The beauty of classic automotive design is often in direct struggle with modern safety and fuel economy standards, not to mention the latest in technology. Case in point, the European Union’s forceful 2013 standards for safety, which led to prior beauties like the BMW 7 Series donning a more vertical fascia, a taller hood/impact zone and lower bumpers to decrease the risk of pedestrian injury in an accident. This was, of course, a good thing, but our point is that in many ways it’s becoming harder to design an iconic beauty.

Even disregarding standards, plenty of manufacturers are making hideous cars all on their own. But there are still a number of shining examples around today, ones that echo the past and ones that break new ground but don’t break the rules of good taste. These ten prove that less is more and that automotive design is not on the rocks.


MORE ICONIC DESIGNS: The 50 Most Iconic Cars in Motoring History | 50 Years of the Porsche 911 | Behind The Wheel: 1968 Jaguar E-Type Series 1.5

Porsche 911 Carrera (991)


Best Design from the Past: 50 years on the automotive scene is one thing. 50 years of sports car awesomeness is another. The Porsche 911 Carrera’s basic shape has remained essentially unchanged for half a century, making it perhaps the most recognizable car on the planet. The current 991 platform shows no signs of slowing down. It’s as handsome as it has ever been, with classic round headlights and super sleek taillights bookending one of the sexiest bodies to ever come out of Stuttgart. We’re not sure how Porsche can possibly make this look better. Maybe Singer can get a hold of one?


Audi A7


Best 4-Door Coupe Design: Even though Mercedes beat Audi to the punch with the lovely CLS in 2004, the A7 has Merc beat in the looks department. See an A7 drive by and your head will turn, not because it’s flashy, but because the swoopy and crisp roofline ends in one of the most beautiful rear ends in the business. And it’s even better in the model refresh for next year — including the monstrous RS7 (shown).


Tesla Model S


Best Electric Design: The Tesla Model S rockets drivers into the future by virtue of its speed, battery technology and space-age interior. The slippery shape catches eyes not because it’s overdone and flashy but because it’s subtle and elegant, unlike other “lozenge” inspired eco-cars out there. From its exotic headlights to the almond-shaped greenhouse and the flush-mounted door handles, the Tesla Model S is the best electric design out there.


Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4


Best Supercar Design: Sure, the Huracán has some big shoes to fill, but it’s more than ready — and not just from a performance standpoint. It’s the most beautiful Lambo to come down the pipe since the Miura, and that’s saying something. The folks at Sant’Agata have taken the signature Lamborghini angularity and softened it without detracting from the car’s aggressive leanings. The large air intakes that sit below the Y-shaped LED headlamps are big but simple, while the beveled crease that extends from the A-pillar and tucks deeply into C-pillar is its most divine feature. Lamborghini has a winner on its hands, and now it lends a degree of class not seen in the Gallardo.


Aston Martin Vanquish


Best Grand Tourer Design: As much as we adored the muscularity and beefiness of the first Vanquish in 2001, the second coming is far more stunning. Gone is the “braces on an angry fist” look of the first car, replaced by sinewy elegance. The new Vanquish is leaner in front with even more pronounced rear haunches that make it look ready to pounce on weaker victims. The winged badge taillights, however, are the Vanquish’s finest feature. It’s a GT car that looks as good as it sounds, and it better do both well, since it costs as much as a house.


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