Vellum Venom Vignette: Flattened Fenders and Air Curtains

Mike writes:

Sajeev,

I have noticed something on newer cars, and it’s been bothering me for awhile now. Perhaps you, with your deity-like omniscience (and access to inside information) will be able to provide some clarity.

As you can see from the picture below, a new Toyota has this vertical flat area around the wheels. And it’s not just this particular model of car — nearly every modern car I see on the road today has a similar design feature, though they vary in the width of the flat area around the wheel arch. Contrast this the Clinton-era Toyo at the bottom, where the body lines follow a graceful curve all the way to the fender opening.

Read more
Chevrolet Corvette May Get Active Aerodynamics System, Patents Reveal

General Motors has filed a patent application for an innovative active aerodynamics system that may find its way into forthcoming C7 Corvette variant.

Read more
GLA45 AMG's Aerodynamics Package is Mercedes-Benz at Its Worst
One of the coincidental perks in my work life means that my home office is just a couple of miles away from a major east coast autoport in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. Very rarely do I leave my home without driving by the CN Autoport. On the way to the grocery store, I spot rows of European luxury SUVs, odd imports such as the TVR Tuscan, handfuls of Land Rover Defenders, a Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabrio destined for perusal at Volkswagen’s Canadian HQ, and Mercedes-AMG GTs crossing Main Road with all the nonchalance of a cat which managed to stop traffic on 5th Avenue.It also means my eyes, through no fault of their own, notice the periodic import of a Mercedes-AMG GLA45 with Mercedes-Benz’s ostentatious Aerodynamics Package, the least Mercedes-Benz-esque option known to mankind on what is already a decidedly un-Mercedes-Benz-ish vehicle.
Read more
Vellum Venom Vignette: Protect Me From What I Want

Lowell writes:

Sajeev,

I thought you might know: What’s up with so many recent cars incorporating an oversized, black plastic, gaping maw in place of what’s been normal-sized grilles on cars? Lexus comes to mind first, with a visage that any Predator could love. But also, Hyundai Veloster, the revamped Yaris, various Audis, and so forth.

Is this related to some Euro pedestrian law, compliance with which mandates some high percentage of very breakable plastic up front? Darned hard to explain otherwise. At least for me. So I thought I’d ask.

Read more
Mercedes-Benz Has A Concept Car That Grows By Nearly 16 Inches

While it may or may not be the next-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS-class (note: probably not), the automaker took the wraps off a transforming concept car that grows in length significantly at highway speeds to better cut through air.

The Mercedes-Benz IAA concept (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) was shown off Tuesday in Frankfurt and, according to the automaker, can grow by 390 millimeters to achieve a drag coefficient world record of 0.19. (The current generation Prius is around 0.25, for reference.)

The whole thing is powered by a hybrid powertrain that’ll never see the light of day and sports an interior array of electronics that’s probably something out of “Minority Report.” It’s the moveable aerodynamic elements on the IAA that could see production, and there are a lot of them.

Read more
QOTD: Why Are Today's Race Cars So Ugly?

When was the last time you saw a pretty race car? Maybe I’m turning into Walt Kowalski, but it seems to me that the racing machines of my youth looked nicer. Is there a purer shape than Jim Clark’s Indy 500 winning Lotus 38? Is not the Lola T70 sensuous? Some of Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, like the 2H “vacuum” car and the 2J streamliner with its center mounted high wing look a little odd, but even the 2J has an aesthetically pleasing shape, something you can’t say about a modern Formula One racer, with it’s dizzying array of airfoils, winglets and canards.

Read more
QOTD: What OEM Wheel Designs Make Their Respective Cars Look Cheap?

Regulation. It dictates the majority of modern car design. Whether it be for pedestrian safety, crash worthiness, economies of scale, or fuel efficiency, the basic building blocks of modern cars are decided well before pencil is met with freshly-bleached paper (or, these days, before stylus meets tablet).

That last item – fuel efficiency – is as much a matter of aerodynamics as it is what’s under the hood, and aerodynamic efficiency isn’t just about fenders and trunk lids.

Which brings me to wheels – specifically, OEM wheels – and how absolutely ugly they’ve gotten the last few years.

Read more
Vellum Venom Vignette: Styling the Shark Jump?

Bob writes:

Hi Sajeev. I’m annoyed by styling that makes the trim height look wrong. Most cars today look like the front is sagging or the rear is too high. The stylists even slant side creases and trim strips down toward the front (Man, I hate that. – SM) to create this look even though a close look at the rocker panel shows that the car is level.

Why are they doing it? Does the public really like it?

Sajeev answers:

The delicate balance of physical + visual trim height adjustment is standard practice, proving itself over decades for both aerodynamic and stylistic enhancement. The problem? Jumping the shark.

Read more
Capsule Review: 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia 2.0

“Wait! Is that a…”

“Are you British?”

“I haven’t seen one of these since I left Venezuela as a teenager, only rich people had Sierras!”

Behold random responses from gawkers of TTAC’s Project Car. The surprises continue after several hundred miles under the Ford Sierra’s belt, as life with this fish out of water is far from a compromise.

Read more
Paris 2014: Citron C4 Cactus Airflow 2L Revealed Prior To Live Debut

In the 1930s, Chrysler experimented with aerodynamics to deliver a product that could slip through the wind better than the vehicles of the day, bestowing upon the public the Airflow. Alas, not too many people were ready for the future, leaving the concept a commercial failure.

Today, Citroën is giving the name and concept a second try, with fuel economy and the environment in mind.

Read more
A Visit To Ford's Wind Tunnel To Look At The New Mustang's Slick Aero Tricks


Click on the settings icon in the menu bar of the video above to watch it in 2D or your choice of 3D formats.

The second best part about the job of writing about cars is not getting to drive expensive cars for free or being flown to resorts with Jacuzzi tubs. No, the second best part about the gig is that I get to see and do some very cool car guy things. How many of you have watched film or video of a car being tested in a wind tunnel and thought to yourself, “that’s neat!”? Well, this week I got to observe the new 2015 Ford Mustang’s aerodynamic features demonstrated in one of those neat wind tunnels.

Read more
The Return of the Running Board

Gordon Buehrig’s design of the Cord 810/812 was revolutionary for its day. One innovation was that it lacked running boards, something automobiles had featured almost since the dawn of the motoring age. I’m guessing that the origin of running boards has to do with the fact that in the early days car bodies were typically mounted right on top exposed frame rails, putting the body up high, and the running boards were used as step to get up into the interior. From a design standpoint, they also visually connected the front and rear fenders, creating one flowing line. What was stylish in 1913, though, wasn’t necessarily au courant in the mid 1930s. Also automotive design started getting more formally established in the 1930s, with GM and Ford both having in-house design staffs by the end of that decade. Based on the then young science of aerodynamics and the related streamlined aesthetic, new shapes started appearing on cars.

Read more
Vellum Venom: Uwe Bahnsen, Car Designer, RIP

Never forget: people make all the difference. This often overlooked fact in the glamorous world of automotive styling rings true for the life of Mr. Uwe Bahnsen. I froze in my tracks when I heard of his passing on Car Design News. His work at Ford and with the Industrial Design community influenced me, and every American who loved cars in the 1980s.

How ironic that Mr. Bahnsen’s passing was the week TTAC’s own Ford Sierra passed its citizenship test in Texas: so here’s a great Germanic-Texas Beer for you, Mr. Bahnsen.

Read more
Piston Slap: Raising the Bar by Lowering It?

TTAC commentator educatordan writes:

I know this is an exercise in mental masturbation but I find myself thinking about it and perhaps the B&B with their extensive experience could shed some light on the subject.

Read more
It's A Drag: Does Wind-Tunnel-Vision Kill Car Design?

Do you think that cars have lost their soul? Nina Tortosa, General Motors aerodynamicist for the Voltec/E-Flex programs, says that cars look more and more alike because “we all have to abide by the same laws of physics. It doesn’t matter if we don’t like them,” Nina Tortosa told WardsAuto.

Mere mortals have to contend with two certainties – death and taxes. Car designers are faced with a third one: Cd, or the drag coefficient.

Read more
  • EBFlex "I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles"Assuming you went from 0 gallons to full (17.2), you have averaged almost 50MPG over those 2500 miles. 50 MPG in a Jeep Wrangler. To all of you EV nut jobs, tell me again how PHEVs are not the absolute best thing to happen to automobiles since the wheel. And tell me how they don't make EVs look like the awful play toys that they are.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The Buick 215/3.5-liter aluminum V8 was one of GMs great engines. Unfortunately GM being GM in one of their greatest mistakes was selling off the tooling to BL. If they kept it around and improved upon it it would have been a fine motor for their compacts and midsize models through the OPEC oil crisis.
  • Chris P Bacon Not sure why a '21 is getting reviewed, because there have been improvements to the 4xe. I've got a '22 4xe Sahara. May 2022 build in High-Velocity yellow with a soft top. As soon as it was announced I knew I wanted to try it, not for the fuel mileage, but for the technology. I don't have a Level 2 charger, it charges fully overnight on the included Level 1. I see an indicated range of 27 miles regularly. Today it indicated 29 when I unplugged. I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles, a full charge costs me about $3 based on my current electricity supplier. I don't experience the rough transitions between electric and gas, so maybe Jeep figured it out? It's stupid fast when using all the power off the line. So much so that it will break the rear wheels loose when you stomp on it. I agree that plugin hybrids are the future. I see no need for a pure electric. This is the way to go.
  • RHD The word B R O N C O written in contrasting paint on the dashboard is quite unnecessary. The passenger certainly knows what kind of vehicle he or she is in. That detail is a big fail. The red and white Bronco looks great, especially with tires that have honest-to-goodness sidewalls on them.
  • Luke42 Aren't those trim levels just different colors of paint?That's what they sound like, at least. 🤷‍♂️