Where did the good cars go?
Car design has always been emotive. There are fashions just as there are for clothes. Hollywood glamour influenced lines in the 30s,…
tailfins appeared in the late 40s,…
functionality dominated the 1960s – think of the boxy mass-produced saloons…
– and more recently aerodynamics influence lines to increase fuel efficiency, they say.
Sorry to be a grumpy old man again but haven’t you noticed that once doted-on object of our fantasies, the car, not only is being deserted by youngsters of environmental leanings but by the automobile manufacturers themselves. Instead of producing sleek, alluring projections of individuality or homely comfort the industry is producing more and more swollen hulks that resemble motor cruisers with a high plimsoll line or a cross between the Batmobile and Humvee on steroids.
Car fronts acquire ever-larger air-intakes in the apron corners so they snarl at you, breathing down your neck in your rear-view mirror,…
… while CAD allows designers to gouge out chunks of body like plastic surgeons. Can anybody explain why Renaults doors look as if they were squashed inwards while parking?
Waistlines reflect the vehicle occupants with little attempt to beautify the beer belly of the extra strip of plastic or metal bodywork. Fashion, demanding a wedge shape, means glass area is tapered towards the tail where the rear windows are often so small you need built-in cameras to manoeuver. Coupés have to have sloping roofs so anyone over dwarf height sitting in the back needs the attention of a chiropractor.
Some convertibles (cabriolets) such as the Land Rover Evoque and the VW T-Roc look more like bathtubs on wheels. I half expect soap suds to spill over the sides. Mercedes pursue a fluid line ending up with the droop of the Shooting Brake, which reminds you of late night testosterone desertion.
Badges have become increasingly dominant as the shape of the vehicle resembles all the others. And then there’s the radiator grille, redundant through the absence of a radiator in electric cars. Audi may have started the trend but now even BMW’s kidneys are so large you’d think emergency surgery was the only hope. It seems that such monstrosities find favor in the US and China – hardly icons of good taste.
In Europe the manufacturers plan to scrap their best-selling electric cars, the VW Up and the BMW i3, to concentrate on vehicles that increase profits. What Europeans want a stealth bomber that doesn’t fit into parking spaces and weighs nearly two tons. Last week I saw a Bentley Betayga in London. A Bentley SUV? You must be kidding! No wonder autonomous cars are in demand. Who will drive in such monsters?
Yes there are a few exceptions but I yearn for the return of the flair of a BMW 2002, an Alfa Romeo Giulia, a Peugeot 204 or even a Citroen C3.
Much is written about the decline of the European motor industry. With the current batch of designs it looks like a climate-friendly death-wish to me!