Vellum Venom Vignette: The Steak, the Sizzle

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

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:

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on Dec 29, 2018

    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.

    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Dec 30, 2018

      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.

  • Monkeydelmagico Monkeydelmagico on Dec 30, 2018

    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.

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Dec 31, 2018

      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.