What Makes a Car Beautiful? Experts Say It’s in the Lines

Written by | Lifestyle

Volvo S90

Volvo’s flagship S90 sedan — All images courtesy of the respective manufacturers

Design that communicates what lies within.

There can be a fine line between automotive designs that will be admired for ages and others which should have been sent back to the drawing board. “Good design is about the beauty of line,” says Robert Cumberford, Automotive Design Editor for Automobile magazine. Cumberford compares the emotional sensation of seeing a well-designed car to noticing an attractive person. “You don’t necessarily want the person,”he explains, “but it is a plus.”

So what aspects of automotive design tend to draw the eye? Lines that sweep unimpeded from front to rear tend to offer an attractive sense of motion. The Mercedes-Benz 2018 E-Class coupe recalls a classic Mercedes Gullwing with its twin hood bulges, while also smoothing the harder angles of the past into more contemporary curves.

Mercedes-Benz 2018 E-Class coupe

The Mercedes-Benz 2018 E-Class coupe

Volvo’s flagship S90 sedan (pictured, top of page) also offers beautifully rendered lines — with a long hood and shorter trunk lid that convey a sense of performance. Meanwhile, its interior boasts burnished wood and laser-etched edges that speaks to its Scandinavian design roots.

Two models can be designed to function similarly but appear aesthetically quite different based on their lines of design. Let’s say your goal is to transport five passengers swiftly and comfortably. You could end up with with a beefy BMW 5-series or the longer, sleeker Lincoln Continental.

Lexus LC 500

Lexus LC 500

Design can also help expand a brand’s direction. The 2018 Lexus LC has a large”spindle grille” up front that ties it to the Lexus luxury tradition. But note the design details — like its bulging haunches, deep air inlets and jewel-like bladed lamps — that hint at the cutting-edge performance offered by its V8 and hybrid powertrains.

For further evidence of design that seems intended to telegraph power, consider the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Its muscular flanks and “plunging neckline” grille seem to beckon drivers to take the 505 horsepower twin-turbo V6 and rock it out on the open road to 191 mph.

Lincoln Continental

Lincoln Continental

Ultimately, great auto design makes drivers feel something — from a desire to reach out and caress a fender to a need to jump in and stomp the throttle. As Nissan’s former design chief Shiro Nakamura once said, “Design is communicating emotion from designer to customer.” And whether they’re creating a sense of slick speed or powerful performance, these designs are definitely putting ideas in our heads.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

Last modified: July 27, 2017

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