Collective Wisdom On Elegance

Rather than offer a sermon, I’d like to ask a set of questions. What does elegance look like today?

Neutrality

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, more violent. It takes genius and a touch of courage to move in the opposite direction,” said Charles Schumacher. And Coco Chanel murmured into her glass of chilled Lillet: “Elegance is refusal”. That’s a descriptive and not a formal defininition.

Elegant?

Recently I wanted to list examples of elegant cars and came up with three, two of which were contentious. There must be others. What are we looking for in such a search?

Elegant?

First, is elegance dependent on dimensions? We probably think of a long car when thinking of elegance. What is the smallest elegant car? Elegance is sometimes understood as pleasingly ingenious or simple and that could mean a small, smart car.

Elegant?

Elegance suggests colours. While a multicoloured Georgian sitting room might
be elegant, a bright-coloured car is probably not. Why? Elegant things are commonly beautiful but not all such things are elegant. Beauty carries notions of classicism: are there elegant Modernist cars? Or does Modernism always require a swerve from conceptions of beauty?

So, what do you suggest are modern elegant cars?

Author: richard herriott

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

77 thoughts on “Collective Wisdom On Elegance”

  1. This is a tricky question, Richard. The confusion already starts with the term ‘modern’. For me, most cars of today are not modern. Modernity carries a notion of simplicity, reduction and restraint – much in the Bauhaus sense. So when I think of modern cars, it’s rather the 70s and 80s that are in my focus. This also means that there is an awful lot of designs to choose from. I’ll have to think about it.

    My first, spontaneous answer would have been Citroën CX. It’s elegant, but in no way retro or classical. Long, with fluid lines, it pretty much supports your thoughts about elegance being dependent on dimensions.

    1. If it helps, modern with a small “m” is a synonym for contemporary. In 1820 a Georgian house was modern. For the style/approach associated with avant-garde design, capital “M” Modern is used.

  2. Morning all! Long-time reader, first time commenter here! I’ve been checking your blog daily for some time now, but felt disinclined to comment due to the breadth of automotive knowledge that is always kicking about in this comment section. This, however, is a really intriguing question, and I felt compelled to draw up a private list. Having done so, I felt it wasteful not to post it. “Elegance” is, I feel, highly subjective: for me, an elegant car may be beautiful or may not be, a beautiful car may be elegant or may not be. The Mark1 Countach and the Mark1 Esprit are both beautiful cars designed at around the same time to exploit the same fashion for wedge shapes and sharp creases, yet for me the Countach was always too muscular and wide to be elegant, while the original Esprit I always thought was a very elegant car (unlike all its future variants). As for “modern”, I have taken it to mean “modern for its time”, as per the Georgian sitting room analogy above, as to ask for elegant cars from 2017 is like asking for an elegant nuclear missile: certainly beyond my skills!

    Anyway, here’s the list I came up with, probably contentious but aren’t these things always. Some might object to the number of English cars in the list, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence: English cars, whatever their electrical and engineering pecadilloes, were often styled to be objects of good taste without being rampantly Italianate objects of desire, and that I think is the precise window in which elegance is to be best observed.

    Mercedes W126
    Mercedes SL Pagoda
    BMW E32
    Jaguar XJ6 S1
    Jaguar XJ40
    Jaguar XJS HE
    Vauxhall Cavalier Mark 1
    Rover P5B
    Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow S1
    Aston Martin DB5
    Maserati 3500GT
    Fiat Dino
    Lancia Flaminia
    Alvis TD21
    Bentley R-Type Continental
    Triumph Stag
    Citroen SM
    Lotus Esprit Mk1

    1. The Cavalier made the list: its elegance depends a bit on the colour and trim. I am glad the list includes sportscars – but there is nothing modern. Are things that bad?

    2. If you were to really twist my arm I might say that the new Passat in Navy Blue with a dark interior has a certain presence, even if it is veering a bit too much in the direction of weapon-design for my taste.

      The DB11 is lovely, actually, though bizarrely polarising from what I’ve seen. Horrid tasteless interior, so that might be it. Lovely proportions on the exterior, however, and detailing that’s only slightly iffy rather than brazenly terrible like on most modern cars.

      Really scraping the bottle of the barrel, but maybe the new(ish) Porsche Panamera? The original was so catastrophically ugly that they really made the effort to make it work this time, I believe. Still too gaudy, still overdesigned, still too snobbish in that uniquely Porsche-ish way, but it’s better than most cars anno 2017.

      The really tragic thing is that I can’t think of a single volume car of today that is elegant. They all look like combat knives: post-financial crisis instruments of pain which project to the outside world that the driver is TOUGH and VIRILE and NOT TO BE MESSED WITH. That Maybachs should be like that is expected, but even little Fiestas and Audi A1s? Whatever happened to the Ford Ka?

    3. It’s funny or appropriate you mention the Ford Ka. Yesterday I noticed one. Poor Ford have retreated into a safety zone that spells danger: I can see nothing appealing about the car, nothing frightening. It’s a studied bit of neutrality. That Kia and Hyundai have a better range of paints and fabrics means they have the edge over Ford at that price point.

  3. Maybe it’s too easy for people to confuse modern with Modernist, which arived in the 1930s — Bugatti Atalante etc (but by no means all Bugattis of that time).

    Modern would be a Swallow Doretti, but not quite elegant. Also CV8, quite inelegant.

    Some E-Types were elegant, also Continental R. Isabella coupé?
    Several incarnations of the 1930s Rolls-Bentleys.
    Some 1950s bodies by Touring and Pininfarina.
    The first XJ6?

    I’ll get to the ’70s, ’80s later.

  4. Thanks for that list, Andrew.
    It includes some of mine, and others I deliberately rejected.
    I should have included the Flaminia coupé.
    Stag doesn’t quite make it for me (too ornate and an obvious compromise to seat four), nor Graber’s Alvis — it’s simple but I feel a certain “flair” must be there too.
    Lagondas, several (not the ugly Towns wedge one of course). ’50s 2.6 and 3-litre — even the DHC is elegant, which is hard to do. ’64 Rapide just my cup of tea.
    SS100, or too garish?
    No MB; W126 huge front indicator lenses ruin it.
    Will get to ’70s/’80s later in the day.

    1. I thought about including the Rapide myself, but settled on the Flaminia as a very slightly more successful way of expressing much of the same form language. Tadek Marek’s engine did look lovely under the bonnet, though, if engine compartments count towards elegance. Well-resolved rear light treatment on the Rapide, too. I see what you mean about the Stag, though I think that lots of BL cars are made attractive largely by virtue of the spirit of compromise they embody (would my fragile credibility be totally dashed if I said that from certain angles the Princess had great presence?) As for the Graber Alvis, I deliberately picked the TD rather than TE/TF as they started to become a bit more fashion conscious at that stage, with the quad lights etc. The TD is a purer expression of the same ideas to my mind, though I should say that it’s the latter models with the different secondary light treatment that I really think are ace.

      I think the SS100 might be a bit borderline, not for its garishness but for the continuation of the SS1/SS2 Lyons Line of short glasshouse, elongated bonnet and big headlights. I’m sure many will disagree, but they look to be trying too hard to be feline to my eyes (hence “SS Jaguar”, I suppose). He’d perfected the art after his collaboration with Malcolm Sayer, though, which is why you nominated the E-Type, I nominated the XJS and both of us nominated XJ4.

  5. I’d associate elegance with simplicity, refinement, lightness – femininity, even. I’d also associate it with confidence in knowning when enough is enough.

    Translating those concepts in to shapes and colours, it means something that is easy to take in, while still being interesting at a second glance – something that, although simple, looks as though care and effort has been taken to get it right. At a more basic level, I’d say that a longer length relative to height has something to do with it.

    In terms of modern cars – those in production right now – it’s tricky, but I’d nominate the Volvo S90. I’d also mention the Alfa Romeo 4C. Although the latter is smaller, it still has some delicacy to its design. Thinking about it, some of the Lotus range manage this, too.

    1. The Volvo S90 is, in my view possibly the sole contender. It’s predecessors also tended to the same feeling.
      Simplicity, lightness and refinement lead towards femininity – and yet the Volvo is most certainly not that.

  6. To me, the last truly elegant car went out of production with the Aston Martin DB9.

    Right now, imposing, stunning or bold forms are the ideal automotive designers are striving form. Elegance is neither in demand, nor easily to be achieved, given the growth of cars’ dimensions, which makes elegance an even more difficult feat to achieve.

    As far as saloons are concerned, I believe Jaguar should summon up all the courage that’s left and make a new, genuinely elegant XJ. That would be quite some statement car.

    1. If Jaguar pushed elegance over packaging efficiency they’d win back their customers, alienate the press and get a USP. Unless FCA take up my offer to product plan Lancia’s revival, I am here at 75,000 GBP to do consultancy on elegance and quality.

  7. To me personally, elegance means light, simple and restrained, but this could also just be my own interpretation of the word.
    you could argue that the new Toyota Century is an elegant car, but i guess it’s just too big and heavy looking to be truly elegant.

    Sadly, i can’t think of any other new cars that fit the description, as i think we have entered another “baroque” era of car design.
    Though if we are talking concepts, i think the Honda sports EV could be considered at least slightly elegant?

    As for old cars, i find the 1.gen Mazda Luce and the Mercedes pagoda to be a perfect examples of elegant car design.

    1. The Toyota is rather fabulous – its need to be imposing stunts its claims to grace and elegance. I want to root around to find some Nissans and Infinitis that did strike an elegant note.

    2. Yes, I thought about nominating the Century. However, it’s a bit too ‘masculine’ / formal, somehow.

      Broadening thing to include concepts, I also thought about mentioning the Honda Urban – too small / tall / short / cute, perhaps. I love the Honda Gear’s design, too, but I’m not sure if ‘elegant’ is exactly the right word for that, either. I think it’s the closest a small car has come to elegance for some time, though. It’s the antithesis of the ‘squiggly lines and funny faces’ design we’ve had a lot of, recently.

  8. I understand those calling for the Pagoda. It’s just that as boys at the time we thought it was a travesty to devalue the great 300SL in that way.
    Almost rather have a CE or even modern CLK. (A friend’s squllionaire dad took his 300SL back because it would do the advertised 160mph!)

    How about Triumph 1800 and 2000. And Michelotti’s rare Triumph Italia.
    Oh, and Lancia’s much-derided Thesis is so much more impressive in the metal.

    Gilbern Invader, possibly the estate.
    P1800.

  9. Infiniti doesn’t work for me. Too bloated.
    Going back, 1939 Alfa 6C Castagna.
    Recently, 8C Competizione (but not the Spider).

  10. What makes a car elegant? Perhaps the most telling marker is the eye of the beholder. A huge number of ‘enthusiasts’ seem to drop to their knees in apparent rapture the sight of say, the current Bentley Continental, which to my eyes is a ghastly combination of some hastily reheated Aston Martin cues, fussy surfacing and a nose treatment straight off a 1950’s Foden lorry. Subjective innit?

    But returning for a moment to the idea of ideals, what is the recipe? A certain cleanness of line, a harmony of form and proportion, a lack of undue decoration, although a well judged grace note or two never goes amiss. No jarring surprises. An elegant car is calm, it pleases. The choice of materials (inside and out) must be restrained and used well. Decoration should be applied sparingly. Less is almost always more. In motion, an elegant car appears to flow. Wheels should be simple in design and in rotation, add to this impression of flow.

    Two elegant small-ish cars: Lancia Appia & Citroen GS. I’d also nominate the original Mazda Luce. Currently, I’d suggest the Skoda Superb – (and then probably run away really quickly).

    Excuse me….

    1. Richard: An elegant Nissan. 1985 CUE-X concept. Pure Jaguar to be honest, but if you can do Jaguar better than Jaguar can do Jaguar, you know you have a problem. But that’s another meeting.

    2. Yes – fluidity. I actually think elegance translates as a shape that signals economy of effort. Birds are generally elegant, and suggest in their shape that they can use the wind to soar endlessly, with no effort.

      Bees and helicopters can fly, but aren’t elegant, as their means of propulsion are visible and working furiously. Similarly, powerful animals which show muscular strength in their form can be impressive, but are less elegant.

    3. Thanks for naming the GS. I was thinking about it, and wondering if the ‘elegent’ concept could really be addressed to such a small car. Yet with the clean, flowing lines, it might work.

      The Superb is a good proposal for a contemporary car, as well as the Volvo S90 mentioned above. I also struggle to find more examples of recent cars. Aggressivity and mass is very contrary to my notion of elegance…

    4. There was the GS Basalte of 1978. That was black, well, if you ignore the lurid red decals on the lower body anyway…

    5. As far as I remember, apart from the Basalte black was only available for a short time in the late life of the GS, when it had already become the GSA. But it was very uncommon then to order a normal car in hearse / president’s car livery. The GSAs I remember were mostly green, blue or orangeish red.

    6. “A huge number of ‘enthusiasts’ seem to drop to their knees in apparent rapture the sight of say, the current Bentley Continental”

      Really? Are you sure that’s not just professional footballers?

    7. I often ride in a friend’s Superb — the name describes it well. It’s an impressive sight, but not quite elegant.

  11. @Eoin
    I had totally forgotten about the cue-x!
    So clean and well proportioned – one of my all time favorites.

  12. It is hard to think of elegant cars that are in current production.

    Any SUV is automatically disqualified. Most sports cars and coupes favour aggression as their dominant motif, which is not elegant.

    I’m going to throw my hat into the ring and nominate the Cadillac CTS. Especially as it comes with a nameplate still often seen as a synonym for ‘gauche’.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiYyu6ZiaDXAhWH16QKHfGEAfYQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nydailynews.com%2Fautos%2Flatest-reviews%2Fratings-review-2017-cadillac-cts-article-1.3511360&psig=AOvVaw2BHJHYS60l8yvrMShDVVaH&ust=1509718292284768

  13. I wonder if there is a connection between the concept of elegance and nostalgia; certainly in my thoughts they can become entwined when considering not just cars but watches, pens, clothing and occasions. Perhaps this is why there are so few recent models mentioned. My nomination, not recent but definitely modern, is the Fiat 130 Coupé. Add to that the Peugeot 504 coupé and on a small scale the Fiat 850 Spider. I will second the Cadillac CTS as I regularly visit New York and a dark metallic CTS at dusk definitely looks elegant. Thanks Richard for this interesting but difficult discussion.

  14. my list of contemporary elegance: Toyota Century, Mercedes-Benz S-Class (either in saloon, convertible or coupe bodies, but it must not be a Maybach or AMG version), Fiat 500. three VAG cars (Golf, Golf Variant and Leon) fell a bit short, whilst a low-spec Ford Mustang can, depending on the colour, wheels and trim, be elegant – what do you think about it?

    also, I was going to say Range Rover Velar, but I’m glad I double-checked it before adding to my list.

    I won’t disclose my all-time list of elegance, but it has nearly everything Lancia and Jaguar produced until 1970 (including the Mark X, a car DTW loves to talk about), the Ferrari 330 and the Mercedes-Benz W111 coupe and convertible.

  15. Almost none of Eduardo’s do it forme.
    No muscle cars, nor any that are purposeful rather than elegant.
    of lancias, I agree on Appia. I’ll give you an early Flavia, berlina and coupé. But a 2000ie and its HF coupé stablemate are both quite elegant, and post’71.
    A Beta HPE?

    1. the 2000ie is the Flavia with a new name, isn’t it? so it’s more in the 60s than in the 70s, I guess. anyway, it is rather elegant. I’m not sure about the Beta HPE, although I’m pretty sure it’s not a vulgar car.

      as for the Mustang, I came across this photo on Liepedia and thought it was quite elegant, if you debadge the 5.0.

  16. I’m trying really hard to think of cars in today’s listings that I would call elegant. I have already voted for the Superb and would probably add the S/ V90 to the list (not allowing myself to focus in on the rear lamps). Staying with Volvo I’d add the new Polestar 1, of which I don’t think I have seen any comment on these pages as yet. And now I am struggling … Hmmm, I want to write Audi A3 Saloon, but I think I am mixing up the fact that I like it with ‘elegant’ (a bit like Vic with his shout for the 159). To be a little controversial, as a parting shot, I’ll say the RR Wraith.

    1. With you on the Wraith. I pondered the ’50s Princess and Sheerline, but they’re scarcely elegant. But with so many 1930s coachbuilders using either Phantom or 20/25 and 25/30 chassis, there were surely many “elegants” made. I remember a drop-dead gorgeous ’37 Park Ward close-coupled coupé in “Dove Grey” on a ’32 20/25. But it was so heavy it took a fortnight to reach its final max of 67mph!

      Volvo have confused me with their Polestar designation. Applies to hybrid S and V models well spruced up, and also a futuristic model Polestar 1, a total EV which looks impressive and I loved at first sight, and there’s a 2 to come.
      It all comes from Volvo’s racing outfit, which has been called Polestar for a decade or so. But, yes, why not a closer look at Polestar 1?

  17. Finding examples of truly uncompromised elegance within the contemporary automotive corpus is really hard, to the point that I am going to cheat a bit and nominate Touring’s rework of the F12 Berlinetta as the one remotely recent design that fits this description.

    In terms of factory designs, I tend to blow hot and cold about it, and the later carbonfibred/kitted versions are an aesthetic catastrophe, but in the right spec, an early, unmolested Maserati GranTurismo still hits the right notes for me. And I am probably the world’s biggest defender of the 3200 GT, which I consider to be a supremely elegant car in its totality, not merely interesting for ‘those’ lights alone.

    Somewhere south of the price stratosphere, however, things really went downhill around the turn of the century. The launch-specification 156 was, in my opinion, virtually perfect in an aesthetic sense; every subsequent revision served only to make it a little bit worse. The 159 sedan was never quite right proportionally (SW was better) and in any case, far too brutish in its overall mien and lacking in delicacy to be considered truly elegant. I do truly like the Thesis, but the treatment of the lower air intake cannot be considered acceptable for a car that aspires to elegance. Revise it to imitate the Dialogos, and we can talk.

    The Fulvia concept was an example of a modern, small car that had genuine elegance. What does that suggest? That the only reliable way to capture it is to hark back to a long-bygone era?

    I would echo the CX as a good shout for an instinctive reaction to the call for an ‘elegant’ car, or a DS Decapotable. But not a standard DS.

    This overall concept requires more thought; I shall respond in more detail later…

    1. A point to add here – elegance is the defining quality of what I consider, all things considered, to be the best-looking car ever, Touring’s 1938 body for the Astura:

      As an aside, my opinion of Mike Simcoe went up significantly when I discovered this specific body is also his nomination for the same accolade…

    2. You can pick up a “boomerang” 3200GT very cheaply. This is because you’ll spend c €2k a year on servicing. But still the most obviously elegant car of the era.

    3. “This is because you’ll spend c €2k a year on servicing.”

      I would pull the trigger if I was remotely persuaded the figure would be as low as €2k a year.

  18. Well, Stradale, it’s certainly a brilliant car. But is it too brash to be “elegant”? Four chrome strips and white-wall tyres are never going to do it for me.

    1. The DTW enforcers will be around shortly in The Van to duly prosecute this outrageous slur against chrome. I’d be packing the thermals and heading out the back entrance if I was you.

  19. Postwar Lancias managed with very little chrome, and then very thin strips used with originalty = flair. Fulvia Berlina rear end, for example.

  20. The more I think about the subject at hand, it occurs to me that elegance is as much as it is about details as it is about ‘big ticket’ items such as line and proportion. Doubtless it is true that it is much easier to make ‘classically elegant’ three-box proportions work on something like a Flaminia Touring GT than it is on something microscopic like a Copen. So perhaps there is something to be said for sheer size, and a rakish demeanour.

    But thinking about the stuff that truly makes me cross on modern cars, so much of it cannot be put down to anything other than conscious design decisions. Yes, legislation and consumer preferences have taken their toll, to an extent. But there can truly be no excuse for the typeface that, for instance, Alfa uses in its modern stuff:

    It would make me irrationally angry having to deal with that on a daily basis. I thought about saying irrationally angry, but I am disinclined to do so – this feels an entirely appropriate reason to have righteous rage. It is the kind of thing that bugs me to the extent that even if a Bravo and Delta were identical in every other way, I would choose the latter based on its instruments:

    1. See – the Alfa typeface is so nasty it even breaks the link. For those who can stomach it, try this on for size:

  21. With the caveat that many people really don’t like it, I think the current Jaguar XJ has elegance, in its own way. I saw one recently in a sports centre car park and it looked very distinctive (and completely out of place and scale with the cars around it, it has to be said), but it’s nevertheless grown on me. That may be a result of having seen it on the news regularly in its role as ministerial transport – exposure often increases acceptance.

  22. The word elegant, in general, is an adjective meaning of fine quality.
    Refinement and simplicity are implied, rather than fussiness, or ostentation. An elegant solution, often referred to in relation to problems in disciplines such as mathematics, engineering, and programming, is one in which the maximum desired effect is achieved with the smallest, or simplest effort.
    With this in mind I’m at polar opposites to everyone here by suggesting the original ISO Isetta, the 2CV and the modern Smart, None of which are sleek, beautiful of line, powerful or macho as are most of the suggestions put forth so far.
    The Isetta was an elegant solution for enclosing two humans in a one door weather proof pod not much bigger than a scooter with similar running economy plus a modicum of style.
    The Citroen was sheer genius throughout and todays Smart flies the flag once again for minimalism in transporting its cargo of two insafety within an area hardly bigger than a double bed! I think while these three may not be elegant of line they are “elegant creations” for their role in transporting humans.

    1. The scientific and mathematical connotation of elegance has to be acknowledged and not discounted so long as that usage is made clear. I consider a Citroen XM to be a visually elegant car. The Citroen Visa is also very elegant in its economy but not visually elegant (though likeable).
      We must distinguish two entirely legitimate but somewhat exclusive conceptions of elegance.

  23. Another thought occurs to me – the role of colour, quality of paintwork and lustrousness may well be critical to this question. Is it possible to imagine that anything painted Broom Yellow, for example, qualifies as truly elegant?

    1. The word “elegant” immediately makes me think of black paint. Part of me wants to resist this tyranny of dark colours. It is very difficult to not think of at least dark blue (Opel Admiral), dark red (Buick Park Avenue) and deep metallic brown (Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman).

    2. Black paint? Isn’t that too formal (or aggressive, depending on context) to be truly elegant? For me, elegance carries this notion of lightness, and perhaps also a little (but only a LITTLE!) exuberance, so a light and probably somewhat unusual colour could help. Think of light metallic blues or bluish-greyish tones, maybe also white and beige on the right shapes.

  24. To my eyes, a jumping dolphin looks very elegant. A cheetah also is elegant in a way an elephant is not.
    Their common characteristic is that they give an impression of effortless motion as well as of being very efficient. It is very hard to imagine something more elegant than a big cat in motion.

    That’s something a four legged jaguar has in common with the older four wheeled ones and that’s something that got lost over time in the cars.
    For me, elegance also has to do with restrained use of adornment and an absence of silly gags that are only for decoration.

    A pre-war BMW 328 looks very elegant for me (about the only German car from this era you could call remotely elegant).
    One of the most elegant cars I remember is the Aurelia Convertibilo Spider, but the Aurelia GT is very elegant, too. I would add a Lancia Montecarlo to my list as well as a Peugeot 406 Coupé. I also think a Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer is very elegant as opposed to a Lambo Countach.

  25. I was watching around to find elegant modern cars on the streets, but nothing struck my eye.
    However, I cycled past an original Range Rover, a later model (probably early to mid-nineties) with dark green metallic paint and a nice interior. Isn’t that an elegant car, despite being upright and sturdy? Among today’s aggressive SUVs it looks light, airy and joyful, and probably is smaller in all dimensions than a Qashqai.

  26. Hmm. Late to the party, but still …

    Looking backwards, the Lotus 14 Elite is, to my eyes, as elegant as elegant can be. The Giulietta Sprint and, even more, its big brother the 2600 Sprint. The 1965 Corvair pillarless four door sedan. Farina’s Flaminia coupe has been mentioned, but not its brothers the 404 coupe/drophead.

    More recently, Honda Civic coupes from ’84 or so to 2011.

    All discreet, relatively plain cars.

  27. This is really great subject and has attracted some excellent and thought-provoking suggestions on the subject itself as well as individual models. I loved those thoughts about typeface by Stradale, it’s a bloody good point!

    Wrongly, I focused on currently listed cars for my suggestions, which probably explained why I could name so few. Later thoughts include the Lagonda Taraf and Ferrari 456GT.

  28. Hard to disagree that there is very little elegance in modern cars. Maybe a 6 series GranCoupe? What I’ve always loved about Sacco and Bracq is that there was always a lightness to their designs and there is certainly a little elegance in all cars they penned. Even Bracq’s Großer has a delicacy and elegance despite its size. His Pagoda oozes elegance. The R129 SL is reportedly Sacco’s favourite of his own cars and while it’s not mine it also has a certain elegance.

    1. I respond with the Audi A7. Surely that’s elegant. It’s long, low, sleek, simple.
      The BMW has too many shiny bits on it in the wrong places. I’d have to back to the last 3 coupe to find elegance in Munich’s output.

    2. I’m with you on the A7 right up to it’s bootlid. The car looks a little truncated at the rear to me. That said we are clutching at straws here Richard.

    3. A7 is quite good, as was the A5 5-door of the past generation. Too bad their elegance is spoiled by the aggressive front ends.

  29. I’ve been pondering the A7, it’s pretty close to elegant, in particular the side profile. I’m only talking about the recently defunct one though, they’ve ruined the new one in my view.

  30. All I can say is that elegance is a quality that is immediately apparent when encountered. The “know it when I see it” argument. Very few cars have ever exhibited this quality to me.

    Perhaps the Jaguar Mark 10 might be regarded as the antithesis of elegance, a tubby monstrous dreadnought which has repelled me from the first time one hove into my view with its vast fenders ladled over wheels comically withdrawn inwards to the centre of the car. What a horrendous blight on my eyes. It looked out-of-date from day one. Imagine that refining the look led less than a decade later to the first XJ6, which is indeed elegant, the bulbous curves withdrawn into a lithe form barely overlapping the wheels – and very few inches of body height wasted above the front wheels either. Nobody ever accused the first XJ6 of looking anything but marvellous when it first appeared on the scene, especially in burgundy. It completely avoided the technical German look or the overt enthusiasm of Italian jobs or the reserved blimp-sized Rolls Royces. It had class, and that’s a prime component of elegance in my view.

    Similarly, the Rover 3.5 litre P6 had that ‘something” for me. It wasn’t long, it wasn’t low, but by golly it had some ineffable quality, I would call it elegance. If you were trying to impress some lady, pulling up in that car was never going to make her turn her nose up in disgust like some brash sportscar might. Never.

    The 1930s cars never impressed me, all trying too hard the Delahayes, Bugattis and what have you. They were just styling exercises, faux elegance if you will. The one American car that almost made it for me was the 1949 Cadillac in convertible form, and as luck would have it, there is a very high resolution photo of one from its time, with a dowdy Ford to compare it to. Add in the first modern OHV V8 in the sense of slipper cutaway skirt pistons allowing connecting rods of less than steam engine length, hydraulic valve lifters meaning no tappet adjustment, and bearings of the shell variety on five mains, together with electric window lifts and the Hydramatic transmission that Rolls Royce licensed three years later, and it was a winner, only the excessive bumper over-riders diminishing it.

    http://www.shorpy.com/node/22697?size=_original#caption

    I’m afraid there has been about zero elegance in vehicles for decades. They all try to appeal to some base instinct or other of the “Cor, look at that, mate” variety or apologetically ape bars of soap or run up the visual excitement scale with strake excresences or flame surfacing or possess nothing remotely like elegance, merely excess in one form or another. Most just give up entirely. Yes, the original Range Rover wasn’t bad for an SUV, but sideways on the wheelbase was way too short, so elegance hardly applies. I mean pull up to escort milady in an evening dress today 2017, what’s she going to pick, a restored ’70 Rangey or a restored P5B? If you need to ponder this question, you fail.

    When was the last time you saw a new car up close that just expressed its rightness, its elegance not let down by its interior, or by some thoughtless detail? For me, it’s been decades. Have there been handsome cars, exciting cars? Sure. I certainly wouldn’t kick an ’80s Mercedes E class out of bed, but that’s the best of the Germans.

    Elegance: “refined grace or dignified propriety” XJ6 or P5B. Take your pick.

    1. I’m surprised you don’t like some of the more restrained ’30s Rolls-Bentleys.

      As for me, I’ve excluded anything which is “purposeful”, which includes Audis, Ferraris, almost all GT-type cars, even the B20.
      Also the 356, although it reminds me of a proper elegant Swiss watch.

    2. The Mk X was so monstrous it was comical.

      So we forget the lovely Mk 7, 8 and 9.
      At least one of them might be elegant, surely?

    3. Thanks for that. Part of me (and in accord with many others here) see little sign of elegance in recent decades. Another part of wishes to avoid being stick in 1980-something (it might be already the case).
      My candidates for elegance are at least the last two large Volvos: S80 and S90. The first Audi A8 had it. I’ll stick my neck out and say the A7 has it. I’ll add the RR Silver Seraph. Further howls might follow if I say that despite being somewhat anodyne, the current E-Class is also elegant, despite the duff bonnet shutline.
      I had a look at the XF. It’s not elegant yet not bad. Of them all, it’s the S80 that wins. It’s not shouty, it’s well detailed, posh but not offensive.

    4. There have been elegant cars, post-1985. A Mercedes R129 SL is an elegant car, in a most sober way. As was the second-generation Audi A8, particularly in double-frame grille guise, with those delicious, large, bot not ridiculously oversized polished alloy wheels. Not to mention the flawless Aston DB9. Or the Peugeot 406 Coupé, Ferrari 456GT and Maserati Quattroporte V. The trouble is that right now, passive-aggressive SUV form languages have spread across the entire automotive landscape, which means that most models are succeeded by considerably less restrained/elegant designs. I don’t see the end of this trend, but remain convinced that the industry should countersteer this development.

    5. I saw a tidy first-generation A8 parked on the street yesterday and was just thinking it qualified for inclusion on this list. But only that first-gen – it has a litheness the subsequent generations completely lost.

  31. Another question: which cars constitute the most misguided attempts at elegance? I’m not talking SsangYong Rodius or Pontiac Aztec here, but cars that, for all intents and purposes, should have been truly elegant.

    My first entries: Mercedes CLS (second generation in particular), Jaguars X200-X350 XJ.

    1. I cannot imagine why, but the words ‘Mercedes’ and ‘Benz’ seem to loom prominently in response to this question. Take your pick from W220, Maybach, any SL after the R129…

      Clearly the W210 warrants automatic inclusion in this list, but, well, kicking one when they’re down and all that.

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