Illusion of Grandeur: Hyundai's Styling Strategy Stays Bold

Hyundai has released a handful images of the updated Azera sedan, proving again that the manufacturer is not adverse to taking risks. While we haven’t seen the vehicle around these parts since the 2017 model year, it has continued on in other parts of the world, often under the Grandeur name, and growing more handsome with age.

While perhaps not as comely as the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Americans stand to receive, the South Korean brand’s revamped Azera/Grandeur sticks to its tradition of bold styling updates by incorporating headlamps into a diamond-pattern grille. The end result creates an effect that makes the lights appear as if they’re located behind it. Similar in concept to the hidden headlamps of the late 1960s, its execution is a quite bit different — giving international markets something rather novel.

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Glowing Grilles Are Coming Back?

With Mercedes-Benz already offering illuminated badges as a factory option, we knew it was only a matter of time before BMW responded. According to Bimmerpost, dealerships will soon offer “Chrome Iconic Glow Kidney Grilles” as an option.

The accessory is exactly what it sounds like. BMW either looks to be trying to steal a bit of Mercedes’ thunder or this is a touching tribute to Mercury vehicles from the early 1990s. Obviously, we’re hoping it’s the latter scenario.

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2019 Acura ILX Gains New Tech, Visual Intrigue, Some Personality

Acura treated the world to a surprise — and much-needed — refresh for the 2019 ILX this week. While it hasn’t abandoned the brand’s signature visuals, it finally made the model interesting enough to warrant a closer examination. Previous incarnations of the ILX — including the post-2016 facelift — have proven excruciatingly dull, resulting in the quick onset of a cripplingly severe mental malaise.

Based on the ninth-generation Honda Civic, all one could really say about the 2018 ILX was that it was a competent vehicle and perfect for someone seeking luxury on a budget. Then came the brow furrowing, a long sigh, and an extended speech about the superiority of Acura’s TSX.

Normal people also appear to have noticed something was missing, as ILX sales have followed a downward trajectory since 2015. However, Acura’s new styling attempts to remedy that by injecting the sedan with some personality.

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Hyundai Wants to Be Sexier Than Alfa Romeo

Hyundai’s vice president of design, SangYup Lee, says the brand should be more than just a value nameplate and is setting his target extremely high. He thinks the company should be producing vehicles that are “sexier than Alfa Romeo.”

While we used a photo of a 2011 Hyundai Accent to head the article as a bit of a goof, the idea is only patently ridiculous if you don’t give it any serious thought. Hyundai’s designs have historically been a festival of mediocrity, but that’s not really the case anymore. The Korean brand has stepped up to meet is rivals and has even managed to surpass them in some respects.

Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo continues to impress enthusiasts but that has as much to do with its greatest hits as its does the modern cars. There’s still over dramatic, oddly attractive, and exceptionally fun — sort of like someone you dated during college but outgrew when you amassed enough self-respect to finally break it off. However, with the exception of the 4C, we’re not confident Alfa’s current lineup is their best visual work to date.

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Mercedes-Maybach 'Grillin' It' With Updated Styling Cues

Returning from the dead in 2014, Mercedes’ ultra-luxury Maybach sub-brand has become the only way to make absolutely certain you’ve purchased highest-spec S-class in existence.

There was a problem, however. With the exception of a handful of subtle visual cues, there was no way to distinguish it from the standard fare. While a single glance at the interior would obliterate any doubt that this car was a cut above the norm, external indicators were dependent on the vehicle’s added length and badging.

That’s no way to arrive at a high-profile event, so Mercedes-Maybach has decided to guarantee the rest of society is aware you’re riding in something special via a new grille and optional two-tone paintwork. The updated visuals certainly separates the Maybach-branded S-Class from the rest of Daimler’s lineup, but it also might make it too reminiscent of the cars that ultimately forced the brand into an early grave.

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Get Used to Seeing This Design On Future Mercedes-Benz Small Cars

Mercedes-Benz is showcasing its updated design language via its new Concept A Sedan. While many of its production cars have gradually adopted the new “no folds” philosophy, the Concept A Sedan and earlier AMG GT Concept are the premiere examples of the styling theory.

The flowing bodywork and absence of hard edges is likely a precursor to what Benz will roll out in the coming years, especially after the A Sedan arrived at the Shanghai Motor Show looking like the GT Concept’s baby brother.

Mercedes is definitely sticking to this aesthetic and, when it begins production on its next generation of small cars using the MFA2 architecture, expect gobs of similarities between those vehicles and these concepts. While 2.76 inches shorter and 1.18 inches lower than the present-day CLA, it’s the easiest car to parallel the A Sedan with. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the CLA reemerging with the concept’s more rounded shape and smaller headlamps.

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Subaru Has Finally Decided to Start Giving a Crap About Styling

Subaru is an automaker known for offering a highly specific brand identity and a quality product, but compelling styling has always been low on its list of priorities. While acknowledging the retro charm of its earliest Japanese models, it can be said that the company has never produced a particularly handsome automobile. The SVX was futuristic and interesting, but it wasn’t overtly sexy. And the visual appeal of the old bug-eye WRX or BRAT hinges entirely upon how oddball they were.

After 63 years in the business, Subaru finally wants to change that and place a stronger emphasis on design. However, despite having the least visually stimulating lineup in recent memory, the company could probably stay the course and still be fine. Subaru has done incredibly well in the United States. Annual U.S. deliveries hovered around 187,000 vehicles from 2002 to 2008 but grew fiercely in the following years. Subaru had a record-breaking 615,132 sales in 2016 and looks prepared to break that record this year.

So, why even bother changing anything when the current recipe works so well?

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The Man Who Designed Nissan's Quirkiest Cars is Retiring

As it funnels its suit-and-ties over to Mitsubishi and rearranges its own departments like mad, Nissan is losing veteran designer, stylish dresser, and chief creative officer: Shiro Nakamura. Responsible for some of Nissan’s more radical designs, Nakamura oversaw the styling for the revamped GT-R and current 370Z, along with intentionally quirky models like the Juke, Leaf, and Cube.

Nakamura said his designs were purposefully modern and intended to express the “shock of the new.” The objective was to amend the company’s western image as a discount brand and give its vehicles unique personalities and character, which — love or hate it — the Juke has in spades.

Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti’s current design head, will be stepping in to take over for the retiring Nakamura as senior VP and Nissan’s styling overlord. Replacing Albaisa as Infiniti’s global design chief will be former BMW design boss Karim Habib.

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BMW's Head of Design Rumored to Resign for a Second Time

BMW Head of Design Karim Habib is reportedly leaving the German automaker for the second time in roughly a decade, making him the third major departure from the group’s styling division in the last ten months.

Official confirmation from BMW is pending, but information from Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport suggests that Habib may have already made his exit. This widens an already gaping hole in the group’s creative landscape. The company has yet to replace Anders Warming, the design boss for Mini, and Benoit Jacob, who styled BMW’s i-division. Both men departed the company in 2016, lured away by Chinese-financed companies.

This leaves BMW Group’s design chief, Adrian van Hooydonk, without a creative frontman for every brand but Rolls-Royce.

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The Ur-Father of Automotive Design: Andrew F. Johnson's Correspondence School For Automobile Body Makers, Designers and Draftsman – Now Online!

Just who invented automotive styling is open to debate, that is if you can even really narrow it down to one person. A number of people certainly deserve credit. In the United States, Harley Earl, Edsel Ford, and Alan Leamy, among others, come to mind. However, there is one person in the early days of the automobile age who probably had more to do with the way cars have been designed than any other single individual. I like to call him the “Ur-Father” of car design. His name was Andrew F. Johnson and if you’ve ever enjoyed the way a car was designed, you should know about him.

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Honda Crosstour

Here are a few books I consider required reading for Transportation Design students: The Reckoning, Rude Awakening, All Corvettes are Red and Car: A Drama of the American Workplace. These show what it takes to make a car…to make a designer’s work come to fruition.

Sadly, during my (short) time at the College for Creative Studies, we focused on creativity at all costs: pay no attention to the business behind the curtain. So while the Honda Crosstour is a curious stylistic exercise, does this dog hunt in the real world?

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Was It The Camaro That Influenced The C7 Corvette's Tail Lights?

When Chevrolet’s seventh son generation Corvette was introduced, many purists reacted with horror over the fact that the new car no longer has what has been traditional on Corvettes since the C2 in 1963, two round tail lights on each side. “The new ‘Vette has Camaro tail lights!” more than a few said. Though if you look at both the 2013 Camaro and the 2014 Corvette rear lamps side by side, the main similarity is that neither one of them is round. The Camaro’s are trapezoids and the Corvette’s are more parallelogram shaped. Tom Peters is in charge of design at General Motors for full size trucks and performance cars. Something that Peters talked about on the night of the C7’s reveal and now emphasized in a video he made for Autoweek, the three dimensional shaping of the new Corvette’s tail lights, has me thinking that it wasn’t the Camaro’s back end that influenced the new ‘Vette, but rather it was the tail lights of the current Mustang.

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What's Wrong With This Picture? Alan Leamy's Spinning Faster Than A Supercharged Model J Over the "Tom Mix" Duesenberg Edition

The third worst thing about this car is the fact that it’s known as the “ Tom Mix Duesenberg” though western actor Tom Mix had apparently had absolutely nothing to do with it. That was a ginned up provenance by a former owner of the car. The second worst thing would be that somebody thought that the car pictured above looked better than the Murphy built Beverly Berline body styled by Gordon Buehrig pictured here:

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  • Seanx37 If it made economic sense, it would have happened decades ago. No one would insure such places. And few are going to take $60-150k electric cars off road unless they are very wealthy
  • MaintenanceCosts Seems pretty obvious that they're leaving room for a SRT with the 2.0T and the electric motor. The R/T will probably be slower than the GT given the extra weight, but without the 9-speed it will be a much nicer drive.
  • Art Vandelay Lawyers would Eff it up. That and the NIMBYS. I agree with you, but it ain't gonna happen
  • EBFlex They are getting rid of the Charger and Challenger for a modern day Neon?just end it Dodge, you had a great run
  • Garrett Frankly, I don’t understand why some of the manufacturers haven’t lobbied for more areas, or built their own. Imagine being able to access a local Jeep park, at a reasonable membership fee. Or a Land Rover one for a lot more. That’s money worth throwing down.