It’s like nobody cares any more about designing cars with enticing, functional looks. In particular, the larger vehicles look like styling exercises committed by people committed to stressing bulk. Cars like the 2010 Lincoln MKT and the Ford Taurus seem to have been created in a giant-sausage factory. The styling details are layered on, and the cars are simply decorated people-containers.
I mean take a look at the MKT, ridiculous from both front and rear. Writer Alex Taylor III had this to say:
Evaluating design is a subjective matter. I like the MKT’s split waterfall grille, but found the tailgate-wide rear insignia/taillight treatment a bit extravagant.
Yeah, just a bit. I disagree with Alex that styling is essentially subjective. Automobiles are a set of systems—drivetrain, suspension and tires, structural components, electronics, ergonomics, passenger accommodations, and finally the skin. Aerodynamics has become important as speeds have increased, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the latest big Fords. The Flex is a big box with rounded corners, and in fact the MKT is built on the Flex platform. Boxes are for storing things. Cars are for moving people.
Now, you can test aerodynamics in a wind tunnel. But stylists test their products on people (focus groups, boss executives, etc.) who have all kinds of biases and attitudes about cars. Better they should determine how well their styles function to serve the systems and purposes of the car at hand.
Looking at Ford’s smaller cars, like the Fusion and Fiesta, you find more functional design that is integrated overall, not layered on. These cars will win buyers who see them not as styling exercises but as handsome people-movers. It is hard to believe that Ford will have much success with the Taurus (above), which is way bigger than it needs to be and indeed so bulky as to make that fact its dominant statement. Autosavant’s Kevin Miller recently reviewed the Taurus, finding it ungainly if competent. The comparison photo of the car (right) with the Volvo wagon shows dramatically how bulky it really is.
Yes, we all bring biases in evaluating car styling. But some principles of function rather than decoration should and do influence whether we find a particular design attractive or merely excrescent.
Tell us what you think about the appearance of the new Taurus. Here are some pix of what the car might have looked like.