After reading you post on modern interior design, I had to ask about another fad that seems to be all the rage with designers: big grilles (they really love the grille on the Lancer X) With modern cars being all about gas mileage (judging by their advertising), would they get better highway gas mileage if they were a bit more aerodynamic?
Take the original Honda Insight for example, it could get around 70mpg on the highway and it had a very aerodynamic design with no fins, slits, nor much of a grille.
Today’s compacts are just a little better and thus use bigger engines, but their grilles are big enough to eat full pie! If modern cars were a little more aerodynamic, and less style-driven how much of a boost in gas mileage would we see?
PS: I’ve come up for a term for the black-painted sections on some grilles like the new Alfa Dart, I call it a “Mustache”.
Maybe my time studying Industrial Design can come in handy once again. No wait, my years studying Mechanical Engineering are actually better. Maybe it’s both. Well then, glad we got the self-congratulatory BS out of the way!
Your problem with grilles is valid, but not the underlying cause of the problem. Proof: the plankton filters on the Lincoln MKT. This whale of a beast has most of its cooling fins blocked off for better aerodynamics. The grille on the original Chrysler Sebring coupe technically didn’t even exist, it was only black paint!
My point? Modern grilles are a part of a larger shape formed at the wind tunnel. All our technical advancements have made a low coefficient of drag a non-starter to this issue. Put it this way, your phone is far more powerful than the original technology used to make the slick, aero-cheating experiments from the 1970s. How can you not have a low-coefficient of drag with all of our processing power?
What concerns me is frontal area. Just like the restaurant biz, your real estate is how you hit automotive aerodynamic Gold. Or at least several positive foodie reviews on Yelp…
New cars are too tall and front overhang too short to be aerodyamic enough to justify the “buy me for fuel economy” marketing we hear these days. Overhang shaped like that of the 1980s Honda Accord is a nice place to start.
From there, we can narrow down the frontal area with a more aggressive rake to the nose. Which means less room for lights, bumpers and most importantly, grilles. Granted you can take this to an extreme, making a nose so small that the rest of the vehicle is unlivable, impossible to cool, etc. but that’s just being silly.
The biggest problem with reducing frontal area? Cars get generic. And while the Honda Insight, Aston Martin Lagonda, Ford Sierra, Chrysler Airflow, Mercury Sable, Tatra V570 and even the Ferrari Testarossa are icons of their respective classes and markets, being truly aerodynamic is more about the socio-economic conditions (progressiveness, gas prices) that demand a certain performance outcome, and styling trends (modern or retro?) of the people in and around the car business. The Chrysler 300, the rise of the HUMMER brand and the climate surrounding these two come to mind.
Keeping with a plan and sticking with it? Even Miami Vice’s addictive take on film noir couldn’t survive the end of the 1980s, son!
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