FRANKFURT -- One of the most distinctive design elements of the redesigned Opel Astra unveiled at the motor show here is its “floating” roofline, an element likely to appear on future Opels -- and by extension, future Buicks.
Opel made the 2016 Astra compact a bit smaller than its predecessor, but managed to increase interior space. That’s good for weight reduction and roominess. But it creates a styling problem.
“When you keep the same height but squeeze some size out of the car, it becomes more square-ish and can look taller and stumpier,” Opel design chief Mark Adams said in an interview. “That’s not good, so we needed to hide it visually.”
A key solution: Adams' team blacked out the C-pillar, near the rear of the car, and extended the chrome strip that runs along the roofline through the pillar to the car’s spoiler. It gives the appearance that the rear of the roof is floating on its own above the body.
“With a conventional C-pillar, your eye visually travels to that C-pillar and then stops,” Adams says. “What this does is allow your eye to travel all the way through it. You’re stretching the shape, making the car look lower and more coupe-like.”
Nissan deploys the same trick in the 2016 Maxima and some other vehicles.
Ed Welburn, GM's global design chief, says the floating roofline is “an element that you’ll be seeing on future Opels.” My translation: you’ll see it in Buick showrooms someday too, as Buick and Opel’s design language continues to converge.