By on February 5, 2020

As we’ve entered a new decade, I thought it might be time to take a look back at the 2010s and see if, among the largely nondescript egg-shaped crossovers, there were some design gems. The sort of cars that’ll be looked back upon fondly down the road.

Got one in mind?

Before we begin, I’ll clarify that we’re only talking standard production cars today. That means no bespoke cars or one-offs, no design exercises that were cancelled during the prototype stage, and no ultra high-end supercars or exotica. Today’s designs should be relatively attainable; let’s keep their starting prices under $100,000. You know, cars for the common peoplekind, as they say in Canada. The model year of your pick must reside between 2010 and 2019.

Here’s mine:

And isn’t it lovely? It’s the original Audi A7. When introduced in 2010, I recall being very unsure about this new four-door liftback experiment from the conservative people at Audi. As an Audi traditionalist, prior owner of three Audis, and an apologist for their maladies as they age, I’d had a set of characteristics in mind for what an Audi should be and how it should look. Namely, the only acceptable shapes for Audis were coupes with trunk or liftback, sedans, or wagons. And that’s it.

But what I didn’t realize at the time was that Audi was about to go the Same Sausage Different Length approach with its models, standardizing the appearance of even the prestigious A8 along strict corporate design lines. So this new Audi which didn’t fit the mold ended up being, relatively speaking, the only unique design the brand offered. Sameness and crossovers, that’s what Audi was about post-2010.

Then I started seeing the A7 in traffic. I noticed its proportions, sleek shape, and little details. Like how the A7 had different wheels to other Audis, and how the Audi Rings played inside the rear tail lamps. A decade on it still looks great, especially in dark colors. The original A7 is easily my pick for best standard car design of the 2010s.

If you’ve got a better pick, let’s hear it.

[Images: General Motors, Audi]

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94 Comments on “QOTD: Best Standard Car Design of the 2010s?...”


  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’ve never owned a M-B but their design language for the C, E, and S class are uniform and still ooze class. Perhaps not as much as some of my various models from the 1960s-1970s but still, in the day of so many vehicles looking the same, MB still knows how to make a good looking car.

    I feel the same with Audi – vehicles that age well as the years go by.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Audi A5…. Hands down the best looking “normal” car in existence. The lines on those cars will never get old.

      • 0 avatar
        jaffa68

        Yes, the original Walter de Silva Audi A5 was a very nice shape. I thought the stronger crease down the side of the 2016 model was inelegant and clumsy, not an improvement on the original in my opinion, but the rest of the update worked and it is still a great design.

        Shame about the engine being stuck out ahead of the front axle, but I guess in the US that’s less relevant than in Europe.

        • 0 avatar
          White Shadow

          There is no difference in the body lines between the original and the 2016 (which was a “face-lifted” model) A5. The only body differences were the hood creases that went down into the front bumper cover on the original. With the facelift came more modern headlight housings and the hood creases no longer went down into bumper cover with that new headlight design. From the sides though, the two cars were indistinguishable. I own both, an original and a facelift (B8 & B8.5) cars.

  • avatar
    loner

    Call me a redneck, but I think the current generation of Mustang has the best lines the model has ever had.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      I prefer the previous S197 generation, specifically the 2013-2014 refresh. Those taillights and the aggressive front end, part retro part futuristic.

      But I would be happy enough driving a 2018 GT PP2 with the 10-speed auto.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Ugh, the ’13 refresh was like when Mr. Burns made Ken Griffey Jr. drink nerve tonic.
        :-P
        It’s like a marketer looked at a perfectly good base ’12 and said, “NEEDS MOAR SHELBY!” to the designers.

        I push back because I mostly agree with you and think the pre-refresh S197 II (’10-’12, if I’m getting my years correct) is probably the best-looking Mustang after the ’65-’66.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        PP2 is manual transmission only. And that a good thing….

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I agree and I wouldn’t call you a redneck unless you wanted the label. :)

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      No ‘redneck’ caller here, but the current Mustang hardtop looks a bit like a porker to me. Somehow, the Mustang convertible pleases me more even though I know its length and width match the hardtop. And, yes, I like the A7 and Cadillac coupe a lot.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I just love the tall boxy Land Rovers of the 2010s, elegant, purposeful and a look that says they’re good at their intended purpose, taking royalty across the trechorous landscape of Balmoral and Sandringham Estates.

    Unfortunately that “look” doesn’t convey reliability or dependability :(

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    2013 Ford Fusion. Easily the best-looking mainstream sedan of the 21st century.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Well I admit to being biased, but the 2013 Viper is timeless and started under $100K, so that’s my pick.

    More in the spirit of the question, some designs I really liked (in no particular order) were the Volvo V90, the Kia Telluride, the 12-17 Accord Coupe, the last gen Chrysler 200, and the Lexus LC.

  • avatar
    VQ35JPM

    I think the G70 is gorgeous and it has a third pedal.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    For me, the 2014-present Mazda6 is the best. It’s been tweaked a few times but it’s held up beautifully.
    The Ford Fusion is 2nd.

  • avatar
    AA610

    I’m with you on the A7. In fact, I think that’s a car that people will still think is attractive 10 years from now.

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    I’ve tried to see what most see in the 1st gen A7, but, I just haven’t been able to “make” it beautiful to my eyes. Too hefty-looking. I do love that hard, crisp line that begins underneath the headlamps and runs a few inches below the greenhouse. It’s a terrific element.

    My pick is the CTS coupe with its wagon counterpart a close second. My only complaint is that Cadillac didn’t make it a true pillar less hardtop a la Mercedes-Benz’ E and S series coupes.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    The 2nd gen. CTS; perfect as a sedan, breathtaking as a coupe, and iconic as a wagon.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    2010s cars as requested. In order by styling:
    1. Subaru BRZ
    2. Dodge Challenger
    3. Chevrolet Camaro
    4. Volvo C30
    5. BMW Z4 E89
    6. Mazda Miata hard top
    And just to break the rules:
    7. Nissan Xterra N50

  • avatar
    Jon

    Chevrolet SS in blue with a third pedal.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Chrysler hit a bunch of them out of the park. Most of them before 2010, but they kept on selling them. Hell, they’re still selling them. The 09 Ram, 11 JGC, both LX refreshes, the Challenger. Hard to pick a favorite but I think it’s the Challenger. It should lose some for being such a blatant knockoff but they picked the right car to copy.

    As far as the A7, someone described the rear end as a dog taking a number two and I not only can’t unsee that but now see it in every other kamm backed sedan too. No thanks.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The A7’s a good choice. The current S5 Sportback looks even better, at least to my eyes:

    https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/NhZVoZVf9a-kg-PYWFlkGttF7BQ=/980×551/2017/06/12/ed5c6b29-6cd7-4e7e-ac20-f2c669c09331/21-2018-audi-s5-sportback-red.jpg

    The A7 is urbane and architectural; the S5 Sportback is all curves and sex. It’s the best looking sedan you can buy. It’s also terrific to drive.

    Some others I’d nominate:
    1) BMW i8
    2) Tesla Model S (before the ruined the front end design)
    3) Hyundai Elantra Sport (pre-refresh)
    4) That ATS in the picture above
    5) Infiniti Q60

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      “ Tesla Model S (before the ruined the front end design)”

      This, I still see a lot of the pre facelift Model S, I don’t get why they ruined the front end, it really cheapened out the entire car.

      Prefacelift she was a looker.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      “Tesla Model S (before the ruined the front end design)”

      +1 to that, as much as I hate nearly everything about Tesla they got the major proportions on that one right.

      And the front end as wrong as a unisex mannequin.

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      No argument with your choices (heck, I own an A5), but I’d like to know where one could find a new BMW i8 for under the $100,000 cut off price!

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Do you have the coupe or the sedan?

        I had an A5 Sportback as a service loaner not too long ago – aside from the piped-in engine sounds, I really liked it.

        • 0 avatar
          SilverCoupe

          FreedMike,

          My A5 is a 2008 coupe, 6 cylinder, manual transmission. It still looks and drives like new, but then, I only have 44,001 miles on it. (Yes, 44,001, it just turned!)

  • avatar
    ajla

    Lots of good picks so far.
    Going for one I haven’t seen yet, I loved the look of the ’11-’19 “A5” Beetle. The redesign was 100% effective on me.
    Lack of a “Beetle R” is really all that kept me from buying a new one. A used one will probably end up in my driveway in the next 4 years.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    ’11-’17 was peak Silverado/Sierra and went downhill shortly after, probably in terms of sales/profits too. OK they went downhill in every way possible.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    I don’t have any order but I think the last gen Regal (RIP), last gen Impala (RIP) and the current gen Fusion (soon to RIP) would have my vote.

    See a pattern here?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My choices are the following:

    2011-2019 Buick Lacrosse–like both generations
    2014-2020 Chevrolet Impala
    The current Genesis G-90
    The current Dodge Challenger
    The current generation of Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.
    The current Ford Fusion
    The current Lincoln Continental

  • avatar
    conundrum

    “peoplekind” is a word I’s never heard before, b’y, and I lives here. Must be yer ‘magination, but you’s a come from away anyways.

    Only recent car I can nominate that fascinated me at first sight was the Model S sitting in a supermarket parking lot in the pouring rain. It was parked next to mine when I returned from shopping. Couldn’t work out what it was as the rain on my windows distorted it. Thought it might be a Maserati. So I manfully got out again and took a good look. Yup, a Tesla, which considering the zero incentives for EVs in my province, meant someone had lashed out actual money for one. Darkish blue. Lovely.

    Still, compared to my favorite two cars of all time on first encounter, it was lesser by far. The ’66 Toronado and the ’71 Citroen SM both had me walking around them for some time back in the day, taking in some really amazingly inspired lines. I will not pick one above the other, want one of each. Just need to win the lottery.

    Yeah, I have a new Mazda6 turbo and boy was it perky today. It’s above zero, er, actually 36F for the disadvantaged of America. Once you own one, you see how cleverly the styling disguises a box. Most obvious from an upstairs window looking down on it from the rear. It’s pleasant, doesn’t knock me out, but doesn’t alarm me as to the probable mental health of its stylists like Toyotas or some US pickup trucks.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    I think BMW nailed the 2011 5 series after going a bit astray 2004-2010.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    When it comes to looks, the redesigned XJ from 2010 or 2011 on looks so damn good. Interior design matches it too, which often doesn’t happen. Callum nailed the look.

    The XJ and the LR3/4 for completely different reasons and aesthetics look like the class of the decade to me.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Personally, I thought the XJ was attractive, if a bit “jellybean,” but there’s no argument from me on the interior. The XJ is the last Jaguar that looks like a Jaguar inside.

  • avatar
    Fred

    The best car was the one I put my money on, 2014 Acura TSX Sportwagon. Practical, good looking (yea it has the beak) and economical.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Ha already every answer is different.

    Really pretty hard to say. I prefer sedans that have presence and look classy.

    S class is a good one.

    I actually think the Cadillac CT6 also has real presence.

    When did the F Type Jag get released?

    The Jeep Grand Cherokee also manages to look classy, beefy, off roady, on rowdy, go camping, go to a fancy dinner. Still looks great today.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A few pics:
    1) Audi A5 coupe and sport back.
    2) BMW 4 series Gran coupe and convertible.
    3) Cadillac ATS and CTS
    4) Dodge Challenger
    5) Ford Mustang
    6) Mazda Miata
    7) Tesla Model S (pre frontal refresh)

    The ugly-Nissan Versa sedan. Overstyled Lexus models

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It had lots of other issues, but I remain a fan of the looks of the first-gen Hyundai Genesis sedan, especially in R-Spec trim.

    I’m a big fan of the C207 Mercedes E-Class coupe, which started as a 2000s design but was facelifted in 2013 and produced all the way through 2017. The current one is heavy and ugly by comparison.

    But I think my favorite 2010s design is the Volvo S90/V90. Perfect proportions and detailing that’s a lot less fussy than you usually see these days. The XC90 is also my favorite SUV design on the market.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    I’d like to give some sort of honorable mention to the A6 Jetta (especially pre-facelift) because its clean styling flew if the face of the decade’s tendency toward overwrought and ugly designs.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’ll throw my nickel in with the current generation Mazda6 and the 300 after they flattened out the taillights (there’s something about taillights that jutted out vaguely that bothers me). Of the Germans, Audi is definitely my pick.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Jaguar F-Type, which others have mentioned.
    Corvette C-7. The 2nd best looking ‘vette ever?
    Ford Fusion for best sedan.
    Alfa Stelvio for best SUV.
    Dodge Ram 4th generation for pick-up. Yes I know it came out in 2009.

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    I have a 2014 CTS Coupe sitting in my Garage for this exact reason. I believe it’s a remarkably beautiful car. Granted it’s a massively compromised design, which is part of why I love the fact that Cadillac even made it.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    The gentleman who owns the Audi/VW/German indie shop I take my cars to owns an A7 as his DD. I see it every time I go there. Silver with a bright red interior (custom maybe?) Its beautiful. It’s a 2013 I think?

    But for my money, the pre-facelift D4 A8-L, as staid as it is, looks the business. Conservative yes, but I think its aged better than the BMW Series (the F01), and while the W221 S-Class is probably a better overall car, I think the interior was a little busier than the A8. Plus, the W221 with most common options generally plays in the $100k+ range, so doesn’t qualify by the rules of the question.

    In more mainstream cars, the 2015-ish Sonata is fairly clean looking, and I love the look of the 4th gen Infiniti G37.

    The only American car here for me would be the Impala LTZ2(I guess its called Premier now?)…maybe the Ford Fusion…in Platinum trim. Minor differences to the outward appearance, but the ‘upgraded’ paint colors and external trim cues make a difference in appearance to my eyes.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Jag XF Sportbrake
    Mercedes E Class wagon
    The Fusion/Mondeo wagon was beautiful and forbidden fruit, same for the Focus ST wagon
    Ram made good looking trucks
    Lexus LC500 is stunning in person
    Chrysler 200
    2015+ Dodge Charger
    370Z Nismo is very attractive in white
    Alfa Giulia, even in standard dress, is very attractive and available in actual colors!

    • 0 avatar
      newenthusiast

      +1 on the Charger. That’s the one affordable sedan I would actually buy…more fun than the Impala or the Fusion. The 6th gen and early 7th gen were not that good looking, but the current post-facelift ones look great.

  • avatar
    jaffa68

    I’ll say Alfa Romeo Giulia because I’m biased, and before you all start mine has never has so much as a misfire, unlike the Porsche it replaced.

  • avatar
    Mnemic

    These are just old enough for nobody to care about but the 2005 Chrysler 300 was by far the most popular and important car for America from 2000-2010. As for styling in general I’d say the 2004 Mercedes CLS takes the cake for that.

    The Challenger goes without saying but its design was from 1970 largely.

    2010-2019 is too recent imo

  • avatar
    USAFMech

    We need a voting mechanism. Lot’s of great nominations.

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    “…and how the Audi Rings played inside the rear tail lamps.”

    As opposed to the front tail lamps?

  • avatar
    billjimtimbo

    Tough call. I think there were plenty of examples of stellar automotive design throughout this decade. For me, the best-looking sub-100K car to come out in the last 10 years is the current-gen Mustang. The lines and proportions are spot-on. It’s been out for 5 years and I still stop and stare whenever I see one on the street.

    Runners-up:
    Saab 9-5 (RIP)
    Mazda 3 hatchback (current generation)
    Honda Accord (current generation)
    Volvo V90 (current generation)
    Lincoln Continental

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