.

Jaguar and Land Rover have improved greatly since their purchase by Indian automaker Tata Motors in 2008. Both brands always had certain good qualities, but it took that British stiff upper lip to overlook the foibles.

I did a couple of racetrack programs for Jaguar in the pre-Tata days, and quality control was marginal. Trim bits seemed attached more with hope than adhesive, and leaks from various drivetrain bits were common. It's a wonderful turnabout on colonialism that Tata now makes the best British cars.

Alan Sidorov is an experienced automobile racer, product tester and freelance writer. You can reach him at


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 A1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Top 5: Famous facts about the Stanley Cup

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings with some size head for cover Wednesday afternoon on Commerce Drive in Tuxedo Business Park - See Bryksa 30 Goose Challenge- Day 12- May 16, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of the government's announcement that there will be no balanced provincial budget until 2018?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google