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A naive question about automotive ugliness

The discussion about ugly car models under a different thread prompts me to ask this more general question. Doubtless the answer is plain to those of you who take a much greater interest in things automotive, but for me a car is just a useful means of transportation and I don’t keep up with the industry until I need to replace a vehicle.



I typically would have replaced my model year 2000 car by now, except for three considerations. First, my Acura TL has only 65,000 miles on it, and is still trouble-free and performing well. Secondly, I’d like my next car to be a hybrid, and there are as yet no or few options at that “near luxury” point in the market.



But thirdly (and at last I come to my question), for the last few years the manufacturers all appear to have marched lockstep to producing what I regard as butt ugly sedans, with uniformly inflated, bulbous front ends. Why is this? Is it just “fashion,” so that if I’m patient we’ll return to sleeker designs again in a year or two? Or is there some underlying reason (safety or aerodynamics, perhaps?) that mean we’re doomed to stay with this ugliness for the foreseeable future?

The industry tends to trend together for some strange reason. Think back through the years to finned quarter panels, sloped front grilles, etc. and you see all of them following each other.
Right now it’s all crossovers and such ( Ford and GM make NO mini-vans ).

Keep your low mileage Acura for a looooooong time, unless you see the trend shift your way your Acura is still the best option for the long haul.

A lot of design is driven by safety and fuel economy requirements. That bumped up rear end allows both better earodynamics and a larger trunk in a shorter car. I don’t like it because it restricts rear visibility.

The front end needs crash resistance, so a lot of sheet metal is needed as the “crush” zone. In Europe the front end and hood also have to safely “deflect” pedetrians without hurting them excessively. That has resulted in some weird shapes in front ends.

To answer your question, you may see a return to less bloated front ends, but the sfatey and earodynamics will rule, not the stylist as in the past.

There does exist a “near luxury” hybrid–the Lexus HS250h. Very good looking car in my opinion. If you have $40K burning a hole in your pocket, I suggest a test drive. Here is a link

Your Acura should last MANY more years if you keep up with the maintenance–putting so few miles on it I would suggest following the “severe service” maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual.

Your 2000 Acura is also MUCH better looking than the current 2011 Acura models–I actually prefer the look of the current Hondas to the Acuras.

Keep driving your TL for another ten years. Maybe things will improve by then.

I can’t explain the current trend toward ugly cars, but I think Acura is one of the worst offenders. I say this as the happy owner of a '97 CL, but it will be the last Acura I ever own unless two things change:

1). The cars have to lose that “batmobile” look.

2). They have to run on regular.

I don’t think designs are going to get “sleeker.” Safety regulations will require boxy shapes with more metal and less glass. But they can be better looking than some of the current crop.

Doesn’t Lexus make a hybrid in their GS series? That’s probably closest to your TL. Give it some more time. Hydrids are about to start spreading like wild fire.

My theory is that it has some tie-in to the trend of larger and larger wheel (rim) size.

IMHO 14" or 15" (maybe 16") is appropriate for almost all vehicles, this trend to put 17" 18" or even 19" rims on anything but expensive sports cars or big trucks (IIRC small rvs use 19.5") is just ridiculous.

I once read an article about the Scion tC…the lowest model comes with tires on 16" rims that cost over $1000 to replace, and they offer bigger wheels than that with even more expensive tires, but it’s only a $17k car…that just seems wrong to me, but I could be mis-remembering

I really think that trend is leading the bulbous front trend, they have to have room for those massive rims.

I’m fine with the premium fuel my 07 TL requires (it’s only, what, 2 bucks a fillup more?) but I’m with you. I’m done buying Acura until they fire the surrealist painters who are apparently designing their cars these days. That chrome beak on the front is horrible.

Yes, looks aren’t good, safety and follow the leader stylists are to blame. I only expect it to get worse - they’ve made the 5-star rating harder to get, so expect even smaller windows, etc, as they increase the side impact resistance. Big front ends are in response to the EU pedestrian protection mandates.

All of this makes visibility (a major safet feature IMO) terrible. Wish some importance was placed on that!

And there is another luxury hybrid, the Lincoln MKZ. Worth a look…

I agree, visibility has changed so much, like it almost is not even considered when they design anymore.

Late 80s early 90s cars all had visibility high on the priorities list, but now that the driver barely does anything the manufacturers seem to think they can just put a sensor there, why do you need to see anything near your car? Let technology keep you safe.

I like to see, people think it is crazy to ride a motorcycle in traffic, but I can see EVERYTHING! And I feel much safer seeing it all than in a cage.

My Mazda came with 19" rims standard. Thankfully tires aren’t all that expensive. I’ve seen them range from $140 to $280. Funny thing is, TR lists the factory tires at $205 and the best overall all season tire is $155. If I went with separate rims and tires for winter, I’d be looking at about 2 grand if I wanted lightweight forged 18" rims($350 just for the rim, but it weighs just slightly over 16 pounds). $1100 for cheaper, heavier rims(about 26 pounds each) and the same tires

One pet peeve:

The trend of late has been high trunks. Okay–they hold more stuff, and allow a gentler sloping rear window, improving aerodynamics. Granted, they make backing up tough, but many cars have cameras for that.

Could somebody please tell me where there’s a LAW that the bottom line of the windows has to connect with the top of the trunk?!?

GM seems the worst offender: on the Chevy Malibu, for instance, rather than have a roughly horizontal bottom to the windows, the line slopes up so steeply that the rear windows look like slits for machine-gun emplacements.

I understand that style dictates a certain “flow,” but this is getting ridiculous!

Just be certain to service the transmission religiously and far more often than the manual suggests. These Acuras were known for absolutely horrid transmission reliability.

The sad thing is that, IMO, Acuras aren’t that bad looking EXCEPT for that beak. That thing ruins the entire car and makes me want to puke.

There’s also the MKZ hybrid. Some people despise the front end, but I actually don’t mind their grille so much, especially on the MKZ where it isn’t quite as stretched out vertically…

Its almost the exact same price as the HS, but more fuel efficient and more spacious.

Why limit yourself to hybrids? You can buy a BMW 335d and still get great fuel mileage.

I prefer the all around look of the previous generation of Acuras. Usually I get jealous when a new model of a car I have comes out because I want the updated look. With the exception of the resolution of the nav screen, there isn’t a single visual feature of the new TL that I like better than mine. And they took away the touch screen on the nav and replaced it with one of those damn turn-knob joystick things, which only means it takes longer to enter in an address.

I will admit that I really enjoyed the astonishing handling (for a larger sedan) of the SH-AWD version that I drove when mine was in for some warranty work, but wouldn’t want the extra maintenance hassle of AWD.

i prefer to buy all four tires for less than $300, maybe $400 with installation balance, etc., so to me $205 for one tire is just unnecessary waste.

But i am notoriously frugal.

Much of the automotive industry is pretty risk-averse. They tend to want to stick to designs that they feel have a high probability of acceptance by the buying public based on empirical data and marketing studies. That tedns to drive all the designs in much the same direction. The design groups even have a long list of “design cues” that they’re required to design into their products, which also tend to make them look much the same…intentionally.

Chrysler, to its great credit, was the one company that under Iacoca tried dramatic forays away from their current designs, and much of what they did stylistically led the industry. The Ram “big truck look”, the retro PT Cruiser, the Chrysler 300 (both the long low one and the succeeding “gangster” one"), and others. Unfortunately, their dramatic forays into design excesses couldn;t save them from their quality problems and other management problems.

GM did recently try something different, a takeoff on the 'Vette, in the Saturn Sky/Pontiac Solstice. Unfortunately, both division were doomed.

Radical departures from the common theme are risky. In these austere times, risk is not encouraged.

As a Scion tC owner the past 5 years, let me say that the information was incorrect. tC’s take standard (albiet high-performance) tires, 215X45/17s, with 215X40/18s being optional. While these sizes are more expensive than the 65 and 70 series tires, there’s nothing outrageous about the cost. They come with Z speed ratings, but can be safely replaced with lower speed ratings if the shop is willing. The vheicle’s top limit is 127 mph, and, frankly, not with me in it.

They tried for one year a “spec” tC that came with 16" rims with narrower tires, but it didn’t sell and they discontinued it.

I wouldn’t pay $25 to replace each factory tire. The Eagle RS-A is rated rather poorly in winter traction situations and the Dueler HL 400s(the other factory tire for my car) are rated even worse overall than the RS-As. The Parada Spec-Xs are rated very highly in all categories and are cheaper than either of the factory replacement tires