The Most Exciting Automotive Designs of 2020
I'm sorry, but sometimes fiction is better than reality
There have been times over the last 50 years, when a man could look at the popular cars on the street and think to himself, 'It's time car designers sharpened their pencils'.
Some people might argue such a time is now. We're entering an era when EVs are more likely to dominate our roads and our lives, but so many designers seem to believe the best design is to take an ICE car, swap out the engine and remove the grill. The logistical and spatial requirements of an EV are different to an ICE car. Your consideration of fuel tank and engine location are completely different for a start. Maybe it's because deep down designers know people prefer the familiar, so they design cars to look like something we already know?
I'm going to call it. I may not be popular for saying this, but I think most new car designs are boring. Not all, but as a whole it's easy to look at the direction car design is taking and feel that the passion has gone out of the industry. Yes, maybe designs these days are more about efficiency and so forth and I'm not advocating we return to the glorious days of chrome and tail fins from the 1950s. I just feel like it'd be nice to see some car designs which excite me.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a video game that's been in development for nearly 10 years. It was finally released late 2020. In it you play a cybernetically enhanced mercenary in an open world vista called Night City. I started playing around just after Christmas. Now there's a LOT to talk about in this game. It was one of the most hyped games of all time and one of the best selling new releases of the year. It was also plagued with bugs and performance issues, to the point where Sony withdrew it from the Playstation store and Microsoft began issuing a warning to potential buyers.
I've been playing on Xbox Series X and enjoying it. There is something of an issue with driving around Night City, and that is that the traffic AI is absolutely awful. Computer NPC drivers will doggedly drive along their predetermined path and just stop and wait, indefinitely if need be - should an obstacle such as your abandoned motorcycle end up in their way. This can lead to hilarious traffic jams. Many of the cars don't handle brilliantly, and the reality is, unless you need to give another character a lift, a motorcycle is a much more practical means of transport.
One thing I DO like about the driving in Cyberpunk 2077 though, is the variety of cars. Without the constraints of emissions, production costs and NCAP safety ratings, the designers who did the vehicles for Cyberpunk were able to run riot and have some fun. Here are a few examples.
#1 Archer Hella EC-D I360
V's starter car
At the start of the game you'll own this somewhat uninteresting sedan. I say 'somewhat' because although it's perhaps not the most exciting vehicle in Night City, it DOES look a lot more badass than any typical sedan you saw rolling along in Western Europe in 2020. It's a perfectly serviceable car, but there are much more better vehicles waiting for you later in the game. The interior is certainly a lot more fun than the current offering from Ford though.
The view from inside the Archer Hella
2# Jackie's ARCH
This is a motorcycle you can acquire quite early in the game. When you get this bike, you'll find yourself using it constantly, as it's so easy to weave through traffic on. I don't think motorcycles gave the designers as much freedom to run wild as cars, but even so, I think the bikes in Night City all look seriously cool machines.
#3 Makigai Maimai P126
A Smart Car for Night City?
You'll see lots of these cars pootling along in some parts of the city. They're not fast, they're not glamorous, but they are better most cars for weaving through heavy traffic and navigating through narrow backstreets.
#4 Quadra Turbo-R V-Tech
This is one of the most iconic cars in the game, thanks to featuring in early trailers and gameplay demonstrations of the game. This is an American muscle car intended to compete with Japanese sports cars according to in game lore and I can see the inspiration. To me the Quadra Turbo-R looks like an American take on the Ferrari Testarossa. It features a Turbocharged V8 and though not the fastest car in the game it IS fast and handles well. Ever since I acquired this for free taking the gig 'Life's Work' It's been my go-to vehicle.
The Quadra Turbo-R
The cockpit is particularly futuristic. Reminds me of the old Knight Rider series for some reason.
The Quadra Turbo-R cockpit
#5 Villefort Alvarado
You'll see a number of Villefort Alvarados in Night City. They look a bit like an old school Cadillac but have the interesting design choice of 6 wheels, four at the front and two at the back. When you steer, all four of the front wheels turn. I don't know what the design reason for this is, but I DO know a real manufacturer has tried this at least once. You can check that out here. If you fancy a bit of 6 wheel action, you can pick one of these up for free by following the 'Beat on the Brat' side quests and defeating the chap you meet in 'The Glen'. If you're interested in trying one for real, then consider Bonhoms sold one once for £41,000 - you can see the auction here
#6 Mizutani Shion "Coyote"
The Mizutani Shion "Coyote"
When you start venturing out of Night City into the surrounding Badlands, you start to see vehicles becoming a bit less 'Blade Runner' and a bit more 'Mad Max'. The Nomad faction in the game, live out here and exclusively drive heavily modified off-road cars, vans and motorcycles, the Coyote being one example. These are great for ploughing along dusty, broken highways and leaping over sand dunes. Owning one of these vehicles is a must if you intend to go exploring off the beaten track.
We live in a world where most car designers are chained to notions of economy and efficiency. When the spectre of low drag coefficient is looming over you, you can't express your full creative freedom. This is a necessity. For the last hundred years humanity has progressively wrecked this planet and if we don't change our ways soon, our continued survival may not be a given.
I know there are still some exciting cars being put into production, but I fear the number will dwindle. That said, there can always be a place for massive, heavy, gas guzzling off-road vehicles or supercars with burbling virtual V8's mounted amidships, in games and films. Maybe the true freedom of joy and creativity in future automotive design won't be in steel and plastic, but in digital vehicles designed for virtual worlds.
showing a lack of respect for people or things that are generally taken serious
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