By on March 15, 2017

2017 Land Rover Discovery

Ahh, style. The word that means different things to different people. The khaki-clad middle manager and the 20-something hipster from Seattle both have a sense of it, even if wildly divergent. And this equally applies to cars.

For example, though many of the B&B complain about how all cars look the same now, I don’t think that’s true.

Your assignment today is to think about present-day exterior styling as applied to cars, and come up with a suggestion that’s suitably timeless.

Not all vehicles age as gracefully as others. The hot trends of the day don’t always translate well into the new dawn of the next decade. Check out the gone-soft styling of the new Discovery in the headline image. It’s a current example of what not to do. The blocky and upright design lineage of Discovery generations I-IV is gone in this new iteration. The floating roof, hiked-up rear belt line and obtrusive C-pillar are all things which won’t look great in a decade.

Keeping with this SUV thread, I’ve got a timeless design in mind which proves me right. Look at this.

2003 Infiniti QX4

The magnificent solid block of metal you see above is the Infiniti QX4, which had its last model year in 2003. Three-spoke wheels, xenon lamps, wood trim and brougham stuff — it was and is excellent. I propose this vehicle still looks great today, a full 14 years later. But what about a vehicle from the same year which has not aged so gracefully? I’ll be fair and use another midsize, semi-premium SUV.

2003 GMC Envoy

And here it is: the 2003 GMC Envoy. Though these two vehicles are similar in many ways, right down to metallic beige paint and wheel design, the way they’ve aged is entirely different. The Envoy is a classic case of a design lacking in timelessness. This particular case is unusual, since the Envoy is largely made of straight lines, and doesn’t feature any of the swoops or flame surfacing which generally serve to age cars more quickly.

But neither of these (now ancient) examples are current vehicles, which is where we focus today. Time to put on our thin-frame designer spectacles. To your mind, what are the timeless designs you can go and purchase in North American showrooms in 2017? What’s your best bet if you don’t want your car to look all Envoy in a few years?

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126 Comments on “QOTD: Which Current Vehicle has the Most Timeless Styling?...”


  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    You just HAD to post a GMT360, didn’t you?

    It’s bad enough that I have to look at one every day in my driveway.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      The Truth does not hold back!

    • 0 avatar
      ByTheLake

      The GMC Envoy and its siblings aren’t that bad – there are probably better examples of designs that haven’t aged as well in that time frame.

      Styling is subjective, but I’d say that design of the 2003 Toyota Sequoia hasn’t aged well either. How about a 2003 Honda Element? 2003 Mitsubishi Endeavor? I’ll take the Envoy or Trailblazer with the awesome inline 6 over those. :-)

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        The Endeavor is a good example, but I disagree with everything else you said.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          The regular Pathfinder has aged a lot better than that Infinity. The wheels, front end, nasty plastic cladding, & pretty much everything that differentiates that crappy badge job from the Nissan is terrible. Bad choice Cory.

          You want a timeless design where an SUV is concerned the early 90’s Toy 4Runners would be my vote.

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            https://s1.cdn.autoevolution.com/images/gallery/NISSANPathfinder-3153_1.jpg

            Sorry, no. It’s not a bad design at all, but is not as clean as the QX4.

        • 0 avatar
          pdieten

          What’s wrong with the Endeavor?

          The early (2004-08) models’ trim and details look pretty outdated, but the last two years don’t strike me as particularly displeasing. It looks like a fairly ordinary midsize CUV.

  • avatar
    ant

    Chevrolet Caprice

  • avatar
    ant

    ford edge
    toyota 86
    vw golf
    honda accord

    • 0 avatar
      squelchy451

      Agree with Ford Edge, Toyota 86 (exterior only)
      VW Golf–MK7 is a very well designed car. Straight chiseled lines, but timeless? I don’t think so (and I’m biased. I own a MK6. The design is close between the two, with MK6 being a little more rounded and subtle than the MK7)
      Accord? The brace-face?

  • avatar
    Steverino

    Porsche 911.

  • avatar
    Vega

    Every new Golf generation looks disappointingly conservative at first, but turns out pretty timeless in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Bingo. Think the current Golf vs. the current Civic hatch is a no-brainer now, stylewise? Wait five years…”what were they thinking…?”

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Unfortunately with the Civic hatch you don’t even have to wait 5 years for “what were they thinking..?”

        Golf vs Mazda 3 or Ford Focus hatch would probably be a better example.

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          I have a 2nd gen 3 hatch. 7 years in we’re tired of looking at it. I don’t think I’d be saying the same thing about a Golf, but at the same time the 3 has been dirt cheap maintenance-wise. Oil, tires, and brake pads have taken it to 80k without incident.

  • avatar
    new2000car

    Great examples! These examples also disprove the “don’t judge a book by its cover” truism. The dated sheet metal of the Envoy is covering up worn ball joints and a noisy water pump (this will annoy the gym loyalists but they are money pits once the hit 5 years). Of course the G.M. cost less money to get into at the dealer.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Peterbilt 389

  • avatar
    ajla

    Winner: Porsche 911. Say what you want about Porsche, but they definitely understand the importance of their design motif.

    Honorable mention: Ram pickup. While some of the special editions lean into garish territory, a basic Ram truck still carries the same handsome and slightly aggressive look that exploded onto the scene in ’94.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Ford Flex
    Chevy SS (Though not as much as the 2015)
    A lot of the hot hatches
    Charger
    And but for the nose, the Lexus IS

  • avatar
    new2000car

    The fastest dated look I ever saw was the Chevy Citation. An 8 year old one was used in a commercial back then to exemplify the ultimate schnook-mobile. The guy was picking up a blind date in that dorky old car and we viewers knew the girl wouldn’t be impressed when she opened her front door and saw his ride.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Ooh, that’s a good call. It *seemed* like Citation production ceased after the ’82 model year, even though it continued through ’85. The people I know who had A-bodies got good service out of them, so I salute the X-bodies as a successful QA project. Cold comfort for the people who bought Citations, I suppose.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Citation#Racing
      Who knew? And what other cars were in that class?

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      The fastest dated-looking cars ever were the entire class of ’58. There isn’t a single American car made in 1958 that didn’t look woefully out of fashion just three years later. By 1961, the entire late-’50s design ethos was dead, from fishbowl windshields to tail fins to wild 2- and 3-color paint jobs to random chrome decorations to bulging headlamps. They were all the height of fashion in 1958 yet dead in the water by 1961. The few ’61 models that still had any of these styling elements looked hopelessly behind the times.

  • avatar
    gespo04

    What matters most to me is a clean, cohesive design. Most cars these days have overly complicated front ends and illogical “floating” D pillars. The most beautiful new car you can buy today, in my option, is the Mazda 6. Yes, I think it is more beautiful than supercars. It’s sleek and sexy without being gaudy. The rain gutters on the roof that every car has form perfect 90 degree angles, the tail lights are long and visually linked with a piece of chrome that is executed better than Mercedes-Benz vehicles today. The grill is simple, not obscenely huge like on a Lexus, and it is one, simple shape. None of this weird fake-grill plastic like on a Prius. Most BMWs nail this stately but aggressive look as well.

    • 0 avatar
      zoomzoomfan

      I’d vote the 6 as well as it manages to not look overstyled like many sedans do now. The key to a timeless design is no garish characteristics that are only “cool” (or perceived by the manufacturer to be “cool”) for a short period of time (Hummer H2, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, 2010 – 2013 Mazda3, etc.).

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      It has good bones to work with, as the other day I walked out of the building slightly below street level and was kind of wowed by a Ford Fusion. I know, right? But it had the Bronze Fire paint (had to look it up, gone for 2017 of course) and the big wheels, and it was just a great looking car. So it must be the proportions underneath both vehicles.

      I’m always struck by the 6 too, especially in pearl white.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    BMW 5 Series, Jeep Wrangler, Porsche 911, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    2016 Ford Fusion.

    I think the Tesla Model S styling will hold for years as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      I’m bored with the way the S looks now. I don’t think the small no-face changes they made to the front are helping matters either. The thing that ages S models for me is the trim – seen a few around lately which are getting a bit ratty looking.

  • avatar
    AVT

    Chrysler 300 is probably near the top. The other is a toyota land cruiser. Both of these defy years as they go. From chevy, I’d say a w-body impala rental version. Vanilla as it gets right their. And most jaguar sedans. They’ve had years to practice.

  • avatar
    rjg

    Range Rover sport

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Passat. Or Jetta, which is essentially the same design anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Do you want car shape or slightly more car shape?

      • 0 avatar
        Ermel

        I do like their looks. Soothingly un-sporty, un-aggressive, un-“look at me!”-ish, yet elegant and clean. They look much the way many of their competitors did in the 1990s, which was one of those rare decades when I found even BMWs pleasing to the eye.

        Edited to add: The stark contrast is Jaguar, whose modern offerings don’t look too shabby, but I cannot imagine they’ll age gracefully. I liked their old design, which was admittedly a bit retro if you want to call it that — I’d call it conservative, even old-fashioned, and I adored it.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Agreed, though I’ll add specifically the B5 Passat and A4 Jetta (both pre-MCR) look timeless to me.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Jeep Wrangler.

    Most every pickup truck as well.

    I really want to say Chevy Impala, but that’s just me.

  • avatar
    MLS

    Disagree that the QX4 has aged any more or less gracefully than the Envoy. The QX4 was better looking to begin with, sure, but both remain clean, understated designs.

    That said, the Envoy presumably sold in far greater numbers, so one is more likely to encounter one on the road, and chances are it’ll be ill-maintained and piloted by some sort of deplorable. So I think the author is projecting a bit of judgement here.

    Also, it’s a bit unfair that author contrasted a carefully composed glamour shot of the Infiniti with an amateur, Craigslist-like photo of the GMC.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    I think BMW has managed to make their designs look timeless throughout their lifecycle. You can see traces of the older Bimmers in the new without them looking like carbon copies. Most VWs do the same thing – there is a “style” (like it or not) and the current generation is an updated riff on that look. I think less iconic brands like Hyundai and Kia suffer because there never has been a coherent “style” to the cars, so everything they do either looks like someone else’s car or is brand new. That makes it hard to design timeless vehicles. Other cars/brands that look timeless – Lexus RX/ES/LS/GS, Mercedes C/E/S class, Mini, Jeep Grand Cherokee/Wrangler, Chrysler 300 (seriously – car is on a 12 year old platform!).

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      I dunno, the derpy early 2000s 7-Series comes to mind.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      You’re gonna use Hyundai and Kia as examples of manufacturers that don’t stick to the same design, and then you’re gonna say Mercedes and Lexus *do*? Have you even seen what bulbous monstrosities those cars have become? Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Acura, Infiniti, Ford, Lincoln, Mazda, etc etc etc ALL have drastically changed their exteriors enough to be unrecognizable from 5 or 10 years previously.

    • 0 avatar
      Thorshammer_gp

      Agreed with BMW. Obviously there are some rather notable exceptions (looking at you, 535GT), but for the most part, they seem to generally do a good job with the clean-but-sporty look.

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      Most pre-shark maw lexus’s are timeless. My giflfriends gs450h would is a great example. One of the understated q ships that are increasingly rare. For whatever reason, I also think the infiniti m56 (11-12 model year) look timeless in a more modern sense. Like a chrysler 300 after taking a few years off via a face lift.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Agreed. There was a tasteful version of the spindle grille, seen on most of the company’s products (LS, ES, GS, LX, CT, RX) between about 2013 and 2015. It’s pretty much been phased out.

        I do like the pre-facelift current GS.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    F-Type

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Porsche 911
    Subaru Forester
    BMW 3 series
    Jeep Wrangler
    VW Golf

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    If we’re gonna go with 10-15 year old SUVs as the guideline, I think the Isuzu Axiom takes the cake. Maybe it will look less timeless 20 years from now, but it’s about the only car I can think of that looked stylish when it came out and still does all these years later.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      While distinctive, the Axiom’s design has early 2000 hallmarks all over it. They’re -concept- hallmarks, but still. And the back end is awful.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Yes, the Axiom is one of those trucks that you look at and say “I can’t believe I use to think that car looked futuristic”

        The Axiom also looks better in pictures where you can’t get a great sense of scale then in person. The vehicle is smaller then it looks like it should be, giving weird proportions in the design.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    London Taxi!

  • avatar
    Hummer

    IMO the secret to a timeless design is sharp lines, lack of excess body trim (as in door “bumper” guards), and the lack of a succeeding(worthy) model.

    I’m not sure there is an example of a timeless design with painted bumpers for less than $80k, the painted, plastic formed bumpers follow current trends which mean they no longer are designed for function but looks. Function is timeless. That’s why I love the trucks that encompass the brand with my username.

    Though that doesn’t match the original criteria, so to answer the question the best answer I have is a Wrangler, under certain configurations only.

  • avatar
    Thorshammer_gp

    I’ll nominate the W212 Mercedes E-Class. To me, it’s much more stately than its successor, and isn’t that what the E-Class is all about? The 2013 facelift was tasteful (maybe with the exception of the giant star grille), and the fact that it didn’t have the pooping-dog rear end counts for a lot in my book.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    Range Rover

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      I want to agree with you, but I’m not so sure about the windswept look of the current one. The 04-06 era looks timeless to my eyes, before they added bling.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Fer sure: Porsche 911. The wing size changes but the car is timeless. I recently saw an early 80s one and it was still a beautiful car.

    Mercedes and BMW used to have timeless designs that held up as the years go by. I see a few E46s running around and they are still great looking. I think the current 3-series still look good, but the X series not so much.

    Mini – I’m biased here since I have two of ’em in the stable – don’t look old because they have classic vintage-esque lines. My wife’s yellow Mini is a 2003 but no one guesses it. Instead she gets a lot of positive comments: “nice car”. “How fast is it?” “I’ve always wanted one of those.”

    The 90s 4-Runner and the T100 are still good looking truck(sters). Simple lines and a great stance.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’d say the MINI Cooper. You can see the clear evolution from the first BMW-designed model, and you can anticipate how it’ll look in the future. The Golf also tends to look good throughout the ages, with little in the way of superfluous detailing that’ll leave the nasty taste of early-2000s-F-body in your mouth in twenty years.

  • avatar
    ddroadkill

    Honda Accord

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Jag XJ8

    Morgan +8, +4, 4-4

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nothing current, using the commandant’s rules of “current”, is timeless.

  • avatar
    threeer

    My heart bleeds blau mit weiss, so I nominate (*sort* of current!):

    E46 3-series (1998-2006). Likely the last BMW 3-series I truly desired
    E39 5-series (1995-2004). 540i with manual.
    E38 7-series (1995-2001). Pre-Bangle.

    After that, BMW kind of went downhill for me. I could still be talked into a nice, used 1 or 2-series with a manual, but that’s about it.

  • avatar
    AVT

    I don’t know why, but to me, an Infiniti M56 (2011-2012) strikes me as a rare possibility. Rare enough that you might do a double take, but vanilla enough to still qualify as a q ship (provided it not in a color screaming for attention). And if you compare it to a 300 in photos side by side, it sorta of looks like a 300’s slightly more modern brother.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Certainly not the QX4, but the Piper Cherokee sharing the shot. Over 50 years running for the PA-28 family (Warrior, Cherokee, Archer, etc.)

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Chevy Express/GMC Savanna

  • avatar
    Corco

    The original (2002-2004) Jeep KJ Liberty is starting to age well, at least to these eyes.

    A well-maintained KJ in a lighter color like silver is becoming a more and more attractive car the older it gets.

  • avatar
    incautious

    Any Aston Martin.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Hasn’t always been that way!
      https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–xs6-PWEK–/c_scale,f_auto,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800/1359205351407341383.jpg

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    I can’t think of any timeless designs on sale right now, but the 2006 Lexus LS430 certainly was timeless.

  • avatar
    scott25

    I’ll echo others here with Golf, Jetta, Charger, Grand Cherokee and if not for the current redesigns which added goofy details I’d say 86/BRZ and Outlander Sport/RVR as well. Jaguar XE/XF/F Type (and maybe even the F Pace) are also good calls. Audi TT maybe?

    As a wild card I’d nominate the Lincoln MKC.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do believe the 86 Nissan Hardbody styling has held on quite well.

    With slight changes to the grille it would not look out of place today.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      “[W]hat are the timeless designs you can go and purchase in North American showrooms in 2017?”

      >in North American showrooms
      >in 2017

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        A Chev Colorado. It hasn’t really followed the “big rig” grille trend as closely as its competitors. The current Taco is the same.

        Pickups will keep hold their styling due to the nature of the vehicle better than any other vehicle (over the past 30 years) except large (non-pickup) trucks .

        That’s why I used the Hardbody. Slightly reshape the leading edge of the hood and grille and it would not look out of place today.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Current Chrysler 300 and current Charger.

    MB and Audi have always done a decent job of making their sedans look fairly cohesive and not dated. (With the exception of the Maybach which just looked like an XXL size Hyundai XG300.)

    • 0 avatar
      AVT

      I can agree with that. My old 2006 A6 Avant looked like it could have come straight off the dealer floor right before I sold it. The 300 is a sorta throwback to imperials and new yorkers of yore, at least in proportion sizing, so I can see why it’s a timeless design.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    There’s only one legitimate answer to the headline question: The Jeep Wrangler (né CJ.) Of all the cars past and present, the Jeep Wrangler is the only one universally identifiable world wide over 75 years.

  • avatar
    Demon_Something

    Definitely not current, but a lot of people seem to think the 01 to 06 Acura RSX is still for sale, at least in my circles.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    As in nearly all auto discussions the correct answer is Miata.

    With a wistful nod to Wrangler (see above) Morgan and Caterham.

  • avatar
    idesigner

    A chiseled design will always look good to the eye. A + if they have a long fast back look.
    Audi A4 2002-2005
    Audi TT MK1
    Audi coupe GT
    Porsche 944
    VW Golf any generation, I’ve had every generation except for 4th.

    • 0 avatar
      TheDoctorIsOut

      I would agree and extend that to the entire Audi A4/A6/A8. They got this look right especially with the original A6 and just continue to stretch it to fit the latest chasssis. Also the original TT Is simply timeless and Audi’s biggest job with it has got to be trying to update it enough periodically so no one is confused that the newest version actually is the newest version.

      To show how wrong a manufacturer can go you need only look at the E46 BMW, every iteration since looks squattier and overweight compared to that.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        I’d agree and extend it to the whole Audi lineup. As a company, they’ve done far the best overall job of keeping their styling both consistent and consistently timeless

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Why, the recently deceased XC-70, of course.

    Also, the so-timeless-they-haven’t-touched-it-in-30-years G-class.

  • avatar
    Chan

    Mazda3
    VW Golf/Jetta
    Lexus LS460
    Mini anything and Fiat 500 (although you could argue that those play the retro game and are not original styling efforts)
    Audi anything
    Jaguar XJ

  • avatar
    Mn12Fanatic

    I agree with a few others on here and think the current accord is pretty timeless looking. It’s got pretty straight lines but looks just curvy enough to fit in at just about any time. Fit and finish are also good enough to allow them to age nicely. Also, the Impreza sedan looks like a nice timeless design.. they did something weird with the hatchback roofline. And, to pick something a little strange, I would have to go with the current Fiat 500. I’m sure the reliability leaves much to be desired but they still manage to turn heads regardless and will continue to as long as they are still running and driving. It was a neat car to rent for a little while, although it was quite cramped. They need to up the Abarth HP to 200 to compete more with the ST!

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    after reading the concurrent ttac write-up on the similarities of every new 911, i feel compelled to declare my ten-years-old porsche cayman. imo, every automobile should look, feel, actually be and seem-to-be, so timeless and adherent to it’s heritage.

    sorry – a closer reading of this article’s title clearly limits choices to ‘current,’ so i gotta retract mine.

  • avatar
    lexus94

    Timeless:
    – MY03-MY09 Subaru Legacy/Outback
    – XF30 and XF40 Lexus LS (MY02-MY09)
    – MY02-MY07 JDM Toyota Caldina
    – MY06-MY17 JDM Toyota Estima

    I miss mid-2000s Toyota design…

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Available in North America throws a wrinkle into it, otherwise I’d say Land Rover Defender.

  • avatar
    thirteen20wrx

    WK2 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Specifically the 2011-2013 and 2017-on models, I don’t like the busy grille area of the 2014-2016. Too many panel gaps and creases.

  • avatar
    ydnas7

    current Honda Civic sedan, its got a class that Toyota Nissan Hyundai Kia BMW Mercedes Ford etc lack

    2016 and earlier Outlander Sport (ASX),front on at the lights, saw one with an Audi on either side. Essence of Audi, is purely distilled on that Outlander Sport.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The current Chevy Colorado, Chevy Impala, and Chevy Malibu. I would also say the current Fusion, Explorer, Chrysler 300, Lincoln Continental, Aston Martin, and any leftover 2016 Chrysler 200.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’d go with the Mini Cooper, Fiat 124, Infiniti QX-70, Toyota Landcruiser, Subaru Forrester,and Ford Flex.

    I know the QX is all round-y and stuff, but the 1st gen has aged well and the 2nd gen is similar.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    1. I like how you put a Rover as the lead picture – which looks an awful lot like a Ford.

    2. Some people say the 911 – but that is cheating since they don’t really change it anyway. Plus I think we should exclude all sports cars from this since that is easy.

    3. There are plenty of bland looking cars that will get passed around, since inoffensive will usually be inoffensive years from now (the QX4). I would have picked the J30 which is still a great looking car, a better looking mini-Jaguar than the X-type ever was.

    4. Current, non-bland cars? The new Miata is going to look good forever. A lot of current Mazdas probably fall into that. I’ll go out on a limb and say the current Model S – without the nosecone – looks pretty sharp. Audi sedans are getting a bit staid, but are still handsome. Some of the new Volvos and MBs.

    I don’t think a single current BMW will ever match the E34 timelessness. Not any of the other Japanese brands besides Mazda. Alfas and Maseraties always look good and will be rare as their crappy build construction winnows their numbers. Aston Martin has put out too many of the same car in different forms to make them unique. The current pony cars are okay, but not timeless.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    The 2003 QX4 is a good example of timelessness, except that C-pillar-mounted rear door handle bothers me all out of proportion.


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