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.

Dodge Avenger
I don't dislike the Avenger, but I don't love it either. The Avenger is an obvious attempt to apply the Charger's aggressive lines on Chrysler's midsize platform. Chrysler showed a strong effort, but somehow they lost the Charger's edginess along the way. The crosshair grille, character lines on the rear doors, and distinctive taillights of the Charger are present, but toned down too much.

Mercedes GLK
As a Mercedes fan, it pains me to say it, but the GLK looks like a mess - a confluence of various design cues found on other Mercedes models that don't jive when mixed together. I see a little C, G, and M-Class in the GLK, but the mini-SUV is too boxy in places it shouldn't be, and too round in other places. The redesigned version (not shown here) is a little better but doesn't completely solve the problem.

Lincoln MKZ
Lincoln MKZ
The Lincoln MKZ is another example of wrongly forced corporate design language. Lincoln was obviously given the Ford Fusion platform and told to turn brass into gold. The designers must have thought they needed a "Lincoln-like" grille and taillights, so they slapped them on. The resulting design was an awkwardly edited Fusion clone. Lincoln did not fool anyone; there is a good reason why their sales have not been very good. I give Lincoln designers kudos for trying to substantially differentiate the dashboard, but unfortunately the result was terrible. The dashboard looked like a relic from the '60s or '70s and was oddly vertically oriented, and not very ergonomic. Fortunately, the interior was overhauled in the second-gen model.

Mazda 3
Mazda 3
The last example I'll provide is the Mazda 3. I know there are a lot of fans out there, but if I'm being honest, I think the first-gen Mazda 3 is much more attractive than the current version. I've always liked the styling on the Mazda 6 - including the latest version - but it somehow didn't translate gracefully on the smaller Mazda 3. The front fascia is a matter of taste, but I think it is way too big and cheesy. The rear end is too boxy in my opinion, and I don't like the shape of the taillights. Overall, I think Mazda tried way too hard to squeeze the attractive parts of the 6 on the 3, and it backfired.

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