Home » You Have The Power To Erase Up To Three Styling Trends From The Car Universe, Past Or Present. Which Get The Axe?

You Have The Power To Erase Up To Three Styling Trends From The Car Universe, Past Or Present. Which Get The Axe?

2024 Mustang
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Here’s the thing about being in style: it never lasts. It doesn’t matter if it’s cars or clothes, furniture or footwear, music or mustaches (I had trouble thinking of an m-thing): as soon as everyone agrees on what’s totally cool, that’s a pretty good indicator those cool things are rapidly approaching their expiration date. One minute you’re the guy with his finger on the pulse, the next you’re throwing your parachute pants in the trash and crying in your room, face buried in a beanbag chair.

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Now, for cars, styling trends can be particularly perilous. These are major purchases after all, so manufacturers are keen to make sure the new models look super fresh and modernly-styled, and naturally we consumers want our new cars to look all futuristic and rad and whatnot. But looking new and looking good don’t always go hand-in-hand, and time can be very unkind to what was once cutting edge. For example, remember when rectangular headlights were an absolute must-have? Round headlights were for squares, ironically. Heck, even motorcycles were wearing rectangular headlights. Gross.

Crosstrek Side

Today, car-styling trends are more diverse than ever. Some are tired but still innocuous (I can’t get mad at floating roofs), others were dubious when they first arrived and have only gotten dubiouser ever since. Plastic cladding, I’m looking at you. Literally, right now. I’m sorry, Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, you look like a frickin’ sneaker. And what is the deal with giant, hideous grilles on trucks and SUVs? Sorry if you read that in a Seinfeld voice. They’re like parodies of alpha-toughness. Don’t get me started on phony cheek-intakes so large that they would look at home on an A-7 Corsair. Especially when they’re fake, I mean come on. I could go on.

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And so, The Autopian Asks: what are three styling trends, past or present, that you would select erase from history? To the comments!

Top graphic image credits: Subaru Crosstrek/Subaru; 1959 Cadillac Coupe Deville by That Hartford Guy/Wikimedia Commons; Lexus LX600/Lexus; Cylon Warrior by Klapi/Wikimedia Commons

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Oafer Foxache
Oafer Foxache
11 months ago

SUV’s in general… sorry, but they all just look like morbidly obese hatchbacks

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
11 months ago

1) R56
2) F56
3) whatever the newest one is

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
11 months ago

1) Floating C-pillar
2) Floating C-pillar
3) Floating C-pillar

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
11 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Why?

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
11 months ago

It’s a bad and lazy design choice, most of the time improperly used. In theory, it could carry a roof that’s different in color to the body. In practice, most automakers just put a black squiggle in between the same color body and roof, ruining the design opportunity with something that looks (subjectively) worse than just having the whole C-pillar the same color. I’d hate it less if automakers did it well, but they don’t.

Last edited 11 months ago by Squirrelmaster
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

Smaller windows
Larger pillars
Entertainment screens.

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
11 months ago

Fake exhausts
Fake windows
Those fuckin’ headlamps that wrapped over the top of the fenders. Now they are all yellowed and moldy.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
11 months ago

1: Big fake grilles. Grilles that are functionally large are OK if not overstyled.
2: “Shark fin” beltlines especially when accompanied by a black roof.
3: Small brake lights (especially when there are large lenses but only a small section illuminates. Looking at you current RAV4, Sienna, and certain Teslas), with a note that brake lights should be red, and turn signals should be amber. Second note: main lights should be above the bumper; Fog lights or extra reverse lights below the bumper are good, and lights in the bumper (which is a collision device) are forbidden (cough cough Kia and Hyundai cough).

Last edited 11 months ago by Box Rocket
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
11 months ago

The three that make me half cringe half snicker every time.
•Bunker beltlines.
•Whale tail spoilers (less prevalent these days)
•Huge rims with low profile tires on trucks or SUVs

Last edited 11 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
The Dude
The Dude
11 months ago

This is easy:

  1. Giant, oversized grilles.
  2. Bro-truck styling (not to be confused with their own, oversized fugly grilles).
  3. The “we forgot about infotainment so we haphazardly tacked a tablet to the dash” trend popularized by the Germans (and for some reason copied by everyone else).
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
11 months ago

It’s easier to say 3 things I like about today’s cars/trucks.
I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
11 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

1: The Miata still exists.
2: RWD-based vehicles are making a comeback.
3: Manual transmissions aren’t dead.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
11 months ago

-Plastic = rugged
-Turn signals on lower bumper on hatch/suvs
-“Coupe” back SUVs

Goblin
Goblin
11 months ago
  • Giant useless grills
  • All-touchscreen replacement of buttons and stalks & flat dashes not curved towards the driver (this has been gone for a while but I still miss it) & gauge clusters in the middle.
  • Profiles where the car is sloping backwards (front higher than the back), on non-Rolls Royce cars
GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
11 months ago

Feels like a lot of people aren’t talking about styling trends so much, just complaining about overall trends more.
I don’t mind all the plastic cladding so much, I think with how cars look otherwise, there’d be too many expanses of body panels and cars would tend to look almost blobby. Call it indifference, maybe. I also feel like the fading issue has improved, if I see a ~15 year old CR-V the paint is in worse shape than the cladding (although Honda paint is not really a fair judgement, but still, as far as the plastic itself).

Mine:

Dark gray/black wheels. Paint the pockets, that’s fine, but designing a wheel and painting it so you can’t see seems to defeat the purpose, and makes it look cheaper to me, not sportier.

Bumper mount brake/turn signals – I’ll count that as styling since several cars have space for these functions on the actual higher light assembly. (Hyundai/Kia, ahem.)

Fender vents – that’s quieted down some but for a while there in the late 2000s/early 2010s, you had vehicles left and right with fake vents that didn’t really need to break up the space and didn’t even serve as a spot for a turn signal or badge or something.

LikesCars
LikesCars
11 months ago

High belt lines (small windows)
Altezza taillights
Giant predator grills

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
11 months ago
Reply to  LikesCars

What’s wrong with “Altezza-style” lights? They’re better than blacked-out or bumper-mounted tails.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
11 months ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

Stage 3 cancer is better than stage 4. That doesn’t mean it’s good.

ClutchAbuse
ClutchAbuse
11 months ago

Wrangler angry eyes grills.

The Dude
The Dude
11 months ago
Reply to  ClutchAbuse

I gotta admit, they are useful for spotting angry people. And boy, there were a ton of them when I lived in the south…

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
11 months ago

The prolapsed bumper/diffuser thing. I’m looking at you Supra and BMW. They have a back end that extrudes ever smaller versions of bumpers and diffusers ending in exhaust. This is not “sporty”.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
11 months ago

Useless pill box windows
Cosplay army/cowboy/labourer/baddie/adventure seeker mall crawlers and commuters
“Cool mom” SUVs

Jatco Xtronic CVT
Jatco Xtronic CVT
11 months ago

Black plastic cladding always has and always will look ugly, and it will turn gray and worn out looking in a few short years and look uglier still. It doesn’t “protect your paint” because the unpainted plastic scratches easier than painted body panels do, and it looks even worse when it does scratch. It doesn’t look “rugged”, it looks cheap.

Jblues
Jblues
11 months ago

Primary list:

  • Touch screens
  • Piano Black
  • Making the infotainment LCD larger but still cutting off song names and artists

Secondary list:

  • Giant wheels with skinny tires
  • Windowsills you can’t rest your elbow on while driving
  • Sunroofs
Box Rocket
Box Rocket
11 months ago
Reply to  Jblues

What’s wrong with sunroofs? With proper drainage (when closed) they can be a great way to vent heat out of a vehicle in the summer.

Jblues
Jblues
11 months ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

Nothing wrong with them, it’s the fact that they are forced upon you in trim packages. ex: I need Navigation but why do I have to pay $5000 for a sun roof to get it?

Not The Ford 289
Not The Ford 289
7 months ago
Reply to  Jblues

He has a point.

Sarah Bell
Sarah Bell
11 months ago

4-door pickups with tiny vestigial beds
Oversized rims + tires with no sidewall
Turn signals over headlamps

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
11 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Bell

Depends on how the signal is implemented. The original VW beetle and the Mercedes Galandewagen both have turn signals above the headlamp but they’re more functional and visible by being up higher.

SuperNova
SuperNova
11 months ago

Touchscreens, not the little ones but the tombstones the size of a TV (make buttons you cheap bastard auto makers) Subscription based extras…(offer them and I will never buy your brand again) ok that wasn’t design but I’m angry. Little tiny pieces of glass inserted into MASSIVE blind spot creating A pillars. And every car and truck sold by GM since 1986.

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
11 months ago

Crossovers, pickup trucks that require a deployable staircase to reach into the bed, touchscreens
honorable mention: black wheels

Parsko
Parsko
11 months ago

VAG, Stellantis, and Nissan.

Am I doing this right?

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
11 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

I’d substitute BMW for Stellantis for style issues, but you have three of the top 5 offenders for poor reliability/dependability.

JKcycletramp
JKcycletramp
11 months ago

1) overlarge wheels
2) squashy-back SUVs
3) headlights that fail to pop up

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
11 months ago

The Lexus grille and its kin. It’s gotten completely out of hand and needs to stop.

TheCrank
TheCrank
11 months ago

Painted bumpers
Plastic cladding and trim (including metal painted plastic)
Fake vents and scoops (also made of more plastic)

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