Today's Most Over-styled Car Is ...

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro

I recently started to think about automotive over styling. This is because many of today’s cars are styled to the point where you wonder if they had some contractual obligation with the supplier to put in as many unnecessary curves and creases as humanly possible.

This all got started when I walked by an E36 BMW 3 Series a few weeks ago. That is a handsome car. It has clean lines, and clean panels, and virtually no unnecessary curves or surfaces or trim. The thing is all purpose, all business, and somehow it still manages to be beautiful. I love it.

Modern cars aren’t quite so purposeful. One example is the Toyota Camry, which used to be pretty damn dull. In order to un-dull it, Toyota has apparently decided to change the grille and the fenders and the bumper and really make it “stand out” — for better or for worse. This is because Toyota knows it can’t really change the driving experience or else it’ll lose its loyal fan base. But it can change the styling, because people will buy the Camry almost regardless of how it looks, provided all the other desired items are present.

The first car I ever realized was over styled was the 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Do you remember this car? The first few Mitsubishi Eclipse body styles had been handsome and clean and simple, and then the 2000 Eclipse came out. There were three lines inexplicably placed in the door, and three more lines inexplicably placed in the front bumper, and the taillights were weird circles, and I never really understood why the fuel filler cap had visible rivets in it, as if the Eclipse was some sort of classic car or off-roader SUV.

But I think the 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse has nothing on today’s most over-styled car, which is undoubtedly the GMC Terrain.

For those of you who have not seen a GMC Terrain on the road, allow me to explain it for you. Here is a fairly standard compact or midsize SUV, depending on your definition, with fairly standard sizing, and fairly standard powertrains, and fairly standard pricing, and fairly standard options, and a design that looks like it should be bringing aid to earthquake victims in hard-to-reach places.

The overall profile of this thing is boxy and blocky, much like you’d expect to see from a real, terrain-tackling SUV. And then there are the boxy wheel arches, which are so ridiculously over styled to make the Terrain look like an off-roader that you have to wonder if the designer was cringing even as he was sketching the thing on paper.

There are two other funny things about the Terrain that make it seem even more over styled — if that’s possible.

One is the fact that it shares virtually every mechanical component with the Chevrolet Equinox, which is a fairly normal looking crossover with curves and sweeping lines and normal wheel arches. In other words: in an effort to distinguish the Terrain from its Equinox sibling, General Motors went hilariously overboard.

And then there’s the other hilarious thing about the Terrain’s styling: the damn thing has absolutely no off-road capabilities at all. Not only do most Terrain models come with a four-cylinder engine that can barely pull the thing around, but there’s no ground clearance, no decent approach or departure angle, no advanced 4-wheel drive system. Effectively, this is the showiest, most non-off-road off-road-looking SUV since the Hummer H2.

I can’t entirely blame the GMC Terrain for its styling, because this is a trend, this whole over-styling thing. Everyone is doing it, because everyone wants their cars to seem like more than they really are. You can’t just have a Camry; you have to have a sporty Camry. You can’t just have a Terrain; you have to have a rugged Terrain. You can’t just have a minivan, you have to have a cool minivan.

Or at least that’s apparently how the majority of car shoppers think based on current styling trends. Me, I prefer the clean, simple look, like that old E36. I’d rather my car didn’t look sporty if it isn’t sporty; I’d rather it didn’t look fast if it isn’t fast, and I’d sure as hell rather it didn’t look rugged if it isn’t rugged.

In other words: I’d get the Equinox.

Doug DeMuro
Doug DeMuro

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  • Mechaman Mechaman on Oct 20, 2015

    Noticed this evening: Mercedes sedan and Hyundai SUV look the same from the front with lights on - that is, the LED marker light strip over the projection bulb under it look like a eye, together appearing to be either angry or sinister .... sheesh.

  • Old_WRX Old_WRX on Oct 24, 2015

    Land Rover Evoque. It has all the panache of a baseball cap on backwards. When cutesiness so trashes functionality (rear seat headroom, rearward visibility) it comes across as pathetic. Just my opinion.

    • See 1 previous
    • RideHeight RideHeight on Oct 24, 2015

      The most exasperating aspect of the Evoque's bunker butt is that I can't demonize CAFE mandated aero (may allah regurgitate upon it) in this particular instance. Google up a side view; the actual roof surface slopes rearward no more egregiously than do those on RAV4s or Escapes. The ass is so jacked up that the beltline coming up to meet it closes-off the rear visibility more than does the roof sloping downward. CAFE is clean on this one, the immense distance between top of rear wheel well to beltline is pure styling stupidity.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.