The 2011 Lexus CT200h was an awkwardly proportioned and unhappy design. Could it have been better resolved?
My recent DTW piece on the Lexus CT 200h contained an analysis of its design and identified the rear door profile and C-pillar treatment as the primary cause of its awkward proportions and stance. In particular, the too-short rear door glass and badly drawn shut-line between the door and rear quarter panel are poorly resolved and jarring details.
Accepting that the three-part backlight was a necessary compromise for production, could the side profile still have been better resolved without losing the essential character of the design?
Below is my first attempt at a redesign. Here, the rear door window shape is retained but extended rearward to allow the door shut-line to meet it in a more ‘natural’ way, similar to the LF-Ch concept. The tailgate backlight is shortened to maintain a viable C-pillar width:
Another, more radical redesign inverts the shape of the rear quarter glass but keeps the existing tailgate backlight unaltered:
In both redesigns the front and rear door glasses are now better balanced. The visual weight of the overly wide C-pillar is reduced and the centre of gravity of the cabin is moved rearward, making the tail look less elongated. The car is, I think, still immediately identifiable as the CT 200h, especially in the first redesign, but is rather less challenging in its appearance.
I think it is helpful to analyse the visual relationship between the shapes of the side-glasses across the C-pillar on both the original and revised designs as this helps to explain how both the revised treatments are more harmonious and less unsettling to the eye. First, the original:
The marked-up image shows the dominant visual link, illustrated by the downward sloping red line. The yellow lines illustrate the clash between the other edges, which bear little relationship to each other (other than that they intersect at the base of the door quarter-window).
Now, the revised designs:
In the first redesign, the dominant red line remains, but the secondary yellow lines are now parallel to each other and define the reverse-rake C-pillar clearly.
In the second redesign, the dominant red line is inverted and slopes upwards towards the rear of the car. The secondary yellow lines are now parallel and define the shape of the (now conventionally sloping) C-pillar better.
Finally, here is an animation that allows readers to compare the production and revised designs in a single image:
The fact that there are (at least) two viable alternative treatments, both of which seem to deliver a better balanced, more coherent and pleasing resolution, really makes one wonder how Lexus came to settle on the production design.
Author’s note: I am indebted to my fellow DTW author, Richard Herriott, for his valuable input to this piece.