When BMW design chief Chris Bangle showed the world the 2002 7 series, his critics piled on faster than a defensive tackle on a Detroit Lions quarterback.
Bangle spent the next three-plus years defending the radical rear-end styling, which earned the nickname "Bangle butt."
He explained to anyone who would listen how the design helped the aerodynamics of the sedan. Yes, the design was softened on the face-lifted 7 series, but it is Bangle who may be getting the last laugh.
Bryon Fitzpatrick, chair of the industrial design department at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, says he has noticed the "bulbous-trunk syndrome" on several models. "They (designers) do seem to be paying lip service to Bangle here," Fitzpatrick wrote in an e-mail. Here are some examples.
The Hyundai Azera replaces the XC 350, the automaker's flagship sedan. Hyundai press materials readily admit the Azera "takes its inspiration from some of the biggest names in the upscale-car field."
Benz is back
The redesigned Mercedes-Benz S class that goes on sale in the United States next year is loaded with more than a dozen technical innovations, including a night vision system. But it's the styling that will turn heads -- and maybe leave a few with a feeling of déjà vu when the view the car from the rear.
Not a full deck
Acura says the short deck lid accent on the RL's wedge shape is just one of the features that make the car look fast. But that short tail has another purpose: Acura says it reduces aerodynamic drag and improves the RL's maneuverability.
The Lexus LF-Sh concept that was shown at the Tokyo auto show in October is the latest vehicle to embrace Lexus' "L-Finesse" design philosophy -- a theme meant to convey elegance and simplicity. Fitzpatrick, of the College for Creative Studies, call the rear design "very BMWish." The redesigned LS 460 flagship will borrow heavily from the LF-Sh.
The sharp angles of the BMW Z4 -- inspired by the edges of flames, according to BMW design chief Chris Bangle -- are every bit as polarizing as the rear ends of his 7-series sedans. But the power-evoking crisply indented sides of the Z4, left, are becoming evident on other designs, such as the 2007 Saturn Sky that will reach U.S. roads next year.