Date:The day before yesterday02-20 12:44 Source：autochina.comnews.cn Authour：He Lun
Auto Market Hotspots Q&A (117)
Vehicle rears have always been a weak spot in exterior design, because that’s what people see most when they are driving, and when looking at them for a long time and from different angles, you can always find something wrong.
Since the Geely Borui was launched, the competition in exterior design between Chinese brands has been increasingly fierce. One after another the Geely Borui, the SAIC Roewe RX5 and the GAC Trumpchi GS8 entered the fray, and the next player is the soon-to-be-launched Roewe i6. Moving from competing by copycat to competing by original design is no doubt a big step for Chinese brands. A perfect design is the goal of every brand. The question is – what is the definition of perfection?
Q: What do you think the Chinese brands should do to optimize their exterior design?
A: This is a big question. Let me put it the other way round – how can they avoid classic weak spots? In my opinion, the biggest problem often lies in the rear design. For example, the front face of the Trumpchi GS8 really looks cool, but the rear design is disappointing. It is as if this car has what we Chinese call “a tiger’s head and a snake’s tail”, making it look quite top-heavy (see the article “Will the 7-Seat Trumpchi GS8 Be a Hot Seller?”)
Q: Why does rear design create such problems?
A: Because people spend a lot of time staring at the rear of the car in front of them when driving. Look at them for a long time and from different angles, and you will always find some fault. It’s not like the front face, which you don’t really have the time to take a close look at because cars coming in the other direction always pass you by in a flash, or any other part of a car that you see on the street while walking, because you won’t stare at that for a long time. So to optimize the exterior design, first you need to make the rear design attractive.
Q: What do people generally look for in rear design?
A: The first criterion is proportion. Mercedes Benz and Audi designers have all told me “proportion always comes first in design”. Regarding the proportion of the rear end (also including the car body), we need to pay attention to two things. The first is width – narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. The most important thing is that the lower part should be as wide as possible to look strong and stable. And because of that, in the promotion of some car models “big width” has become a key selling point, and some refitted cars even have wheels almost outside their chassis to increase their width.
The old version of the Chery QQ saloon is a typical bad example – having the same width from top to base, the car is not attractive at all. The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is another example of what not to do. It is narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, but due to the disproportion between the width and height, it still doesn't look very balanced. And what’s more, with no natural transition between the top and the bottom, it looks more like a van.
Q: Could you give us some good examples?
A: Let’s put sports cars and coupés aside. I think proportion is the biggest challenge for SUVs. And here I’m talking about regular SUVs, not the coupé SUVs like the BMW X4 or the Mazda CX4, or off-road SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler or the Mercedes Benz G-class. A regular SUV, especially a compact SUV, needs to have a certain height to provide room for backseats, so it is very difficult to define the proportion between height and the width. In this regard, the Kia KX3 designers did a good job, but you won’t be surprised about how they did it once you look into its front and rear wheelbases - 1557mm and 1570mm respectively, which are both the widest in its class.
Q: In addition to width, the other important thing for the rear proportion should be height. Am I right?
A: Yes. Audi was probably the first carmaker to change the window height of a non-sports car to 1/3 of the total height. Before that, for most models, the window height was almost 1/2 of the car height. Nowadays, car windows keep getting smaller. To make the design more dynamic and sporty, the car roof tends to slope down towards the rear while the waistline tends to slope upwards, making the rear windows seem even flatter. Extreme examples include the BMW X6 and the Range Rover Evoque, both of which look really cool. From this angle, many Chinese brands have done a good job in their SUV design, like Geely, Roewe, Haval and Chang’an.
Q: So what is the biggest problem for the GS8 you previously mentioned? To date this model has been selling well.
A: Among the midsize and large SUVs and those spacious 7-seat midsize SUVs, the GS8 has the smallest wheelbase. What’s more, the tire width of the low-equipped model is only 235mm. Such a small wheelbase and these narrow tires do not seem strong enough to support the whole body. Its windows are a bit too large, and the side faces above the waistline are not tilted sufficiently inward; the taillights are too narrow and located in the lower part of the rear end; and the rear bumper looks a little top-heavy. All of this is really rather disappointing. If the rear design was as good as the front face, I believe this car would sell even better.
Q: Why do the Chinese prefer SUVs with “lifted tails”?
A: It's probably because a “lifted tail” usually creates the sense that the car has a high chassis and a big departure angle, and with these features the car will have better overtaking abilities. However, some European designers don’t understand this Chinese preference. The new-generation Audi Q7 has this very problem in its design – the rear looks a little low, so some people in China think it is more like a wagon or crossover, lacking the toughness and strength that a midsize or large SUV should have. A similar problem was also evident in the Skoda Kodiaq concept car. The good news is that after listening to advice from another journalist and myself, Skoda made some changes in the rear bumper design when the vehicle went into mass production (See the article “Will the Kodiaq Become One of Skoda’s Hot Sellers?”)
Q: Alongside proportion, what else is important in the rear design?
A: I think it's the lines and taillight. I prefer simple and smooth lines, like the design of the Porsche Macan and the Mercedes Benz GLC and DS6. Among local-brand mainstream models, the Trumpchi GS4 and the Haval H6 also look good. The Qoros 5 SUV has simple and concise lines, but the taillights are too narrow, and as a result, the rear end doesn't look wide enough.
A rear design with too many lines can be risky. For example, the lines and taillight design in the rear part of the Volvo S90’s are too complicated; this is the one flaw that keeps this car design from being perfect. The Roewe RX5, on the other hand, has done a great job in this area – the horizontal lines and taillight design not only show great strength and power, but also look fantastic and proportionally balanced.
Q: What should we pay attention to when looking at the rear end from the side rear?
A: We should firstly check whether the lines connecting the C-pillar and the trunk and the rear bumper are balanced and harmonious. Sedans are better than SUVs from this standpoint. The Audi A5 is a perfect example. The Audi design master Peter Schreyer went on to design a number of good-looking sedans for Kia and Hyundai, inheriting some of the Audi genes. Among SUVs, the Ford Explorer has great side lines on the rear end, but the taillights are too similar to those of the Range Rover family.