Saturday, December 8, 2012

The rise and fall of chrome taillights

2004 Lexus IS
Taillights and their plastic casing has traditionally been red, which enticed teenagers and tuning enthusiasts in the 90s to convert the taillights of cheap cars (Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Nissan Sentra, etc.) from red to chrome. However, earlier this decade, a short-lived trend emerged where automakers incorporated the chrome taillights as stock. I don't see many examples anymore...the fad did not hold. I particularly never understood why Lexus used chrome taillights on the last-gen IS (above), but it must not have been popular because the current model uses red taillights. The demographic Lexus was going after for the IS was entry-luxury / above-average income, but the taillights suggested a teenager demographic; there was a clear disconnect. Click through for some more examples.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Quick comment: Hyundai Equus

Hyundai Equus
Just a quick note on the Hyundai Equus. I admire what the Equus has set out to achieve: to be an ultra-luxury sedan that competes with the S-Class, 7-Series, and A8 that costs tens of thousands of dollars less. The VW Phaeton tried and failed years ago, yet the Equus seems to be going strong. The Equus' interior is well-appointed and attractive, and the exterior utilizes Hyundai's tried-and-true strategy of mixing the best design elements from many different competitors (Lexus LS, Mercedes S-Class, and Buick LaCrosse come to mind) to create a legitimate challenger...even if it is a tad bland/nondescript.

However, there is one feature of this car that really bothers me...the rear door handles are an a really odd angle! It wasn't until I passed one yesterday that I noticed this, and now it is all I see whenever I see this car. There are a couple things Hyundai could have done to avoid this: 1) raise the bulging rear haunches a little higher (if they are what caused the weird angle) or 2) lower the front door handles (which could also create a lower stance).

I know this is a somewhat trivial post, but I couldn't resist :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cars in movies: Tower Heist and The Descendants

I watched 2 movies this weekend: Tower Heist and The Descendants, both of which I enjoyed for very different reasons. Tower Heist was an extremely predictable but fun movie starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy doing exactly what the title suggests - stealing from a tower, which in this case belonged to Alan Alda's character. The Descendants was a very moving story about George Clooney's character grieving over his wife's boating accident.

I've always believed that cars represent implicit characters in movies and help cinematic storytellers succinctly divulge important information and traits of characters. I wanted to show how these two movies used cars in an effective manner. Click through for more.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cars with "faces": the 5 meanest and the 5 friendliest

Maserati GranCabrio
I've always been fascinated with how designers give cars human features to appeal to buyers. Cars are an important expression of identity, and the "expression" of your car's "face" -- friendly, aggressive, athletic, or somewhere in the middle -- represents the image you want to project to the world. Click through for 5 of the meanest and friendliest car faces.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

10 "hidden gem" cars I don't see enough of on the road

Cadillac CTS Coupe
I saw a Cadillac CTS Coupe in town the other day, which reminded me how well-designed it is. The wedge shape is distinct, aerodynamic, and downright it! But I don't see enough of these cars on the road for some reason. Click through for some other examples of great cars that people should buy more of.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tesla Model S Sighting in Santana Row

I wish I had the chance to snap more pictures - I saw a Model S in Santana Row, San Jose, CA the other night. This car is probably one of the best looking cars on the market today. I love how aerodynamic it is; there are practically no protrusions on the body (door handles, taillights, front fascia). It kind of looks like a next-gen Kia Optima, with an iPad-like dashboard that I'm sure will catch on amongst the other car manufacturers in the next 5-10 years. At ~$50k, I would seriously consider this car against buying my favorite Mercedes C/E Class, Audi S4, or Jaguar XF - for the ecological benefits, but also for the coolness factor. I was not the only one stopping and taking a picture of this car...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Test drive: A week with the Mercedes C250 in Los Angeles

Mercedes C250 in front of Hollywood Sign
If you look closely in the background, you can see the Hollywood sign, haha. I cashed in some of my Hertz points and rented a Mercedes C250 on vacation this week in LA. As a Mercedes enthusiast, I loved the car, but even if I wasn't an enthusiast, the car was a lot of fun. Click through for my review.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Studebaker Wagonaire and GMC Envoy XUV: separated at birth?

Studebaker Wagonaire
I visited the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles this week and noticed this interesting '63 Wagonaire with a retractable roof, which reminded me of GMC's failed XUV about 10 years ago. What an odd idea...why would anyone need this feature? Click through for a few thoughts.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Taillights - the best and the worst

Mitsubishi Mirage
I saw an article on Autoblog yesterday reporting that Mitsubishi was considering bringing the new Mirage (pictured above) to the US to "reinvigorate" its ailing lineup. While I agree that Mitsubishi needs to inject some excitement into its lineup, this Mirage certainly isn't going to do it. There are a lot of things I don't like about this car, but most importantly its nondescript, blobby taillights, which make the car look 10 years old. The styling of the Mirage looks instantly dated compared to other subcompacts on the market, especially those from Hyundai and Kia. The Mirage inspired me to think of some other automakers who haven't paid enough attention to taillights, and some that did. Click through for some examples:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Follow-up: The Audi A8 is understated, not boring

Audi A8
I inadvertently sparked heated debate in a few Audi forums when I included the A8 on my list of 10 boring cars, so I wanted to clarify my position. Click through for my take:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

10 boring cars: neither attractive nor ugly

Acura RL / RLX
When Acura released images of the new RLX, I was disappointed. I think the swoopy character line on the sides is homely, and the rest of car is undifferentiated from a lot of the other midsize luxury cars on the market. The RLX made me think of some other cars that are neither good looking or unattractive, but rather boring. Click through for 10 examples.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What's with Lincoln's new front end?

Lincoln MKT
Lincoln has started rolling out its new front end to take the brand's design "to the next level". I don't get it, sorry. It seems like a hastily decided quick-fix that does not get to the root of the problem. Click through for more thoughts...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: Mercedes-Benz E350 Sedan - does it get any better?

Mercedes E350
By all accounts, I am a Mercedes fan. I love the grille and hood emblem and the prestige that the brand represents. Last weekend I treated myself and rented an E350. My expectations were fully met; click through for my impressions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2012 Nissan Quest: I just don't get it...

Nissan Quest
Much to my dismay, the rental company was out of full-sized cars and gave me a minivan (horrifying, I know). A Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey, or Toyota Sienna would have been passable, but instead I was given a Nissan Quest. I'm completely baffled by this car, and cannot understand what Nissan was going for in their design. Click through for my thoughts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hyundai Veloster is quirky ... and I love it

Hyundai Veloster
I noticed Zipcar started offering the Hyundai Veloster near me, so I hopped at the opportunity to drive it. The Veloster is a sporty 3-door hatch (similar set-up as the old Saturns) with Hyundai's attractive styling and high quality interior. The only thing I didn't like about it was the engine (no surprise, as just about every auto reviewer seems to agree). Click through for my impressions.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

You Are What You Drive: 2012 Presidential Candidate Edition

If you have all been following the 2012 presidential race as closely as I have, you may sometimes wonder: if the Democratic and Republican candidates were civilians, what car would they choose? Suppose they were able to pick any car they want - including non-American-made cars - and actually have the pleasure of driving themselves. This post goes to the very heart of this blog - I will attempt to hypothetically match candidates with cars that share similar attributes. Because as I always say, you are what you drive. Click through for the analysis.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Acura ILX ... and other examples of forced corporate design language

Acura ILX
In my opinion, there is something unnatural and forced-looking about the new Acura ILX. I would never pay $25-30k for this car. It is a Civic-based competitor to other sub-entry-level luxury cars like the Buick Verano and Audi A3, and I think Acura really missed a great opportunity here. The Acura family grille doesn't bother me (although I know some would disagree) as much as the ugly crease running along the side of the car and the fact that the door handles are IDENTICAL to those on the Civic. Yeah, Acura - don't think I didn't notice that! On its own, the door handle issue is unacceptable (see previous blog post). The rear end is marginally attractive but boring, and the interior is a watered down version of the TSX. The 150hp I-4 engine is probably no more interesting to drive than a Civic. The Integra and RSX were also Civic-based, but they somehow worked because they attempted to be sporty and scrappy, as opposed to luxurious, as the ILX does. I could imagine a Civic to be sporty, but not luxurious.

However, since I haven't driven or even sat in the ILX, I don't intend to review the car. Instead, I wish to point out a trend that the ILX exemplifies, that many car makers have failed when they try to push corporate design language downwards to the base model. Click through for some more examples.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Is the 2013 Nissan Altima attractive enough to compete?

2013 Nissan Altima

The Nissan Altima has always been third fiddle to the perennial favorites in the segment, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Altima is perfect for someone who wants a reliable, safe family car, but wants a little more sportiness and personality than the bland Camry or Accord. However, when Nissan unveiled the new 2013 Altima at the New York Auto Show, I was, frankly, disappointed. With new beautiful designs from Ford, Hyundai, and Kia, why would anyone looking for "sportiness" and "pizzazz" go with this Altima? Click through for my reasoning...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

McLaren MP4-12C Sighting!

McLaren MP4-12C
After a brief hiatus, the blog is back! Picking up where I left off...I had the pleasure of spotting a McLaren MP4-12C valeted in front of a fancy hotel the other day. Click through for some more pictures and commentary.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Copycat cars: Haven't I seen that design somewhere else?

Toyota Camry
Subaru Legacy
Look at the similarity of the taillights on the Legacy vs. the Camry...coincidence? Sometimes it's hard to conclude who is the innovator and who is the thief - cars are planned and designed years before we consumers see them, and often shrouded in secrecy. I wanted to point out a few more examples of copycats: design features that look all too similar. Click through for more.