Posted by: Raphael Orlove | October 7, 2009

DS and Panamera

Separated here by a mere parking space one finds two expressions of a spectacular automotive vision. Fifty years divides thes two sedans, but in spite of all of their differences, at their hearts they share a singular drive for refinement at the very edge of technical prowess. These two cars, a Citroen DS Super and a Porsche Panamera S may appear to be wholly incongruous with one another, but what denotes them as diferent only binds them further together into a near identical pair.

CollagePanamera1

The dark, lumpen shape is the most brand-new offering from Germany’s greatest sports car manufacturer, a departure from a brand known for small two-doors built to dominate every ribbon of asphalt on this green earth. This car here is fat, earthen, an open marketing ploy to cull as much capitol as the Porsche crest can acquire. At least, that’s what the usual press on this car says. They claim that it may be fast, but it’s just a sellout; not only is it a dull thing to buy, but it is also a dull car to own. Its most notable quality, according to the automotive journalists of today is its incredible plainness at the high speeds it effortlessly attains. The massive vee-eight ought to be thunderous, with its twin turbochargers bellowing the car to its rocket-like top speed of one hundred and seventy seven miles per hour. The Panamera S should scream and bark and shiver down to its finest sinew to cry forth to the horizon, a jet-black Reichsadler soaring over the the swooping Autobahn. But the Panamera isn’t what the automotive press expected, nor is it what the automotive press wants it to be. The Panamera doesn’t seek to tingle or buzz like a sports car, because its aim is not to thrill or entertain, but simply to be as fast a four-wheeled chariot for four passengers as can possibly be. Laborious minds toiled away translating the forces of the world’s rippling tarmac into all but infinite abstract vectors, testing properties of aluminum and steel to absorb, to assimilate, to conquer the forces thrown at an automobile as it fights wind and earth, drag and friction, at nearly three miles a minute. You may look far and you may look wide, but a faster, smoother, finer way to ferry yourself and three others along Earth’s highway and byways you will not find. From its thrumming mechanical heart surges forth the very pinnacle of machine technology, an automotive expression of all that the refined human mind can achieve.

The dark, lumpen shape is the most brand-new offering from Germany’s greatest sports car manufacturer, a departure from a brand known for small two-doors built to dominate every ribbon of asphalt on this green earth. This car here is fat, earthen, an open marketing ploy to cull as much capitol as the Porsche crest can acquire. At least, that’s what the usual press on this car says. They claim that it may be fast, but it’s just a sellout; not only is it a dull thing to buy, but it is also a dull car to own. Its most notable quality, according to the automotive journalists of today is its incredible plainness at the high speeds it effortlessly attains. The massive vee-eight ought to be thunderous, with its twin turbochargers bellowing the car to its rocket-like top speed of one hundred and seventy seven miles per hour. The Panamera S should scream and bark and shiver down to its finest sinew to cry forth to the horizon, a jet-black Reichsadler soaring over the the swooping Autobahn. But the Panamera isn’t what the automotive press expected, nor is it what the automotive press wants it to be. The Panamera doesn’t seek to tingle or buzz like a sports car, because its aim is not to thrill or entertain, but simply to be as fast a four-wheeled chariot for four passengers as can possibly be. Laborious minds toiled away translating the forces of the world’s rippling tarmac into all but infinite abstract vectors, testing properties of aluminum and steel to absorb, to assimilate, to conquer the forces thrown at an automobile as it fights wind and earth, drag and friction, at nearly three miles a minute. You may look far and you may look wide, but a faster, smoother, finer way to ferry yourself and three others along Earth’s highway and byways you will not find. From its thrumming mechanical heart surges forth the very pinnacle of machine technology, an automotive expression of all that the refined human mind can achieve.

CollagePanamera2
But the Panamera is the product of 2009 – pacing just a few feet along Auguststrasse reveals the Citroen DS Super, the automotive Everest of 1955…how far we’ve come. Now this car is not itself from 1955, the year the DS first came to market, the year that is to the Citroen what 2009 is to the Porsche. This is a DS from the 70s, a testament to how advanced the DS was when it first cruised forth from the factory gates in Paris, wafting along not on springs or any metal bars or beams, but rather on a hydropneumatic cushion, a system that regulated all aspects of the car, from its streeing that grows firmer as the car approaches high speed, to its swivelling headlights that followed the front wheels as the DS weaves its way across dark, unlit roads. No car controlled its movements with such poise, a grace granted by a technological drive mirroring the obsidian German down the street. What you see in these pictures is a DS at rest. Once awakened, the car will rise up to glide along the rutted, cobblestoned streets of Europe, especially the Europe that this car’s designers knew in the early 1950s. Those cocooned in its avant-garde shell will hardly know a thing, suspended as if on a cloud. For 2009, Porsche had to design a car capable of ironing out the generally smooth roads of today. It is firm and resolute, shaking on cracks and imperfections. Citroen did not have half a decade of road work to rely on and their crowning glory is supple and soft, not hard, as in the Panamera. Their varying apporaches only reflect differences in the times and places of their origins; their quest for ultimate speed and refinement is one. These cars share the same four seats, the same four doors, the same piercing eyes, the same sloping rear. From their complex curves to their mechanically controlled clutches they are alike in nearly every way.
CollageDS1
So why does one stir me in a way that the other hardly nears? What is it about that Citroen that drives me up the wall? Or what is it about cars that keeps my head from being free from them for more than minutes at a time? Well, the answers to these kinds of questions aren’t exactly about the get paired up with any answers anytime soon, but it’s almost like Berlin’s playing matchmaker for me and my obsession. Every corner is full of insight and intruige – there’s something that gets into my head here in Berlin 10119. In the East, in the West, along the quiet streets and the busy thoroughfares, in the worn out patina of hatchbacks and the gleaming flanks of contemporary design. There is the echoing call of diesel vans bouncing from side to side on tall, narrow, apartment block streets, the way that evening light glints and casts shadows on curves and creases unseen in the day. Mabye everywhere ther is something that keeps my head in constatnt agitation. Berlin, though, does do a spectacular job.
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