By on December 17, 2013


In a few days, TTAC’s editors will present their best and worst automotive picks of 2013. Today, Sajeev Mehta brings you his winners and losers in the field of design. Winners and losers below the jump.

Best Styled Car of 2013: Tesla Model S.  What happens when you have no rulebook, no badge engineered platform to start with?  Tesla’s impressive engineering and PR Buzz machine aren’t the only factors in the Model S’ shock and awe: it embodies the classic long hood and short deck proportioning that’s made so many cars so classically lovely.  It’s the same gospel spoken by everyone from Edsel Ford to Ettore Bugatti. The similarly styled Porsche Panamera only dreams of this low stance, subtle detailing and 1970s Italian concept car like flair in those hatchback hindquarters. Which proves that a clean sheet of vellum is a beautiful, beautiful place to start.

Worst Styled Car of 2013:  Not as easy, but the Honda Fit fits the bill. Not only is the second generation Fit a bloated redesign, the small Honda’s once quirky and cute details now suffer from gigantism. The biggest problem? Super excellent DLO FAIL, stealing defeat from the hands of victory: cars in this class justify a day light opening with a black plastic triangle (Sonic, Accent) with their low asking price.  Or be outstanding like the Ford Fiesta, using sheets of glass instead.  But no, the Honda Fit liked both ideas, having a huuuge DLO FAIL with both the plastic triangle and a rather large sheet of glass ahead of the front door. Congratulations, you’ve witnessed The Failing At Fail.

 Best Styled Truck of 2013: The RAM dodges Chevrolet’s cliché truck overstyling and Ford’s “Blue Collar Audi” design sensibilities for something…logical. Yes, the RAM is another modern truck that’s a caricature of its former self.  But in a world where cars jack themselves up to mimic CUVs, CUVs try to look like trucks and trucks imitate Peterbuilts, the RAM keeps some semblance of sensibility with subtle head/tail lights, logical hood/fender/bed flares and a gunsight grille that doesn’t try to be cool…because it’s been cool for almost 20 years.

 Worst Styled Truck of 2013: The Infiniti JX is one of the best examples of “overstyling” in modern automotive history. With every clumsy lump and flabby fold, the JX embodies everything wrong with the Crossover Utility Segment: trying too hard to evolve from the gritty blue-collar machines from whence they came, yet still remaining in the classic 2-box SUV design.  The ridiculous kink in the D-pillar’s quarter window says it all: you gotta know when to walk away from the vellum.

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20 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: 2013 Awards Edition...”

  • avatar

    Would be good to know what your second and third choices are in each category. I wonder if the Mazda 6 makes is on your best styled list.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m partisan, but I think that all three of the new Mazdas are the best-looking cars in their respective segments. But I agree with Sajeev that the Tesla is just a phenomenal-looking car. I hear his point about a clean sheet of paper with no brand to protect, but don’t understand why each generation of Hyundai Genesis, which should have the same advantage (it’s obviously been designed not to look like other Hyundais), looks so d###ed bland.

  • avatar

    How you could overlook Lexus (pick one, any one) for the worst styled car of the year. That bug mandible, screen-door-after-a-Kansas-tornado design language for the front end disqualifies every Lexus from any pretension to elegance and beauty. A grotesquely misshapen luxury car is a non sequitur because as the price goes up, so should a car’s looks. Who wants to pay big bucks to get big ugly?!!

  • avatar

    Best styled cars of 2013
    – Porsche 911 GT3
    – Honda Accord
    – Mercedes GLA
    – Chevrolet Camaro Z28
    – Mercedes GL (with AMG appearance package)
    – Chevrolet C7 Stingray
    – Nissan Versa Note
    – Honda CR-V
    – Chevrolet Impala

    Worst styled cars of 2013
    – Hyundai Veloster
    – Hyundai Sonata
    – Mercedes SLS AMG Black-series
    – Nissan Sentra
    – Dodge Journey
    – BMW 6 series 2 door convertible
    – Mercedes SL
    – Mercedes SLK

  • avatar
    velvet fog

    Agree with your pick of the Tesla. Every time I see one I think “god that’s a beautiful car, what it is?” then my heart sinks when I see the T badge. Unfortunately a 90K electric car is just not in my future.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know…the headlights are already beginning to look ‘aged’ to me. Something about the entire front end, especially the headlights doesn’t/ will not age well.. The side profile and the tail-lights are very good though.

  • avatar

    As long as the Infiniti QX56 (nee QX80) is available for sale, it should win worst design in every category. Because bloated decomposing whale.

  • avatar

    fr88… Agree.

  • avatar

    I agree with Sajeev’s list. In addition to it, I would say…

    Best-looking new designs:
    Ford Fusion
    Cadillac ATS and CTS
    Porsche 911/Boxster/Cayman

    Aging well:
    Jeep Wrangler (as always, right?)
    Anything Volvo, especially the S60 and XC60, but even the XC90 considering its age.
    Audi A6 and A7

    Promising 2015 designs:
    Ford Mustang
    Mercedes C

    Worst-looking new designs:
    Anything Lexus, unfortunately.
    Mitsubishi Outlander

    Aging badly:
    Hyundai Sonata
    Ford Edge
    GMC Terrain

    Iffy 2015 designs, though I have to reserve judgment:
    MINI Cooper
    Subaru WRX (not that the current one looks any better)

  • avatar

    I nominate the Range Rover Evoque as the “CUV of the Year that most emphasizes style after price of rear passengers’ comfort” (this even aside from the inevitable reliability nightmares that will leave driver and passengers stranded on the side of the road).

  • avatar

    I have to disagree with the selection of the Model S. It looks great at 15 feet but once you get close or drive one, the detailing is very cheap, whether it’s the plastic snout, the aftermarket-looking headlight LEDs, the rear treatment (not particularly daring given they didn’t have an exhaust to fit), it just looks like they looked at the Rapide and said “we want this”.

  • avatar

    I’m with Sajeev on the S. Once again today I drove like an ass just to get another angle to look at one. If they don’t have to make the E ugly to differentiate it, they may have a serious hit. I can’t swing 90k lumber though.
    If that was my price point, these looks wouldn’t turn me away.

  • avatar

    Too hard to break it down by all cars and all trucks… so, best looking car shown in 2013: IS350 F Sport for me. In person, this car is just an incredible combination of aggressiveness, elegance, and presence. I just love the complete design. Much like music, it was shocking at first and I didn’t like it. The more I looked at it, the more I studied the details, the more I fell for it. Seeing it beside a 3 series, A4, ATS, or C really drives home how much of a departure it is from the staid, committee looking entry level luxury sport sedans that make up the rest of the class.

  • avatar

    I think the Infiniti JX needs to be noted as significant for one thing: that little forward and back again kink in the D pillar marks the emergence of an Asian design sensibility in a car designed primarily for the American marketplace. This marks a first, as Asian cars have always flowed (more or less) the western view of lines that flow from front to back without being perturbed. This flow-reverse-flow line is something new.

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