Just what is it about its shape?

Just what is it about its shape?

Forget for a moment that it’s electric. Forget your favorite color or interior. Forget that 17” screen.

Now, what is it about the exterior features of the Model S that causes people to come up and exclaim about “It’s such a beautiful car” and “I really, really like it.”

I get this from people who have never heard of Tesla or electric vehicles. People who may not know the difference between Mercedes and BMW, much less the alphabet soup on occasional display hereabouts.

So what are they responding to? I just don’t get it myself. Educate me.

wcalvin | September 14, 2013

I should add that I do have some aesthetic sense regarding cars, though it has rarely influenced what I actually drive. I've been driving the regular 400-series Lexus since the beginning of import into the US in 1990. But I've always regretted that it didn't look more like the comparable MB. (I would go sit in one at the MB dealer and it would immediately flunk my ergonomic tests for knobs and levers.)

Apropos the immediate topic, exterior aesthetic appeal, I can identify several things. My enthusiastic interrogators might be responding to the aerodynamic shape achieved even in a four-door sedan.

Or to the rear of the car: the wheels appear set further back than usual, and the car is also wider at the rear. It reminds me of the haunches of a crouching feline, intently watching and perhaps ready to spring.

carolinagobo | September 14, 2013

You meant the back of the car because the nosecone is cheap and ugly. The back lines are like a Jaguar XF, nice done, a wider car, if you look from the side is like a Aston Martin, stylish beautiful, but dont walk to the front.

celtrog | September 14, 2013

in the eye of the beholder..

I like the front (just lose the frony plate)

c.bussert67 | September 14, 2013

Don't forget the Maserati S lines... very similar and very sexy too!
Once in a while at work I park my white S next to a black Jag XF and it's like good vs evil! LOL

Bighorn | September 14, 2013

Thought I spotted one in Paris--ran to see it. An Audi A7.

eking | September 14, 2013

I LOVE the front. It reminds me that the car doesn't need an air vent in front. No grill just glam. (Just my two cents). I have read on various places that people don't like the front. It seems like the conventional wisdom to criticize the front but I think it is really very cool.

hikerockies | September 14, 2013

@eking: I am with you. I love the way car looks from the front. I think this car looks breathtaking as it approaches you.

Dramsey | September 14, 2013

It reminds me that the car doesn't need an air vent in front.

Except that it does need an air intake in the front. For one thing, there's the air conditioning...

cfOH | September 14, 2013

There's a lot of cooling going on in the front of the car, so airflow across the big radiators (one massive one for battery cooling and two smaller ones for A/C) is important.

I suspect the car's visual appeal is a mix of:
1) The lines are really nice...everything's a gentle curve that flows into another curve. Franz really did a great job on that.

2) The 21" wheels are striking and fairly rare (at least as OEM equipment).

3) It's really, really wide and low -- looks very sleek and low-slung because the width-to-height proportion is so much more radical than most sedans.

4) It doesn't have an emblem on it that people recognize, so they don't know what it is. That piques their interest.

GDH | September 14, 2013

Love the Model S, not a fan of the front plastic nose. I wish the front was more aggressive like a Maserati.

GeekEV | September 14, 2013

@wcalvin - The care definitely does evoke that response from people. I get it all the time and, like you, even from those who don't have a clue what it is.

NomoDinos | September 14, 2013

In the words of the immortal Patrick Swayze: "She's like the wind."

Mark K | September 14, 2013

What is it about a beautiful face vs. a plain one?

If you tried to quantify that, you'd see only a few millimeters of difference here and there, yet the combination of proportions and detail produces an aesthetic that is strikingly different.

A car presents in much the same way as a woman's face. The proportions and poise express a certain emotion that is immediately palpable.

Franz is a very gifted designer with a very clear sense of mission.

He pinched it in the right places so it wouldn't look fat. On that lean form, he creased and contoured it to suggest a certain musculature that gives it potency. And then he blended each element into a coherent flow that connotes motion.

But while it may be possible to try to deconstruct art to understand why it pleases, the more important test requires no words of explanation at all.

You simply like it when you see it.

Franz and his team did an unusually good job with this car.

Roamer@AZ USA | September 15, 2013

I like the look of my S and also have been surprised at the number of people that comment on the cars look. The comments usually start with who makes that indicating no prior knowledge of Tesla or the S.

wcalvin | September 15, 2013

Thanks, all. Agree that the most likely reason to stop and ask is simply that they've never seen one before. And sure, they tend to complement you on it.

But for some, there is a more clear aesthetic judgment--and I'm curious what evokes it if, like me, they are not car fans, not comparing it mentally to their favorite cars of past experience.

I confess that I have some scientific interest in this, simply because I know so many of the psychologists and primatologists that study "What does this individual prefer to look at?" (Given a choice. And why?) It's a favorite topic of art historians as well.

Brian H | September 16, 2013

Visual Cd? Aerodynamic aesthetics?

chrisdl | September 16, 2013

I like the look of the car, but I'm not crazy in love with it. I obviously like it enough to have bought one. So I'm curious what the reactions will be when I finally have mine. Of course, it'll be winter and dark and rainy or snowy with a lot of mud and dirt on the road. Hardly ideal to show off the looks of my new car. Still... I'm curious about the reactions here in Europe.

Cattledog | September 16, 2013

Mark K +1

eking | September 27, 2013

@azizkhan, I totally agree. :)