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Is 2009 the worst year ever for car design?


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Warning-this is a rant, but it is how I really feel.

This comes in part from Miata net and hanging out with a few of the VW/Audi guys...and talking with people at work or in various social circles.

The feeling seems to be widespread that most of what is being built right now is just plain..well..butt awful ugly.

I need to know if you all think 2009 is the worst year ever for car design. I just look at what some car makers are building, and I just want to weep. Not to sound like a Cheers and Gears nutjob, but a rusty 73 Maverick on jackstands looks better visually IMHO than the following:

Anything from Nissan other than the 350Z or the GTR. The Z and GTR aren't all that great, but they aren't ugly either.

Ridgeline, Anything Acura, and the CRV from Honda. Just awful. My wife is not a car person and she laughs out loud every time she sees a Ridgeline. She finds the CRV, the Acura's and the Civic even uglier.

The entire Toyota lineup is horrible, other than the TC.

Mitsubishi...the new Lancer/EVO I think looks horrible, the Eclipse is amazingly bad (consumer reports is right in giving it a horrible rating, IMHO...just nothing on this car is "right" visually or in the way the interior is laid out.) The rest of the lineup just plain is awful as well.

BMW...not on board with anything other than the Z4, and BMW is putting a lot of money on the hood of the Z4 to move it. I still like the old Z3 better than the Z4.

Mazda..the CX-7 and CX-9 are really not good looking.

Merc-Benz...I like the cars from the earlier eras better.

Subaru-the Big SUV (Tribecca or whatever) Ugly, even without the vagina inspired front end. The previous car is an Ob-Gyns worst nightmare come true, and the restyle IMHO makes it even worse.

Chrysler...I can't say nasty things about a few of the products because people here drive them or like them, but the Caliber is not good looking by any measure.

Am I off base or is 2009 one of the worst year for car styling in a long time?

I'm going to find a Delorean, a mad scientist named Brown, a length of wire, and a Court House...and go back in time and buy a 57 Olds ragtop like my grandfather used to own!

:P:P

Chris

Edited by 66Stang
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I'm talking overall average, everything for sale.

CTS Coupe and Lacrosse both are beautiful. I guess I just see a lot of really ugly (IMHO) cars being made and don't like the styling direction of a lot of carmakers.

Chris

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I'm talking overall average, everything for sale.

CTS Coupe and Lacrosse both are beautiful. I guess I just see a lot of really ugly (IMHO) cars being made and don't like the styling direction of a lot of carmakers.

Chris

Hmmm.... I'm sure there are other points in history that were really ugly also...ugly is the eye of the beholder, after all. To me, 1947 cars were way uglier than anything of 2009, for example.

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Well, people who lived in 1947 didn't know any better. I'd agree (looking back) that most of those cars looked pretty stark, but that's with the benefit of hindsight. That is why my interest in 'classic' cars ends around 1955/56 - before that MOST were ugly, IMO.

However, those of us who lived through the '80s will attest that nearly all cars from that era were FUGLY and we thought so at the time, too. Very, very few of the cars from that era are going to be covetted in the future. When I search on Ebay for prizes to dream about, I end my search from 1972 later, because after that bumpers became so grossly exaggerated that it ruined even some promising designs. There were some interesting looking cars in the the mid and late '70s (the downsized Impalas, the full-sized New Yorkers of '75-'78, for example), but the '80s were an era best forgotten.

I think in a lot of ways, vehicle design is going through a bit of a renaissance now. The CTS is gorgeous. The CX-7 is sharp. Most of what Mazda makes is rather pleasing. Nissan has some nice looking stuff. We have a '07 Maserati in our garage right now and it ain't ugly, that's for sure!

I'd say most of the hot looking vehicles right now are coming out of Europe, sadly.

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Well, people who lived in 1947 didn't know any better. I'd agree (looking back) that most of those cars looked pretty stark, but that's with the benefit of hindsight. That is why my interest in 'classic' cars ends around 1955/56 - before that MOST were ugly, IMO.

However, those of us who lived through the '80s will attest that nearly all cars from that era were FUGLY and we thought so at the time, too. Very, very few of the cars from that era are going to be covetted in the future. When I search on Ebay for prizes to dream about, I end my search from 1972 later, because after that bumpers became so grossly exaggerated that it ruined even some promising designs. There were some interesting looking cars in the the mid and late '70s (the downsized Impalas, the full-sized New Yorkers of '75-'78, for example), but the '80s were an era best forgotten.

I think in a lot of ways, vehicle design is going through a bit of a renaissance now. The CTS is gorgeous. The CX-7 is sharp. Most of what Mazda makes is rather pleasing. Nissan has some nice looking stuff. We have a '07 Maserati in our garage right now and it ain't ugly, that's for sure!

I'd say most of the hot looking vehicles right now are coming out of Europe, sadly.

Yeah, the '80s into the 90s were pretty blah overall...I esp. hated the composite headlights that so many cars used in the late 80s...and they turned beige after a few years.

Overall, I like of the styling of today...not too much of a fan of the Bangled BMWs, though the 5 has grown on me, as have the 3 series coupes..my favorite Merc design is the CLS--love the shape... and a lot of the high end stuff is incredible (Ferraris, Porsches, Maseratis, Aston Martins, etc..). Much of the mass market FWD generics from Korea, Japan, and US are pretty dull stylistically, IMHO.

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Well if it's everything....

CTS

Enclave

Malibu (well... not beautiful... but it has a handsomeness that has really grown on me>

Accord Coupe (the only thing from Honda/Acura that isn't completely f-ed up>

XJ

XK

Most of Mercury is at least handsome

Edge

I'm trying to think of an attractive Chrysler and I just... can't... do.... it. ..... Crossfire... maybe

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I think Crossfire is discontinued. Neighbors have one and the design is growing on me a little bit.

The Mercury designs are growing on me as well.

Chris

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The good:

CTS, esp. the coupe... (delete rant about the $@%#ing B-pillar) :flamed:

Escalade, esp. the EXT

HHR, Silvesrado HD, Corvette (obviously the Camaro, but that's '10)

GMC anything, esp. Sierra HD & Acadia

Pontiac G8!!!!

Buick Enclave

300C, Challenger, Charger, Magnum, Viper

Lincoln MKX (that baby-crossover thing)

Infiniti G37 coupe, FX37 & FX50!

BMW 5-series, and mot of the M-cars

Mercedes Benz.... pretty much everything, although

I HATE the CSL's thick, triangular B-pillar <_<

Porsche has a few good lookers...

The bad:

Pretty much 50% of Ford's lineup

65% of Toyota's lineup

The ugly:

Honda Element :blink:

Honda Ridgeline :blink::yuck::puke:

Honda Pilot :blink::yuck::puke:

Acura ANYTHING:

Toyota Prius:

Nissan Maxima :blink:

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The grand majority are at least boring if not outright ugly, but there are some bright spots. It certainly isn't a high water mark of design excellence like the 20's or the 60's and early 70's.

Even the nasty 80's had more decent designs than we have now, despite the other afflictions of the cars from that decade.

Today you have to sift through lots of mud to find a pinch of design gold - and then you need to act fast before it goes away.

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I agree with almost all that you have said Mr. 66 with the exception of the BMW 3-Series coupe....I think it's exceptionally goodlooking.

You do know why many cars are odd? I read an article awhile back on current design, expecially in cars. Ugly IS in. People actually like expressing themselves through offbeat odd design...it's reverse chic if you will. So this is not all a mistake...it's calculated.

Edited by HarleyEarl
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I agree with almost all that you have said Mr. 68 with the exception of the BMW 3-Series coupe....I think it's exceptionally goodlooking.

You do know why many cars are odd? I read an article awhile back on current design, expecially in cars. Ugly IS in. People actually like expressing themselves through offbeat odd design...it's reverse chic if you will. So this is not all a mistake...it's calculated.

Yes, cars like the Element, Aztek, B6 Tribeca (which I always thought was an homage to older SAAB styling) were intentionally ugly.. :)

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I'm not saying all unusually designed vehicles are a roaring success. But it is a trend in design in a variety of manufactured goods.

Nothing else can explain design like the horrid new Acuras. And yet they will sell in respectable numbers.

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The problem with car design anymore is that it is so cliched; few original ideas are out there. I don't know if it is a combination of crash test standards and the never-ending "bigger is better" mentality, but cars today have become so ungainly and they all seem to carry the same styling themes. Before, you could easily distinguish different brands and makes; now they all kind of blend together.

My modern design peeves:

The high beltline thing has been taken to extremes in too many cases, and most of time it results in a huge, boring slab of a trunk. Now we have a trend toward stubby rear decks and everybody's doing it. Part of the reason I love Mercedes-Benzes and Jaguars so much is that they have generally ignored the ridiculously high beltlines and short rears...the new 2009 Mazda 6 also has a sexy profile. I love the CTS sedan, but the CTS coupe's beltline is just unflattering and makes it look stubby and toy-like.

Huge, sweeping headlights. I don't like 'em, especially when they travel 3/4 of the way up the hood. Give me a horizontal layout anyday.

The A-pillar / front fender swoop thing. This is where the A-pillar turns into a crease that swoops along the fender. So overplayed.

Gigantic emblems. Some, like GMC, it looks ok, but the size of emblems on some cars is getting way out of scale. The waterfall emblem on the back of a Mercury Sable is huge!

I think the biggest problem is that many designs are no longer cohesive because technology has allowed us to do so many things that some automakers just slap in a crease here, some chrome there, side vents, etc. without looking at the overall picture. Honda has been notorious for this the last couple years. The Accord and a number of other vehicles are a clusterf**k of design ideas that do not mesh together.

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I must defend the 80s....since I grew up in them.

Now there were cars that simply missed the boat:

6000 and Century. Cougar and the box-Foxes before them. The second Tempo and Topaz. The notchback Citation. Anything with rear-wheel spats on it. Aries and Reliant. The deVille and Fleetwood before the 89 lengthening. The last B-body Delta 88/LeSabre. 82 Sentra, 84 Corolla sedan, Mitsubishi Cordia and Tredia. Yeah, when thought on, that list can get pretty long, and that's just new-for-the 80s cars.

But that list wasn't as easy as what comes up for the stuff I consider handsome:

GM's A (excepting above), E (as of 86), F, G, H, J, and W-bodies. Corvette. Fox LTD/Marquis. Thunderbird. Both Supras. Corolla coupe. Celica. Chrysler M-bodies (even the 5th Ave.). Imperial. RX-7. Z. The second and third Maxima. Lancer. Volvo 700 cars. Starion (esp. after the widebody fenders came). Fiero. 944. Legend and Integra. The second Pulsar. Prelude. 86 Accord. Golf, Jetta, and Scirocco. So much more beyond that I would enjoy owning and not have to apologize for.

But these are MY tastes.

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>>"You do know why many cars are odd? I read an article awhile back on current design, expecially in cars. Ugly IS in. People actually like expressing themselves through offbeat odd design...it's reverse chic if you will. So this is not all a mistake...it's calculated.

Nothing else can explain design like the horrid new Acuras. "<<

I believe it's something else entirely.

We have reached a true impasse' in car design; no longer is there extraneous space to work in whatever manner desired (what pops to mind at this moment: the blade front fenders of the '66 Toronado) . Modern cars are shrink-wrapped very tightly. Add to that safety requirements (bumper, pedestrian impact specs, etc) AND aerodynamics neccessary for MPG, plus the fact that the global energy situation is pushing cars to be smaller & smaller & smaller, and you have mandated homogenization.

Look: every single car has a steeply-raked, flush, bonded windshield, twin roof 'rain channels', flush side & rear glass and a 'football' profile. The only thing different between 2 is the outline shape of the side glass and the thin trim that may be around it.

With aero in mind, will this ever change?? Windshields are not going to go back to being more upright, there is really no room any longer (never mind stylistics) for wrapped glass.... this is it, I firmly believe. The roofs are tight, slick, aerodynamically unobtrusive..... and this is the way they will stay as long as those influences remain. The only thing I can see happening is MORE regulation that would require some degree of bulkiness/ reinforcement, maybe raising the roofs some, otherwise; we're all done there.

Take stock of the rear bumpers on modern cars. Of course there all IMP and body-colored, and they 'fit in' with the lines of the rear fascia. Every trunklid wraps down to the rear bumper ("for lift-over ease"), 90% have a 'minivan indent' where the trunklid angles either straight down or is backcut from the bumper. ALL SUVs, ALL minivans, ALL cars feature a decklid opening down to the bumper: there is but 1 car on the road today that bucks this, and the review-whiners be damned - the Dodge Challenger put style over ease-of-use and does NOT wrap the deck opening all the way down to the rear bumper & instead runs full-width taillights across the rear. Can't you feel that cooling, refreshing breeze blowing??? As students of auto design, retro-esque cues or not, we should all be dancing in the streets over this single feature- God bless Chrysler!

And, for me at least, the rest of the car is the same thing. Bodies are tighty wrapped and small; not only don't stylistic sweeping gestures play well on small cars (see my sig quote from one Bill Mitchell), there's no room for them anyway and CAFE, NHTSA, aero, FedReg, etc won't permit much else. Take the front fenders off 15 cars, toss them on the ground and there's almost no identity to them- the sheetmetal on same-class modern cars does no 'talking' as far as ID is concerned- all of a car's look, image/ ID is wrapped up in tiny grille (ahem- notinthecaseofthenewacuras!) and the lights. All hoods are pitched downward, all headlights are integral and flush (ahem- accord, FX)... one could barely feel out one's own car in a midnight parking lot, nevermind tell the difference between others.

Bottom line : many cars will 'get ugly' because there is little left to physically change except the details (grilles, bumpers, lights), and once most of the decent ideas are gone thru, those that are less pleasing will be forced to move into rotation merely to serve the cause of 'change'.

To me, modern car design is not unlike a can of soda : we've gone thru the screw-cap, bi-metal, crimped edge, the pull-top, slightly different shapes, the 'stackable base' but now the can itself is done... only thing that will change is the label, and some will naturally look less appealing than others.

This doesn't mean that a few designs will not appear dynamic and actually new and look terrific, but the the bulk will have to scrabble around in the bottom of the barrel.

Close the book.

Edited by balthazar
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Well if it's everything....

CTS

Enclave

Malibu (well... not beautiful... but it has a handsomeness that has really grown on me>

Accord Coupe (the only thing from Honda/Acura that isn't completely f-ed up>

XJ

XK

Most of Mercury is at least handsome

Edge

I'm trying to think of an attractive Chrysler and I just... can't... do.... it. ..... Crossfire... maybe

Add the Taurus to that list as well as the Fusion

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>>"You do know why many cars are odd? I read an article awhile back on current design, expecially in cars. Ugly IS in. People actually like expressing themselves through offbeat odd design...it's reverse chic if you will. So this is not all a mistake...it's calculated.

Nothing else can explain design like the horrid new Acuras. "<<

I believe it's something else entirely.

Take stock of the rear bumpers on modern cars. Of course there all IMP and body-colored, and they 'fit in' with the lines of the rear fascia. Every trunklid wraps down to the rear bumper ("for lift-over ease"), 90% have a 'minivan indent' where the trunklid angles either straight down or is backcut from the bumper. ALL SUVs, ALL minivans, ALL cars feature a decklid opening down to the bumper: there is but 1 car on the road today that bucks this, and the review-whiners be damned - the Dodge Challenger put style over ease-of-use and does NOT wrap the deck opening all the way down to the rear bumper & instead runs full-width taillights across the rear. Can't you feel that cooling, refreshing breeze blowing??? As students of auto design, retro-esque cues or not, we should all be dancing in the streets over this single feature- God bless Chrysler!

Funny you mentioned that..as it says on the Dodge website, '..And with a low lift height, accessing the trunk from Challenger's exterior is a breeze'.

Believe it or not, the decklid DOES go down to the bumper, which is why the taillight is split into 3 segments. Subtle. They did a nice job on that detail.

True enough about regulations and conformity...cars in general are more alike than diffferent today.

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>>"You do know why many cars are odd? I read an article awhile back on current design, expecially in cars. Ugly IS in. People actually like expressing themselves through offbeat odd design...it's reverse chic if you will. So this is not all a mistake...it's calculated.

Nothing else can explain design like the horrid new Acuras. "<<

I believe it's something else entirely.

We have reached a true impasse' in car design; no longer is there extraneous space to work in whatever manner desired (what pops to mind at this moment: the blade front fenders of the '66 Toronado) . Modern cars are shrink-wrapped very tightly. Add to that safety requirements (bumper, pedestrian impact specs, etc) AND aerodynamics neccessary for MPG, plus the fact that the global energy situation is pushing cars to be smaller & smaller & smaller, and you have mandated homogenization.

Look: every single car has a steeply-raked, flush, bonded windshield, twin roof 'rain channels', flush side & rear glass and a 'football' profile. The only thing different between 2 is the outline shape of the side glass and the thin trim that may be around it.

With aero in mind, will this ever change?? Windshields are not going to go back to being more upright, there is really no room any longer (never mind stylistics) for wrapped glass.... this is it, I firmly believe. The roofs are tight, slick, aerodynamically unobtrusive..... and this is the way they will stay as long as those influences remain. The only thing I can see happening is MORE regulation that would require some degree of bulkiness/ reinforcement, maybe raising the roofs some, otherwise; we're all done there.

Take stock of the rear bumpers on modern cars. Of course there all IMP and body-colored, and they 'fit in' with the lines of the rear fascia. Every trunklid wraps down to the rear bumper ("for lift-over ease"), 90% have a 'minivan indent' where the trunklid angles either straight down or is backcut from the bumper. ALL SUVs, ALL minivans, ALL cars feature a decklid opening down to the bumper: there is but 1 car on the road today that bucks this, and the review-whiners be damned - the Dodge Challenger put style over ease-of-use and does NOT wrap the deck opening all the way down to the rear bumper & instead runs full-width taillights across the rear. Can't you feel that cooling, refreshing breeze blowing??? As students of auto design, retro-esque cues or not, we should all be dancing in the streets over this single feature- God bless Chrysler!

And, for me at least, the rest of the car is the same thing. Bodies are tighty wrapped and small; not only don't stylistic sweeping gestures play well on small cars (see my sig quote from one Bill Mitchell), there's no room for them anyway and CAFE, NHTSA, aero, FedReg, etc won't permit much else. Take the front fenders off 15 cars, toss them on the ground and there's almost no identity to them- the sheetmetal on same-class modern cars does no 'talking' as far as ID is concerned- all of a car's look, image/ ID is wrapped up in tiny grille (ahem- notinthecaseofthenewacuras!) and the lights. All hoods are pitched downward, all headlights are integral and flush (ahem- accord, FX)... one could barely feel out one's own car in a midnight parking lot, nevermind tell the difference between others.

Bottom line : many cars will 'get ugly' because there is little left to physically change except the details (grilles, bumpers, lights), and once most of the decent ideas are gone thru, those that are less pleasing will be forced to move into rotation merely to serve the cause of 'change'.

To me, modern car design is not unlike a can of soda : we've gone thru the screw-cap, bi-metal, crimped edge, the pull-top, slightly different shapes, the 'stackable base' but now the can itself is done... only thing that will change is the label, and some will naturally look less appealing than others.

This doesn't mean that a few designs will not appear dynamic and actually new and look terrific, but the the bulk will have to scrabble around in the bottom of the barrel.

Close the book.

Excellent breakdown....put things I never considered in ways I never considered.

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I see your point Balthazar but I'm not ready to

completely give up just yet... there's always a

way to think outside of the box, and to be fair

I'm surprised that you're DEFENDING the lack

of originality.

Production cars like the Viper, Mercedes CLK

& CL fixed roof hardtops, Chrysler Charger,

Challenger & 300C, Infiniti FX/G, Cadillac CTS

the now dead Prowler & even the now stale &

dumbed down PT Cruiser prove just how lazy,

unimaginative & untallented most designers

are... or perhaps companies like Toyota & to

a lesser degree GM stifle, trip up & discourage

anything outsied of the box.

----

I would say the DARK perior was 1974 - 1984

as far as styling goes, but even then there

were a few really nice designs and overall

there was more B+ & A- designs than today,

while the D- & Fs were just as prevalant.

L.A.

I pretty much disagree with 75% of the list

you posted on the 1st page.

Late '80s B-bodys were ugly ut somehow all

those disgusting FWD piles of camel turd

were NOT!?

I'm stumped. :huh:

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Let's see:

Chrysler: 300, Charger, Magnum, Challenger, Journey , new Ram, Viper, PT, Liberty, Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited, Patriot

GM: CTS, CTS Coupe, CTS Wagon, Escalade, Camaro, Malibu, Corvette, Tahoe, Avalanche, G8, G8 ST, Solstice, Sky, Astra, Aura, 9-3, H3, Sierra, , Acadia, Enclave, possibly Invicta

Ford: Edge, Flex, next Taurus, Mustang

Mazda: RX-8, 3, 6, Miata

Jaguar: entire linup

Aston Martin: Entire linup

Maserati: Gran Turismo

Nissan: Altima, 350Z, G35, G37, M35

Honda: Accord Coupe

Lexus: IS, GS, LS

BMW: 3-series coupe, M3, 6-series, new 7-Series, X5

Mercedes: C-Class, CL, CLK, CLK63 AMG Black Series, S-Class, M-Class, SL, SLK

Audi: A3, A4, A5, A6, A8, R8

Lamborghini: Everything, with special mention to the Reventon

There's more but I think I've made my point. :wink:

Edited by Dodgefan
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Let's see:

Chrysler: 300, Charger, Magnum, Challenger, Journey , new Ram, Viper, PT, Liberty, Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited, Patriot

GM: CTS, CTS Coupe, CTS Wagon, Escalade, Camaro, Malibu, Corvette, Tahoe, Avalanche, G8, G8 ST, Solstice, Sky, Astra, Aura, 9-3, H3, Sierra, , Acadia, Enclave, possibly Invicta

Ford: Edge, Flex, next Taurus, Mustang

Mazda: RX-8, 3, 6, Miata

Jaguar: entire linup

Aston Martin: Entire linup

Maserati: Gran Turismo

Nissan: Altima, 350Z, G35, G37, M35

Honda: Accord Coupe

Lexus: IS, GS, LS

BMW: 3-series coupe, M3, 6-series, new 7-Series, X5

Mercedes: C-Class, CL, CLK, CLK63 AMG Black Series, S-Class, M-Class, SL, SLK

Audi: A3, A4, A5, A6, A8, R8

Lamborghini: Everything, with special mention to the Reventon

There's more but I think I've made my point. :wink:

Yes, lots of good stuff...I like most all of those...to that list I'd add the Quattroporte and CLS (my favorite Merc). The problem is, at the cheap end (under $30k), their isn't a lot that looks that great, IMHO.

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Does anyone else just look at cars and think "yep, that car was designed pretty much entirely with computer technology" instead of being hand-drawn or built from clay first?

Yes...such it is these days. I wonder if anyone in the biz uses clay anymore or can draw on paper...

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Does anyone else just look at cars and think "yep, that car was designed pretty much entirely with computer technology" instead of being hand-drawn or built from clay first?

You're not kidding.

Can you imagine a clay model of the Element... if I was

on that design team I'd step back and say

"okay, enough clowning around, this is beyond stupid!"

Other cars that have ZERO soul, absolutely no

character, not ONE well placed line or though

out exterior styling feature:

- Honda Ridgeline

- Honda Pilot

- Ford Focus (only the current gen.)

- Chrysler Sebring

- Nissan Rogue

- Kia Rondo

- Kia Sportage

- Toyota Yaris

- Toyota Highlander

- Toyota Camry

- Toyota Corolla

- Scion xB & pretty much EVERY Scion

- Prius, both generations actually!

And just to be fair, let's name some ugly

GM cars/trucks that prob. never went to

clay once they were finalized in 3D/CGI:

- Chevy Aveo (all of them, but esp. the hatchback)

- Cobalt Sedan (dear lord that C-pillar is gross!)

- Suzuki XL7

And the current Saab 9\5 - prob. the most disgusting

botched-abortion of a car (stylistically) that Gm has

made in the past 10 years, yes including the ASS-tek.

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You're not kidding.

- Ford Focus (only the current gen.)

- Chrysler Sebring

-

Those are ones that make me go 'huh'?? I really liked the original Focus, esp. the hatches...I've driven regular and SVT ones, they were pretty sweet cars..

.the restyled current model, though..ugh....And the Sebring---the previous generations of sedans, coupe, and convertibles were good looking cars, IMHO...the new one, though..I

can't say anything nice about the styling, I'm afraid..

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Yes...such it is these days. I wonder if anyone in the biz uses clay anymore or can draw on paper...

Ed Welburn, Chris Bangle, Walter de Silva ... I can name more than that if you really want me to.

Edited by YellowJacket894
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