AUTOMOTIVE

Beauty in the drag.



I was never a fan of SUV's, mostly because I use to consider them ugly and unnecessary for a bloke like me who spends most of his life either in town or on the motorways. As a lifetime long petrolhead all I always liked in a car was design, power and manoeuvrability, exactly in that order. Design because I am a craftsman of arts and I always lived by it, power because I am addicted to speed, and manoeuvrability because I always knew it is not fun to go fast just in a straight line.

Therefore I always thought if I’d have to consider an SUV, I'll go for the proper thing, the proper brand, for at least, even if it would not satisfy me in all three directions, I get something I can also fully use when I need it.



                   


                    



Living in Europe, American brands were never a choice. First because they are ugly, secondly because their big engines although have a lot of power, are not fast, and thirdly because those trucks are thirsty and in Europe we always had to pay more on gas. Japanese trucks have a good history in reliability but again, design wise they're not my cup of tea, therefore whenever I was thinking of a truck, the Land Rover Defender came to my mind. I loved its looks, I knew it was somehow a reliable car, it lacked speed, but that didn’t matter much, because I knew you really couldn’t go fast in a truck like that because of its centre of gravity. In fact, even today I believe that the Defender is the best looking truck in the world, and I say truck because it is definitely not a SUV as it really lacks comfort and basically that’s what kinda put me off, because I am as I mentioned, I was looking for something for long trips on motorways.

Brands? Yes, and I know is not just me, you see, growing up in the eastern Europe, back in communist times, put a mark on me just as it did on most of eastern Europeans, and although most westerners consider us to be snobs in that matter, they are not short on that snobbery themselves either because most big brands cars are sold in the west and luxury is what we all dream at (well, all except the Scandinavians), otherwise what would the meaning of life be? 

For us, though, the eastern bloc fellas there’s not really much of that involved. For most of us, the normal people, the ones who don’t want to show off, It’s just a safety measure, as back in the rough times if we got our hands on something western, we either got a cheap and unreliable thing or a very expensive better built thing that was branded. It is true, we never really had the money, but we saved and were safe, in a world were warranty was a mystery and returning the items was virtually impossible, especially if you purchased it from abroad where from it hardly made its way in. 

Printed magazines that landed on our shores, brought back by those who had access to the western countries, advertised brands, and even if it sounds strange, this is where we got our information from, like all the rest of the world, and brands were brands these days, they were solid things, made beautifully and if you were careful not to break it could have lasted a lifetime.

Now, I know all that might seem weird for the millennials, who now live in a consumer’s age when nothing is reliable anymore, but guess what kids, there were better times for the consumer before, as one could buy a fridge and kept it almost his entire life, because fridges do the same thing since they were invented, or one could've buy a cheap Chinese stereo, which sounded like crap, or buy a more expensive analogue rack that sounded even better than the most expensive digital combo’s of today, and yes, keep it all your life...




Cars? Oh, yes… Back then British and Italian were pretty, German brands were forever, others, if you mastered a little mechanics, you could've make them last forever, and as it seems that chart didn’t change much even today, except they all gone up on price, technology and pollution standards. You can buy now a comfortable, powerful car, ranged somewhere in between 50.000 and 100.000€, or a former eastern European brand like Dacia for 15.000€ with top specs, skip on comfort and power and it won’t hurt your budget but you will always drool when ever you'll get taken over by one of those better ones on the motorway and it won't help your back either on the long trips, because if you're paying less is just because you're still buying 1990's technology in different clothes. So stating that, it seems as nothing changed here either and I am just amazed how big of a scam is the auto industry, which even today at those colossal prices they won't fit a 10 year old laptop processor, or a decent lcd in their entertainment systems which cost more than one of those stereo racks from above costed when they were new. Now everything else is just in the middle and are not worth my attention, because even if they seem more affordable once you go for the full spec you land in the same courtyard with the expensive ones, price wise, and still don't get the power and the quality of those. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not nostalgic for those long gone times, or maybe I am, but just a little bit, mostly when it comes to music, fridges and washing machines, which didn’t change much at all, or those stereo racks which, God they were awesome, but when it comes to computers, can’t say those didn’t made our life easier, and cars, I do enjoy the increased power and the lower consumption in the new rides, although design wise… that’s still a matter for debate.

So some time ago, I got to the point where I needed to get an SUV for my family, as we had to move to Albania and air travelling towards home is not an option because it costs more and not having a direct flight it takes the same 11 to 12 hours as it would take driving, time of which mostly you have to spend in transit. Well, I didn’t really had to move… my wife did, she being a diplomat and being posted here, I just took a break from my life and like any radicalised European full of preconceptions as I became, I came along afraid that this savages will be dangerous. Little did I know, and I should have known, because there was not long ago, when every other EU parliamentary elections, my country was suffering from the same bad propaganda from the western nationalists, that there is no danger whatsoever and civilisation has landed on the Adriatic shores just when it did in the rest of the Europe, if not maybe long before those other places which claim they have it, and even though history deprived them, as it did us, of economic development, they only have something against those who made them suffer.





As I was going to choose an SUV, I started my research and although I glanced first at the most obvious choice, considering my budget, once I was refused by the bank for the loan on a Dacia Duster, I did what any sane eastern European would do and got a Range Rover Sport L494. 



Now, here's another thing. I didn't buy it new, I bought it 2nd hand from an authorised Land Rover dealer in Germany, again like any sane eastern European. I've owned many cars over time and had a few straight from the factory, but after years of experience I came to the conclusion that if you take your time to do your research on the market, it is not worth spending all that money for something which losses half its value the second you put you name on it. The second and the strongest reason was that my profession got again in the way and once I looked at the new facelift model, I realised I just want the original one, because it is technically the same car and it looks much better.







Now I know some will say it is a matter of taste, but as a professional I am telling you, is not, that is just something people with bad taste will say. The taste you have, has been cultivated by people like me who are trained to do these things. Considering all the design laws, the original L494, has lines that flow constantly and those lines gives the whole the harmony that triggers ones brain to see its beauty, same as symmetry does.




Another thing that makes your brain understand aesthetics is quantities, as in how much of each shape, colour or texture is used one next to each other. Those things gathered on a canvas, create a composition which if it is balanced right, it triggers the same senses, those which makes your brain understand and see the beauty in things. Those things are use in all art forms, being a painting, a design, a melody, a film, etc.

Surprisingly, the L494 original bumper, and not the Autobiography one with the lower skirts painted, was drawn with perfect quantities co create the perfect composition, as in how much black stands next to how much paint.




This not only brings the right symmetry to the whole canvas, but together with the right textures, gives the car the look of a true SUV.  I mentioned here textures, as there is another important detail Land Rover had for the original L494 and that is the Stealth Pack, which consists in all trim, mirrors caps, front and back shields and 21" alloy wheels in black mate, wheels which once the Stealth Pack was not available anymore disappeared from the option list and made a come back with the facelift in 2018, but only in gloss black, which is in my opinion again a bad choice. The Stealth Pack gives the car a rougher look, taking out of the pimp like spectre the standard one and the facelift are swimming in.





Taking into consideration all matters, I came to the conclusion that the L494 is not only the best choice when talking about a serious SUV, but is also the most stylish one, with the biggest chance to become a classic like the 1st generation did.


Engine wise, I chose SDV6 HSE.




As I decided to purchase it, I asked myself: Why would anyone want a SVR? Because is more powerful?  Well, the SDV6 has 306hp and 700nm, which in my book is more than enough. I mean, not that I wouldn’t like more power, for power is never enough, but come on, this is a truck, except going from the traffic lights faster you’ll never get to enjoy that power, because as far as I know physics don’t change with the brand. 

Because it looks better? No way! Those side vents grills are as ugly as the Porsche 996’s front lights.


 


Those two tone leader on the chairs don’t do much right to the SVR either, they lack in comfort and the black and white, sorry “ivory and ebony” choice of composition is really a bad choice both in aesthetics as much as it is in the quantity of the two tones on the same canvas, making it look clownish. It is very much the same as when you chose tan leader, black carpets and you get stingy with the headlining and leave it ivory. 





I mean, don’t we all think leader looks much better when is only outlined with a contrasted line, or even better stitched with a contrasted colour?




Colour wise, I chose Kaikoura Stone and I am glad I did because this colour is not anymore available on the newer RRS' now you can only order it on Velar. After doing my research, I realised that most of their iconic models have earthy colours. I'm imagining it has to do something with  being a utility vehicle which has to somehow blend with nature and it has to, because being a big car it takes a lot of space. Black or white was not an option for me, yet because of the pimp like spectre, those colours are reserved for panders who bring such a bad reputation to this car. Coris Grey would've been too dull, British Racing Green and Firenze Red would have made look old. Kaikoura Stone is a difficult colour, though, and it only works with the Stealth Pack, put any chrome on the car and will ruin the canvas.





For the interior I got the Tan leader, which complements the exterior perfectly, and I didn't get stingy with the headlining and got it in Morzine black to match the rest of the interior's black floor and upper dash board. Also set on the idea that this is going to be a classic one day, I chose one with the classic dials, which once again I thing plays better with the rest of the design lines of the whole car.




And yet, I got this beautiful thing which was 3 years old and at half the price I was trying to get it, when I was at the dealership 2 years back looking for a new one. It had Approved warranty and 60.000 km (37.283 miles) on the dash board. We are proud of it and happy, that somehow we manage to salvage another beauty from the hands of those who don't know to appreciate it, and dream to make it, one day, a classic. We even gave it a nick name: "Bukurosja", which in Albanian means Beauty. Since we've got it, we put on another 10.000 km of adventures through the Balkans and we love every minute of it. 

Me and my wife love beautiful cars. In fact we have in the garage another beauty, a BMW E46 Convertible, which we bought about 11 years back and followed the same procedure. The car is pristine and waiting as well its turn to become a classic. (follow my blog and read the story of the BMW as well) 

Back to the RRS, as for the facelift… I don’t get that one bit. Okay, I understand better technology on front lights, but on the exterior that is all. On the interior they fit too many screens for no purpose. I think the 2018 facelift is a beauty in a drag. No SUV needs air vents in the front bumper and exhaust pipes like a Lamborghini because they are not hyper cars, they are SUVs and they should show they serve a different purpose. I don't want to brag, but I am a visual artist, trained as a designer, and although I am all into performance and technology, I am very much interested in design lines as well, and when I look at them, I can't help not feeling like Andy Warhol has painted red lips over Mona Lisa's portrait.






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