The other day I saw a Volvo XC60 driving through traffic while I walked to the subway. It’s a handsome car, or crossover I could say, but even I was surprised. “Why is the hood so big?”
It’s a question I know the answer to: pedestrian safety regulations mean you want a nice, big, tall, soft hood with as much room as possible over and around hard things like the engine. That’s why the super-safe XC60 has so much space around a little four-cylinder.
Also it’s handsome in a classic kind of way.
But it’s also kind of goofy to see such big hoods on new cars. I was looking at the new Ford Focus, a car that was famous in its debut for its smooth, clean, modern aerodynamic, almost one-box shape. Now the Focus looks like a Pinto or a Gremlin, all stretched out nose.
All of this is, again, kind of silly. For a family car, you want as much space open to passengers as possible. The easy way to do this is to stretch the cabin as far forward over the front as possible.
Cab-forward it’s called, something that really took off in the late ’80s and early ’90s as car design teams fought to remain relevant in the face of higher demands on fuel economy and aerodynamics.
This is the 1993-1997 Chrysler Concorde, the first of the LH platform Chryslers. The design goes farther back into the end of the decade from AMC’s work with Renault that got rolled into the Mopar universe.
That look goes even farther back into the last big era of design revolutions, with the late 1960s NSU Ro80, but I’m getting kind of side tracked.
And oddly, at the same time that we’re getting more big, long hoods, we’re also seeing a bit of a return to cab-forward design from one of my favorite car designers working today.
That’s Ian Callum’s Jaguar I-Pace, which doesn’t have an engine in the front since it’s an electric car. As such, it can bring the cab all the way forward, which manages to look interesting and cool, even if it’s not adhering to classic car proportions.
It would be foolish to think this is anything but something we’re going to see more and more of as EVs become increasingly commonplace.
Honestly, cab forward. It’s coming back. I can feel it.