Theme: Aerodynamics – 2010 Kia Ray

Not all aerodynamic cars have to draw on the same set of forms. The 2010 Kia Ray (or PHEW Ray) manages to look slippery without resembling a blend of Tatra and Citroen shapes.

2010 Kia PHEW Ray concept car.
2010 Kia PHEW Ray concept car.

The most distinctive element is the Kamm tail, a feature Alfa Romeo and Zagato used in the 60s. The very sharp rim that defines the cut-off tail is there to improve the airflow break-away. A rounded edge would cause more turbulence (that’s why the tail of the first Audi TT has a small lip attached on the bootlid).

As air moves down the top and sides and then encounters the end it will tend to become turbulent. Up until the point the car’s surfaces begin to taper inward, the flow is laminar (which is good). Then, at the corners or ends, the flow will encounter perturbations due to variations in pressure. These complex vortices arise as inertial forces in the medium (air) begin to dominate over viscous ones. The sharp edge seen here on the Ray’s tail reduces that interaction of forces and so reduces the drag that would otherwise act on the car (were it ever to make production).

1995 Mercedes Benz W210 E-class. What´s wrong with this car is that that rounded form of the front wing was not blended well into the small radius of the A-pillar. And the mirror sail panel is a bodge. The effect is that the front of the car does not look like it belongs the back of the car. Ghastly.
1995 Mercedes Benz W210 E-class. What´s wrong with this car is that that rounded form of the front wing was not blended well into the small radius of the A-pillar. And the mirror sail panel is a bodge. The effect is that the front of the car does not look like it belongs to the back of the car. Ghastly.

The mathematics of fluid dynamics are horribly complex. Einstein said the first thing he’d ask God about when he went to heaven was fluid dynamics. Rather than model the behaviour of fluids mathematically (which you can do anyway), it is often better to suck it and see by setting a scale or full-size model in a tank and running air and smoke plumes over the form to observe how it behaves.

Taking advantage of water’s higher viscosity (and thus lower speeds) Mercedes famously honed the ugly hulk of the 1995 W210 E-class in a vat of water and let streams of gas show where any turbulence was being generated.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

15 thoughts on “Theme: Aerodynamics – 2010 Kia Ray”

  1. The W210 is ghastly in so many ways, there’s probably not enough days in the week to list them all. However the A-pillar junction as described is hilariously bad. Quite frankly, these cars cannot rust into oblivion fast enough as far as I’m concerned.

  2. That a-pillar is one of the very worst, beating the Xantia’s by a wide margin. I have never seen a single word written about it though. The car received glowing praise when it came out. For me it’s the car that signals Mercedes descent to ordinariness. I too have no problem with these things being crushed as fast as possible.

    1. Given the W210 was literally drowned at birth, perhaps the most appropriate fate for the remnants would be burial at sea. Or some other watery grave.

    2. It really is an odious car. The W140 certainly was flawed in many ways and no match to the W126, but it was still a bonafide Benz. This, on the other hand, was the very first time they believed they could cut corners and get away with it – something the ‘140 (at least pre-facelift) could never be accused of. It was also a tidy design, unlike this wannabe-fashionable dog’s dinner. Thankfully, its steel is ageing as badly as its styling.

      I find it very hard to believe that Bruno Sacco was in charge of this car.

  3. I’ve learned just now, that the W210 received the “Red Dot Design Award”.
    But maybe that does tell more about the award than about the car…?

    1. Normally the red dot is a fairly reliable guide to excellence but I thought it only applied to product design and not automotive. To be fair, a car is a lot harder to assess than a scissors, say. Perhaps they mistook the W210s unredeemably hamfisted resolution for blinding innovation.

  4. Looking back I can´t recall being as indignant about the car as I am now. I don´t mean I liked the car then and I mean that with further scrutiny the car looks more and more wrong. I have not studied it closely until now as it hasn´t attracted my attention. It´s a car that´s part of the street furniture so I think I might have given it a free pass.
    Could it be possible that the front half of the car was a late change? From the A-pillar back it´s a harmless bit of 90s styling. If the front had been done in the same idiom it would have been perfectly adequate. I think that having decided to do a more “expressive” shape they didn´t know how to make the front blend with the back. You´d think an experienced designer would have recognised the problems were starting with the round lights. As I have said before, if you style the car starting at the front that dictates how the car will look all the way back to the rear. If you start at the sides, then that limits the options on the front. In this car´s case they had a side view and a front view and they would not add up properly.

    1. Back in the day it was claimed that Murat Günak actually wanted to add the ‘four eyed face’ to the first-generation C-class, but that the idea came up too late in the process, so it was applied to the W210 instead. Either way, it’s obvious that wanted to show they could be funky with this car.

      The rest of the W210 I don’t find much better than the front. The proportions aren’t brilliant, the boot looks clumsily modelled, as does the bulbous rear window. And “detailing” such as the small ovals in the rear lights only serve to highlight the overall clumsiness of the car.

      My take on the whole sorry story is that either Sacco is one of those designers who lost their way after having reached a personal peak (think ’90s Gandini), or that the car’s modish aspects were foisted upon him by management. Of maybe a combination of the two.

  5. If they had wanted round lamps they needed to have set the side glass inboard to allow for the front and rear wings to be joined (as Volvo does on the S80, for example). If they didn´t want that then the front wing would have to have a small radius as on the previous car and they could have styled lamps to suit that.
    Was this car a botched attempt at retro?

  6. Reply to Kris, I don´t find the boot of the car all that bad. It took a bit of searching to find a photo to check but when I did I saw an unremarkable bit of mid 90s rounded styling. The shutlines add up and the C-pillar is alright. For me it´s the bit forward of the A-pillars that kill it. If it were as homogenous at the front as on the back then Mercedes would have had, at worst, a bland and rather Toyotoid form but it would still have sold in huge numbers. It would also have been in keeping with the Benz tradition of adopting contemporary styling to handle the latest methods of production, best materials and best assembly practices. I expect Sacco got worn out. He had been pummeled by the motoring press for less “boring” cars.

  7. Can we look at the W210 in another way? Lacking the creasing of modern Benzes, can it be seen as both the zenith and swansong of Mercedes “too-thick-to-fold-steel” look. Squinting, it’s almost possible to imagine that the W210 was cast as a solid ingot … isn’t it? Oh well, just trying to be upbeat for once. Actually I despised the dollop from the first time I saw it.

    This Corvette seems to like it though. A bit too much really.

    1. Regarding the disregard I hold this car in, the only question remaining is whether I find the W211 even more appalling a Mercedes than the ‘210.
      The former car’s styling was somewhat sleeker and more homogenous, but also very of-its-day (a trait shared by a great many Murat Günak-designed cars) and less robust than befits a proper Mercedes. And its dreadful, plasticky interior, coupled with the well-publicised electronic gremlins it was equipped with as standard, render it just as much of a marque besmircher as the W210.

  8. It’s worth looking at the W210’s styling in contrast with its key contemporary European prestige rivals. Launched within months of one another, the BMW E39 5-Series is a marvel of disciplined forms by comparison. Not everyone was attempting to be modish – albeit, Bangle hadn’t really got started by 1995. Two years later, Audi launched the C5 iteration of the A6 – a superbly realised soft-formed shape that didn’t apparently require pre-soaking to slip discreetly through the air. And then there was the 1998 S-Type Jag, for which there was then and is now no adequate words. I once thought the W210 represented Mercedes’ stylistic nadir, but now thanks to Gorden and his minions I’m not so sure.

  9. Ah, hmm. The current Benzes are ordinary and suffer from irritating details. In contrast the W210 is very clearly ruined by one huge error piled on top of the general crumminess of the car’s face. At the moment I feel MB’s cars are homogenous enough but that isn’t saying much.
    I must be one of the few who don’t hate the S-Type (the facelifted one is quite appealing s they sorted out the rear lamps’ Citroen C5-esque character). For me the difficult choice is: X-type with a V6 or a base model S? Or a Rover 45 V6??

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