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Autobau Erlebniswelt Romanshorn – Part 1: Introduction

From alcohol to fuel

Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland

The brick buildings in which “Autobau” is located today belonged originally to the Federal Alcohol Administration in Romanshorn, Switzerland. In 1996, the Federation lost the exclusive right and a couple of years later the buildings were assigned to the town of Romanshorn. Fredy Lienhard, a Swiss entrepreneur as well as race car driver bought the landmarked buildings in 2007 and transformed them into this huge garage and event facility it has been since 2009. As a matter of fact, the 30’000 m2 area not only offers the exhilarating presence of around 85 cars, there is also a huge repair shop called “Factory” and a small circuit. Private events on the premises can also be booked, given the fact that Autobau offers a complete catering team in order to meet any need.

It cost the creators 12 million Swiss Francs (CHF) to renovate and transform the building to what it is today. The German word “Erlebniswelt” effectively means “a world to experience”. The building itself accentuates to the distinctive character of the whole experience: its history, the shape and materials (bricks and glass). Inside it’s even better; nice clean columns, track road imitations, model cars embedded in display windows in the floor, etc.

Porsche 550 Spyde scultpure, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
Porsche 550 Spyder scultpure, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
Porsche 550 Spyder scultpure, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
Porsche 550 Spyder scultpure, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland

An entire team at your service

In total, there are seven guides available to answer any question regarding the museum and the cars. Others take care of the cars when the collection is not open to the public. In addition to them, an event manager makes sure the venue is booked regularly. I was talking to one of the guides, and he said that Autobau is more of a rolling private collection than a museum. All of the cars are in mint condition; running and road legal – with the exception of the race cars, obviously.

A hidden jewel

This collection might not be as big and as prestigious as Jay Leno’s. But that’s like saying the view from the Empire State Building is not as spectucal as from One World Trade Center. The collection is jaw dropping and unique in its whole. Furthermore, the fact that the public can access it on Wednesdays and Sundays from 4 to 8 PM for an entrance fee of 15.- CHF is just amazing. The cars are not protected in anyway. Obviously, there are a few surveillance cameras. But there you have a private collection worth millions of francs or euros or dollars (whichever you prefer) and anyone is allowed to enter, get close to the cars, touch them and even open a few of them! In a time where respect and civic engagement are about as rare as rain in Los Angeles, who else in their right mind would do that these days?! And yet here it is, ready for everybody to enjoy it! Kudos to Autobau for giving the gearheads some food.

European Cars, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland
European Cars, Autobau Erlebniswelt, Romanshorn, Switzerland

The collection is segmented in three areas: European Supercars and Classic Cars (with a strong emphasis on Ferrari and Porsche) in the left wing of the building, Americana and British cars on the lower right wing, as well as race cars on the upper right wing.

2015 Peugeot 308 GTI & 2015 RCZ R Swiss Racing – 2015 Zurich Auto Show

Hitting the rev limiter

2015 Peugeot 308 GTI steering wheel
2015 Peugeot 308 GTI steering wheel

Peugeot is being serious about continuing and improving their sports models. After the 208 GTI, it’s time for the 308 GTI to put its wheels (19”) on the tarmac. Since the launch of the second generation 308 in September 2013, Peugeot has developed an entire 308 family, as well as improved it every year: three cylinder PureTech gasoline engines, new BlueHDI diesel engines, as well as a new six speed automatic transmission.

Until the beginning of this year, the range topping and most sporty 308 was the GT version with the 1.6l THP gasoline engine with 205 hp. This year, Peugeot has finally done to the 308 what they did to the little brother two years ago: a GTI version which gets the same 1.6l engine block, with the small difference that it now delivers 270 hp (identical to the one in the RCZ R). That sounds like music to my ears!

On 17 March 2015, Peugeot announced its brand mission as follows: “Peugeot is focusing all of its energy and resources into creating innovative mobility solutions, not only for today but for tomorrow, built around one core philosophy: the search for emotion.” Obviously, just seeing the car at an auto show doesn’t allow me to verify whether it actually delivers the emotions Peugeot wants me to feel. Nevertheless, I can still see it, touch it, feel it and know what makes it going like a proper lion!

Let’s start with the outside, shall we! There are GTI badges on the front fenders and in the back, bigger air intakes in the front and the Peugeot Lion logo is integrated in the front grill rather than having it on the hood, a design feature Peugeot introduced with the GT version in order to differentiate the sportier versions from the more mundane editions. Besides, the grill has a bespoke checkered flag design which refers to the sporting ambitions of the car.

2015 Peugeot 308 GTI
2015 Peugeot 308 GTI

Under the doors we notice the side flaps, which gives it a muscular stance. 19” wheels come standard, behind which boast red brake calipers with 4 pistons, ready to slow down 380 mm discs in the front, as well as 268 mm ones in the back. The suspension has been fine tuned to match the GTI’s power and brake performances. In the back we find a diffuser and a pair of pretty big exhaust pipes, similar to those on the RCZ R. But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to the sports wheels and chassis comes the Torsen differential that makes sure all of the 270 horses find their way from the stables to the road! Excellent!

Inside, it’s a spiced up version of the already really elegant and upmarket 308 GT. On the menu, we find bucket seats made out of leather, cloth and alcantara. Notice that the headrests’ shape are designed to look like they are fully integrated into the seat, but you can actually lift them up in order to adapt them to your height. In order to further distinguish the GTI from the other 308 versions, the stitches on the dashboard and around the cabin are accented in red, the steering wheel gets a GTI badge on the bottom and a red mark at the twelve o’clock position, “PEUGEOT Sport” and “GTI” lettering on the door sill panels, as well as an aluminum gear knob, pedals and foot rest.

The RCZ’ last hurrah

Road test reviews have praised the 308 GTI’s for its built quality, practicality and last but not least, sporting credentials. With that established, the 308 family appears to offer the full range from frugal and functional to the full on Nürburgring lap time chaser. However, being a big fan of the RCZ, I was pretty disappointed when Peugeot communicated that they were abandoning their plans to build a second generation, due to their restructuring plans and strategy called “Back in the Race”. Since the outgoing model was based on the previous generation 308, I can only imagine what a performance car a new RCZ generation would have been. Nonetheless, I’d still like to see what this 308 GTI could look like with a coupe silhouette…

2015 Peugeot RCZ R Swiss Racing
2015 Peugeot RCZ R Swiss Racing

Given the fact that the RCZ’s production has stopped in September, RCZ aficionados will have to make due with the couple of remaining new 200 THP GT Line and RCZ R standing in the showrooms or simply get a used one. At the 2015 Zurich Auto Show, Peugeot presented a special “Swiss Racing” version of the RCZ R. Technically identical to a standard RCZ R, the already leather wrapped interior as standard now features many elements covered in dark grey and red alcantara, such as the inner part of the door panels, the parking brake and the steering wheel. The arm rest cover is still leather but features a special insert marking the number of the limited edition, as well as the full vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car.

DS Automobiles – 2015 Zurich Auto Show

DS Automobiles – Making due with what they have

2015 DS 4
2015 DS 4

I know DS is probably not yet the most exiting car brand, but ever since PSA decided to make DS a standalone premium brand in June 2014, I have been following their development with great interest. The facelifted DS 4 gets the so called “DS Wings” front grill, with 84 LED lights. Also, the whole car has been lowered by 30 mm. The full leather interior actually looks and feels quite upmarket. The new 7 inch touch screen is alright. Many reviews have criticized it for having a very slow response time. It’s certainly not on a par with the best touch screens on the market but it’s quite good.

The DS 4 is the first car of the PSA Corporation to introduce Apple CarPlay. Hence, it projects the iPhone’s icons to the touchscreen of the car. The amount of buttons on the center console has also been reduced from 18 to 6. The built quality feels pretty upmarket. Changing gears while standing feels pretty precise and there is little play when in gear.

2015 DS 4 Crossback
2015 DS 4 Crossback

As far as the DS 4 Crossback is concerned, its height has been raised by 10 mm compared to the previous Citroën labelled version, transforming it into an SUV. The Crossback comes with wheel arch moldings and some roof bars. Inside, it’s technically identical to the standard DS 4. However, without the full leather interior, it looks well put together but not premium anymore. The fact that the DS 4 shares the dashboard with the Citroën C4 doesn’t help. The main issue with the DS 4 & DS 4 Crossback remains the pointy rear door with the fixed windows. In all fairness, I didn’t expect them to do structural changes on a facelift.

The revised DS 5 has been on the market for about half a year now and it has been given kind of the same treatment: “DS Wings” front grill, LED lights, touch screen, fewer buttons on the center console, revised suspensions and a new 6 speed gearbox.

2015 DS 5
2015 DS 5

Although all of the DS 4 & DS 5 models have now changed the Citroën chevron logos with the DS signature, the cars are technically still running under the Citroën brand. That will probably change with the brand’s new model generation starting in 2017. Although the manufacturer can’t yet compete with the technically much more advanced and very customer oriented German rivals, such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, DS is clearly taking small steps in that direction. Until the end of this decade, DS plans on having a worldwide uniform model range of six models. Now that Jaguar are back on track and tackling the German establishment, we just might see a French contender in about five years’ time.

2012 Peugeot RCZ

The concept

The RCZ started its life as one of many beautiful concept cars of Peugeot at the 2007 International Motor Show Germany – the IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung). Most of those concept cars never make it into production, but this one got such a good feedback and looked already production ready. So Peugeot made the brave decision and put it into production.

2007 Peugeot 308 RCZ
2007 Peugeot 308 RCZ

Anyway, the moment I saw this car on the internet I wanted it. Growing up in a family that had always had at least one Peugeot at a time (505, 406, 406 coupé, 307 SW) I always had somewhat of an emotional connection with the brand, but most of them were more appealing to the sensible driver rather to the passionate gearhead / petrolhead.

2007 Peugeot 308 RCZ
2007 Peugeot 308 RCZ

Then, two years later, Peugeot presented the production version of the RCZ. They dropped the “308” in order not to have people remind it of the the more functional model it is technically based on, making it the first Peugeot road car to have a model type name consisting of letters, rather than the typical three digits with the “0” in the middle.

The real deal

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

After the presentation of the road going version in the fall of 2009, production started in 2010 at the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria. I knew that one day I would have to own one. Little did I know that that day would already come by the end of 2012. Yes, I’m fortunate enought to call the nacre white one you see on the left my own. By the way, you might already have noticed that I used this car as the official MotorScotti logo. 🙂

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

This one is the 200 hp (147kW) version. I’ve had it since November 2012 and I’m absolutely delighted! Being the GT version it comes with the improved suspension and smaller steering wheel compared to the base 156 hp model.

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

The main reason why I wanted the RCZ is obvious: the look. I could spend hours just looking at it!! The double bubble glass roof and the two aluminum side rails are without a doubt the trade marks of this car, that add to the overall curvaceous and nicely balanced proportions.

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

The 19” Solstice wheels, the full leather interior (although I believe this one’s dashboard is not covered in real leather) and all of the equipment; electric and three way heated driver & passenger seats, bluetooth connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, automatically dimming interior mirror, xenon directional headlamps, hill assist etc.

Solstice 19'' Matt Black Onyx wheel, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Solstice 19” Matt Black Onyx wheel, 2012 Peugeot RCZ

A part from the equipment, the inside is just as nice to look at as the exterior – just look for yourself.

Optional aluminum gear lever, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Optional aluminum gear lever, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Full leather dashboard, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Full leather dashboard, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
First generation Peugeot 308 interior
First generation Peugeot 308 interior

Okay, the dashboard looks very similar to the one of the 308. However, it’s not the same. It differs from the 308’s in the back and instead of having three central vents, the middle one is replaced with a very classy analog clock.

Full leather front seat, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Full leather front seat, 2012 Peugeot RCZ

My car is pretty much stock. The only thing I changed was the gear lever. The original fake leather was not bad, but this optional full aluminum one looks so much more premium and sportier and makes the whole driving experience even more engaging. Being metal, it heats up quickly in the summer, so just be aware of it as you park the car in the sun for a couple of hours.

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

I’ve read and watched many reviews on this car and to it’s main competitor; the second generation Audi TT. In most cases, the Audi won, but were they (1) really comparable and (2) really objective about what the journalists said? I don’t care, I love the RCZ for its style, performance, ride and build quality. Yes, it everything inside is well put together and solid.

Passenger door, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Passenger door, 2012 Peugeot RCZ

The only thing that is left for me to improve the style are the center elements of the door trim. On this pre-facelift models, it’s simply plastic, despite all the parts around it are wrapped in leather. The facelifted model has this part covered in stitched leather…Peugeot could have done that right away, don’t you agree? My plan is to have that wrapped in leather, too. So stay tuned. ;-).

Instrument cluster, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Instrument cluster, 2012 Peugeot RCZ

Furthermore, this car is surprisingly practical. The trunk space is huge (321 l). You can even fold down the rear seats and have even more space (639 l). Obvisously, this car wasn’t build to compete with Peterbilt and Freightliner. However, I like to cool it the station wagon of the coupés.

Anyway, the important thing is to look at the entire package. The ride is a little jittery in town, but excellent everywhere else. The chassis keeps the car nicely on track with just very little understeer, the sports seats also hold you firmly in place. I did four laps of the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife this April. Obvisously, I’m far from being an amateur race driver. But still, this car sticks to the road like glue. Finally, dressed up in that silhouette, this car is already a collector car. This is accentuated by the fact that it went out of production on 18 September this year. Peugeot say they won’t replace it anytime soon. But you know what? It doesn’t need to – although it starts to show its age in terms of connectivity and other infotainment gadgets, this car is at least as desirable today as it was the day it was first presented to the public.

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