Frustration and Fury in Fergana

While this could be just about what The Truth About Cars calls DLO fail, I’d like to take a slightly wider perspective today.

In 2005 Lexus began sales of this car, the XE20 iteration of the IS range. It had a good long run, until 2013. It represented part of a turn at Toyota/Lexus from fairly restrained design to more expressive forms. That could be seen as an effort to try to offer vehicles that were more interesting and less likely to draw the ire of journalists.

2005 Lexus IS DLO detail.

Whilst not the first Lexus to make a break for freedom from the tyranny of engineered good taste, it is much the most declarative one up to that point.  Generally speaking, there is a kind of grammar of design that is about the relation of form and function. This is only a metaphor, note; I don’t hold with the literal truth of their being form languages. This car disregards that grammar. In this instance, the normally close relation of the panel gaps/aperture lines and the graphics is ignored such that the door shut-line and the DLO are dissonant.

The red line is the actual shutline and the orange line shows something more conventional. It is easy to understand why the designers did this: to give the car a more characterful C-pillar and to reduce the apparent size of the DLO, nudging the appearance towards the coupé end of the spectrum.

The way I see it, the attempt is unsettling and without it the car would still have looked markedly different to is predecessor. This one detail is a deal-breaker for me, a touch of glass in the fish-soup that makes it inedible.

The shut-line is awkward to look at and fails the “would you draw it like that ” test. I suppose someone did draw it like that but probably with a mind clouded with notions of compromise and discomfort.

This brings me away from this specific case to the wider field of details that kill a design.

The 2005 Chrysler 300 appeared as Chrysler’s statement about making properly American rear-wheel drive cars. It is bold, blocky and blunt – a car that you either like or view with disdain. I veer towards admiring its plain-speaking style but the bonnet design stops me from offering unalloyed adoration. It’s a deal-breaker (apart from all the other demerits).

The 0therwise quite pleasant 1994 Saab 900 was always ruined for me by the treatment of the tailgate. It seems that there is a huge balloon in the rear bursting to get out. And the spoiler doesn’t know if it wants to be seen or not. Again, another deal-breaker which I have never been able to accept.  Like the Lexus IS, above, it’s a fudge or an attempt to ask styling to cover up engineering’s over-reach.

1994 Saab 900: source

I would like to politely ask our readers for examples of deal-breakers they love to loathe, those bits of cars that make you wince and perhaps rubber-neck in disbelief as you stroll around.

Conversely, are their details you used to hate but have come around to liking? That possibility always exists.

Author: richard herriott

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

70 thoughts on “Frustration and Fury in Fergana”

  1. Good morning Richard. Gosh, that’s a good question. There are so many obvious examples we’ve discussed previously, such as the X351’s blacked out D-pillars, compounded by the boot lid shut-line that makes it look as though there’s an awkward hump below the rear window. Here are some photos showing the D-pillar in black, in body colour but the disruptive shut-line still visible, then the shut-line removed:

    Regarding the Saab 900, I don’t mind the convex elements of the tailgate, but I’ve always thought that the concave number plate recess looks poorly defined and odd, almost as though the car has been subject to a low speed rear-end shunt. The Lexus IS is very odd, but wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me as I really like the rest of the design.

    I give some further thought to this while cleaning windows today!

  2. Grisly. That´s how I´d describe the Jaguar. We don´t see many of them around here and I had forgotten all about it. To be honest, I don´t even now know if Jaguar make that car or have replaced it. It seems to have been a charming irrelevance from day 1 whereas the predecessors mattered and you did see them around. Here in Aarhus the late 90s XJ is still not unusual; in part its because they are cheap and in part because it´s a wieldy size of car. The black-pillared monster isn´t; being almost Rollsy in its size.
    Other examples are welcome – I am particularly generous with points when the flub is in stark contrast to an otherwise very nice design.

    1. That last stipulation rules out virtually all current Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz models!

    2. I´d say it rules out the Benzes and Beemers; Audi are still not past making the odd nice and consistent-looking car. I don´t think until they showed their recent crease festival that they had any broken-thumbers in the catalogue. I didn´t like the “storm line” on the A4 or was it A5 or A6 but it was more a matter of inconsistency than bad taste. The little plastic panel on their school-run cross over, the Q2, is getting on for egregious. I had a look at their range. It´s now huge.
      This challenge is made difficult for recent cars because they are so busy that flubs don´t stand out so much. In the past the quietness of designs made errors stand out. For the most part, recent work is so over-done that it is hard to even bother about the detail failures. Where do you start? The Citroen C5 Aircross, for example. It´s so overwrought that no one bad detail stands out.

  3. I’m afraid one of mine is ‘once seen, never unseen’, so viewer discretion is advised, as they say in the US. It’s the back of the BMW i8 and the way it’s, er, ‘giving birth’ to another car. I really like the i8 and have to remind myself not to focus on the mental image.

    Lots of other examples. I love the rear of the rear of the MK2 Renault Mégane, but used to think that the front was a cop-out. Looking at it again, I’m not so sure.

    Next, the Ford C-Max MK2. It’s a while since I’d seen one and the (admittedly down-at-heel) version I saw looked ‘truncated’ and ‘pointy’. Like the ends were too big and over-styled for the middle section.

    Going back a bit, the Volkswagen Beetle 1302 – bulbous front on the flat windscreen / small tail light rear of an early 1970s beetle. It really needs the curved screen and larger rear of the 1303 to balance it out.

    There are loads of others, but I’ll stop there.

    1. The Mk2 Mégane had a good balance between front and rear designs – before the 2005/6 facelift.
      Then the alternate black/tinted pattern on the bumpers gave way to full tinted ones, the front was given owlish headlights and a big mouth, and the magic disappeared. Suddenly it looked bloated and wearing unnecessary makeup, like a decaying beauty.

    2. Hi Charles, I agree that the VW Beetle 1303’s curved windscreen balances up the longer front end much better, but did you notice what VW did cover up the (much longer) seam between the scuttle and side panel? They attached a nasty upstand to the chrome trim:

      All that did was to draw attention to the area. They should have left the seam exposed, as it was on other Beetles, like the 1200:

    3. Hello Daniel,

      I’d forgotten about the Beetle ‘seam infill’, but yes, it always struck me as odd, as it’s obvious what it is.

      Another, more recent Volkswagen (Group) one is massive door handles, which are also at odds with the surface they’re on. Imagine that the door panel is sloping up and away from you, while the handle is drooping down and towards you. Most odd.

      Finally, there’s the Ford Focus fuel cap / bumper / every-other-shut-line-at-once junction, which has been noted here, before. Still amazing.

      I really quite like the DS3 Crossback interior, I think. It’s a bit OTT, but at least it’s interesting.

  4. Compared to one of the top 3 winners on the podium of the “Bad Taste Contest”, Toyota C-HR, the Citroen is well done and the Lexus is a beauty.
    This thing looks like they had a different designer for every square meter and everyone said afterwards “look mom, what I can do”.
    Isn’t it scary things like this can be sold.

  5. Oh where to start. OK in chronological order the herse like side profile of the Allegro and Alfasud estates- I make no distinction between them as they are both eerily similar in load lugging guise- the Beta HPE and the Scimiter looked great so where did they both go wrong?
    The FIAT Ritmo/ Strada mk1; everything
    The Peugeot 405 saloon in side profile, it’s Manx cat like stance and combination of thick C pillar and slightly pushed back rear axle that made it look like a good looking person who can’t do swimwear because their hips are too chunky. Also the rubber trim that displaces the number plate on that era of Pugs, so that the number plate sat too low at the back. Mk1 3 series did it too if I recall.
    The hidden door handles at the back of the Alfa 156; hide all of them or none of them, plus the unfortunate headlight comparison with the Brera that made it look like the 156 had cataracts (Pre facelift).
    The “Full nappy (Diaper)” seat base stitching on the Rover 200/25. Oh and finally the R75’s number plate plinth angle that gave it a fat bustle of a behind when merely reversing the angle would have given it a neat “Duck’s a×*£€” tail like the Volvo Amazon or SAAB 99.

    1. Hi Richard. I’d never noticed it before but you’re right, the 405’s rear axle isn’t centred in the wheelarch:

      How weird is that?

      Agreed regarding hidden rear door handles on all four-door cars. They don’t fool anyone into thinking they’re buying a coupé and they’re often fiddly and unnatural to operate (You have to use the ‘wrong’ hand to open the door.)

  6. I’ve always found that facelifts featuring Audi-esque single frames spoiled cars that were otherwise agreeable.

    In 2007 Volvo presented a facelifted version of the S40/V40. It notably showed reshaped front bumpers that emphasized continuity between upper and lower grilles, by giving them a sort of ‘cheek’ on each quarter:

    The ‘cheek’ solution looked clumpy compared to the uninterrupted arc of the initial design:

    Also BMW was not too shy to shoehorn a single-frame face onto the E90 3-series, in what was possibly one of the most aftermarket looks in the D-segment:

  7. Some more, if I may…

    Audi grilles that are so large that you can actually now see all the gubbins behind them. Plus, the bumper is now inside, behind the grille (and you can see it). Please stop it, Audi.

    Mark 3 Golf – I actually like the design, but accept that this may be something of a minority view. However, it has faux side lights in the bumper next to the indicators. You can actually wire them up to work, so why not just do that in the first place?

    Someone pointed out to me the venetian blind-like slats next to the rear window on an Italian saloon from the early 1980s. If they’re meant to be a styling feature, that’s fine; if they’re there primarily to save money, then less so. Actually, I won’t mention that, as it’ll get me banned from this site.

    1. If you Google Mk3 Golf all of the first page of images show modded cars. Good grief.
      And Charles, you have now been totally 100% banned. You´ll have to send messages by snail mail if you wish to carry on posting as our IT people now have all your digital details. The postal address is below.

  8. I’m confining myself to good designs spoilt by one (or two) bad details, rather than bad designs, of which there are very many.

    Volvo XC40 bonnet to wing shut-line and base of A-pillar misalignment:

    Skoda Octavia Mk3 facelift split headlamps:

    Renault Koleos chrome strip from headlamp to door and fake grille on door:

    Range Rover fake gills on front door:

    I’m sure I’ll think of more.

    1. That “Peugeot” is actually a Renault (forgot its name), and shares that superfluous grille thing on the door with many new vehicles. Some also have it on the wing (or even both…).

      But the 5008 is one of my nominees: The very upright rear windscreen and the slightly inclined chrome D-pillar just don’t match – different inclination and height mismatch. The wild shutlines of roof, spoiler and air guidances all make it even worse.

    2. Simon and Richard, of course you’re both right, it’s a Renault Koleos. I typed the caption before I found the photo and realised that I was mixing the two cars up. By the time I uploaded the photo to Imgur, I’d forgotten that I needed to change the caption…😨

      Corrected now.

    3. Daniel: the Volvo reminds me of the last Audi 80 which had a funny step at the same place at the base of the A-pillar.
      I have to say the Volvo looks quite alright to me. The step is big enough to look deliberate. If you want to see a bad A-pillar/mirror on a Volvo, look at the 850 and S70. Otherwise they are capital cars (I really like them now they seem smaller than they did when they were new).

  9. Let’s see if I can’t provoke Richard into banning me too.

    The nasty sticker/badge they stuck onto the C-pillar of later Alfasuds, which interrupted the lovely flow of the pillar:

    This is how it looked originally:

    Here’s the offending badge:

    Was it a cheap way of hiding a seam that was lead-loaded originally? Later Alfasuds all had either a sticker or the plastic badge in that position.

    1. The sticker/badge on the ‘Sud’s C pillar was the result of industrial action during one of the more than 700 strikes during the production run.
      Originally the seam was lead loaded but then trade unions talked workers into strike action because of the noxious fumes from the lead. Alfa offered to install additional ventilation equipment on the production line, an offer the unions turned down. Alfa offered to relocate the workers to other jobs, an offer the unions turned down. As a result the only possible solution was to omit the lead and fit the sticker (‘Sud mk 1.5) or the badge (mk3).

    2. I just knew you would know the answer, Dave. Thanks for the info.

  10. My tuppence worth:

    BMW’s enormous kidney grilles (have they lost the plot??), and all cars which look like they just featured in a Transformers movie. Yuk!

    And to throw something else into the mix of dealbreaker features… irritating noises (for those of us with misophonia tendencies).
    For example, turn signals that sound like “THOCK” (like that noise you can make between your tongue and the roof of your mouth) and I’m pointing a finger here at the offending Saab 93, and interior creaks and squeaks that you can never track down… Skoda Kodiaq.

    1. The grilles aren´t even the result of some evil but necessary compromise. They are to car design what a massive logo is to a designer t-shirt.

    2. Before BMW went completely nuts on their grilles, they did this to the poor E46 3 Series Compact:

      Note the piggy-eyed headlamps, but also how the bonnet crudely overlaps the bumper moulding. If Lada or Yugo had done that twenty years earlier, we would have put it down to a lack of engineering knowhow.

    3. Daniel: I am not that exercised about the Sud but you could be sailing close to the wind if it gets any closer to Lancia.
      I hadn´t noticed that sticker; what I did notice was how cheap the Sud was engineered. If you could imagine Mercedes suddenly making a Toyota Aygo-type of car that was the extent Alfa reached down market with the Sud. The driving aspects were great; the rest was pitiably flimsy.

      (The “Peugeot” above looks a lot like a Renault.)

      Today´s theme is making me feel a bit queesy. LR should have known better than to do that fake gill on door; if nothing else they are normally fastidious, inside and out.

    4. If we’re adding indicator relays to the list I want to shout out the Bombardier built buses Ireland had in the nineties. Instead of a relay clicking, the driver (and the passengers!) were subjected to a beep, so that a turn or pulling into or out of a stop was accompanied by a “meep…meep…meep…meep…”

      Mind you, there were plenty of other oddities to those buses, so it’s not like this was spoiling an otherwise perfectly good design…

    5. Daniel,

      it might amuse you to learn that those ‘piggy-eyed headlamps’ and crudely overlapping bumper came courtesy of none other than Adrian van Hooydonk himself. This was, as far as I know, the first production design he was involved in in a major capacity (the original E46, as is well known, being the work of Designwork’s Eric Goplen, whereas the Compact’s rear was devised by Peter Gabath).

    6. More bemused than amused, Christopher, as to how anybody could have adjudged that treatment acceptable for production. Given the standard of Van Hooydonk’s subsequent work, I supposed I shouldn’t be so surprised.

  11. Where to start? I had a brief glance at all the replies and there’s good (or should that be bad) stuff in there. There is plenty to choose from with all the fake bulges, creases and overall bloated cars.

    I would nominate the front of Renault the Renault Clio (and other models). Headlights, grille, chrome applications and frontbumper are a terrible mess. And the rear lights of the Talisman are especially bad at night. When lit they remind me hideous designer glasses and school teachers…

    Another thing that I dislike in general are an excessive amount of badges. This is nothing new. The Jagaur XJ6 has them on the front wing. They’re mounted so low you can hardly see them and I wonder if they won’t be covered in mud thrown up by the frontwheels.

    Why would anyone want a glass roof in a car I wonder. Added weight in the worst of all places. In the sun the car will heat up, in winter it feels cold. I dislike sunroofs too, all the downsides open top motoring (noise) and none of the pros you get in proper roadster, like Daniel’s Boxster. Moreover in some occasions they reduce headroom especially in the back, turning some cars effectively into 2+2’s. Peugeot’s 605 for instance, I can’t sit in the back properly. Only with a slumped position that puts way too much strain on my lower vertebrae I’ll fit. The seats in the older French cars tend to be too soft anyway, it’s hard for me not to slide in an uncomfortable slumped position. I’m probably a minority of one, but I never understand why people say French cars are so comfortable. Some of them have a great chassis for sure (like the already mentioned 605), other don’t (Renault Vel Satis), but the seats ruin it for me. period.

    I’m not really sure if I can nominate items in car interiors as well, but I will add a few here while I’m at it:

    First of are the digital displays of the Lexus LS400. Why are the ones of the climate controls and radio different from the odometer? One could argue that the ones in centre console are like that so they can be read in the sunlight, but BMW had that solved in much more satisfying manner.

    On some Benzes from the late nineties and early naughties the font type that can be found on the gear selector are different from the ones on the instruments (speedometer, fuel gauge, etc). I mean, why?

    Stitching. I dislike faux stitching and absolutely hate diamond stitching. I hope this trend ends soon.

    I’ll call it a day for now.

    1. You won’t be buying a DS3 Crossback anytime soon then, Freerk:

    2. I´ve never been in a French car with bad seats. Some of them were memorably and redeemingly excellent. The Xsara s a rubbish car but the seats make up for all of it. My Peugeot 406 is brilliant: I can drive it for eight hours and emerge unscathed. The rear passengers have a cushy time of it as well. How do we have such different views when we have the same spine?

    3. Not all people have the same spine… Different body proportions, different lengths, weights etc. I can imagine that not all seats are for everyone. I had French seats that were not very supportive, especially when we go way back to the seventies or so. The question for me is here: were they just old and worn out, or really not good? On French cars of the last 20 to 30 years, I was usually quite happy with the seating.
      The hard benches in our company VWs always give me a numb feeling after drives of an hour and more. The rear bench in a BMW 1er of around 2006 was even worse, it felt like a wooden board clad in thin fabric.

    4. The 2015 BMW 4 Series, whatever it’s anorak chassis code is (F20?), had the same 6 mm foam over vinyl park bench rear seat. 20 minutes was more than my un-upholstered rear end could take before it actually hurt. Couldn’t believe the chintziness. French cars? Haven’t been in one since about 1982; not exactly many on the market in Canada after Renault bared their ineptness with AMC, shortly followed by the late ’80s Peugeot 405, a tin box of little merit which caused their exit from North America.

      Diamond patterned stitching, especially in red, has bordello implications over here, the height of bad taste in public. Do not like it. But newer Teutonic road warrior machines seem to think it’s just the job. That DS shows how to do it in the cheapest possible way. Ewww.

    5. Totally agree about the stitching, by the way. I could never drive a car where I’d have to look at such a thing all the time.

  12. Daniel has already nominated my go-to for this topic, the E46 Compact – slight benefit of being in the States is that my exposure to these horrors is minimised. And I have already mentioned on these pages the inner rear wheelarch crease on the VT-through-VZ Commodores at the trailing edge of the rear door, which still drives me nuts even after 23 years:

    I could probably write a thesis on this subject but for now I will confine myself to a couple of nominations. It strikes me that rear wheelarches are apparently something of a blind spot because at least Holden could plead budget constraints and production expediency. The same can’t be said of Audi when they unleashed this:

    The cut of that shutline through the trim is simply unforgivable, before we even get to the horror show mish-mash of concave and convex that assaults the retina in that section of bodywork. What really ticks me off about this car is that until I sat down to write this I had always written it off as one of those expedient projects that caught Audi flat-footed, the need to get something crossover-ish onto the market at any price. Then I realised… there was a whole previous generation of Allroad to this. So in other words, someone signed this off as part of an all-new model in the full knowledge it would look like that.

    My other nomination is the Mk1 Focus. This is a car that really doesn’t work for me across a number of details, but probably the standout one is the way the bottom apex of the rear lamps doesn’t align with the shutline:

    No matter how many of these I’ve seen in my lifetime, I’ll never accept this is anything other than incorrect.

    1. Hi Stradale. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing with that Commodore, so I Googled some more photos:

      That is just terrible. What were they thinking? Why didn’t they just do the wheel arch like the Omega B?

    2. Bearing in mind Opel had a door that also formed part of the wheel-arch cut-out, Holden had an example to use chose not too. Evidently they thought the gains of really altering the profile of the door was worth the sacrifice of that really awful blip in the wheel arch outline. Aesthetics don´t really work like that; you can trade some beauty and maybe have a neutral bit and a better looking bit; if a bit of beauty involves making something else ugly then the solution is going to fail. I looked at the Holden again and it´s not even obvious what they gained over Opel´s version.
      About the Ford. I can see why in principle that line looks misalligned; it is misalligned. However, if I can defend the solution it is by saying nothing much on the rest of the car suggests such tidy-mindedness. If you look at the car from the rear, the step is visually consistent. From the side you can´t see it. It has the advantage of making the boot aperture wide too. So, in a way this is one of those solutions with two or three valid but incompatible judgements: a) it´s acceptable b) it´s more than acceptable and c) it´s entirely unacceptable. I am in (B) because the misallignment is so overt it is clearly intended to be that way, it´s functional and its consistent with the cars look and looks okay from two other principle views. That said I won´t bluntly disagree with you. What I would do in a managerial setting is ask for two models to be made, one as it is and one with the step removed and I´d ask marketing to clinic the two options.

      Someone is going to write and say that is not the way to act if you want design leadership….

    3. The Omega B is very nicely surfaced. For the first phase the front end graphics lacked grace but the tail end looked fine. They reversed it for the second phase where the tail lost charm and the front got tidied. It´s much underrated car.

  13. I don’t know why Holden did that door aperture the way they did on the VT sedan, but I would guess that it has something to do with sharing the rear door panel with the wagon, which sits on an extended wheelbase:

    The Omega sedan and estate are the same wheelbase, so you can get away with ‘building in’ the wheelarch pattern as part of the door pressing. For obvious reasons this doesn’t work with the Holden.

    Since that example went down so well, I think we can also cite this particularly egregious instance from the General, although unlike the VT this was widely derided when new:

    For reasons best known to itself, Holden decided that what the upmarket VP Calais really needed was rear wheelarch slats. Well, an insert. Well, a sliver of badly-formed, ill-fitting plastic.

    In the interests of my blood pressure we won’t mention the white striping over the tail-light lenses. Or the Magimix wheels. This car might be Exhibit A in terms of being beware the rose-tinters.

    With the Focus, I can accept that it was clearly done intentionally, and I don’t necessarily object to the shutline being in the position that it is in. I think that my more clearly-articulated stance is that the tail-light assembly itself feels like an awkward shape and that the whole intersection of boot/lamp/quarter panel/rear passenger DLO could have used some finessing and further thought.

    As for the Lexus that prompted this discussion, I have likewise always thought that glass ‘flick’ was a deal-breaker – but I am not sure about your contention that it’s easier to understand why the designers did this. I’ve always found it an illogical detail, regardless of how well or (as it turned out) badly it was productionised, and completely out of character with the remainder of the design. Given that Lexus has traditionally been all about detail-oriented presentation as their ‘brand’ it always surprised me they were prepared to sign off on something as crude as that.

    1. You’re hitting a home run tonight with those Holdens, Stradale. GM top brass must really have loved the Calais, given that it was clearly inspired by this:

    2. That part over the wheelarch was shared (in spirit) with the contemporary Opel Omega:

      There it made more sense, as it acted as a link between rubbing strip and bumper. This became even clearer with the facelift, when parts of the latter turned body colour:

      It seems that in this case the ‘slat’ is even an integral part of the bumper, including the one-piece chrome strip. That’s quite nicely done, and I always liked this slightly citroënesque detail on the Omega.

    3. The Omega A was a much under-rated design. It is every bit as serious as the contemporary Mercedes. I think the Citroenesque character has to do with both firms having an interest in aerodynamics; a partially covered rear wheel arch is aerodynamically helpful as it reduces turbulence in that area.

  14. Since we have been roasting GM a bit heavily, some equal-opportunity flaming is called for. Fortunately, Ford steps up to the mark with these shockers. Telstars were basically just mildly restyled, locally-assembled Mazda 626s – fine, as far as that goes. The problem was with the nature of the restyling, specifically, Ford’s apparently irresistible urge to use narrower lighting solutions than Mazda, and the disasters that resulted:

    The second solution, admittedly, is messy, but not truly diabolical. For that, we need to go to the replacement car:

    And since we are on the subject, we might as well throw in a Laser Lynx for good measure:

  15. That Chevrolet Caprice Classic is superb. The dealer, Streetside Classics, has some lovely vehicles.

    https://www.streetsideclassics.com/vehicles

    I’ll take the 1941 Ford on page 7, please. The Caprice is on p40, if anyone would like more details. Disappointed they didn’t have a Mercury Cougar, though.

    I love the wire wheels. Perhaps the next styling trend for SUVs?

    1. GM made buckets of cash off wire-wheel hubcaps for decades. You too can be sporty, just like an old Jag-wahr! Best what-were-they-thinking effect was on pickup trucks . However, Ford and presumably their supplier Kelsey Hayes, really started it all for the 1962 Ford Thunderbird, where the ads unabashedly called them “genuine imitation wire wheels”.

      I really like your picks, Stradale. Presumably you’ve moved from Oz to America. Those Fords are a hoot! Don’t kill the readers with a full-on front end view of a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Might cause heart attacks.

    2. For me, being too young(!) to remember the Checker, the Caprice (and Ford Crown Victoria) was the ultimate New York taxi, a land yacht pitching and bobbing over the city’s famously pot-holed and uneven streets:

      Nissan and Toyota EVs now seem to be the vehicles of choice there. I’m sure the economics are irrefutable, but it’s a real shame that US manufacturers are unable to provide an alternative:

  16. A bit late to the party here and I can think of far more obvious and egregious horrors, but I’ve never liked the way the Citroën CX’s and GS’s A-pillars were wider at the top than at the bottom. Much as I love those cars. Weirdly, years later when Ford did the same thing for C or D pillars in their New Edge designs it didn’t bother me at all.

    1. That´s an interesting observation. I´d not noticed that before and I have been looking at those cars for years. I can´t say it spoils the design for me – it is an odd feature as the difference is not that much. You´d imaging they could have averaged it out from top to bottom and achieved the same strength. I presume some engineering demand drove the choice. Would anyone care to comment?

    2. I’ve always noticed it but assumed it was just quirky Citroën design, possibly inherited from Panhard, whose final designs had similarly profiled A and C-pillars, wider at the top than the bottom:

  17. Hi Richard,

    Interesting subject. It’s a very japanese thing to have the rear door shutline jutting out in this way, so many of their sedans have that feature. It’s to give the illusion of frameless windows isn’t it ?

    I used not to like it but I’ve learned to appreciate it. I like that it was a very Japanese thing to do. Those cultural differences tend to disappear perhaps with the standardization of car design so that’s something I’d miss if it went away.
    I think it was better done on other Japanese saloons maybe, I’ll try to find some examples if I have the time to.

    1. I found a few but sadly none of them look even better than the Lexus. I can’t remember which car it was but I think it was a Honda Legend or Accord where it was nicely done, the line jutting out was horizontal and in the same continuation as the widow-line.

      Toyota Corolla Ceres

      Nissan Cedric Cima

      Toyota Chaser V

    2. NRJ: Thanks for sharing that sharp observation.

      Richard: Much thanks for the article; FWIW the XE20 looks luscious and lovely. The silky proportions, the stance, the shoulder, the silhouette, that C pillar and the bulging hood. Especially illustrated on your last two photos of the car. Most would take issue with the bland waterfall grill I reckon.

      The number of JDM-only models are as plentiful as there are reasons for them being JDM-only, but for Europe I suppose it’s especially difficult, since aspirational (pricey) vehicles of non-European origin seldom sell well (think it fair to say “never”).

    3. Hi Richard and NRJ. The three cars above are all frameless hardtops without fixed rear quarter lights. Is that particular rear door treatment used simply to allow the glass room to wind down? The Corolla Ceres is a nice design, by the way.

      That wouldn’t explain the Lexus IS though, which has framed windows and a fixed rear quarter light.

    4. My guess is that this design trope effectively comes from cars with frameless windows (which seemed much more common in Japan than in Europe). The first generation Impreza has a somewhat similar line, although disguised with black trim:

      Maybe Lexus just wanted to evoke such a configuration, but without the hassles of an actual frameless design.

    5. Thank you all for your reply and nice words. I went a bit deeper in my research work and discovered by chance that this is a design trope used by the JDM Nissan Laurel for the last 3 generations.
      There are many more examples I’am sure.

  18. Watching a film this evening (The American, starring George Clooney) I noticed the Fiat Tempra driven by the protagonist. It has some highly visible panel gaps and shut-lines visible from the rear three-quarter aspect:

    I shouldn’t like it, but there’s something oddly appealing about its ‘industrial design’ functionalism and it’s honesty. What do you think, Richard?

    1. Oh. The American. Apart from Signora Placido’s textile allergy, the main bit I remember about that one was a review explaining that ‘the thing with undertones is they have to be underneath something’, which I found far more entertaining than the movie itself.

    2. It´s not very tidy, is it? The visible panel gap under the lamp could have been alligned with the boot to wing gap. Or they could have had a deeper pressing and eliminated it. Or the they could have gone for a big lamp to fill the area down the bumper. I presume they wanted the production car to look like the drawing (which had body colour between the lamp and the bumper, I expect) and so went for this compromise. It´s hard to like very much. It´s not awful. It´s banal, perhaps.

    3. Hi Christopher. “textile allergy” is indeed a good description! You can gather how little the film engaged me by the fact that I was instead focused on the Tempra’s panel gaps. I hadn’t noticed the one on the D-pillar before.

      Returning to the film, at the risk of engaging in some lazy racial stereotyping, I don’t think I’ve ever come across such taciturn Italians in real life.

    4. Hi Richard. It looks to me very much an engineering-led resolution, as though the designers turned it over to engineering, who executed it in the most expedient way possible and never referred it back.

    5. They made a much better job of the Tipo, on which the Tempra is based:

    6. Regarding the Tempra: All Tipo 3 cars were created with cost efficiency being the main focus. Vittorio Ghidella had taken over control of Fiat Auto during one of regular crises, so shared components and ease of manufacture acted as main guidelines for the designers and engineers involved. Ercole Spada counts this range of cars among his proudest achievements on that basis.

      Regarding The American: I found each one of Anton Corbijn’s cinematic endeavours that I’ve watched too pretentious for my liking – overwhelmingly so, in the case of The American. This proves to me that having a good eye isn’t enough and that portentous glances alone do not make for great acting performances (and that having an attractive female actress spend most of her time undresses cannot make up for these failings either). A Most Wanted Man – which was shot in my hometown and stars one of my favourite actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman – isn’t quite as stilted, but still far less than the sum of its parts.

    7. Whilst the Tipo is efficient and effective, it´s not shouting about it. The Tempra does. The gap on the D-pillar is also a new thing for me and it only makes the car look worse. There are other much better saloon-from-hatchback cars than this one.

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