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The FWA Review is an ongoing series of articles providing a snapshot of each year at FWA and occasional specials focusing on certain styles and categories. These articles will be highlighting the main focus of the FWA project… websites who use cutting edge technology, together with inspirational ideas, that lead the way for future generations.

The FWA Review will act as a history of cutting edge web design and a reminder of those future-thinking sites, companies and individuals who have paved the way so far.

This ninth article in the series takes a look back at the most creative websites for cars ever to have launched on the web.

Car websites have come a long way since FWA started. In fact FWA had been running for over two years before we even featured an automotive website, which gives an indication of how they were neglected before then.

The following list represents the twenty most creative car websites ever to have been featured at FWA since 2000. The list is in chronological order, with the first in the list being the earliest featured at FWA.

Lexus Minority Report (http://lexus.teamone-usa.com/minorityreport/)

The first notable car website, or should we say experience, has to be from 2002 and the Lexus Minority Report site from Team One and Hi-ReS!

"You are now entering 2054

Special police can predict if you'll be committing a murder in the future.

They can then arrest and convict you before you commit the act.

They are Precrime.

Continue…"

Volvo XC90 (http://demo.fb.se/eng/volvo/volvoxc90/volvoxc90_eng/)

The year 2002 definitely was the big entrance on the web for car websites. The ability to incorporate so much multimedia, video effects etc made life a lot easier for creative agencies to fulfil their ideas.

This Volvo XC90 site demonstrates how adding photo-realistic scenes with subtle animations and apt sound effects can bring a website to life and make for a user experience that is very personal.

Using your mouse to move the scene either left or right added an extra intrigue as to what you would find.

Ford F150 (http://ford-f150.2a-archive.com/)

We're lucky to have a link to the original version of this groundbreaking site from November 2003 and the first of 2Advanced's car websites to make this list.

This high impact site, loaded with video animations, had an edge on all other sites in this field with the added extra of a human tour guide (Rick Titus). Whilst some people found him irritating, you can't deny that he wasn't attention grabbing.

Mercedes-Benz SLK (http://www3.mercedes-benz.com/d/home/products/passengercars/slkclass/special04/start_en.html?mode)

Is this a website or a short film? Call it an interactive film.

Scholz and Volkmer are truly the masters at producing automotive websites, and pretty much nail every Mercedes-Benz site they launch.

This interactive film allows users to enjoy the film from start to finish and/or interact at specific points with the car itself.

Saturn Relay (http://demo.northkingdom.com/saturn/index2.html)

Goodby Silverstein & Partners joined forces with North Kingdom to create this masterpiece.

The idea of this site is to explore each interactive scene to discover a letter (making up RELAY).

Each scene is packed with treats and quality video, making it a recreational site that is reminiscent of a point and click adventure.

Ford Mustang (http://www.shanemielke.com/projects/ford-mustang/)

Loaded with power and action, the Mustang site boasts some special treats.

Again, as seen before in this list of great car sites, small added effects, like here using tumbleweed, turned this site into an experience rather than just an info-mercial.

Okay, so I'm assuming you have clicked on the link and visited this site? Did you click on the car in the foreground? Did you change the car to a convertible? See, you need to experience these things first hand. :)

Saab Infinite Drive (http://www.lowetesch.com/showroom/saab/infinitedrive/)

What better way to show off a car than a video of it, behind the wheel.

Like many of these car websites, a good broadband connection is needed to get the best, seamless, experience.

This simple idea works a treat as you can enjoy the ride whilst taking in several views from each location. Once you've taken them all in you can move on to the next scene. Simple yet very effective.

Toyota X-Body (http://demo.northkingdom.com/toyota/)

Another hot site from The North Kingdom stable and a site that was unfortunately plagued by being on a very slow server when it launched, leaving a number of people giving up before they even saw it.

Today, it's easily accessible on North Kingdom's very own servers and loads like a dream.

Drive around a 3D city to enjoy the car, whilst taking in some subtle treats like animated billboards and the like.

BMW 3 Series (http://www.bmw.com/com/en/index_highend.html?prm_content=../../com/en/newvehicles/3series/sedan/2005/experience/phase_2/_highend/xml/experience.xml)

As you'll have noticed from the progression in this article, each car website is getting more and more focused on the car and this is a perfect example of that.

Another video and 3D packed site that gives full-on high-quality close-ups of the 3 Series Sedan.

Just looking at this site again makes me realise how sexy some of these cars are. The close-ups are superb, giving millimetre coverage of the car itself.

Subaru Forester (http://www.subaru.co.jp/forester/special/)

Depending on where you are located in the world, this one may take a while to load so please be patient.

At FWA, we love receiving work from Asia and most notably Japan, China and South Korea.

This side scrolling site has a clean and crisp feel, whilst the addition of humans in the form of video give it that realistic appearance.

Subaru R1 (http://www.subaru.co.jp/r1/special)

The R1 site from Japan manages to hit its target audience with a perfectly crafted site that sells the car as a cute and friendly car.

Created entirely with an animated 2D cartoon look and feel, and once again, selling the car through a story, you'll leave this site with a definite feeling of "ahhhh", just like that warm fuzzy feeling you get after watching a children's cartoon that has a happy ending with your kids.

Peugeot 1007 (http://www.1007.peugeot.co.uk)

Ever wanted to know how you could incorporate a venus fly trap in a car website?! Well, here's the site.

Moving in a completely different direction from the norm, the Peugeot 1007 site is jam packed with personality.

The cute and impressive animations breathe a unique life into this site and make exploring it a real treat.

Mercedes-Benz R-Class (http://www.mercedes-benz.com/r-class)

So we know how good Mercedes- Benz cars are and it must be extremely difficult to transfer this to the web, yet Scholz and Volkmer again manage to do this with apparent ease.

The R-Class site exudes and oozes class to the maximum. Creative, captivating and often awe-inspiring, with some of the close-ups, especially for the interior, being totally transfixing.

Toyota Aygo (http://www.northkingdom.com/competition/aygo/en/)

Okay, so this site made it into the list on a gimmick but what a gimmick it is! Shall I tell you what the gimmick is?

No, see for yourself and then you'll know why I couldn't explain it.

Saab Animal Vision (http://www.lowetesch.com/showroom/saab/animalvision/GLOBAL/en/)

I have to say that this is one of my favourite sites from all genres. It's so simple yet so creative.

With an almost Blair Witch Project atmosphere to it, users are left alone in the woods of Sweden with a car and some elusive animals. Find the animals and enjoy the experience.

The eyes have it.

Saibu Tour (http://awards.bascule.co.jp/2006/saab/en/)

Another site for Saab. This one created by the team at Japan's Bascule Inc.

It's a simple idea… point, click and zoom. Yet the result is something else.

What is clever with this idea is that you'll find yourself continuing to click until you reach the end of the site.

Lexus IS250 (Russia) (http://www.lexus-is.ru/)

You want close-ups? This Russian site for Lexus is all about close-ups. What better way to promote a car than to let you get up close and personal.

Again, simple ideas with massive impact. The bigger your monitor, the better the effect. Can we say jaw-dropping? I don't know about you but some of those close-ups leave you with a gapping mouth.

VW Features (http://www.vwfeatures.com/)

Crispin Porter & Bogusky and IQ interactive really nailed this site with an excellent and highly original idea.

Give the user a chance to build their own VW Golf GTi and then… let them race it. Oh and I forgot to mention Helga.

Enjoy your joyride, it's one you'll never forget.

"Faster, faster!"

Mini JCW GP (http://www.mini.com/gone_fast)

The team at Germany's Interone, hit the perfect beat for this special edition site for Mini.

The tyre screeching, great music and incredible 3D model gives this a double thumbs up.

High impact, with attitude and adrenaline full… perfect for the car and its audience.

Renault Megane (http://www.nuevomegane.com/)

This is a very clever campaign site for the Megane. The actual TV advert has been dissected into individual explorable scenes, which tie in together perfectly.

Almost has a feel of sites within a site and the individual scenes are so different that it's quite amazing how they tied the whole project in together so seamlessly.

Final thought

You'll notice how we have 20 sites in this list and they are pretty much dominated by the same manufacturers. Why is that? In my opinion it's because of the agencies they choose to create these unforgettable experiences.

I could list them all here but I don't think I need to. Let's just say that a small number of individuals can make a huge difference to the way we enjoy our time on the web.

So, where do car websites go from here?

I think you'll agree that the closer you can get to touching the car the better. The high impact close-ups are unbeatable, yet the creativity of sites like Saab Animal Vision is truly unforgettable.

For me, you can never beat original, simple and creative ideas. You can never foresee them, they just happen and sometimes the ideas that turn into the most powerful and unforgettable experiences happen in the blink of an eye.

Personally, apart from those unique creative ideas, I'd like to see more fullscreen car sites. I want 21 inches of gorgeous imagery, video and motion.

The car is the star.


About the author, Rob Ford
Founder & Principal, FWA

Robert Ford is FWA’s Principal. Born and bred in England with a background in finance, sales and project management, working for companies like Halifax PLC and American Express. He oversees the day to day running of the FWA project.


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