The Alpine A110 just debuted its refreshed face to the world, which is pretty much the same as its old one. This, I feel, is a good thing. The A110 has consistently topped my list of the prettiest cars in production today, a list that carries a lot of clout in my brain. It was also previously the winner of the “Car Most Likely To Make Me An Ex-Pat” award for three years running, until the GR Yaris showed up.
But I’ve learned, shockingly, that some of you don’t hold the A110's tasteful teardrop proportions, innovative rear-window design and — yes — exquisite, rally-inspired throwback headlights in the same high regard as I do. Actually, I’d witnessed the hate in some other circles before, but this week marked the first time I’d observed it within my very internet home, spewed from those I trusted most: my fellow toilers in the blogging mines.
My colleague Elizabeth jabbed the first knife in my back when she said “these headlights make me want to die,” which immediately preceded the screenshot below. Another person who disappointed me, Steve, had every opportunity to come to my aid but instead settled into one of those cushy recliners they have at pricey theaters and got to work on the popcorn.
(Erik didn’t help much either, but he was actually writing about the A110 rather than arguing, so I’ll give him a pass. This time.)
Anyway, I never found out why my so-called friends hate the A110 so. Though, to be fair I never backed up my defense of it with reasons. I think that’s because deep down I realize that reasons are ultimately meaningless in matters of the heart, so instead I dug my heels in the only way that extremely online folk know how: with a rash, sweeping assertion that I didn’t think through but nevertheless felt on a primal level. Unfortunately, people keep a record of these things, and here I am perpetuating the take because I needed something to publish to the website on a national holiday. Time for me to put up or shut up.
I was asked to name the only other four pretty cars that exist anymore. Here they are, in no particular order.
The Mazda 3 is pretty. It has a big grille, but it’s wide and it wears it well. The sunken slivers of headlights are aggressive, but not garish. And just look at the surfacing of the sides. Not a faux vent in sight, nor frivolous crease that leads to nowhere. Just a wedge of sheet metal living in the moment, unafraid to not be origami. The sedan cleans up mighty nicely as well, but hatchbacks are the ideal car and so this is the ideal Mazda 3.
The Porsche 718 — Boxster or Cayman — is pretty. OK, I admit I’m cheating a little here because I’m using a picture of the 25th Anniversary Boxster to make my case, and I’m not entirely sure anything could look bad riding on those gold five-spokes against that crimson interior. If you ever asked me to imagine the perfect, ideal profile of a midengine convertible at any point throughout my life, the answer would invariably be “Boxster.” Especially back when it had Porsche’s best headlights.
The Lexus LC is pretty, though it’s probably the ugliest pretty car on this list. This is a car whose beauty lies in details, less so the cohesive whole. Like the gleaming, jewel-like grille mesh, or Lexus’ trademark negative-space headlight treatment that works best on this model. Or the way the floor gradually tapers in, then cuts back and bulges out to accentuate rear-wheel haunches you’d expect on a vehicle that costs three times more. I also have to give kudos to the interior — a refreshing, elegant place I’d have to be dragged out of, kicking and screaming, before I willingly leave. Even the fucking door cards are beautiful.
The Ferrari 296 GTB is pretty. This one was actually tough, because I visited Ferrari’s media site in search of a photo of the Roma, only to change my mind at the last second and nominate the Prancing Horse’s new hybrid supercar instead. The Roma is certainly stylish, but the more I look at it, the more awkward I find the steep decline leading from the front wheels to the nose. The 296 GTB, on the other hand, is probably the purest, most graceful expression of a bread-and-butter midengine Ferrari since the 360 Modena or F355. There isn’t a single thing I would change; least of which the shoulders above the rear wheels harkening back to the “P” series of Ferrari prototypes of the ’60s and ’70s. I don’t find every Maranello product beautiful, but this one leaves no doubt in my mind.
Every now and then I’ll see someone online complain that a new car isn’t attractive, prompting someone else to inevitably slide in to say “it’s not trying to be,” “that wasn’t the designer’s goal” or some other rebuttal to defend ugliness. I vehemently disagree with that mindset. All cars should be attractive, though of course that means different things for different body styles. I like pretty passenger cars — sedans, coupes, sports cars, hatchbacks, whatever. I accept that SUVs and trucks aim for aggro and that’s fine, but our world has enough of that. It needs more stuff like this.