Back in a prior article of mine about the importance of touch points in a car, I stated that the Audi S5 "is a seriously good looking car, if not a little dated by 2013." I took a bit of flak for that statement and was forced to explain it to a few commenters. As a result, I've come up with a list of cars to explain myself.
The method/metaphor that I use to determine whether a car is beautiful but dated is something I call the Christie Brinkley test. She was once considered one of the hottest women back in the 1980s and 1990s. However, now she still looks good (per her appearance in Parks and Recreation as Jerry's wife), but she looks like she's dated, like the wives you'll find in country clubs across America. I apply this same frame of thought to certain cars, which has resulted in this list.
A Peter Schreyer-design, the A5 was responsible for taking the posers away from the E90 3-Series. It's a pity they ended up becoming the car of Silicon Valley tools since they are beautiful cars. This car put Audi on the map in the late 2000s and made the Audi "single-frame" grille work. The S5 with the 4.2 V-8 is a future classic (as long as it has the manual). The problem is people will only look good driving this car, but only good and nothing else.
Aston Martin DB7
Another example that I use to describe my point, the DB7 was the Aston Martin that everyone believed defined beauty in a car, right up until the DB9 debuted. Then the DB7 became dated. Depreciation has impacted this car significantly, a symptom which seems to affect almost every Ian Callum design so far. (Please find some exceptions NOW because I want Callum to stay employed.) Nowadays, they're easily available and we don't think as highly of a person driving a DB7 than we do a DB9. The DB7 has also become forgotten.
Mercedes-Benz CLS (W219)
"It's a four-door coupe!" It was marketed as beautiful. The people who bought them should have been in an E-Class or S-Class but they bought this because it was different. That was fine for three years, from 2005 to 2007. After that, this car became dated and boring. Now everyone who buys it thinks of maintenance costs rather than the looks. It was once a stylish car which isn't in fashion anymore. And country clubs don't even give this car a second look.
The rise and fall of the Allanté's beauty parallels the timeline of the beauty of Christie Brinkley. Designed and made by Pininfarina in Italy and then flown 40 bodies at a time by 747 to Detroit, this was intended to be a beautiful American luxury roadster. The main problem is that the mechanicals couldn't match the car. And when it had the same price as an Mercedes SL of the period, but not the reliability, the Cadillac was doomed. By 1993, when the Allanté died, it had become a dated car, especially when compared to the new SL, which was significantly updated in 1990.
I saw many of these at Ferrari Challenge in Sonoma this year and could not get over how good it looked. I can only imagine how beautiful it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But over time, with the existence of the 355 and now the 458, even the 308 is now dated. It's still a good Ferrari to have and much easier to maintain (it's all relative). But somehow, I respect the man who has one because it is a good-looking car.
What cars do you think (unfortunately) pass the Christie Brinkley test?
Photos courtesy of the respective manufacturers. Ferrari 308 photo courtesy ferrarihobbyist.com.