Vellum Venom Vignette: The Steak, the Sizzle

by admin December 30, 2018 at 4:53 pm

2019 Toyota Avalon wind tunnel: Image: Toyota

Fred writes:

What is it with all these fake vents on the front and rear grilles and valances of new cars?

I admit, I recently bought one of the worst offenders, a 2019 Avalon (I bought it for the Audi-esque interior). But for crying out loud, why all the black plastic trying in vain to fool the eye that these are… what, exactly?

Sajeev answers:

A funny thing happens when designers are tasked with trying to save things from dying. Sedans are the new coupes, an endangered species thanks to the dominance of crossover utilities. But are fake vents and oversized grilles the answer?

We tangentially discussed this via Lexus sedans: they extol the sporting virtues of a lower-than-CUV center of gravity, not just a value proposition for cheapskates, Lyft drivers, etc.

That’s why even the Japanese Buick Avalon now has sport modes, flappy paddles, adaptive variable suspensions, a firmer-than-ever driving experience and even a TRD model … and how will everyone see this change?

That’s the problem: cows don’t sell the steak, the sizzle sells it. Every vehicle must have a tall front fascia and a towering cowl to give adequate space between the engine and the hood for pedestrians hitting that area. Therefore the Avalon has to stand out (literally) from this crowd via:

  1. Angular, angry (looking) grille ready to eat pedestrians (oh the irony!).
  2. Racy looking, downforcey-appearing, swag-laden fake scoops, side scallops and fake vents.
  3. A longer, lower, DTM-style sedan swagger for the street. That connection is weak, but you catch my drift!

And if you think Toyota’s marketing department didn’t pick up what the stylists put down, check out their advertising: racy engine noises, the pushing of sport buttons, and even genteel racing games!

The final question: will the fake vent’s sizzle save sedans from extinction?

I mean, it’s a far cry from previous promotions:

[Image: Toyota]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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