28 April 2014

Car Stuff: Look-Alikes, Part 2

Last week I looked at the overall shape of several mid-size and large sedans. Today we're going to look specifically at rear views of the same six cars, in the same order. (All cars are 2014 models unless otherwise stated.)

Ford Fusion:
2015 Hyundai Sonata:
Nissan Altima:
2015 Chrysler 200:
Chevrolet Impala:
Toyota Avalon:
(All the images of the white cars with blank backgrounds are from Edmunds; the Sonata is from Hyundai's website; the 200 is from Autoblog.)

There's a lot more shaping in real panels than there used to be, both in the way the rear of a car meets the rest of the body, and on the rear area itself. A lot of this has to do with aerodynamics (shaping a vehicle to minimize wind resistance results in improved fuel economy), and some of it is functional (trunk lid openings are cut lower for easier access), but much of it is merely decorative, and some of ti seems to be there just for the sake of being there, as though today's car designers are uncomfortable with simpler, less busy surfaces.

But all of those fussy lines and shapes don't amount to distinctive designs (not to my eyes, at least). There is a disappointing sameness to the appearance of these cars; everything is overly generic, or overly stylized but not in a good way.

All the logo badges are in the same place, right at top center; all the license plate openings are in the same place (you used to see some of them lower, in the bumper itself, but that practice seems to be a victim of bumper shaping); all the tail lights except the Altima's extend laterally into the trunk lids; and in almost every case the model and trim badges are in the same locations: again the Altima bucks the trend by having its badges mounted at the top of the trunk lid instead of the bottom, though there is what appears to be some sort of engine badge down below; the Impala is devoid of badges but has its model name stamped more subtly into the chrome piece across the middle.

As someone who has been into cars since early childhood, I find these developments disappointing. It used to be easy to tell one kind of car from another, but that's getting more difficult, even for someone like me who pays attention to, and appreciates, all the little details.

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