By on December 28, 2018

2019 Toyota Avalon wind tunnel: Image: Toyota

Fred writes:

What is it with all these fake vents on the front and rear grilles and valances of new cars?

I admit, I recently bought one of the worst offenders, a 2019 Avalon (I bought it for the Audi-esque interior). But for crying out loud, why all the black plastic trying in vain to fool the eye that these are… what, exactly?

Sajeev answers:

A funny thing happens when designers are tasked with trying to save things from dying. Sedans are the new coupes, an endangered species thanks to the dominance of crossover utilities. But are fake vents and oversized grilles the answer?

We tangentially discussed this via Lexus sedans: they extol the sporting virtues of a lower-than-CUV center of gravity, not just a value proposition for cheapskates, Lyft drivers, etc.

That’s why even the Japanese Buick Avalon now has sport modes, flappy paddles, adaptive variable suspensions, a firmer-than-ever driving experience and even a TRD model … and how will everyone see this change?

That’s the problem: cows don’t sell the steak, the sizzle sells it. Every vehicle must have a tall front fascia and a towering cowl to give adequate space between the engine and the hood for pedestrians hitting that area. Therefore the Avalon has to stand out (literally) from this crowd via:

  1. Angular, angry (looking) grille ready to eat pedestrians (oh the irony!).
  2. Racy looking, downforcey-appearing, swag-laden fake scoops, side scallops and fake vents.
  3. A longer, lower, DTM-style sedan swagger for the street. That connection is weak, but you catch my drift!

And if you think Toyota’s marketing department didn’t pick up what the stylists put down, check out their advertising: racy engine noises, the pushing of sport buttons, and even genteel racing games!

The final question: will the fake vent’s sizzle save sedans from extinction?

I mean, it’s a far cry from previous promotions:

[Image: Toyota]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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30 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: The Steak, the Sizzle...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    They’re not fake vents, they’re speed holes ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      They make the car go fast.

      • 0 avatar
        forward_look

        Faster than spoilers and orange brakes?

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Recently saw cross-drilled rotors, red calipers, and chrome wheels on a nicely maintained 10 year old Tahoe. 20 something male got in it and drove away. Still couldn’t figure out if the brakes were performance or appearance only. (At least the interior was nice too. Most of those fell apart.)

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            There is an early 90’s Town Car near me with them. I’m told it has the GT40 intake and what not on the 5.0 and if so, I’ll allow it. It takes all kinds though.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @Art – with the right heads and exhaust I could dig it.

            Actually I’d love it more on an 89 model. Somehow more wrong and right at the same time.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I had a 5.0 Townie (which was a disaster YMMV). Without converting it to H.O. (which involves an ECU swap among other things) upgrades are near pointless.

            I have to post the list because its just so simple!

            “All that is stopping you is a computer, cylinder heads, camshaft, injectors, upper intake, egr spacer, throttle body,firing order and dual exhaust. Assuming this a fuel injected motor.”

            http://vb.foureyedpride.com/showthread.php?99397-What-Is-The-Difference-Between-5-0-and-5-0HO

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “There is an early 90’s Town Car near me with them. I’m told it has the GT40 intake and what not on the 5.0 and if so, I’ll allow it. It takes all kinds though.”

            Rat rod FTW!

            If he didn’t pay full price for the go-fast parts but procured them as used or on clearance, then so much the better.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            @Jim…I’m told he got the head and intake off of one of those HO 5.0 Explorers and runs a Fox Body Mustang ECU. I need to meet this dude now. I’ve heard it though and it was quiet.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          “Faster than spoilers and orange brakes?”

          Yes, but not as fast as racing stripes

  • avatar
    Syke

    I, for one, will take a lot of these styling excesses. As long as it means that the next time I shop for a new car, my choices aren’t just: SUV, CUV, pickup truck and minivan. The first I will own only if I actually have to leave the pavement in comfort (my late wife’s real estate career), the second I will NEVER own, the third will always be a used side vehicle for dirty or motorcycle hauling, the fourth ditto for clean hauling.

    Something about sedans and cold dead fingers?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The plane commercial was much more honest. You also could have used the same ad to sell a 2005 Buick Lesabre when those were brand new or could have used advertising like that to clear out unsold Lucernes in 2011.

    I’d love to see someone actively turn away from promoting “SPORT” in the sedan arena in 2019. Many of the sedan products that are being cancelled are barely advertised but I’d love to see someone take more of a “serenity now” approach to selling them.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “will the fake vent’s sizzle save sedans from extinction”

    Not unless underlying deficiencies are addressed. Which they won’t be.

  • avatar
    ajla

    FWIW, all the vents and scoops on my car are functional *except* for the ones on the hood. Which are fake and cheesey.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      All the vents and scoops on my C7 ‘Vette are real. It was one of things that impressed me about the design. They didn’t just stick fake vents on for looks.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        The article about the sort of fake vents on the Supra was weird. I guess they left them covered for EPA reasons or something? But you can’t just remove the covers and call them real, they have to be plumbed. So they are still somewhat fake.

  • avatar
    jatz

    But this same blight of “sportiness” is now affecting CUVs.

    Akio all the things!

  • avatar
    IBx1

    One of the things I love the most about my Abarth right here. Every square inch of grille space is functional, the little vents on the back bumper are just big enough and not exaggerated, the extractors on the side of the front bumper work with the side grille inlets for the twintercoolers, and the little slit above the main grille has a duct that routes air above the crash bar to the radiator.

    I miss when the performance versions of cars were more subtle and you had to know what to look for, like the side extractors on an E55 AMG front bumper. Now that the regular Civic has giant fake vents all over it, the Type-R gets lost in the noise. Now that the Camry has fake vents all over it, people think an E60 M5 must be docile since it only has a tiny fender vent.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    This type of non-functional adornment is not new. In the 1950s Buick had the ports on the front fenders, perhaps to simulate exhaust pipes. Those continued, on and off, until recently. Becoming rectangular or trapezoidal. Seen on some 2011 models.
    Do not recall which brand had the hood “vents” that looked like ashtrays. They were cast metal inserts that had 6-8 chromed ridges about two feet long. This was on a mid to late 1960s muscle car.
    And yes, all those “vents” should go away.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    To those above saying maybe we shouldn’t be trying sport wherything, I actually sorta feel Lincoln of all brands is really trying hard to be soft and serene without being floaty like an old Buick.

    We will see with the Aviator platform if this continues.

    I personally do feel silence and a silky ride will always sell luxury cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Agreed. May as well try to be the anti BMW because them and Cadillac have spent 2 decades demonstrating that generally they can’t beat em’ at their own game and even on the rare instance Cadillac actually did, nobody cares.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    Plastic is lighter and cheaper than sheet metal

    plastic with lots of holes in it is even cheaper and lighter than solid plastic

    Your car is made of swiss cheese.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Swiss Cheese? As long as it holds up in the crash tests, I don’t care. Well, actually I DO care, if a 2-1/2 mph bump causes $2500 in damage. It may be cheap plastic to the manufacturer, but replacement cheap plastic somehow becomes worth its weight in platinum.


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