There’s an old cliché out there that says good design is subjective. Makes sense, right? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that. But sometimes, features in the automotive world crop up that are so arresting, so visually captivating, that it’s hard to see how anyone would say they aren’t examples of design work at its best. They may not always be your personal cup of tea — but even if you don’t like them, you can appreciate them.
Now that the cars of 2019 have all hit the streets — counting both 2019 and 2020 model vehicles amongst them — we at Gear Patrol thought this would be an excellent time to pick our favorite design elements we’ve come across so far this year. Check ’em out.
2020 Porsche 911 — Full-Width Taillight
The 992-generation of Porsche’s iconic sports car isn’t the first time the brand has stretched the taillight from wheel-arch to wheel-arch, but it’s nice to see it back after a couple decades on hiatus (minus a special edition or two that used it along the way). For 2019, the trait has become more slender and sharp, sitting nicely on the new 911’s engorged rear.
2019 Mazda3 Hatchback — C-Pillar
Mazda should be applauded for green-lighting this silky-smooth car for production with all its concept-car curves intact. In an exception to a world where designers are all too happy to over-design a surface, the Mazda3 hatchback has almost zero character lines, but the minimalist design draws your eye from front to back — culminating at the beautifully simple C-pillar.
2020 Rivian R1T — Gear Tunnel
The electric Rivian R1T pickup has plenty of fun features, like its ability to tow 11,000 pounds, put 754 horsepower and 826 pound-feet of torque through all four wheels, and achieve a 400-mile range. But the under-cab storage deserves special mention: Since the R1T uses a “skateboard”-style battery architecture, there’s no drive shaft and differential taking up room — so the space under the rear passenger seat is available to provide even more storage. As far as design features go, this one is the most useful on the list by far.
2020 Hyundai Sonata — Headlights
Hyundai is making some pretty aggressive design moves, but the 2020 Hyundai Sonata headlights stand out amongst them. The Sonata’s solid LED daytime running light fades into a metal strip that doubles as the car’s defining mid-section character line. The lighting trick is a bold move –one, hopefully, that becomes a signature look for the brand.
2019 Jeep Gladiator — Folding Windshield
Jeep used the fold-down windshield with the JL Wrangler in 2018, of course, but we’re happy it made its way to the Gladiator, too. Not that there would be any reason for Jeep not to bring it to the brand-new pickup, but it just adds an extra degree of open-air awesomeness to the only convertible pickup truck on the market.
2019 Nissan GT-R50 — Taillights
Floating taillights will always be cool, which is why it’s a shame they’re mostly relegated to concepts. The GT-R50 was just a concept…but then Nissan green-lit the wild sports car for production. Albeit extremely limited production: Only 50 will see the light of day, and each costs north of $1 million.
2019 Polestar 1 — Rear Three-Quarter Angle
The Polestar 1 is a stunner by both sports car and EV standards. There’s much to love, design-wise — but if we had to choose a standout angle, the rear three-quarter view takes the cake. It’s a delightful blend of Volvo’s current styling mixed with hints of the future, plus a nod or two to the iconic P1800 coupe.
2019 Ferrari F8 Tributo — Hood Vent
Modern mid-engine V-8 Ferraris have become increasingly reliant on aerodynamics to shape the body, and the front ends suffered as a result; sharp edges and criss-crossing lines became distracting. But now that Ferrari is gaining more aerodynamically-sourced grip from the underside with the new F8 Tributo, the design topside is smoothing out for the better. The hard facets of the 488 GTB’s hood are largely gone, giving the F8 Tributo a more natural flow that starts with the cavernous front aero vent.
2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 — Hood Pins
Hood pins aren’t anything new; they’ve been keeping the lids of high-powered cars firmly in place for years. But the set on the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is telling: We expect big things from a car worried about blowing off its own hood.
2020 Toyota Supra — Rear-Wheel Arch
The design of the 2020 Toyota Supra is only one of the controversial aspects of this car, but there’s no denying the sculpture that is the new Supra’s rear wheel arch. There’s not a single sharp edge disrupting the surface; plus, it evokes some of the greatest sports cars in Toyota’s history, like its ancestor the 2000GT.
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