Z4 No Longer Just a Fancy Miata


I finally saw a newer Z4 on the road the other day. At first glance, the tail lights looked more like a 6 series, but I quickly realized it was the new Z4. See, the last time I took note of the new Z4, it was in featured in a blog in the "baby boomer beige" color. It had instantly made am impression on me that it was no longer a sports car, but just a luxury convertible. I would like to say that the old adage,"you never get a second chance to make a first impression," does not apply to the automobile.

I first notice how much smoother and sleeker it is overall. It still has some very nicely chiseled lines, but they don't interrupt the body like on the previous model. I am particularly fond of the sweeping character line that starts with the curve of the bonnet, and dives towards the rear wheel to meet with the muscular, yet sexy wheel arch. The lower line between the wheels angles up nicely, and helps accentuate a slight coke bottle curve behind the front wheel. Above that, the vent gets thinner and pointer, yet still looks like  it serves a purpose. The BMW roundel no longer serves as a turn signal. It was clever, but is too clunky for this Z4.

I can't forget to mention the retractable hardtop. It's not incredibly obvious that it's a convertible. Not many do that well. Whether it fools you or not, the roof line, shape and proportions are so undeniably classic, that I can't help but compare the silhouette to a Jaguar e-type or a Ferrari GTO 250. Too soon? Okay, maybe I got just a little too excited.

There's not much that I don't love about this new car. And, in nearly every way, I think it is superior to it's predecessor in design and sex appeal. Unless it's in beige.


I heart back to the future

Man am I a sucker for gullwing doors. Sure, the practicality is questionable, but I like them because they're sexy. Sometimes, that's what design is all about. Sometimes you need to throw practicality, value engineering, and even sometimes ergonomics aside to design a true piece of art. I'm not saying this is a true piece of art, but I certainly admire the designer's uncompromising vision.

Besides the doors, I'm not sure I like it. It certainly mixes well with the other Mercedes in the line up, which I tend to like in some, if not most cases. The BMW Z8 was a near perfect example, in form, of what Mercedes should have emulated, but at some point, there were too many air ducts, and they just kept on going. There are so many interruptions in each body panel that the over all form is lost.

If I ever see one of these on the road, I may just follow it to it's destination, just to see the doors in action. Hopefully Michael J. Fox will be inside. It's a predictable upgrade from the DeLorean.


FIAT 500

Pictured here is the 2009 FIAT 500 Abarth. Unfortunately, this trim will probably not come to the US anytime soon, but that's a shame. This small little car is on it's way to the US market in four trims, including a convertible and a "sporty hatchback." I'll settle for the sporty hatchback, because FIAT has racing in it's blood.

The 500 has really balanced proportions including a very wide track. It has a bump on it's nose that really stands out to me, and I think about what it would look like if there was a grille there. It would probably look just like a Mini. If the bump was smoothed out, it would look too cute. It looks like a boxer's nose that's been broken a few times, and now he's looking ready to scrap again.

The lights that are below, and to the outside of the headlights are a little weird. Are they turn signals? Do they need to be that large?

At 11 inches shorter than the Yaris, the FIAT 500 will really fill a void in the US market for a small car that people actually want. I hope Chrysler looks at the success of small performance cars in Europe before they introduce the 500 over here. It's important to remember that people enjoy driving fun cars.


The Nissan Cube


The Nissan Cube. I don't know where to start. If it was pink and was branded with Hello Kitty, then I could excuse the asymmetry and all the rounded corners in the glass, but this is not Hello Kitty. This is a Nissan. The same company that has brought us the Z, the 240sx, the 510, the SE-R, (and did I mention the Z?), has given us an asymmetrical cube. This cube is more confusing than the Rubik's cube, but this cube can never be solved. Not in a million years.

Asymmetry aside, I can't find any design elements that I like. I could maybe stand to see a total re-design around the tail lights. Nissan should have designed an xB. The xB is obviously popular, and although not universally accepted as aesthetically pleasing, it is an example of good design. Nissan could have rocked the box off Scion with it's own version of a sports tuned compact box.

Keep an eye on my art blog to see more of my thoughts on this.


Chevrolet Spark. Isn't it so freakin' cute!?

Okay, I'd never drive it, but it is kinda cute.

Even smaller than the Aveo, the Spark will possibly be here for the 2011 model year. But it's not going to look like this. This is just to get people excited about the car. When it drops, I'm willing to bet we'll see a lot less wheel and a lot more wheel gap. I'm sure that integrated tailpipe won't make the cut either. It's already been beaten into submission from the original concept.

There's no reason GM shouldn't be releasing a car that looks like this. EXACTLY like this. This is what GM needs to keep up with the Toyota Yaris, the Honda Fit, The Scion Xd, and the Smart.

Now go ahead and scroll back up to the other images. Looks like an Aveo again doesn't it?


The first rule of blogging is that you should blog regularly. Give your readers a routine of sorts. The second rule of blogging is that you don't talk about fight club. No wait.... The second rule of blogging is that you never write,"Sorry it's been so long!"

So I'll end this hiatus by letting you know what's been on my mind...

This isn't an informative blog. I don't have an inside scoop, and I don't try to be the first to show you a new car. I am an automotive design critic, whose opinions don't make a whole lot of difference in today's climate of autoacalypse. But I've decided to get over that inner dilemma that I've been facing, and continue to offer up my blunt and sometimes rude opinions on all things aesthetic in yesterday's, today's, and tomorrow's cars.

Kickin' butt and taking names.



Pontiac Solstice Coupe

There's a problem with convertibles. Unless you live where it's always warm, you can count on having the top up most the time. Most convertible soft tops in the up position leave much to be desired when it comes to sex appeal. The Solstice didn't fare much better. While the two humps behind the headrests looked cool with the top down, this forced the soft top to be oddly shaped and ended up looking like it didn't fit quite right.

Much like the Z3 coupe and the Z4 coupe, the hardtop changes everything, but it still has a removable targa top. That's the best of both worlds. Pontiac 1, BMW 0. The shape is instantly classic, reminiscent of the Jaguar E-type, but instead of having a British flare, it has a hot rod attitude, truly embracing Pontiac's "driving excitement" slogan. There's one design element that really exemplifies this attitude: the side windows. They look chopped. No one else can own that look. It is very American, and very hot rod. You might as well be driving the Batmobile (Micheal Keaton) as far as visiblity goes, but this blog isn't about ergonomics, it's about aesthetics, and this thing is pretty. That forward slopping line is what separates the Solstice from other "cute" convertibles.

On to the criticisms, I would have liked to see the third brake light integrated into the spoiler. Speaking of the spoiler, I like it from the side view, but not the rear 3/4 view. Other than that, the car looks great from every angle. Unless it's yellow. In which case, it's best viewed from below. Or at night. In a dark alley.

I am really impressed by this fine example of American design. It's not trying to be Japanese or European, and even more impressively, it's not retro. Yet, it embodies the elements of what makes our retro hot rods so appealing. It's raw. It's aggressive. It's unapoligetic. It's driving excitement.


2010 Toyota Prius. Not just for hippies.

The Toyota Prius is the world's first and most popular hybrid vehicle despite looking like a hybrid vehicle. Of course, when you drive a hybrid, you want all of your friends to know. That's an easy task if your car is the Prius. Perhaps the only car that's better at making ugly hip, was the Honda Insight with it's futuristic rear wheel skirts.

The blessing in disguise here is that despite it being such an ugly car, it's the most easily recognized hybrid on the market. So why would Toyota want to change that?

The 2010 Prius does a pretty good job at both pushing for a more pleasing design, and keeping it recognizable to it's core market. They have chiseled the edges at the front and back and sculpted a nice aggresive line from front to back. The wheels fill the wheel wells better than before, and help the proportions dramatically. The A piller dives into the headlights, and the C piller wraps around the taillight nicely, making the car look shorter in height by flattening the appearance of the roofline. The cockpit is really futuristic looking. It still looks like a concept car inside. If Han Solo was sitting in a Prius, it would have been way more convincing than all of those blinking lights in the Millenium Falcon.

The Prius has grown out of it's awkward teenage years. The subtle tweaks to the Prius this year have transformed the Prius into a great looking hatch that happens to get close to 50mpg.


Pontiac G8. A worthy sports sedan

Pontiac is driving excitement. Well, it's been a while since it's lived up to it. Remember, this blog isn't about horsepower or handling. It's about design. Simply, a product's aesthetic should clearly represent it's intended purpose. A sports sedan should NOT look like a jelly bean on wheels. Fortunately, the G8 does not look like a jelly bean.

The GXP model shown above as well as the GT, have a very aggressive front end. It keeps the standard Pontiac "kidney grille" and surrounds it with narrow blacked out dual headlights. The top and bottom of the inner lights are cropped just enough to give them a menacing look. The front wheels are very close to the nose, and the flared fenders hug the perfectly sized wheel and tire combination. The rear of the car is also well designed. While some might say the little tiny round taillights are a little quirky, I think it's a bold step in the right direction for the Pontiac aesthetic. Well done with the subtle spoiler too. Someone had to sneak an unnecessary detail in there though. It just wouldn't be a Pontiac without an unnecessary detail. The hood scoops. Ugh. We all know they're fake. They're well placed, but I just think it would have looked a lot less cluttered without them.

Remember when all Pontiacs had "guard rails" on the side. It seems like it took forever for them to finally let them go. Less is more. That's what I always say.* I'm glad to see Pontiac make something sportier by making it simpler.

*Except when more is more. As in horsepower.

Porsche Panamera.

Happy New Year everybody! With the economy the way it is, I figure I should go buy a practical sports car. You know, one with four doors. Okay, that's a lie. Even if it wasn't, I wouldn't buy the Porsche Panamera. Maybe it sounded like a good idea to take a 911 and just make it longer, but the result looks more like a Photoshop than the real deal.

The front is right on brand. You really can't argue with an aesthetic that Porsche has been pulling off for over 50 years. However, it really falls apart in the back. They got so caught up trying to make it look like a Porsche, that they made it look like, well, a Porsche. But not in a good way. It reminds me of seeing a knock off of your favorite mp3 player at Linens 'N Things. In contrast, the BMW four door M3, the Aston Martin Rapide concept, as well as the Lamborghini four door concept all fit well within the brand's line-up.

I think Porsche may be a one trick pony. That's not a bad thing if you're the best at what you do. So just keep designing the best looking mid/rear engine sports cars out there and quit diluting your brand with stuff like this.