x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Top 5: Cars that marked a turning point for automakers

Innovation can be a daunting prospect for any brand, and an expensive one for carmakers. Here are five examples that paid off.

BMW Isetta 300. AP Photo
BMW Isetta 300. AP Photo

Aston Martin surprised a lot of people - and dismayed hard-core fans - by introducing the tiny Cygnet, an about-face from the company's performance car heritage. But it's not the only car maker to break from its tradition; these cars represent a turning point, either subtle or dramatic, for five car makers that decided to take a risk and try something new.

BMW Isetta

In the early 1950s, Italian company Iso SpA - which built refrigerators, scooters and three-wheeled trucks - designed a small car, with the front end hinged as the only door. The company wanted to concentrate on the Iso Rivolta sports car and sold a number of licencing deals. The deal with BMW included the complete Isetta body tooling as well. BMW re-engineered the Isetta and the first model came out in 1955. The BMW 600 added two more seats, accessed by side doors; the front seats were accessed in the traditional way.

SS Jaguar 100

Swallow Sidercars was founded in 1922 by William Lyons and built SS-branded sidecars and automobiles. In 1935, Lyons wanted a new, evocative name for his company and the new SS 100 model became the first Jaguar. The SS moniker was dropped in the 1940s over the connotations with the Nazi regime. Jaguar celebrated its 75th anniversary with exhibitions at Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, the Concours D'Elegance at Pebble Beach in the US and at the Mille Miglia classic race in Italy.

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche purists were far from happy with the introduction of an SUV in 2002. As The Times wrote back in 2002: "On one level it is the world's best 4x4, on another it is the cynical exploitation of a glorious brand that risks long-term damage to that brand's very identity in the pursuit of easy money." Despite the negativity on its introduction, the Cayenne has proved a huge hit, and Porsche announced that in 2014 it will release a smaller SUV, the Cajun, to slot in below the Cayenne.

Lamborghini LM002

Dubbed the Rambo-Lambo, the LM002 was a big shift from the Italian badge more well known for sports cars. Lamborghini built a rear-engined military vehicle in the late 1970s codenamed the Cheetah. After the Cheetah was destroyed in testing by the US military, the LM001 was created, but it handled poorly because of the engine in the rear, a problem that was fixed with the LM002, which sold from 1986 to 1993. It was the carmaker's last foray into the SUV market.

Ferrari FF

The FF sees Ferrari move into new territory with its first four-wheel drive model and its first production shooting-brake - a cross between an estate and a coupe. The Pininfarina-designed FF - standing for four seats and four-wheel drive - is being touted as the Italian manufacturer's fastest four-seater, with a top speed of 335kph and a zero-to-100kph in 3.7 seconds. It boasts 450 litres of bootspace, which can be extended to 800 litres if the seats are down. The FF will make its debut at the Geneva motor show next month.