Why are car names so absurdly baffling?
Car names are becoming more complicated and confusing than the Wandsworth one-way system. By Will Hersey
Why has it become so hard to keep track of car names and denominations? And more importantly, which numbers and letters now offer up the best option for petty oneupmanship in the Asda car park?
The problem could be age, of course. As a kid, when men across the country still spent their Sundays tinkering under their “motors”, mainly to avoid having to do any household chores or parenting, it seemed easy. A letter “I” for injection on the back of your boot was the minimum requirement, with extra points kicking in if combinations like GT or CS were in there somewhere and local hero status for the revered “Turbo” suffix. Back then it was the bigger the number, the bigger the engine. Simple times.
But as carmakers added new model sectors like city cars, SUVs, performance tuning sub-divisions, hybrid engines and future-facing electric versions, it’s now easier to memorise the human genome than it is the Mercedes-Benz A to S Class system.
All manufacturers seem to have their own baffling combination of alphanumerics, alongside made-up words which appear to have been signed off during hot Friday afternoon meetings when Alan’s leaving drinks were about to start.
This year, Jaguar launches the E-Pace and I-Pace to add to the F-Pace. The E-Pace is a smaller version of the F-Pace but while E might suggest electric to you, it isn’t. That’s the I-Pace. The “I” being a hangover from iPod perhaps, and adapted by multiple industries to imply innovation. Volkswagen is going one further and has just announced it’s changing its entire logo to herald in the new electric era.
It’s all a long way from the Ford Model A, where it all began. Basically, we’ve gone through the letters. We’ve gone through the numbers. We’ve gone through the animals — Mustang, Panther, Jaguar, Cougar, Impala, Stag, even Beetle. And we’ve gone through most of the silly names, too; Vauxhall Adam, Mitsubishi Lettuce and the recent Ferrari LaFerrari (proof that no brand is immune), come high up that particular list.
We still have the made up, of course.
This year, the luxury SUVs Lamborghini Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan lead that category.
And there is still some hangover from the old days, the letters “RS” currently being the most braggable thanks to Ford, Audi and others producing crazily powerful engines under its umbrella. It’s a badge that can still get men in fleece jackets taking photos in motorway service car parks.
Perhaps we attempt a Soviet-style renationalisation of car names. Small, Smaller, Smallest. The Fast One. That kind of thing.
At least some manufacturers aren’t taking it quite as seriously as others. For Tesla, Elon Musk always wanted a Model S, a Model E and a Model X, but Ford spoiled his schoolboy gag by blocking copyright on the Model E. He went for the Model 3 instead.
Initial reactions Top: in the Eighties, Volkswagen’s iconic hot hatch the Golf represented a golden era of car names
Above: a cheeky Audi campaign poster from New Zealand in 2013