BBC Autos

Bentley designers choose their favourite VW Group cars

  • All in the family

    As the Volkswagen Group has expanded its global dominion, sweeping up legions of distinctive brands that could distract management from the company’s historic core, it is worth contemplating which models are most important to the conglomerate’s stylists.

    At the 2014 New York auto show, Luc Donckerwolke, director of design at VW subsidiary Bentley Motors, along with Sang Yup Lee, the brand’s head of exterior and advanced design, reflected on the VW family’s most inspiring designs.

    Their responses, delivered in the assured, considered cadences of Apple’s Jony Ive, were rudely drowned out at one point by an adjoining Rolls-Royce press conference, so the discussion adjourned to the placid surrounds of a Bentley Flying Spur.

    Donckerwolke is known for his design of the Lamborghini Murciélago and Gallardo. During his tenure at General Motors, Lee penned the 2010 Camaro. Here’s their look into VW’s back catalogue, and surprise – no Bentleys. (Photo: Bentley Motors)

  • Volkswagen Beetle

    Sang Yup Lee: There is only one. There is no substitute. It is the people’s car. For me, the transition from the Beetle to the Golf is a really fascinating story. (Volkswagen Group)

  • Volkswagen Beetle

    SL: This is why I have so much respect for Mr Giorgetto Giugiaro [designer of the next car in this list, the Golf] because, how can you think from here to there? At the same time, him being an Italian designer, that Golf, you cannot design any more German a design than this one. (Volkswagen Group)

  • Volkswagen Golf

    Luc Donckerwolke: I chose this because the Golf saved Volkswagen after finally finding the successor to the Beetle. It also had a modern, optimised package, which was for me remarkable because of the fact that it was so sound, so pure, from the architecture that it allowed seven generations of car to carry on. For me, that is proof of the value of the Golf. (Volksagen Group)

  • Volkswagen Golf

    SL: It becomes this icon of its own. If you think back in the days of the early ‘70s when that car was introduced, there were a lot of stylised cars at that time, especially from America. All of a sudden this Golf comes with anti-styling, this box. It is a most efficient box. It is not beautifully sculpted like other cars. That makes this car so special. (Volkswagen Group)

  • Porsche 911

    LD: For me it is clear the Porsche 911 is the sports car. I have three of them. I have a 993 Carrera S widebody, I have a 930 Turbo from ’87, and I have a 911 S from ’74, and they are not the last ones. For me, it is the perfect compact sports car. It has survived and it still inspires passion.

    It was pure functionality. Let’s be honest: it’s an engineer car, designed for engineers. It’s an honest design. When you take the padding off the dashboard, you have exactly the same design, with or without padding. The cockpit is not an empty space which has been filled with furniture. It shows how basic, how essential, that design was.

    It brought me, probably, to car design. I was sketching 911s. I never wanted to change it because I have a lot of respect for it. You go away from it, you forget for a little while, but you always come back to it. (Porsche Cars)

  • Porsche 911

    SL: It was a similar experience for me. I was born and raised in South Korea. I remember I was 19 years old, and I saw a 911 for the first time. It was nighttime and it was white. It was so beautiful. Back in those days in Korea there was no car culture, it was all kei cars. This is the car that made me be a car designer.

    We will talk about the 911 all day and all night. We are on the plane sometimes for a long flight, and the best conversations always start with Porsche 911. (Porsche Cars)

  • Audi TT

    LD: It basically fired all the inspiration in all the design studios all over the place. It became suddenly the car that was having seamless integrated bumpers. It also had great proportion of body to cabin. It was so monolithic. It was such a sculpture. It was also a Bauhaus kind of design, in a modern way, not in the traditional way as we always believe. No ornamentation. All of the functions were fulfilled by graphics onto this one sculpture. There was no added form to this pure shape. It was for me a car where you could never add one more design element or take one away, it was so essential.

    SL: It is very difficult for me to come up with one car that shocked me as much as TT. This was the most influential car when I was a student. I still remember all my classmates, “Have you seen the TT? This car doesn’t have a bumper!” That was sensational back in those days. I remember in the classroom, looking at my classmates’ sketches, somehow they all looked similar to the TT. (Audi)

  • Audi TT

    LD: Even at Audi there were TT four-doors, TT shooting brakes, TT kombis, TT avants – they were all TTs! It is the same thing with the Golf and the 911; “Was the first generation better?” This shows these cars were so right it gets automatically this kind of fanaticism for the first generation. Even though we all know functionally the third generation is much better, you still think, I want the first one, because it was pure, because it was uncompromised. (Audi)

  • Lamborghini Miura and Countach

    SL: I think we should combine them. It is one brand, two cars, completely different. One is very elegant and very beautiful, gorgeous,and the other is avant garde, almost with a machined, weapon-like look.

    LD: When I had to design the Murciélago, I took those two cars as inspiration. I took the architecture of the Countach and took the feelings and emotion in the formal DNA of the Miura together and was really trying to combine both. This really graphic, architectural world of the Countach together with the Miura.

    Both of them are completely different to what was happening at the time. The Miura showed that the super sports car could be sexy, it could be feminine. It was so technologically advanced in its package, with the 12-cylinder transverse motorbike engine-type of construction. And also the fascination of this car having the central pod and the front and rear bonnets opening up.

    SL: That’s beautiful actually, you can just leave it open all the time, it is so gorgeous. (Automobili Lamborghini, via Newspress)

  • Lamborghini Miura and Countach

    LD: Then the Countach. It's a machined car. It is not a man-made sculpture. It is a machine sculpture. So pure, so many twisting planes. It is incredible to manage to get something so pure. The surfacing of it. Everybody thinks that car was just flat planes. No! Incredibly voluptuous, a lot of tension in the surfaces. Yet you have the feeling you can design it with two lines. Again it is this purity, this essence that is very important. (Automobili Lamborghini, via Newspress)