It’s easy to wax poetic about how “they don’t make ’em like they used to” when it comes to classic car designs. But the truth is, 2016 wasn’t a bad year for the modern car. The deluge of NHTSA safety standards restrictions introduced throughout the ’00s put an end to a lot of the low lines and sleek style from that era — but now, after a few years of wrapping their heads around those restrictions, designers all across the industry are putting forth some of the best work we’ve seen years. These are the best car designs from 2016.
2017 Lexus LC
Kudos to Lexus for keeping the production LC Coupe design near identical to the LC 500 Concept. Over the past few years Lexus has been testing the waters with increasingly radical design; the LC Coupe is a full-on plunge. At just over two tons, the LC is by no means a lightweight, but the 471 horsepower 5.0–liter V8 hints that it’s going after the more powerful long-distance tourers.
2017 Volvo V90
Volvo‘s new design language is breathtakingly crisp and simple. It’s a breath of fresh air from the redundant lines and facets coming from of other luxury brands, and it’s no surprise the understated approach looks so at home on the new V90, given Volvo’s own historical association with wagons.
2017 Maserati Levante
Compact SUVs seem to be the hardest canvas for designers to work with. What Maserati has done with the Levante, however, should be applauded. Maserati borrowed the best cues from its lineup and tastefully applied them to its first-ever SUV.
2017 Jaguar F-Pace
Faced with the same difficult compact SUV design hurdle as Maserati, Jaguar also came up with a stunning success, albeit via an incredibly different solution. F-Pace designer Ian Callum looked to the F-Type for design inspiration (who wouldn’t?), and the smooth, simple lines of the brand’s headlining sports car translated surprisingly well to the SUV frame.
2017 Aston Martin DB11
The Aston Martin DB11 is the first step into the next era of Aston’s design language, and it’s a gorgeous example of automotive exotica. Not only is it instantly recognizable as DB, but the engineers and designers also enhanced performance. A hidden intake at the leading edge of the trunk lid diverts air up and behind the car to produce downforce — which means no massive rear spoiler to spoil the flowing body lines.
2017 Mazda MX-5 RF
Rarely can a design look good as both coupe and a convertible. Normally, a fixed-roof car awkwardly gets its top lopped, not the other way around. MX-5 RF was designed as a convertible first, so the designers could mold the hard top to their liking. Lucky for us, they went the targa route.
2017 Porsche Panamera
The first-generation Panamera was a universal design fail; Porsche tried to spread the 911 design language a little too thin. The new 2017 Panamera benefits from the sleeker, sharper and cleaner lines found on the 991-generation 911 and a roofline not far off from its Audi cousin, the A7.
2017 Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Alfa’s first compact SUV is another example of well-done design on a strangely proportioned vehicle, which may be a sign that designers across the industry are finally coming to grips with dimensions that don’t quite fall in to any definite category.
2017 Ford GT
It’s not just the design of the new Ford GT that’s cool; it’s the story about how it was designed that adds another layer. Designed in a secret underground facility, the GT’s first mission was to win Le Mans; it is a road car second. Which explains why aerodynamics play such a crucial role in the end result, and why the it looks like no other car in its class.
2017 Infiniti Q60
Japanese car design, as a whole, is finally starting to find its own voice, moving away from mimicking the Germans when it comes to perceived perfromance and luxury. Infiniti’s design pushes a more hand-drawn feel into concepts, which has begun making its way to production cars.