A bright outlook for car design

Smart with Wings
Smart with Wings

By Jeffrey the Barak

For a decade or so, the-vu has been covering the L.A. Auto Show in one form or another, sometimes obsessing over electric and hybrid cars, until the rest of the world began to share interest in them, and sometimes wondering why so many idiots were designing cars.

But a strange thing is happening. Almost all of the cars being shown this year have very good design. Gone are the days when General Motors could not even align a steering wheel with the center of a driver’s seat, or BMW’s paint had more orange peel than an orange. Everything looks and feel like it should these days.

And as for electricity, instead of some weird fiberglass wonder in a dark corner of the Kentia Hall, we have a dozen production electric cars available right now for your driveway or garage. I would get one, but I park in a place that cannot support a charging system.

Beyond the cars, the exhibits themselves almost outshine the vehicles. Exquisite flooring and modular construction, entire two-storey buildings inside the exhibition center, and on press day, plenty of espresso, fruit, snacks, meals and drinks for the media folks.

As usual, I will leave detailed reviews of new models and engine specs to the automotive press, but also as usual, the favorite aspect of the show came from an unexpected source. It was this year a large Mercedes Sprinter van, high enough to walk into and stand up in, and outfitted with enough interior luxury to put any private jet to shame, including possibly the most comfortable seats I have ever found, a record previously held by a Maybach.

Cars as different as the Bentley Mulsanne and the Smart EV, (not the whimsical Smart in the photo), all showed great design traits. And while the new Jaguar F-Type looked more like a Lexus than a Jag, it really does not matter, as long as interiors and exteriors continue to improve as they have this year.

The 2012 show is the first that shows very little direct evolution from the generally terrible visual designs of the late 20th Century, except where traditional design is the whole idea, as with many sports cars or retro-styles designs like the Mini. The normal sedans and coupes for 2013 have really moved into the Teens and left the Nineties and Naughties largely in the design scrapyard.

1 Comment

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