Theme: Shutlines – The Fake Frameless Window Shutline

Isn’t it interesting how a design feature sometimes pops up in unexpected places, or in cars that are totally unrelated?

2006 Lexus IS (

I lately crossed the way of a 2006 Lexus IS, and especially its rear door shutline (basically, that’s what I looked at on all cars this month). It has an interesting treatment with its horizontal top part joining the curve of the rear window. Haven’t I seen that before? Right, it was there on the early Imprezas.

1996 Subaru Impreza (
1996 Subaru Impreza (

It’s a bit hidden in the black window framing, but it’s clearly the same shape. In case of the Subaru, it’s a very logical way to incorporate the frameless window in a way that doesn’t make the door look too short, and still make it possible to wind down the window (not completely, I guess).

On the Lexus, it’s less obvious. Did they want to convey the impression of frameless windows? The coupé-like glasshouse might imply these as a natural addition. But this impression is immediately destroyed by the divided window. It might also be a solution to have the curved trailing window line without creating a too obvious Hofmeister situation.

And it’s not a bad one – especially if we compare it with its successor from 2014: the point where the three lines (door shutline, upper and lower window line) meet in a corner, looks rather odd. On the other hand, the newer car has a few other shutlines that are very interesting. For example the line from the sill with its continuation along the rear bumper and the rear lights. Quite interestingly done, although I’d have preferred it without the additional folds on the sill and the bumper.

2014 Lexus IS (
2014 Lexus IS (

14 thoughts on “Theme: Shutlines – The Fake Frameless Window Shutline”

  1. This one I had not considered. Where the graphics and apertures are not closely related then I suppose you get wierd effects. I suppose designers have done about as much as is possible within the constraints imposed by rational shutlines. If you assume that shutlines drive graphics then there are shapes you can’t do. Lexus have been willing to try to create new shapes and then to find shutlines afterwards. The 2014 IS is not a great design though. I find pointy shapes troubling and the way the sill and rear lamp share a curve is tricksy. My dislike of three-sided shapes comes from my background in CAD. It could be irrational.

    1. Agreed that it is tricksy. But at least it has some coherence and logic as surface decoration. A line follows though from front wheel to tail and is complemented by the line rising in the rear door window. Try getting the designers at Mercedes to concentrate that long.

    2. Like any recent vehicle from Lexus (or Toyota), the IS also is too overstyled and aggressive for my taste. I think the rising line is at least an interesting solution. What is the weak point of this particular example is all the visual noise around this line. And while I don’t mind some pointy corners on a light cluster, this one is way overdone. The same for the rear door corner I mentioned. I actually find the predecessor’s solution quite convining in comparison, regardless if it’s the shutline that followed the graphics or vice-versa.

    3. Visual noise about sums it up. Lexus have a lot going for them, starting with solid engineering to the power of four. I think they could get away with sober design given the cars run well, drive well and cost less than offerings from Mercedes, Audi and BMW (I assume). Every one of their cars for years had some aesthetic blemish. For me the purity of the 1989 LS400 laid out a manifesto that Lexus then didn´t deliver on.

  2. Sometimes it seems as if designers are doing things out of desperation. I think the smeared effect of runnig a curve from the tail lamp to the sill looks excessive. One magazine remarked how clever it was. I think it´s so obvious that nobody has been needy enough to want to try it. The door shutline is not really in accord with the the swooshing. The same goes for the little wedge of metal above the line where the DLO should be. No. This doesn´t work for me at all.

    1. Yes, this little wedge. It also bothers me. Interestingly, much less so in the older model, but this might be due to the different lighting and angle of the photos. The problem is the marked shoulder that doesn’t follow the window line.

    1. I didn’t consider this one – probably because 99% of Octavias are Estates around here. But you’re absolutely right.

  3. As I cycle past this Lexus (my first example, the 2006 IS) almost every day on my way to work, I’ve had ample time to study its shutlines. While having my usual glance at it today, I decided that it’s time to say something nice about this car.

    So I’d like to draw your attention to the rear bumper and its upper edge leading from the wheelarch to the bootlid. This is very well done: the rising line adds quite some dynamic to the rear and joining the bootlid not at the bottom, but just where its rounded corner starts, avoids awkward situations like on the Alfa 166. Simple and effective.

    By the way, and Richard will like this: no tab welded to the rear wing! (or well hidden)

    By the way II: the car in question has a very interesting colour: a kind of bluish white, non-metallic as it seems. Something slightly special, but not too flamboyant.

    1. Outside the line of the bootlid it´s alright. And yes, no tab. Inside the bootlid it all goes wrong. There is a corner of the lamp that seems to recede into its socket leaving a dark shadow. It´s the top inner corner of the lamp. Lexus do this kind of thing a lot: small whimsical flourishes that upset otherwise tidy work. It would be nice if I could get over this kind of thing as Lexus make quite fine motor cars – almost as good as Toyota, I have heard.

  4. The IS is probably the only Lexus that doesn’t make me cringe when looking at it. Tidy lines, nice proportions, simple surfacing.
    On the other hand the part that I always find troublesome is how the inner corner of the lamp ends with an acute angle which isn’t mirrored by the shape of the receding registration plate… crater? Sorry, English isn’t my first language – would somebody be kind enough to enlighten me what this part is called?

  5. This is a very Japanese way of doing a rear door shutline. It seems to me that every sedan on the JDM in the 80s and 90s had this shutline jutting out of the window base. It took me a long time to appreciate these. I used to hate them, I think mainy because it was disturbing to the eye but I got used to them and see them as an endearing national trait now.

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