Once upon a time, European automobile styling was clever, chic, sexy even. It used to be the leader that the rest of the world would eventually follow. It’s now the equivalent of modern motoring mediocrity. All the efforts to achieve efficiency in aerodynamics, light weight and safety crushable zones have led to the most unexciting designs with fussy, busy engines that admittedly produce a lot of power for their size but seem milquetoast nevertheless. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, showroom choices offer a miserable selection. It now seems that design differentiation depends on how many unnecessary lumps and bumps can be appended to body panels that don’t apparently add anything to aero- dynamics. The only maker who seems to have stuck to a clean, crisp styling commitment is Audi and the identity maintains throughout their range. As part of the same family, VW follows closely with a visible familiarity from the Up to the Toureg, the Beetle being the only stand- out, naturally. Even the Asian manufacturers, albeit most of them having facilities in the UK, offer an emaciated and confusing concoction of cars. Trucks, of course, are still a real second thought in the British motoring mind although, with American influence, demand is growing with supply ironi- cally coming mainly from Asian makers. French cars are as ugly as their bulldogs – only a Frenchman can get to grips with their Gallic gallimaufry of automotive preferences. They used to be really cool – Citroën Light 15s and DS Pal- lases competed with Renault Florides and R8s. Now a Renault Mégane Sport looks like its rear end met a malfunctioning Madame Guillotine. To add more madness to the mix, the names of models these days are dumbfounding or unpronounceable, ranging from things that sound like a cup of Starbucks’ cof- fee to something like a medical ailment. Traveling tribes’ names are trendy – VW has Toureg, Renault has Cadjar, while Nissan comes in with Kashquai – all Middle-eastern nomads. While I used to find seeing all the European models fascinating, this time it was quite disappointing and I was glad to come home and see some of the exciting advances in styling that have been made here. I was at our local Cars and Coffee this weekend, giving my Morgan an airing with my grandson, and saw the new Lexus LC500 in the flesh for the first time – it’s absolutely fabulous from any vantage point. To be fair, I’ve been critical of some of Lexus’ re- cent directions but even the grill on this car is exquisite in terms of engineering and art. The car sets a new standard for up-scale sports sedans. I’ve been equally critical of Lincoln for their fuddy-duddy, stodgy styling and the latest Continental is still a statement for the front cover of the AARP magazine. Even the latest ads have the owner sitting in the back! I seriously believe that a flagship American producer can, and should, do way better than this. Cadillac is an excellent example of stepping out of the mold and shrugging off the staid image of the past. Tuners like Hennessey love to get their power paws on anything from a CTS V to an Escalade bringing a much wider appeal to the younger audience and all the perceptions that marketers attach to these preferences. Performance infers so much these days; the Hellcat has done more for Dodge’s image than any scantily clad blond draped over the hood. Performance as political correctness? Not for long, I fear. Back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, size mattered and we see a similar window to- day. Enjoy today’s muscle and style while we can, lest we end up with the emasculated, flaccid efforts of today’s European vision of what’s good for us.
The High Price of Ink
My wife has been keeping something from me. She normally shops for stuff we use at home – you know, the utilitarian things that make a house tick and you…
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