I’m not sure how much you may have noticed this in the past few years, but auto design is getting more and more, um, exuberant. I’m not anti-exuberant at all, but we’re well into the middle of whatever is going on, and I think it’s time we picked a name for whatever it is.
If we look at where everyday auto design has come since 2000, there’s a significant increase in, well, pretty much everything except restraint. Where the early-to-mid 2000s were a period defined by a sort of clean, rational geometric design, perhaps best seen in the work of what J Mays did for Volkswagen between, say, 1998 and 2005, ever since then surfaces and details have been getting more sculpted, bigger, with more of everything: lights, vents (real or otherwise), chrome, textures, you name it.
Look at these two cars, in their 2000 and 2015 forms, a BMW (well, the 2000 is a 5 series and the 2015 is a 4 series) and a Nissan Altima. They start crisp, clean, and uncluttered, and the most recent versions are full of undulating surfaces, many more lights, light housings that grow and stretch, pulling themselves into dramatic points, much bigger, blingier grilles, and more.
You can also see the progressive slide into biggerism and moreofitness and and the encouragement of angles and lines to experiment with controlled substances to the left here, via Lexuses. Lexii?
I’m not trying to make a value judgement here, I’m just pointing out what’s happening. Carmakers are embracing this New Exuberance to varying degrees, with Toyota drinking deeply and hungrily from this well, coming up with wild, baroque car faces like the just-unveiled Prius Prime up there.
Look at that thing. There’s eight main headlights, eighteen lights in that pair of vertical blade-shaped units at either side, those colossal scoop-like appendages on each lower corner that appear to scoop air into yet another pair of clear lights, three horizontal grille intakes in the middle, done in black, at least three chin/lip effects in that front grille area, many textures and colors and lines all slamming together in an orgy of shape and form and volume.
It’s kind of nuts, right? The last time I can think of that car designers went so gleefully batshit was back in the 1950s, at the height of Jet-Age Optimism in America. I mean, look at these two faces below; very different design lyrics, sure, but they’re both singing basically the same loud, crazy song.
So, we need a name for whatever this modern auto design movement is. I’m suggesting Cybaroque, a portmanteau of Cyborg and Baroque, which I think captures the high-tech yet insanely ornate and overdone look of these designs.
I’m open to other ideas, of course, so, please, have at it.