Tell Me Why You Think One Of These BMWs Is Uglier Than The Other

Illustration for article titled Tell Me Why You Think One Of These BMWs Is Uglier Than The Other

So just now here at bustling Jalopnik HQ, we had a little disagreement over our long-distance video-fax units. One of our writers maintained the BMW 5GT up there is significantly uglier than the sedan. I know many agree with him; what I want to know is why.

See, I don’t think it’s uglier, but I encounter so many people who do, I’m starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. I like this general shape on cars, and that shape doesn’t seem to be popular; the failure of the Merkur Scorpio is just one of many examples of this.

The thing is, I’ve never really heard a clear reason why people find this sort of large hatch so unpleasant. Many of the complaints about similar cars, like the Porsche Panamera, suggest a certain ass-heaviness, but I’m still not sure I have a handle on why a large hatch is objectively less attractive than a trunk’d car.

Illustration for article titled Tell Me Why You Think One Of These BMWs Is Uglier Than The Other

For some cars, the homeliness is clear, and understandable. An early Citroën Ami, for example, has a face only a blind and equally ugly mother could love. I really like these Amis, but even I can’t pretend that front end is anything but ugly-baton-beaten.

But the full-sized hatch? I don’t get it. I don’t understand why these are seen so commonly as aesthetic disasters. So I’m asking you to either explain why you think they’re terrible, or, if you like, defend them.

I’m going to try to use what we find here for a larger project based on why we seem to like what we like about the way cars look. But, to get started, I want to try and figure out what we’re thinking when we look at cars.


So, I’m listening!

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:

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OK, let’s use a side-on view of the 5-series Gran Turismo:

The 5 GT is a very visually bulky car, with a high beltline and a high roofline. Also, the roof apex is around the B pillar, maybe even slightly behind it, which means that the hatch only tapers down to the beltline, making it look even more visually bulky.

Here’s the 3-series Gran Turismo:

I think this one actually pulls it off a little better, but it’s still somewhat awkward. Roof apex is pulled forward, but I can’t put my finger on what lines are clashing. It’s also only dropped the hatch to the beltline. I almost feel like some of the problem is trying to look slightly SUV-esque, but not actually pulling it off?

Now, here’s the 4-series Gran Coupe:

Roof apex looks like it’s right at the B pillar still, and the hatch only drops to the beltline, but it cheats - it tapers the roof more aggressively than is natural, leaving a vestigial third box to the design. Still, it works to remove some visual bulk. (However, in this view, it does look a bit awkwardly proportioned to me, due to the high beltline and resulting small greenhouse.)

So, let’s move to a design that most people can agree looks good, the Audi A7:

A couple of things are going on here. First off, the Audi simply has cleaner lines. Second, the roof apex is quite far forward, allowing a more graceful taper, and a resultant cleaner line. Third, the body’s length is used to taper the roofline down below even the beltline, all the way down to the character line, tying that together.

And, I think that’s borne out by the A5 Sportback:

I’ve never quite found it as attractive as the A7 - it doesn’t have as much length, and they chose to compensate by raising the character line to meet the hatch (at the beltline). Also, the character line isn’t as clean on this car, and the greenhouse somehow just looks a touch more awkward.