By on June 9, 2014

Opel-Monza-Concept-17

Today’s installment of Quote of the Day comes from Mark Adams, design chief for Opel/Vauxhall and creator of the Monza concept, which is expected to set the design direction for the two brands in the near future – assuming that regulations don’t get in the way.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe, Adams opined that  “In the last five to 10 years designing cars has gotten a hell of a lot tougher”, with much of the blame going towards regulation. The twin forces of fuel economy and pedestrian safety standards have converged to create very specific parameters for automotive design – hence the proliferation of high hoods, blunt front ends and the “reverse tear drop” shape on so many three-box vehicles. This specific form provides an easy way around all of those requirements, at the cost of an increasingly homogenous cohort of new cars.

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210 Comments on “QOTD: Regulation Is Ruining Car Design...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Regulation Is Ruining Car Design? Yes.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      When I stop seeing concept sketches and actual concept cars with gigantic wheels and interiors that have no basis in reality I might believe that regulations are a problem. When I stop seeing production cars where the front and rear seem to have been designed by two teams that never talked to each other, I might believe that regulations are a problem. When I can no longer tell the difference between an Impala and a Fusion at 500 yards, I might believe that regulations are a problem.

      Blaming regulation is a cop-out.

      Look at Mercedes. The new S-class, the CLA, the upcoming C-class. These meet all regulations and are extremely aerodynamic. The dropping line language looks a lot like a modern interpretation of cars from the 1930s. And it leaves plenty of room for pedestrian impact measures.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I disagree, the new S-class is a complete fail in terms of aesthetics.

      • 0 avatar

        I concur with Chicago Dude.

      • 0 avatar
        koshchei

        Agreed, Chicago Dude. Any skilled designer can work within specified constraints and come up with something distinctive that doesn’t cleave pedestrians in half when texting drivers run into them at stop lights.

        Besides, not everyone wants a car that looks like the demon love child of a manta-ray, an F-117, and a donk.

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        I also agree.

        I think Mark Adams may be pining for the days when fewer regulations made it easier to realize his designs.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        Chicago Dude;

        The gigantic wheels are themselves driven by regulation. Rolling resistance of tires is minimized by increasing the overall diameter for any given tread width. Shrinking tread width also helps reduce rolling resistance. Shrinking the gap between the wheels and the sheet metal improves aerodynamics, as does allowing underhood air pressure to escape through the front wheels necessitating lower aspect tires.

        The higher hood lines required for pedestrian impact also drive the larger wheel phenomenon as cars would appear hopelessly top heavy with such high hood/belt lines and sheet metal hugging 50-60% aspect tires on 15″ wheels.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          The wheels in question never make it to production. They are a sketch and concept car phenomenon. Not even Foose lets an actual car with the extreme wheel proportions of his sketches roll out of the shop. And his one offs don’t meet any regulations other than “must actually turn and clear an acorn”.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      I think cars have looked alike way before any of these regulations came into effect. It’s simply a fact that manufacturers like copying other successful designs. Are there some regulations, such as the eye-level brake light, that are silly? Sure, but in a industry where anything from a Porsche Cayman to an F-150 meet regulations, I think its more a case that car makers seek safety in numbers as opposed to having their hands tied by the government.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      No. Designers love the pillbox-on-dubs look; look at your average concept: long, low, poor sightlines, huge wheels, grille that says “I eat your children!”

      And that’s on cars where they’re not subject to regulation, let alone cost or practicality. This is what they _want_ to design.

      Regulation plays a factor, inasmuch as raising the hood is a cheap way to meet pedestrian impact standards, but it’s not by any means the reason you can’t see out of a modern car. For example, anything that top designers haven’t spent time abusing–and this is generally the cheaper econoboxes and the more utilitarian trucks and vans–actually turns out pretty well.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Increased roof crush standards have led to the need for increased strength in roof pillars which has inevitably made them bigger and obstructs vision. Some vehicles are so bad that I have to move my head back and forth to make there there aren’t cars hiding behind the A-pillars when approaching an intersection.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          I’d buy that, except:

          1) Econoboxes and minivans aren’t too bad, pillar-wise
          2) You can still buy a convertible

          The thick A pillars are a bit of a fad. They’re at their worst on sports cars, sedans and crossovers, yet are inexplicably less evident on dorkier cars.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            It has to do with the weight of the vehicle and the number of structures supporting the roof. Since the standards last increased, cars have basically double their roof crush resistance to three times vehicle weight. This has, unquestionably, led to thicker pillars and reduced visibility. Yes, some vehicles are worse than others because of their particular configurations.

        • 0 avatar
          mored

          I disagree with this statement. The new Honda Accord and most new Subaru’s are perfect examples. They do very well in crash tests, even the IIHS small overlap test and roof strength tests, and receive accolades for their excellent visibility from reviewers, including Consumer Reports.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            As I said, some are worse than others. The Accord might very well have better visibility that it’s current peer group, but the current model doesn’t have nearly the outward view of say, an early 90’s version. Thanks to…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        A pox on them.

      • 0 avatar

        Agree with psarhj, both posts above

    • 0 avatar
      kingofgix

      I disagree. I think regulations have saved untold thousands of lives and have virtually eliminated smog. And cars are not only safer and cleaner, but they are more reliable, efficient and have better performance than ever before. Stop whining. We have great cars, great car choices and the greatest diversity of styles and options ever.

      • 0 avatar
        Ihatejalops

        They have, but they have killed competition and not design. When was the last time we a newbie besides Tesla which has been rigged to succeed. It’s a bad sign when competitors sign contracts to build vehicles together. That’s the main issue. No new blood in the auto game.

  • avatar

    It would be nice to be able to see out of new cars. I don’t know how some designs get through regulation with near 0 visibility in every direction except forward.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      or headlights which blind everyone on the road…

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      +1.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      I feel like that’s a demand issue, not regulations. The Audi TT started the gunslit trend, imo. And let’s not forget that the PT Cruiser’s focus group said they felt it was too open and asked for the windows to be reduced in size, especially the rear window. Some BS about feeling secure.

      Regarding 28-Cars-Later and headlights, I think they’re mostly okay – it’s LED taillights that have been bothering me lately.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I honestly thought my vision was starting to change until I mentioned it to friends. I think its a combination of LED/xenon lights and at least 1/3rd of everything on the road being 2 foot or more off of the ground where the headlights are right in my line of vision.

    • 0 avatar
      MadHungarian

      What I can’t figure out is why a level of visibility isn’t itself a safety standard. It’s great if you have a sturdy roof and a high hood that supposedly protects pedestrians, but if you mow a pedestrian down because he was in the blind spot of your porky A-pillar, high hood or not, that shlub is gonna have a bad day, a lot worse one than if you were driving a 1961 anything, or most 1989 anythings, and didn’t hit him.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I can’t figure out is why a level of visibility isn’t itself a safety standard.”

        Passive safety works. Active safety doesn’t.

        In any case, no evidence has been presented that visibility is a particular problem with today’s cars.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          How could such evidence be gathered? How can “If only I’d seen..” events be quantified?

          I’m sure you’d agree than blind spots can cause accidents and that blind spots to the sides and rear are steadily growing.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            We have all kinds of data about crashes, particularly fatal crashes. Part of the data includes causation.

            Being unable to see isn’t much of a factor. Aggressiveness, intoxication and inattention are factors in many crashes. The problem isn’t with being unable to see, but with drivers not using the faculties that they do have.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I would think most visibility-related accidents would be occurring in parking lots or when reversing or other low speed actions with lots of pedestrian activity.

            Is there any data about increases (or not) in people getting backed over or insurance claims due to parking lot/low speed incidences?

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “Being unable to see isn’t much of a factor.”

            That deserves a plaque.

          • 0 avatar
            Drewlssix

            I nearly had a high speed accident the other day because the other car fit nearly perfectly into the right A pillar on my wife’s focus. It was quick reaction on my part that saved me. Additionally reversing in that thing is nearly an act of faith. I almost backed it into my own truck once. Isn’t it odd I can more easily navigate my silverado in urban areas than a compact hatch?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “I nearly had a high speed accident the other day because the other car fit nearly perfectly into the right A pillar on my wife’s focus.”

            This happens frequently in newer cars. If you listen to some of these commenters, the pillars are made that big just for fun. Sweet, sweet regulations couldn’t possibly have unseen (hah) consequences.

  • avatar
    Macca

    While regulation is certainly driving car design in a different direction, I think the “increasingly homogenous cohort of new cars” meme is overblown. We all look to some (different) ideal period of ‘good’ car design (or music, etc) and then come to the same “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” conclusion. I think conformity has been the norm more often than not; Ronnie’s article from a year ago highlights how indistinguishable cars were in the late ’30s…

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/do-todays-cars-all-look-alike/

    As one commenter (Land Ark) sagely noted: “Design has always tended to follow success.”

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Thank you this was very well said.

      I think the regulatory box has become tighter, but fashion trends have exacerbated “problems.”

      There are many well desgined cars out there, however. They just don’t get a lot of coverage, and aren’t in the main segments, especially the main segments in North America.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      *blushes*

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “I think conformity has been the norm more often than not”

      Pretty much.

      And then there’s the fact that not everyone believes that today’s designs are particularly bad. On the contrary, I would suggest that this has been one of the better eras for car design. People should feel fortunate to have the choices that they have today (although they do seem to have lost the plot with respect to wheel sizes.)

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the mention of that post. A ’65 Chevy looks more like a ’65 Ford than either of them look like their brands’ cars sold today. Whether it’s the result of the state of the art of manufacturing technology, regulations or tastes, an era’s cars will end up looking a bit like each other. Form will almost always follow function in one way or another.

      In the early days, before the rise of automotive styling in the 1920s, most cars’ only distinguishing features were the shape of the radiator grilles. I was at the Packard Proving Grounds’ annual car show yesterday and it’s interesting to see how Packard’s “tombstone” grille changed over the years, while still retaining the same general outline, even into the 1950s. You can even see that outline in Dick Teague’s ’55-’56 Packards. Even so, a ’56 Packard looks more like a ’56 Cadillac than it does a ’36 Packard or even the “bathtub” ’48 Packard.

      FWIW, well executed design is still distinctive. I don’t think anyone confuses current Cadillacs for any other brand or thinks that the current Mazda 6 is indistinguishable from the latest Camry

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Great point Ronnie. I agree that cars of a certain generation tend to have similar design traits. I think the current issue is that now more than ever they seem to share an inordinate amount of undesirable traits.

      • 0 avatar

        90 percent of today’s cars are more like each other than Chevys were in, say, 1964 (Chevrolet, Chevelle, Chevy II, Corvair, Corvette).

        And most of today’s cars are unaesthetic at best, ugly at worst. It’s a terrible time for styling. (And this is one of the rare issues where I disagree with Pch101.)

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “And most of today’s cars are unaesthetic at best, ugly at worst. It’s a terrible time for styling.”

          “And stay off my lawn”

          Fixed that for you.

      • 0 avatar
        Ihatejalops

        No, but I can’t tell the difference between a hyundai and a Merc. Although the Hyundai is built better.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Yes it is, much in the way the rule-book has made F1 cars homogenous and rather ugly. But I also believe a big part of it is that today’s designers aren’t car-guys and gals at heart. On one hand this is good, they are a more well-rounded, well-travelled, better-educated cohort. On the other hand, they themselves are a kind of pastiche of cultures and disciplines, which explains why so much of current car design reminds one of anime and office furniture.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    meh I donno. Cars have always looked similar to each other, long before regulation. Trends come in and all automakers try to design their vehicles to the trends, leaving them all looking relatively similar to the style of the time till a new style comes in. It’s been that way since the beginning of the auto industry.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    But, the many shades of gray that most cars come in render them well camouflaged against asphalt roads. They kind of just disappear and you ignore them.

    OTH, blame wider and taller vehicles on old, fat and decrepit people with excellent credit.

    (Yes, I get bitter)

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “old, fat and decrepit people with excellent credit”

      A little recognition is a wonderful thing. Thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “OTH, blame wider and taller vehicles on old, fat and decrepit people with excellent credit.”

      Ha ha! I’m 63, but not fat and certainly not decrepit…

      I like the taller vehicles. Wait ’til you get older, you’ll appreciate it.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      You don’t have to be old, or fat, or decrepit to like taller vehicles. Look at all those younger women who want to sit taller, and drive SUVs/CUVs?

      In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if those Vehicles’ popularity is largely due to younger, shorter people who can’t see out of today’s sedans, and/or don’t like seeing the door metal of not only F150s, but just about every compact, midsize, or fullsize sedan with a tall beltline, running alongside of them in traffic.

      The inability to even SEE the other drivers can not only be unnerving, it’ll make you wonder if they even see YOU (and if you’re behind them and not driving a Mack truck, they can’t).

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The ‘pop up’ headlights ban killed the look of sports cars. Especially the Corvette.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Were they really banned; or just fell out of fashion when flush headlights made them no longer neccessary?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Fell out of fashion? The Corvette went from subdued elegance to goofy serpent looking. GM designers didn’t know what to do with its headlights. Still don’t. I have to believe it was for ‘pedestrian vs auto’ safety. I can’t think of a single sports car that looked better after fixed lighting. The Eclipse? 3000GT? Miata? NSX?

        • 0 avatar
          wolfinator

          I think you have it a bit backwards. Pop-up headlights were partly the RESPONSE to regulations – namely, the old headlight regulations in the US that mandated sealed-beam headlights. One of the ways to give a unique, futuristic, sleek look to a car was to hide the headlights entirely. Also, it appears there were regulations on the minimum height for headlights.

          I’m pretty convinced the relaxation of headlight regulations in the US was a big contributor to the death of pop-ups. Also, pop-ups are heavier, more complex, and less practical than modern composite headlights.

          Having said that, I miss them. I had an old late 80’s Accord with the pop-ups, and one of my favorite things in the world about that car was getting in and popping up the headlights. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

          Anyways, pop-up headlights are still legal in the US. It’s the Europeans that made them semi-illegal:

          http://tinyurl.com/q7598rz

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Are you old enough to remember when US regs banned glass covers on headlights like the VW Beetles? I believe it was 1967. US market XKEs suddenly became ugly in the front.

        I don’t recall pop-ups being around before that (’67 Opel GT earliest?) and when this restriction went away so did the pop-ups.

        There were few funnier sights than a supposedly hot sports car running around in daylight with one headlight stuck in the up position.

        Dim memories and I could be wrong.

        • 0 avatar

          The ’63, and I think ’64 Corvette had popups.

        • 0 avatar
          shaker

          “There were few funnier sights than a supposedly hot sports car running around in daylight with one headlight stuck in the up position.”

          A most embarrassing form of the “padiddle”. You’re right about the Jag, but oddly enough, Datsun ran with that constraint when they designed the 240Z, which most agree, was a looker.

          Another consideration for us in the “northlands” was how easily “pop-ups” were fouled/jammed with ice and snow – much care was required to free them without scratching the paint, and trying to operate them when jammed usually resulted in damaging the mechanism; thus, the “padiddle”.

        • 0 avatar
          3Deuce27

          A number of cars had pop-up headlights even before the war. The Cord being the most notable of those, and the 42′ Desoto for American cars. The Europeans had a few coach built cars with hidden headlights, can’t recall a production car with them, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find there was.

          And, body shaped flush headlights are not modern phenomenon, again, cars in the thirties also had these. Example; 1939 Graham-Paige Model 97 Supercharged

          There is not much new with car design.

          http://remarkablecars.com/1936-cord-810-beverly-sedan.html

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “There were few funnier sights than a supposedly hot sports car running around in daylight with one headlight stuck in the up position.”

          Good times.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I too lament this but the problem is that 2/3 of traffic deaths worldwide are pedestrians. The solution has been safety standards that have, among other things, raised hood heights for more deformable space. That in turn requires a higher cowl, which in turn has caused stylists to adopt the high door sill/low roof/gunslit window concept to balance out the design. Result = ugly in too many instances.

    My hope is engineers will come up with ways to address this (valid) safety concern that are more aesthetically pleasing. Remember how ugly the 5 MPH bumpers were at first? Maybe things like shorter engine blocks, engines mounted lower in the chassis, etc. Unfortunately due to American (and increasingly worldwide) tastes for big tall vehicles, there hasn’t been much incentive or R&D focus on this.

    • 0 avatar
      slow_poke

      yeah, 5mph bumpers were ugly but they were functional they’re now 2.5mph bumpers and you drop $2k every time you kiss a wall, pole, other car… great solution. (by the auto industry…)

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      “2/3 of traffic deaths worldwide are pedestrians”
      Is this in reference to 1st world developed countries or total global statistics?

      Because there are some less developed countries where the latest safety design will not matter until years from now…

    • 0 avatar
      340-4

      2/3 of traffic deaths worldwide are pedestrians?

      Care to cite your source on that one?

      I found this in 15 seconds:

      http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2012/11/28/injuryprev-2012-040594.abstract

      And it states 1/3.

      Again, source?

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        What? Is it taboo in the industry to bring this up? Sorry!

        Anyway, here is the source:

        http://www.worldbank.org/transport/roads/safety.htm

        “Every year more than 1.17 million people die in road crashes around the world. The majority of these deaths, about 70 percent occur in developing countries. Sixty-five percent of deaths involve pedestrians and 35 percent of pedestrian deaths are children. Over 10 million are crippled or injured each year. It has been estimated that at least 6 million more will die and 60 million will be injured during the next 10 years in developing countries unless urgent action is taken.

        The majority of road crash victims (injuries and fatalities) in developing countries are not the motorised vehicle occupants, but pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists and non-motorised vehicles (NMV) occupants.”

        • 0 avatar
          shaker

          One glance at a video of traffic from south Asian and Chinese metro areas shows the crazy mix of pedestrians, scooters, carts, rickshaws, etc with automobiles.

          Yet, almost every car chase scene from US movies of the past century has a car plowing through a fruit stand…

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I wonder how any of these well-considered safety issues explains the design of the Chevy Spark. :-)

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Feed that poor girl!

    Lotsa carbs.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    What law is making manufacturers offer 20″ wheels as a factory option on virtually everything?

    Regulation is a useful brushoff for designers, most of whom don’t actually care about journalist and enthusiast complaints. They’re in the business of designing what sells, and what sells is homogeneity. Car styling is fundamentally a derivative exercise. Every once in a while you will get something that shakes up the dominant styling paradigm, but most designs that venture too far outside the mainstream tend to be flops. Look at what happened to Nissan when it tried to shake up the minivan segment with a “funky” design, or Mazda when it introduced the “smiley madman” version of the 3.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      These huge rims are a huge problem. As I noted in my Verano review, even 18″ rims with low profile rubber ruins a good ride. Not to mention replacement cost.

      • 0 avatar

        Absolutely. It’s ridiculous to see someone driving what should be a luxury car with a first-class ride quality only to be hitting hard and jarring because they have larger rims and low-profile tires. I doubt people know any better at this point as well.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s the boat I’m in with the WRX – comes stock with 17″ wheels, and 16″ won’t clear the brakes. So much for downsizing for my winter setup.

          • 0 avatar
            claytori

            Both my cars have one size smaller steel wheels for the winter tires. The thinner steel rim allows you to go down 1″. For best results, also go narrower on the tires.

      • 0 avatar
        koshchei

        Designers need to have a conversation with engineers about unsprung weight.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Are 20″ wheels on 40 series, really much heavier than 16s on 55 series? But aren’t tall sidewalls heavier than the extra alloy?

          Plus how much bigger are the brakes than previous generation?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Bigger wheels are MUCH heavier than the tires. Wheels designed for very low profile tires have to be much stronger to take the increased impact resistance. And then to really, really crank up the weight, make the tires runflat. The difference in weight between my winter non-RFT 16″ setup and the stock 17″ RFTs for my BMW is pretty amazing. As is the difference in ride. I can’t wait for the RFTs to wear out!

            It is a RARE car that needs more than a 16″ wheel to cover the brakes. Even an M3 can take some 17″ wheels.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            I just swapped out a set of stock 18s for 16s and dropped ~18% from each complete wheel. Of course, that is partly due to the stock rims being porkers, but still…

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “Are 20″ wheels on 40 series, really much heavier than 16s on 55 series? But aren’t tall sidewalls heavier than the extra alloy?”

            Depends. If we’re talking about precision-cast superleggera rims made from magnesium, carbion fibre and pixie dust, then yes, they are lighter.

            If we’re talking about standard-issue OEM rims as you’d find on anything less than $80-100K, then probably not.

            If we’re talking aftermarket rimz (emphasis on the Z) made from pot metal, lead and depleted uranium in China, well…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @redav

            On what make/model?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Then the M3 may be faster on 17″ wheels (and 45 series) than 20s. This might be true with most modern sports cars with huge wheels on 35 series tires.

            On top of the extra unsprung weight, when the sidewalls are extra short and extra stiff on IRS cars, the tires are riding on the outer or inner HARD edge, as the suspension loads and unloads, through its range of motion, except at static ride height.

            And this is why the Boss 302 embarrasses the M3 at the track, on similar tires and wheels, but live rear axle.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            28-Cars-Later, stock 18s on the new Mazda3 to a set of Sparco Assetto Garas: ~46 lb to ~38 lb total wheel weight.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @DenverMike

            The M3 doesn’t come with 20″ wheels, it comes with 18″ wheels, as did the previous version. And quite light ones at that, compared to most. I agree it would probably be faster on even lighter 17s if they clear the brakes. Note that M3s do not get RFT tires. Ultimately the only real reason to have big wheels is to clear big brakes. BTCC cars seem to have started the big wheel fashion 20 years ago, but they actually do have enormous brakes.

            I would chalk up the Boss Mustang being faster around a track more to the extra horsepower and torque than to any benefits of its antediluvian rear axle setup. A live axle can handle well OR it can ride well, it can’t really do both at the same time. A smooth racetrack accentuates its positives while hiding the negatives. The BMW is meant to be a more well-rounded and more refined device.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @krhodes1 – The M3 and Boss 302 are very closely matched in terms of hp/tq, weight, balance, weight dist, etc. In fact, the only appreciable difference is the LRA vs IRS.

            The M3 is just overrated and so is IRS for that matter. On bad roads, IRS sports car are no picnic either.

          • 0 avatar
            niky

            Thirty horses and a hundred foot pounds of torque more than the old M3 V8 is not a small difference.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            A very small difference, actually. The M3 is geared way more aggressively than the Boss 302. MotorTrend ran the M3 against the GT with identical 1/4 mile and 0-60’s. They had to run them repeatedly with no clear winner.

            The penalty is mpg though. The M3 was hit with the Gas Guzzle Tax because of it. The Boss 302 escaped the GG tax by a wide margin.

            youtube.com/watch?v=muRC7WJHgmA

            Watch going thru the gears. The M3 pulls away at every gear change, and the Mustang GT plays catch up.

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          Yes but rim/wheel size seems to be a measuring stick. Oh your car only has 17″s? You poor thing, you should have gotten the XYZ it comes with 20″s! Unless your a car guy that understands unsprung weight most people go for what looks “cool”. And like most stuff regarding cars this big wheel thing is just another fad so each OEM has to keep up with the other.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        While I agree with you on fashion-victim wheels ruining the ride, there is not much in it for cost. It is to the point that because of lack of demand, high quality smaller tires are actually more expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        I remember when I was a wee lad and the IROC and WS6 Trans Am came out with 16 inch rims and P245 50 series rubber. That was a huge deal. Now, 16 inch rims are barely even standard. The new big ‘uns are ugly, accentuate the worst elements of the new styling trends, and don’t add any performance advantage. All show no go as my grampy used to say.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I chose the optional 18″ wheels on my ’13 Malibu because I wanted the increased cornering ability and slightly better braking offered by the larger tires (a 3,500 lb car needs lower-profile tires than a 2800 lb car). The wheels also seem to be a better match for the wheel wells, so aesthetically, they actually slightly improve the overall looks of the car.
      That said, the ride quality and cornering over washboard roads definitely suffers; I doubt that suspension tuning is altered by wheel/tire choice for a mass-market car.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    It DOES seem like the end game of the state’s vehicular regulatory apparatus is a sort of soft, amorphous transportation module. A Nerfmobile, if you will, that won’t cripple iPhone jaywalkers or choke little bunny rabbits.

    Look, I want my pop-up headlights back!

    However, I’d definitely say that EMISSIONS regulations are killing car designs.

    Those intrusive little bastards killed the straight-6 and the rotary, and now have their sights set on the naturally-aspirated ICE.

    The ICE is clean enough. We’re so far past the point of diminishing returns regarding emissions performance that there’s really very little practical point in tightening the standards any more.

    Unless you’re a car-hating regulatory bureaucracy disingenuously using clean air as an excuse to render a cheap, plentiful, well-understood propulsion technology legally untenable.

    • 0 avatar
      koshchei

      [citation needed]

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know about the straight six. As for the rotary, it may well be that emissions regs are a problem for it, but the fact that the severe constraints on the engine’s design render the gas mileage irretrievably terrible would all but kill it even if it didn’t have an emissions problem.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        The I6’s issue is packaging: it’s a long engine.

        You need a long hood, which means either you have a small passenger compartment, or a long car, or you mount it transversely and have to either Rube-Goldberg the accessory belts, deal with microns of clearance (and hope your mechanic has really thin fingers) or accept that many maintenance jobs start with the phrase “First, remove the engine”

        Consider the (E46) 3-Series: same footprint as a Honda Civic, but much more cramped inside. That engine is why.

        • 0 avatar
          CRConrad

          @psarhjinian: “…or you mount it transversely and have to either Rube-Goldberg the accessory belts…”

          Huh? Why would you?

          Which accessories aren’t mounted to the engine, and turn with it?

      • 0 avatar
        Drewlssix

        There is nothing at all inherent to the rotary that makes it fuel inefficient. Try squeezing similar output from a piston engine and you will receive even worse mpg while a rotary detuned to piston output levels can meet or beat said engines mpg numbers. The S2000 with much lower specific output but otherwise similar figures also suffers similar mpg.

  • avatar
    niky

    Car design has always, always been cookie cutter in nature.Yet now, even with the increase in regulations and the need for aerodynamic efficiency… the same aerodynamic efficiency that led to the sudden fashionability of pop-up headlights as a way to achieve good aero (in the daytime) despite the need to design the front end around old sealed-beam headlights… and the same aerodynamic efficiency that killed them off when clear covers with complex shapes started becoming more practical…

    errh…

    …even now with the regulations and the aero, you still get individualistic design… varied surface language interpretations, evolving shapes and some very cohesive brand identity.

    And the general shape of cars? Blame consumers for keeping the shapes the same. Even when manufacturers like BMW-Mini play with oddball and interesting shapes, most consumers still fall back on the tried and true choices.

    And that, in the end, is what is ruining car design. Imagine, instead of having cars that all look the same, we could instead have dozens of sports cars with unique styling, as we did way back when…

    http://img825.imageshack.us/img825/1274/notoriginal.jpg

    :p :D …whoops… maybe not.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      LOL – that picture is awesome. Each so different, yet soo much the same!

      An awful lot of “you kids get off my lawn” on this blog. And I am guilty too at times.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      TTAC ran a picture of all cars made one year in the ’30s. Anyone who thinks today’s cars all look the same needs to see it.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        I am currently taking my timeline display of Ford cars from 1982-2013, and extending it all the way back to 1903. While I am concentrating on Fords, what everyone is saying is visually evident — cars of the same era have more in common than a single make across time. The only exceptions are cars like the Model T and VW Beetle that were built with few design changes over a decade or more; or the occassional outlyer like the aero cars of the 1930s.

        * Cars of the 1910-1920s basically looked alike, the radiator shape was the main difference in most cases
        * Cars of the 1930s basically looked alike, with exceptions like the Tatra and Cord
        * Cars of the 1940s were transitory; going from the seperate fenders and running boards of the 1930s to the integrated fenders and no running boards of the cars of the 1950s
        * Cars of the 1950s evolved to wrap around windshields; tail fins also appeared and disappeared in the early 1960s
        * Cars of the 1960s were lower and basically box shaped, with tumblehome and crease-and-tuck styling appearing and predominating the 1970s.
        * Cars of the 1980s transitioned to aero, with a flat, sloped nose cap, reduced fender flares, increased windshield angle, flush glass, and high rear with wraparound taillights.
        * Cars of the 1990s went to the full on aero look we have today; with rounded noses, teardrop headlights, more rounded sides (to cover the collision beams required around 1996), and away from wraparound taillights
        * Cars of the late 2000s to today went to the pulled back headlights, a more angular profile instead of the boxes with sloped noses that was the 1980s, grills went from an above bumper grill and lower air intake to a single, lower integrated grill, and angular taillights.

        While I looked at Fords all along, you could have stuck various brands in as well, and the outcome with a few exceptions would have been the same. Today, I think aerodynamics and safety are imposing new constraints that did not exist in the past, but much of the styling details and things like 20 inch wheels we see today are more of a trend.

        I also tabulated the sizes and Cds to go along with my display, and the numbers are telling — shorter cars like the Ford Fiesta now have a Cd of 0.33, and the Focus and Fusion are both around 0.275. For years, a Cd of 0.30 was considered good; and only the midsized sedans had a drag coefficient that low.

        • 0 avatar

          >>>* Cars of the 1950s evolved to wrap around windshields; tail fins also appeared and disappeared in the early 1960s
          * Cars of the 1960s were lower and basically box shaped, with tumblehome and crease-and-tuck styling appearing and predominating the 1970s.

          The details were completely different. YOu would never mistake a Chevy for a Ford or a Plymouth, anymore than you would mistake Richard Nixon for JFK, or either for Nelson Mandela. Even the fins were very different from one brand to another.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            “The details were completely different. YOu would never mistake a Chevy for a Ford or a Plymouth, anymore than you would mistake Richard Nixon for JFK, or either for Nelson Mandela. Even the fins were very different from one brand to another.”

            Yes, David, that is correct. The styling excesses of roughly 1955-1962 that gave us tail fins and tons of chrome slathered down the sides made it easy to tell them apart.

            But, prior to that time, and in the time since; not so much. (Try my favorites, a 1974 Plymouth Fury, Chevy Impala, or Ford LTD instead.) I am not saying they were not good looking cars (cars of the 1950s are my second favorite to the early aero cars of the 1980s-1990s); but they were certainly no less excessive than what we have today; style then was tons of chrome and tail fins instead of 20 inch wheels, big mouth bass grills, and lots of creases to break up the sides.

          • 0 avatar
            CRConrad

            YYeah, HUUUGE difference…

            That’s exactly what your father probably said about the 1930’s ones, which he presumably could distinguish by some details in the shape of the how the front fenders merged into the running boards, when someone (you?) threw the “no, YOUR generation’s cars all looked alike!” at him when he couldn’t tell 1955 Ford, GM and Mopar products apart.

            Just like those 1930s differences had been obvious to him when he was young and they were new, and HE threw the same argument at HIS father, because to him the 1905 ones that looked so different to your grandfather all looked the same…

            You can only see the differences in your own generation’s stuff; only your own generation can see the differences in its stuff. To everybody else, those differences don’t exist.

            TL, DR: All 1950s cars DO look the same: Huge grilles, way too much chrome, ridiculous fins. So there.

        • 0 avatar

          >>>* Cars of the 1950s evolved to wrap around windshields; tail fins also appeared and disappeared in the early 1960s
          * Cars of the 1960s were lower and basically box shaped, with tumblehome and crease-and-tuck styling appearing and predominating the 1970s.

          The details were completely different. YOu would never mistake a Chevy for a Ford or a Plymouth, anymore than you would mistake Richard Nixon for JFK, or either for Nelson Mandela. Yet all three men have the two eyes, the nose thing, the two ears, and the mouth going on.

          • 0 avatar
            Zykotec

            Much of those details were thin strips of chrome or stainless steel though, and usually you had to go a bit beyond the stripper/base model to get much of it anyway. I’m a ‘knower’ but at a long distance you could mistake many 55-57 cars if they are the base model, 58 and 59 they got more extreme, but by the early 60’s they all looked similar again. And you could sometimes see cars with similar trim and two tone schemes (57 Newport, and ’57 Bel Air, or some 57 Ranch Wagon vs 1956 Nomad)
            A beginners tip to tell the ‘big three’ apart is the shape of the wraparound windshields seen from the side, but that only helps if you already know what year the car was built…

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      To someone used to fins, and able to spot the differences, yes.

      To people unfamiliar with the era, all they’d see is a whole lot of be-winged, be-finned barges, that, while differing in slight details, all looked related.

      This is much like the “All Asians look alike” meme… which, to some extent, also describes how many Asians who aren’t well-traveled see Caucasians.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    The other day in the parking lot at work, I saw next to each other the latest model each of the Fusion, Optima and Passat. And they looked like the same design in order of most to least fashionable interpretation (that is in order of least to most headroom). Some of this is maybe inevitable with the problems that must be designed around, like having angled-in headlights from far back on the fenders in order to disguise super-long front wheel drive overhang. Yet even the taillights were the same shape, just in order of shortest to tallest lenses.

    The regulation argument doesn’t hold water. Really, it’s harder to make cars look different now than in the era of mandatory identical sealed beam headlights? BS. And whatever whiff of homogeneity may come from making pedestrian-safe snouts and roofs that don’t crumple, is a more than reasonable tradeoff for the benefit.

    • 0 avatar
      cirats

      “And whatever whiff of homogeneity may come from making pedestrian-safe snouts and roofs that don’t crumple, is a more than reasonable tradeoff for the benefit.”

      But what do we know about this supposed benefit? Do we know, for example, whether the dramatically decreased outward visibility from higher snouts, thicker pillars and smaller windows isn’t dramatically increasing vehicle/pedestrian collisions? Or whether the added weight from having thicker pillars, umpteen airbags and more crush resistant cocoons is taking away from our ability to avoid accidents in the first place via better maneuverability?

      I’m not saying added safety features are not a good idea, but the pervasive idea seems to be that – given a choice between the two – accident survivability is of paramount importance over accident avoidance. We should all be grateful, of course, for accident avoidance measures like ABS and traction control that, as best I can tell, don’t have material negative aspects to them.

      • 0 avatar
        koshchei

        How are these factors mutually exclusive? It seems to me that collision avoidance is best left to the driver (afterall, s/he is controlling the speed and direction of the vehicle and not looking at a funny picture of a kitten on his/her mobile phone while rapidly approaching a busy intersection ahem), whereas collision survivability should be baked into the vehicle for when a collision is inevitable due to funny kitten pictures that simply can’t wait.

        • 0 avatar
          cirats

          Example: Thicker and shorter roof pillars can largely be attributed to the need for crush resistance and somewhere to put umpteen airbags. My general sense is the pillbox styling (thin windows) may be more the current fashion but is probably also at least partially driven from the same. All this makes outward visibility materially tougher, so harder to see pedestrians, kids in the driveway behind you, etc., etc.

          Safety equipment that drives up weight also obviously leads to cars being less maneuverable and less easy to control to avoid accidents – longer braking distances if nothing else. Why do cars weigh so much more today than their predecessors?? A lot of it is for safety.

          But my sense is that when figuring out how to improve a car’s “safety”, unless the safety feature itself is an accident avoidance feature like ABS or TC, whether the addition of the safety feature might make an accident more likely is simply not taken into consideration much, if at all.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        This is fodder for another article. Pedestrian protocol is nonexistent. Seriously, in semi rural resort area Colorado where I live, humans and deer are on the same level of “oh my g*d what the f**k are they going to do in the next instant” for me as a driver. At least humans don’t jump and land on vehicles in a semi airborne attack like some deer do.
        I was taught to stop,look both ways before crossing. I still do. I will not put my delicate body on an collision course with a vehicle and trust the driver of said vehicle to slow down or stop for me. I don’t have a death wish. Besides, why force some vehicle to stop, suffer some small extra mechanical wear, burn some more fossil fuel, just because I don’t want to wait a few seconds for their vehicle to pass?
        Every day while driving at work, pedestrians demand that of me. It is incredible how many of them don’t even look before they set foot into a traffic lane. Dumber than deer, because by and large most humans have some thinking and reasoning ability. Deer don’t. At least the chipmunks and squirrels up here know how to cross a road. They know how to time their crossing just right so I never have to slow down or stop.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      “Some of this is maybe inevitable with the problems that must be designed around, like having angled-in headlights from far back on the fenders in order to disguise super-long front wheel drive overhang.”

      I don’t get the “super-long front wheel drive overhang” concept. Today, the front overhang on say the Fusion may be greater than that of today’s Mustang. But compare the front overhang of say a 1994 Taurus to a 1994 Mustang, or better still, an 87-93 Mustang. Compare it also to the 1982 Ford Sierra (also RWD.) There is not much difference in overhang.

      While FWD cars have their engines in front of the front axle, the arrangement of a rear wheel drive engine being centered over the front axle, with engine driven fan did not always result in a shorter front overhang than a FWD car.

      In addition to styling trends, the angled-in headlights from far back on the fenders results in a smaller frontal area, and reduced drag. It used to be thought that the drag coefficent for conventional cars would not drop much below about 0.28 without using active aero (like front air dams that drop down at highway speeds.) But production Cds have dropped to as low as 0.25 for some ICE powered cars, and 0.24 for the Tesla Model S.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        @Hugh– eh, jhefner: “I don’t get the ‘super-long front wheel drive overhang’ concept. Today, the front overhang on say the Fusion may be greater than that of today’s Mustang. But compare the front overhang of say a 1994 Taurus to a 1994 Mustang, or better still, an 87-93 Mustang. Compare it also to the 1982 Ford Sierra (also RWD.) There is not much difference in overhang.”

        Without being entirely sure about those particular Ford models, I’d think the phenomenon as a whole was because in FWD cars at that time, the engine and other big hard bits were right beneath the bonnet / right behind the grille, while there was more air in between on the RWD models. Now that tightened pedestrian-safety regulations mandate thicker crumple zones — basically, “more air in between” — for all vehicles, the FWD ones have had to get increased overhangs, where the RWD ones that already had that “air” haven’t.

        (Not that I know this for a fact, with references to hand and so on… So I *could* of course be wildly wrong, but it feels like it stands to reason.)

  • avatar
    econobiker

    Do we want to go back to the days of cars with sharp metal projections in the center of non-collapsing steering wheels ready to pierce the heart of the seat belt-less driver upon impact or jet shaped hood ornaments ready to pin a pedestrian in the stomach or gas tanks inside of the passenger compartment?

    There are essentially two types of drivers:
    1. the automotive appliance driver
    2. all others: enthusiasts for the experience/performance/design/etc.

    Give the appliance drivers a safe, air-bagged, cushioned, Google egg car to drive itself and they’ll be happy. All others can sign a waiver about driving a car without any safety features…

    In some respects I have posed the same question in bringing back the “cycle-car” from the dawn of automobiles, being nothing more than what we might consider a go-cart today.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I reject your premise that there are two identifiably separate sets of drivers regarding car design and safety features. Ask Jack if he wishes his town car had side impact air bags and a different dash design. Instead, there is a safety continuum where we’ve achieved a consensus in favor of 3-point safety belts and against sharp objects and interior gas tanks plus strong market acceptance of air bags. Some customers including myself simply want the A-pillars to be as thin as possible combined with a relatively low cowl.

      At various times I’ve considered restoring and modifying a pickup truck from the late 60s or my dad’s old suburban into a weekend hobby vehicle and the safety issues are non-trivial. My dad’s 66 Suburban, while cool looking, was a death trap in a severe collision. The interior is made of painted steel, the steering column doesn’t collapse, and it doesn’t have 3 point safety belts. Weak drum brakes too. I could swap steering columns, add safety belts, and upgrade the brakes, but collision with hard interior parts would still kill passengers in a side impact collision. Lots of expense for a truck unsuited to driving in normal suburban traffic.

      Regarding restoring pickup trucks and safety, I decided what I really wanted was the “classic” proportions that look good in the regular cab short bed configuration. Large numbers of well proportioned reasonably safe trucks were built in the 90s and the SUV craze provides a good supply of junkyard parts.

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        @George B: “My dad’s 66 Suburban, … a truck unsuited to driving in normal suburban traffic.”

        Heh… Which of course makes quite a mockery of the very name.

        (OK, maybe the concept of “suburb” denoted something much more rural back then than it does now.)

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    What I hate most is how the locomotive prows on new pickups force the aero loss there to be made up by further raking the windshield and lowering the roofline. That’s purely regulatory.

    Trucks were the last refuge from Decapitated Vehicle Syndrome.
    Not no more.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      A lot of the truck front end design is now based on protecting other vehicles from the truck’s front end from over riding smaller cars when in an accident.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Where did you get that? It seems daft.

        The bumpers, frames and engines of today’s trucks are increasingly higher than before. They’ll be more prone to overriding small cars, they’ll just be carrying a massive, blocky front end with them when they do.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          The way that smaller trucks are running today is running counter to what semi’s are running, with their big blocky noses instead of slopped noses; but yes, I think that is a styling trend rather than a safety or regulatory issue.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @jhefner
            Small trucks are for the ‘make pretend SUV crowd’. They want the big rig grille look.

            The reality is those ‘little d!ck’ grilles serve no real purpose. It about image and dollars, not practicality.

            I do think when full size trucks eventually run out of steam vehicle along the lines of the Fiat Ram Ducato/Transit will be what’s left.

            The US will move along the lines of the Euro region more and more.

          • 0 avatar
            ttacgreg

            Perhaps it is just simply a small subset of US consumers who somehow romanticize cargo carrying vehicles and military tanks rather than racecars as their go-to vehicle to get to the grocery store.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    It isn’t regulation at all. Objects with the same purpose will always be aesthetically similar to other objects which offer the same utility. Connoisseurship is essential. Without an understanding of finesse, differences within sameness– whatever you’d like to call it– anything alike is the same.

    Any Byzantine image could have been made by any practicing artist in the period. Cars are no different. Neither are people, animals or insects, for that matter.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Funny you should choose the flat, retarded oafishness of Byzantine art as contrasted with, say, contemporary Renaissance European art fer your fer instance. I grew up staring at those imbecilic testimonies of church dominated Slavic backwardness.

      Actually, Byzantine is a good description of both regulatory oppression as well as incomprehensible styling affliction.

      • 0 avatar
        koshchei

        Because culture is something that can be quantified and appraised by a refrigerator.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          That is an ad apparatem argument.

          BTW, how do you “quantify” culture?

          • 0 avatar
            koshchei

            My point is that you can’t assign any normative value to culture for the purposes of comparison. An attempt to do so misses the point: culture simply is; it is neither good nor bad.

            Ad apparatem? Don’t kill the major appliance?

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “culture simply is; it is neither good nor bad.”

            So, be tolerant of honor killings, genital mutilation and child trafficking.

            I get it; judge not lest ye actually have to take a stand.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I see no reason why not, my toaster and I frequently discuss Marcus Aurelius and my Foreman grille has an MFA from Brown.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        Surely you jest! I’d chosen the Byzantine period because the style worked for so long, and because works created a millennia apart retained some semblance of a common aesthetic– which, not by coincidence, channeled antiquity.

        It was my original assertion(I write WAY more than I submit, most of it gets edited out like this bit here) that cars, like Byzantine icons(we can continue discussing the mosaic and mural works, which you’re completely off-base in calling ‘flat’) serve a purpose, and they all look similar, not because of regulation– but because of function.

        Being of the New Church, I received the exact opposite in my upbringing. It was all lambs, easter eggs and doves. Very little ostentation, almost no physical representation of biblical figures or happenings, that’s why I adore all this golden churchy stuff!

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      I nominate this entire exchange for quote of the week. All of it.

  • avatar
    340-4

    What I want to know is:

    What will be the direct benefit as a result of all of these proposed regulated requirements?

    Projected reductions in deaths? Injuries? Cost savings?

    How effective will all of this really be?

    I’ve actually researched this – regarding the numbers of deaths, etc. and I see that in the US we’re at about 4600 pedestrian fatalities per year.

    If the study I found is true, and 1/3 of the traffic deaths worldwide are pedestrians, then first – WOW. Second, where and what countries are causing this? It’s not the US, that’s for sure.

    Will forcing the western world to comply save lives in the countries with the highest fatalities? I’m guessing these have to be third world.

    How long before compliant vehicles make it there?

    How much good will all of this really do?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Great point.

      To answer the impact from changes in the US–we now require back up cameras in all cars (starting in MY 2018) to save an estimated 100 lives per year. One hundred! (Children are more likely to die from falling out of bed than being backed over.)

      After seeing how people drive in developing countries, I don’t think any sort of space below the hood will prevent that many deaths. The root cause is deeper than that. And it just means they die from scrambled organs instead of blunt force trauma to the head.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I have to wonder if it is possible to do a low belt line with big windows and still meet pedestrian standards.
    Are the pedestrian standards and the high belt co-dependent, or co-incident? I really miss big windows and excellent visibility.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The fact that gov’t authorities are green lighting cars with no outward viability says to me they have failed and should all be fired.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        28,
        Say more about your fantasy. You believe that there is an entire bureaucracy in Washington that decides which cars to green light? That there are dozens of socialists sitting around discussing how narrow to force automakers to make their windows?

        Do tell us the name of this section of the government that does this, as I would love to apply for a job there, even if it means you will soon be voted in and have the power to fire me.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          No I don’t believe there is some grand conspiracy. But I do find it interesting whomever does dream up the hoops for designers to jump through has no concept of safety or sense in other areas of the design.

    • 0 avatar
      Loki

      I’d have thought high beltlines are a result of side-impact safety regulation. More door = more rigid = less impact all up in your face.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The Volvo P2 platform met and exceeded side impact protection in the SUV age while granting the driver visibility. The current S80 continues this tradition. There is no good reason this could not be done today.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      I think it is possible, but my gut says that it would just be more costly and difficult to manufacture, versus simply raising the belt line. You’d have to use higher strength materials and smaller (or clever-er) side impact airbags to thin out the pillars a bit more, locate the engine lower in the chassis to lower the height of the hood in relation to the body (or come up with a clever solution to meet pedestrian on hood impact).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Of course. It just costs more. See any and all knee-high exotic sportscars. A Ferrari whatever has to meet all the same standards as a Camry to be sold here or in Europe. But do you want your Camry to cost $90K?

      A less extreme example – the more expensive Germans have not gone for the high beltlines nearly as much as cheaper cars have – compare a Fusion to a 3-series or an A4. They meet the same side-impact standards, but I will bet that the structure in the 3-series cost more. But you can afford that when your base price is $15K higher on a similarly sized car.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I have heard from some designers that the high belt line exists (in part) because lowering it but keeping the tall hood makes the car look terrible, and then no one would buy it.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        This. Take a look at any minivan, or more than a few econocars.

        Mind you, I don’t think it looks that bad, and I’m okay with A-pillar windowlets that dip below cowl height.

      • 0 avatar
        mitchw

        I watched a designer of the Jag F-type sketch the car as he explained what the lines did. When he got to that long narrow surface that angles along the lower part of the door, the designer explained that this element was there to balance the high ‘bonnet’ (that’s ‘hood’ to us rabble). But now that I look around at other cars, I see versions of the same element everywhere; it’s like all the designers figured out at least one way to disguise and balance our new hammer headed hoopties of the highway.

        Go take a look at the Macan, somebody. See?

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          That slopped surface (in some cases an actual step) between the bottom of the window sills and door handles is another; it helps break up the slab sides of the car. The early aero cars had a broad rub strip to split that space in half; the bottom half may have body cladding or be painted a different color to further reduce the slab appearance of the sides. Today, we no longer have rub strips, but instead have those creases at the top and bottom.

          I have seen or created paper models of many of the current Fords, and you can see these design elements played out in different variations across the entire line as part of Ford Kenetic Design language.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    To heck with pop up headlamps. I want to see vertical double-stacked quads again. Or *swoon* diagonal quads. These were styling trends that lived far, far too short a lifespan.

  • avatar
    Loki

    Yes, yes it is.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    Or the trend in design is going away from your tastes but a subjective argument can only get so much traction so we need to argue an objective point to hide our bias? I like the way cars look now, so how is that for your objective argument. At the end of the day I love style but I want function first.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    How are new Porsche 911s and Boxsters, and new Corvettes able to have low hoods when most cars are adopting the high hoods + gigantic grille to meet the new regs?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      For the Porsches, I would think it’s because the engine isn’t under the hood, i.e., there’s plenty of space below the hood & above the next ‘rigid’ object.

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      In case of Porsche, not having an engine in the front might help the design somehow, perhaps the bonnet is designed to crumple. Panamera has also some sort of automatic system to raise the hood in order to lessen injuries.

      Or perhaps they just meet the bare minimum pedestrian safety regs, as euroncap stars are really not a big selling point for sports cars.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      @Master Baiter: To add to what’s been said, the Vette’s venerable pushrod engine has the benefit of being very low, and easier to package a pedestrian safe hood over.

      Jaguar does it with big DOHC supercharged V8s under the hood by using explosive bolts that “pop” the hood in a collision.

      They work very well. One Jag did just that when the driver ran over a traffic cone on track here a few years ago.

      Ouch.

  • avatar
    redav

    I don’t know if regulations are ruining design, but I am confident in saying that they aren’t helping design.

    However, I do think that raised hood heights are adversely affecting other aspects–even safety. As the hood moves up, so do belt lines (and maybe because of impact requirements), and that decreases visibility. While I don’t hit pedestrians every day, I do look out of my windows daily and personally, I think it’s important to better see what’s near my car in all directions.

    I know I’m an insensitive and uncaring a-hole, but I just don’t care about my car protecting pedestrians. I’d rather save lives through not hitting people (by both improving my visibility & building infrastructure that prevents pedestrians & cars from occupying the same space).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Raised hoods do NOT have to mean high beltlines. There is no law that says the base of the side windows has to be level with the base of the windshield. That is NOT how cars used to be designed. See a Volvo 7/9XX for a perfect example of a car with a relatively high hood and cowl and a VERY low window line and huge windows. It is 50% stylists wanting the look, and 50% a cheap way to improve side impact results. Or maybe 90:10. The Chrysler 300 was a dramatic and bold design, but is sure started an unfortunate trend.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “The Chrysler 300 was a dramatic and bold design, but is sure started an unfortunate trend”

        This is very true; the current pillbox fad owes its origins to Chrysler’s designs, just as the proliferation of maws can be blamed squarely on Audi.

        Designers key off each other all the time.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      “I know I’m an insensitive and uncaring a-hole, but I just don’t care about my car protecting pedestrians. I’d rather save lives through not hitting people (by both improving my visibility & building infrastructure that prevents pedestrians & cars from occupying the same space).”

      This! Yes, this!

      You know what makes a lot more sense than turning cars into tanks and making them not injure pedestrians? Making it easy to see pedestrians and other motorists!

      But you see, that doesn’t make the hardcore safety lobby and the companies making airbag technology happy.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Cars all look the same today. The Lincoln MKX? I mean they basically copied the Ford Edge and slapped a different grill on it. So derivative.

    And that Buick Regal looks a whole lot like a Chevy Malibu. And the Chevy Traverse looks a whole lot like the Saturn Outlook. They should pay royalties for copyright infringement.

    Is it coincidence that this trend seemed to start around 6 years ago when Obama got elected? You tell me.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Maybe we could finally be rid of this design fixation if we’d just go to the full NASCARification of retail autos, have exactly one way of making each vehicle in each class and differentiate them with stickers. Then auto companies could focus on real issues, like making a world-class water pump or fuel injector.

  • avatar
    stickmaster

    The old fogies may disagree, but car design until the 90s or so was crap. It beggars belief that people used to drive those things.

    Nowadays the changes are more incremental. They are still there, but you are talking diminishing returns.

    There’s only so far design can go for mass produced automobiles.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    We all like our vehicles to look good but at the end of the day what we need is safe, dependable, energy-efficient and cost-efficient transportation. A small percentage of the cars might deviate from one or two of these adjectives, but as a society, we depend upon most of them hitting all or most of these marks. Have you ever been pissed off behind an oil-smoke spewing jalopy on a nice summer day? Imagine if all the cars did that. You don’t have a right to do that because if we all did that, it wouldn’t be livable. Occasionally I am a bicyclist and a pedestrian. I expect you to drive a vehicle that is not unnecessarily dangerous to me, just as I am expected to drive a vehicle that is not unnecessarily dangerous to you. The government regulators are required to go through hearings and a cost-benefit weighing process before issuing regulations. Car designers are not required to do the same thing. There are more than 300 million people in the United States, if we were all allowed to do anything we wanted, it would be chaos. We don’t get to do everything we want, but we have paved streets, sewers, fire departments and schools. We have cops and military to keep people from taking our stuff. There’s a cost for that, we pay taxes and have some restrictions on our liberty – restrictions which we vote on either directly or indirectly. One of those restrictions is that I might not get to drive a car with as low a hood as I want. Boo -fkn hoo.

    • 0 avatar
      Drewlssix

      Seriously? We are in large part allowed to do what we want to do, and until recently we were free to do even more all without the chaos people like you predict. You obviously lack an understanding of human nature if you think our base line motive is to screw everyone else over. You have even worse problems if you think gov regulations are what keep people decent. I have every right to drive a dune buggy made of rusty angle iron on the street and should I graze you and cause you an infection you have the right to seek reparations.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Hell yes regulation has ruined car design, but so have designers.

    Tall stubby hoods and ugly rounded grilles? Gotta go.

    Obscenely huge doors with tiny windows? Gotta go.

    20 inch wheels on everything? Gotta go.

    A serious dearth of simple straight lines and corners? Gotta go.

    But of course, I’m a big fan of old-school Italdesign stuff and cars are never going to look like that again.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Pedestrian safety is important. Round these parts they’re getting mowed down like hay this year. Gotta read those twitter messages to see who had what for breakfast, both driver and walker.

    Refuse to believe car designers really care about pedestrians. Many new cars have protruding air dam lips designed to smash your ankles while directing your body onto a nice soft hood. Check those lips out yourselves, and ponder having two tons hitting your ankles or shins at even 15 mph.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      What pedestrians? Seriously. Outside of cities, pedestrians and vehicles are generally well separated from each other. Once again the sensibilities of people living in cities are being imposed on vehicles that rarely get near pedestrians. I understand the pedestrian-friendly proportions for a Mini Cooper, Volkswagen Golf, or Honda Fit, but why do the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger need to be so tall?

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> Outside of cities, pedestrians and vehicles are generally well separated from each other.

        That’s not true everywhere. Many Boston suburbs and other areas of New England have no sidewalks in residential areas. The roads are also twisty and can be very narrow. Actually, pedestrian and vehicle separation is much better in cities.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Baloney. BRZ has the profile and shoulder height of a 1994 Integra and it is a top safety pick. Bad, unimaginative design is ruining car design.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “shoulder height of a 1994 Integra”

      And navel height of a human being. I think we’re talking about a broader swath of the industry here.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        BRZ is a mainstream car subject to all the regulations killing design. I’m not saying regulations don’t have an effect, but I do think manufacturers have a lot more leeway than we admit to.

    • 0 avatar
      odeen

      The BRZ has a low hood because it has a short engine with its cylinders horizontal. 1994 Integra had a low hood closely hugging a conventional engine with the cylinders pointing straight up.

      If you were designing a car with a front-mounted boxer engine, you could have made it look like a razor blade. In 2014, having a somewhat uncommon engine configuration allows for something merely as stylish as a glorified 1994 Civic…

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I have a brilliant idea!

    On the launch of a vehicle why don’t the manufacturers’ use half naked models to lounge around their new releases.

    This will take your attention away from the finer details of the new vehicle.

    Just a thought.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Peoples very subjective tastes are ‘ruining’ car design, but luckily only for the same people.
    Cars right now look a whole lot better than the Lego bricks of the 80’s and the molten yello-look cars of the 90’s. I love the high beltine with a pillbox look and the huge wheels, but only as artwork, I much prefer driving Hondas from the 90’s because of the low cowl and huge side windows, and tiny (by todays standard) wheels.
    And the high beltline look is in itself a mix of the muscle car look and german cars. The 300C (and Charger) was based on some coffin-like German car to begin with, and the huge wheels make for better comfort when doing 150mph+ on the Autobahn. ( I was surprised to learn that my 20 year old Audi 100 was still very comfortable on 225/40-18’s even on really bad roads, except for the fact that you need both hands on the wheel all the time…they also felt twice as heavy to carry than the stock 195/65-15s)

    PS. 3D modeling tech has changed car design a lot more than any regulations. A lot of modern cars look very very different in real life compared to photo, mostly for the better. Although judging by some later SUVs (BMW, I’m looking at you) the 3D programs probably don’t show scale very well…

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      I’m going to start carpet-bombing anyone that mentions the LX cars being w210 derived.

      The cars do not share a chassis.

      • 0 avatar

        But I know a 300 is built off an date Mercedes platform, I’ve read it here a hundred times.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Wikipedia claims W211 firewall and floorpan, + suspension parts and transmissions from MB, so at least you’re right about it not being W210 derived. I’m not a huge fan of german cars and the ‘coffin’ feeling. Even older BMW’s and Audis have the steering wheel mounted far up on a wall that covers most of the forward view (compared to an old Honda at least)

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      “Cars right now look a whole lot better than the Lego bricks of the 80′s and the molten yello-look cars of the 90′s.”

      And yet those are my favorites; cars like the Audi 5000s, Chrysler-Maserati TC, and Taurus wagon were clean and organic looking; not overly styled like today’s cars or cars of the 1950s.

      Styling is subjective, and each era of car design has it’s fans; or else there would be no preserved Mustang IIs, Pacers, or Edsels to be found.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        I know I generalize too much some times, I ment from a designer point of view, there are a lot more diversity out there, and they are more free to do what they want now. I also like a lot of the cars from the 80’s (mainly because I grew up then)and a few cars of the 90’s, but both platform sharing (K-cars, Fox bodies) and the rennesaince of aerodynamics made a lot of eerily similar cars. From a pure styling point of view I prefer the wild late 60’s and early 70’s, when form (and cubic inches) beat function to within an inch of it’s life.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    The pedestrian crush space regsfrom the Euronannies are ruining styling. Check out the bizarre hoodline on the current BMW 3 series.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Vehicle design will change in the not too distant future.

    Composites will allow for this.

    At the moment the use of high tensile steel reduces the fantastic shapes that used to be formed in the 50s and 60s with the low carbon steel, which was far more malleable and ductile.

    At the moment in car design the plastic front ends are the only real area where it is almost limitless in the shapes that can be provided.

    Once you start to look at the body of a vehicle is where the limitations of the available materials becomes evident.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Koenigsegg is already doing it.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @HDC
        As an aside, Koenigsegg apparently employ aviation technicans mainly to do their work.

        Apparently the quality of the work can only be met by these guys.

        I’ve read they don’t employ motor industry technicians.

        I don’t know if it is true.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          That’s my understanding as well. It’s craftsmanship.

          There’s the initial molds, then the working with the CF (Carbon Fiber) mat and the resin, then the vacuum compression, the baking, and finally the shaping.

          Yeah, I’d say at this point it is still labor intensive.

          When I was still in the US Air Force, CF was just coming into vogue and used on the F16. But no repairs were ever made in the field. It was always a re-order of a damaged part through the supply chain because the CF particles could cause severe bronchial and lung damage if inhaled.

          OTOH, conventional parts were often hammered back into shape and refitted on most airplanes.

          In fact, IIRC, the traveling War Readiness Spares Kit (WRSK) always had at least two of each CF component on its inventory.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @HDC
            Where I work we have a composites workshop.

            Very time consuming repairs. Most are vacuum repairs. Delaminations is a big one with composites.

            Delams in composites is the equivalent to corrsosion in metals. Expensive.

            These new aluminium pickups will not be very consumer friendly as well.

            It’s a pity these dumbass government regulatons are wasting so much in resources with some of this crap.

            We have so much new and existing technology to use right now to improve performance and reduce pollutants.

            But, like you stated the people voted for this crap.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Design in the golden age wasn’t any kind of unique. An Impala was at least as close to a LTD as an Accord is to a Camry. An Imperial was a couple of tail fins and hood creases away from a Deville.

    And that was just fine, because good design isn’t about looking unique. It’s about looking good. Those cars did.

    Stubby jelly beans with slot car aero kits and ridiculous beltlines don’t.

  • avatar
    ajla

    In the past decade I have become annoyed that on the rare occasion a company does release a vehicle that isn’t styled to look like it just stepped out a Martian MMA gym (Passat, S80, Montego, old Elantra Touring), the automotive press rips on it for being “boring”.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Regulations didn’t give us today’s super bigmouth grilles, absurdly stretched headlamps, gunslit side glass, thick pillars, and crazy “character” lines, to say nothing of the Conestoga wagon wheels with rubber-band tires.

    Just look at a Honda Accord sedan — it has none of these and yet is a Top Safety Pick+ (and I’ve never owned a Honda, mainly because of happenstance rather than conscious choice).

  • avatar
    dtremit

    There are other options for pedestrian safety besides high hoods — they’re just expensive, both to build and to repair:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2Aw4eZoijk

    I suspect you’ll be seeing more of them as the price comes down.

  • avatar
    3Deuce27

    I just don’t see how the high front end designs will really help. Sure, a large frontal area will distribute the impact loads, but as a pedestrian, I would rather go over the hood then under the car or caught in the frontal blast of a cow catcher.

    What we need is pedestrian air-bags, and the new radar avoidance equipment, could be made standard for all vehicles if it can get a good read off live carbon. Then we could get back to vehicle front end designs that don’t look like Ford and Dodge pick-ups.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      @3Deuce27 – The tall front end is meant to make the pedestrian fall face first into the soft hood instead of flying through the windshield or over the roof of the car and (broken) neck first into the pavement behind, in the path of the next car in line.

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        Yes! I know I was just playing the devil’s advocate.

        That said, that is assuming the unfortunate pedestrian is facing the car that hits em. The reality is, not to likely to happen that way, and your pretty much dead anyway. And the scenario of flying over the car, would be a very hi-speed hit. The bigger danger is going under the car and being dragged.

        My uncle in his new Chrysler 300 recently hit a pedestrian walking in the road at night. He braked before he hit her and the impact threw her ahead of him and then the car not fully stopped yet, ran over her hips and legs. He pulled over and ran back just in time to see another car run over her. She lived, but she is never again going to walk in the street at night.

        And somebody on a a bike or motorcycle, is going over the car in most cases. Many years ago now, my brother hit the back of a car at full throttle on his motorcycle and went through the back window and into the windshield and dash of the car he hit. Broke both the back and front windows of the car, but he lived. that car a 55′ Chevy had an upright trunk.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    All I can say is damn I miss wing vents (and I don’t even smoke). And I love driving with my elbow on the sill. At least you guys aren’t arguing about the most appropriate location of the flower vases.

  • avatar

    I am one of those guys who hates modern car design. I hate tall doors, short windows, thick pillars, huge rims, huge center consoles, cockpit interiors, flame surfacing, high trunks, and station wagons on stilts. Then I remembered. “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I saved up $3000 and bought a 92 Miata with 14 inch rims that weigh 8.4 lbs each. The airbag was removed and there is no roll bar. Hope no one hits me.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Sage advise!

      But as long as we live in the world that the majority voted for, we are stuck with the predicament that we have now, such as it is, even automotive-wise.

  • avatar
    robc123

    The big question is if design is going to a commodity style then – its all going to be car shared autonomous cars with 18yr leases being paid out of your cell phone.

    The real sub question behind this is can they get the software up to speed-

    How does an autonomous car slow down or speed up? think about the calculations involved, what if the compression is off 10% or the tires are not stock or are slow faster or slower than the stock tire?
    How would it be able to calibrate stuff like this to stop in time? how does it calculate a hydroplane stop or ice?


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