No, it's not your imagination: The grilles on many vehicles today are big. The trend is apparent in Europe, where European Union safety regulations designed to reduce pedestrian deaths have led stylists to develop bigger and more vertical front ends. The introduction last year of the Chrysler 300 sedan shows that U.S. designers have picked up on the look, too. Here are six examples of vehicles either new to the road or just about to arrive.
|Chevy: Remember 1949?|
At first glance you might mistake the 2006 Chevrolet HHR for a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Little wonder. Designer Bryan Nesbitt, who had a big hand in the PT Cruiser while a designer at the Chrysler group, worked on the HHR after he joined GM in 2001. The grille on the HHR, which arrives in dealerships in late summer, was inspired by the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban.
There's no missing the massive chrome grille on the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr, which goes on sale in the fall. Says Chief Designer Phil Simmons: "We set out to incorporate luxury and the sense of space in the Lincoln Zephyr. For example, wrapping the grille and headlamps around the front corners and repeating that theme at the rear evoke a sense of imposing space."
|Dodge: Muscular memories|
With its distinctive cross-hair grille, the 2006 Dodge Charger is meant to trigger memories of the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s. "You just have to look at the front end - that sneering, that attitude, that confidence. That is what the Charger is all about," says the Chrysler group's Ralph Gilles, whose team led the production design. The Charger is arriving at dealerships now.
|A honey(comb) from Pontiac|
When the 2006 Pontiac Solstice fills your rear-view mirror, you'll fully appreciate the prominence of the car's big honeycomb grille. Production of the low-slung roadster, designed by GM designers Franz von Holzhausen and Vicki Vlachakis, is scheduled to begin this summer.
|Audi: Back to the track|
The dominant feature of the 2006 Audi A3 is its single-frame grille, which the automaker says has design roots in Audi's racing history. The A3, which began arriving in U.S. dealerships in May, was designed by Gary Telaak.
|Bentley looks to '52|
Big grilles are a Bentley trademark. Design Director Dirk van Braeckel's styling team drew inspiration from the 1952 Bentley R-Type Continental for the 2006 Continental Flying Spur, which arrives in the United States in September. The grille is designed to break apart if the car hits a pedestrian, lessening injuries.