VLF Automotive: Sports Cars with Guts

Michigan-based VLF Automotive produces some of the auto industry’s most stylish and powerful vehicles, delivering visceral thrills, tailored craftsmanship, and incorporating coach-built design that evokes the whimsy of a bygone era. In an age where it seems as though most premium sports car makers are chasing volume and, in some cases, imbuing their lineups with questionable styling, VLF’s trifecta of low production, raw power, and classic proportioning makes for spots cars with guts. We’d expect nothing less from Lutz.

VLF Automotive Bob Lutz, Gibert Villarreal, Henrik Fisker
Car Guys: Giblert Villarreal (left), Bob Lutz (center), Henrik Fisker (right) stand beside a white Destino V8 at VLF Automotive’s headquarters.

Headed by auto industry icon Bob Lutz, industrialist Gilbert Villarreal, and design extraordinaire Henrik Fisker, VLF produces three models that are collectively emblematic of what’s possible when car guys are at the helm with no bean counters in sight to dilute a vehicle’s essence.

As Bob Lutz famously detailed in his book, Car Guys Vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, the heavy hand of finance and accounting teams at automakers have led to vehicles being stripped of character, devoid of performance and lacking in quality, all in the name of making balance sheets look better. A promising concept would inevitably turn into what seemed to be a cheap and half-hearted knockoff by the time it landed on dealer lots. In the end, consumers caught on to the corners being cut and, in the case of General Motors, it had some dire consequences in the 2000’s.

Lutz made a strong argument in his book and throughout his career for delivering excellence to the consumer in terms of design, performance and quality, so it’s no surprise under his stewardship that VLF’s delivers on those fronts in spades.


A truly fascinating automotive amalgam that brings together unexpected elements, the Destino V8 is based off of designer Henrick Fisker’s blueprint for the 4-door Fiscker Karama, which was one of the first luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to market. The design has been updated to good effect with a rectangular grille and more conventional styling cues incorporated into the front fascia. The look is sleek, modern and highly appealing, somewhat resembling a more elegant interpretation of the Jaguar F-Type from certain perspectives.

Under the hood, the Karma’s hybrid powertrain has been replaced with a Corvette LS9 V8 engine that is good for 604-hp and capable of propelling the Detino V8 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, thanks in large part to the lightweight aluminum body and aluminum space frame. It’s all quite impressive, especially considering the generous accommodations for four within the beautifully outfitted cabin, replete with carbon fiber trim and supple leather.


Atop the brand’s lineup is the Force 1 V10, which fuses together lightweight carbon fiber construction with a 8.4 liter V10 engine that produces 745-hp, making it “one of the most powerful naturally aspirated road engines in the world,” according to VLF. Being devoid of superchargers, turbochargers, or hybrid assists allows for good, old-fashioned linear power delivery and a more natural driving experience. The cabin features leather, suede, Alcantarra and, naturally, a champagne holder.

The purposeful exterior design is punctuated by functional elements that assist with performance. Intakes and outlets provide cooling for the mechanics, while spoilers and a rear diffuser provide downforce and assist with improving aerodynamics. Fisker designed Force 1 V10 in the classic American sports car idiom with a long hood, short front overhang, long tail and pushed out wheels. A standout styling element is the side rear windows, which flows with elegance and, well, force into the the C-pillar. From there the eye is drawn to the rear which has a wing-style spoiler atop the glass area that doubles as a wifi antenna. Further down are what VLF says are the world’s thinnest taillamps, cleanly integrated below the decklid. From any angle, the Force 1 V10 is a striking work of art.


Developed in collaboration with Galpin Auto Sports, the VLF Rocket V8 begins with the bones of the Ford Mustang and undergoes major updates as the metal body panels are replaced with sculpted carbon fiber ones that allow for a larger grille, functional front splitter, wider fenders, functional skirts and spoilers. Visually, it looks like a Mustang, but in concept car form. Massive 21″ wheels complete the exterior appearance. It’s cohesive, hunkered down and menacing, just as a muscle car should be.

Powered by Ford‘s Coyote 5.0 L V8 enhanced with a supercharger to deliver 725 hp, it sprints to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. The cabin is appointed with stitched leather and carbon fiber trim that properly enhance the Mustang ambiance to rival the craftsmanship found in super cars.

Car Guys for the Win

The VLF Automotive team prove what can be accomplished when car guys are in control.

From the versatile and opulent Destino V8, to the magnificent Force 1 V10 and exhilarating Rocket V8, it’s apparent that VLF has created vehicles that are infused with serious performance, spot-on styling, and executed with a high level of attention to detail. VLF Automotive proves what’s possible when car guys are in the driver’s seat, and the results are extraordinary.

[Images: VLF Automotive]

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Rx for the Acura RLX

Perched atop Acura’s sedan lineup is the full-size RLX. Far less popular than the mid-size TLX and virtually all of its competitors, the RLX is a rare bird indeed. Last year a total of just 1,931 units were sold in America. That pales in comparison to the volume of Volvo S90’s (6,967 units) and Audi A6’s (10,561 units) sold in America last year. For heaven’s sake, even the often forgotten Infiniti Q80 (née M) had more than double the sales of the RLX last year. So, what’s going on?

Three primary issues are at play that collectively are holding the RLX way back. Fixing one or, ideally, all could make an impact in the marketplace and allow the RLX to resonate with shoppers. Although a price cut for the top-end Sport Hybrid in 2018 did correlate to a year-over-year increase in sales, it clearly had a minimal impact in the big scheme of things. Far more drastic measures are needed to help get the RLX, and the Acura brand in general, on track.

Supersize It

First, being that the RLX is not significantly larger than the TLX, Acura shoppers who want a sedan have little incentive to upgrade to the RLX. Perhaps Acura should follow competitor’s lead and sell an extended wheelbase version of the RLX to create more delineation both visually and in terms of interior volume.

Volvo only sells the extended wheelbase version of the S90 in America and Infiniti offers an extended wheelbase version of the Q70. called the Q70L which has five additional inches of rear legroom. Like Acura, both brands don’t have the strongest reach and positioning within the marketplace, however they’ve found a niche by offering something Tier 1 brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and Audi don’t.

2019 Acura TLX versus 2019 Acura RLX

Bring the Wow Factor

Styling is another factor at play. The RLX’s design is too conservative inside and out, lacking the wow factor of big winners in the $50,000-$60,000 luxury sedan segment. Perhaps by borrowing more styling cues from the NSX, Acura can simultaneously inject the RLX with more personality while also establishing a stronger and more cohesive design philosophy for the brand as a whole.

2019 Acura RLX exterior side
2019 Acura RLX exterior rear
2019 Acura RLX interior

As it stands now, the new Honda Accord arguably has a more interesting exterior and interior design than the RLX. Acura needs no holds barred sensational design to stand out from the crowd and impress shoppers not selecting a car based on price.

Invest in Brand

This is a tricky one that would not be a quick fix like the other two prescriptions. The fact of the matter is the Acura doesn’t spring to mind for most consumers when they think of luxury car brands. While value shoppers in the sub-$50,000 segment can look past badge appeal and a less polished dealership experience if they’re getting more features for less money, above that price point expectations are much higher and that’s where Acura comes up a few cards short. Improving brand awareness and perception would require a massive investment in research & development, design, materials, dealerships, and marketing, but it could pay big dividends by moving Acura from a bit player to a major threat to competitors.

The days of pushing warmed-over Hondas should come to an end and usher in a new era for Acura, and it could all begin with the RLX. While pursuing such an undertaking to transform a underdog into a force to be reckoned with would require courage and grit, that’s just the stuff that Legends are made of.

[Images: Acura]

Discovering Automaker’s Awesome Original Websites: Japanese Luxury Roundup

In the mid-1990’s most automotive brands that existed at the time began launching websites as digital was rapidly becoming the next frontier and offered an opportunity to showcase products and influence consumers as they perform research. Early examples of auto manufacturer websites provide a unique window into brand identity as there were wild variations in style and tone compared to the much more uniform websites of today, where virtually all have a nearly identical layout and user experience.


Lexus then

Lexus.com, 1996

The first snapshot of Lexus’ website was recorded on December 22, 1996. Creatively titled “Lexus Centre of Performance Art”, the website navigation is overlaid atop an sketch that resembles an interpretation of an ancient Roman villa. Resembling a guide for tourist in a faraway land, perhaps Lexus employed this model to help guide brand-new internet users by leveraging a familiar map-based layout from traditional printed media. There is also a “concierge” named Alex prominently featured, who was doubtlessly utilized by befuddled website visitors back in the day. According to the description Alex is there to “help you at any time, on any page”. Perhaps the most striking element of Lexus’ homepage in 1996 was that there was no imagery of their vehicles. At this time the brand’s lineup consisted of the ES, GS, LS, SC and LX.

Lexus now

Lexus.com, 2018

Fast forward 22 years and we encounter Lexus’ website in 2018. Taking on a far more sophisticated look, the design has been cleaned up and organized. Alex the concierge has retired, however there is a “Shopping Tools” menu with visuals for top functions at the bottom of the page. As web users as a whole became more acclimated to navigating websites and assimilated to the digital word, we notice less copy and far more visuals. While less cluttered, the website has certainly lost some personality over time. Here’s a little message for Lexus: Bring back Alex! Perhaps he could be reborn as a virtual chat assistant. In 2018 the brand’s lineup has doubled in size compared to 1996. The current vehicles are the IS, ES, GS, LS, RC, LC, NX, RX, GX, LX.

RELATED: Lux SUV Olympics: Going For Gold!

Continue Reading “Discovering Automaker’s Awesome Original Websites: Japanese Luxury Roundup”

Tumbling Dice: Gambling On Tailfins

At a time when only the flashiest and most unique luxury sedans are postured to thrive in a market increasingly shifting toward SUVs, a strong case can be made for Cadillac to go balls to the wall with their sedans. Bring back the names, like Fleetwood and DeVille, bring on the chrome and tailfins. Make Cadillac sedans look bespoke, eye-catching and stylish beyond compare. Make the design proudly American, with bold lines and fearlessly shaped sheet metal.  A Cadillac emblem atop the grille is a must. It might take awhile before Cadillac ratchets things up to that level, however in the meantime the 2019 Cadillac CT6 provides the perfect template for the start of the brand’s renaissance era.


The existing Cadillac CT6 has strong bones to build up. However, it is letdown by elegantly rendered but anonymous styling; it doesn’t look like a Cadillac.

Should Cadillac decide to go all in with a bolder design direction, they have an excellent foundation to build upon with the current CT6. With an excellent chassis and advanced lightweight construction, it is only letdown by ho-hum exterior styling and an interior design that lacks wow-factor.


Let’s call this the 2020 Cadillac Fleetwood. Adding classic design cues to the foundation of the CT6 result in the Fleetwood imbuing the presence of thundering Cadillacs of yesteryear. A character line starting at the front fender extends the length of the vehicle and transitions into the tailfin, which is punctuated by an exuberantly extended tail lamp design. Wheels are at once elegant and powerful and come directly from the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept car.

Improving the exterior is easy, just add tailfins. Elegantly extended taillamps flanked along the rear-quarter shoulder of the vehicle is a statement piece that sets the tone for a complex and eye-catching design philosophy. Leveraging shadow and light, the doors and fenders take on a more cohesive look with sculpting all the way from beneath the A-pillar, across the doors, and into the tailfins, lending a graceful forward motion to the design.

Cadillac Sixteen- Wikipedia

The 2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept car provides hits of Cadillac’s potential if a more expressive design language is embraced.

Pulled from the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen concept sedan, the gorgeous wheel look like nothing else on the market and are at once modern and a nod to the brand’s decades of design excellence, with echos thundering 1960’s Cadillacs in their detailing.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado.JPG

The legendary 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, replete with gloriously large tailfins.

These updates would be fairly easy to implement with a refresh of the CT6 and would go a long way toward making Cadillac a fearless design leader, rather than a follower. Using a mildly undated CT6 as a springboard for truly revolutionary designs the brand could easily begin a return to the glory of its golden era in the 1950’s and follow-up with a succession of ground-up elegant, powerful and distinctly American designs that honor the past while looking toward the future.

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36176972_2130100717221198_3731073798393298944_nThird Auto offers expert automotive industry consulting services for dealerships, manufacturers and media companies. With a focus on consumer trends, sales analysis and digital marketing tactics, Third Auto can provide insights and information across key areas within the automotive sector. ThirdAuto.com also offers exclusive Sponsored Content placement opportunities for advertisers. Please contact us for additional information.

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Design Analysis: 5 Generations of Land Rover Discovery

The Land Rover Discovery made its U.S. debut for the 1994 model year, as the SUV craze was underway and Ford Explorers and Jeep Grand Cherokees became ubiquitous on the highways and byways of America. Offering the go-anywhere capability of a Jeep, the brand cache afforded by its famous Range Rover stablemate, and a unique design that was at once awkward and attractive, the Discovery was a sales hit. Over the generations it  has undergone a series of evolutionary and revolutionary changes, leading up to the modern and nearly unrecognizable fifth generation.

First Generation: 1994-1998 Land Rover Discovery

When it came to SUV’s in the 90’s, image was everything and shoppers were more than willing to sacrifice practicality to drive something that looked like it could traverse through a jungle. Just knowing that your SUV could crawl up a mountain or forge a stream conveyed power to SUV buyers at the time, fuel-economy be damned!

Perhaps the Land Rover Discovery took the off-road-ready look to its highest level, offering available brush guards, off-roading accessory lamps, a rear-mounted spare tire, mud flaps, an extra sunroof and side roof-mounted windows meant to allow passengers to take in the outside views while on safari. It was over-the-top and superfluous, but somehow it all worked. The Land Rover Discovery was the height of style in the mid-90’s.

Second Generation: 1999-2004 Land Rover Discovery Series II



A subsequent update for the 1999 model year saw the styling refined, with the most noticeable differences being high-mounted tail lamps and a more substantial front bumper. The classic design elements were all carried over and the interior was slightly improved to provide a more comfortable experience, however many of the practicality compromises remained. Referred to as the Discovery Series II, this generation was a faithful update to the original and retained its unique look and character.

Third Generation: 2005-2008 Land Rover LR3

Major changes came in the form of the third-generation Discovery, referred to as the LR3 in America, which went on sale in the U.S. for the 2005 model year. A significant overhaul saw interior space increase significantly and a brand-new platform meant that the LR3 was much more civilized and sophisticated, better suited to handling daily driving duties. Although off-road tech remained in place, this generation became too large for some off-roading purists because its dimensions made it difficult to maneuver in some situations.



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Stylistically, the LR3 was an ultra-modern interpretation of the classic Discovery design elements. In the processes of modernizing, character lines and motifs that made the Discovery so distinct were smoothed out, toned down and stretched over a super-sized body. The rear-mounted spare tire gave way to an unadorned tail end. Although it still looked unique compared to the competition, the LR3 lacked the rugged proportions and charm that made its predecessors so appealing. It became anesthetized.

Fourth Generation: 2009-2016 Land Rover LR4

 A mid-cycle refresh saw the LR3  named changed to LR4, and marked a return of some of the Discovery’s charming design elements. An updated front end swapped out ultra-modern headlamp fixtures with a more classic design and a grille treatment borrowed from the Range Rover gave the face of the LR4 more personality than the LR3.

The removal of excessive cladding visually gave the LR4 a lighter and more athletic appearance, making it appear less ungainly although the massive proportions remained. Equipped with the right wheels and in certain complimentary colors, the LR4 was able to recapture the spirit of the Discovery and Discovery II. There was hope that the next update would see an even further development of the styling’s return to more classical forms. However, that would not be the case.

Fifth Generation: 2017-Present Land Rover Discovery


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2017 saw the release of the LR4’s successor, now officially called Discovery again in America. Taking on a whole new design aesthetic heavily influenced by the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Evoque, the fourth-generation discover was the most radically updated, with soft contours, less height and horizontal tail lamps replacing vertical ones. The latest Discovery is virtually unrecognizable compared to its predecessors, and no longer stands out from the crowd in terms of styling, although efficiency, interior packaging and driving dynamics are all significantly improved.

What’s Next?

There is a chance that echoes of the distinctive Discovery of old will appear in the styling details of the resurrected Land Rover Defender, which is expected to be revealed soon. While the Discovery has shed much of the character that made it so endearing, perhaps the Defender will carry forth the brilliant design and styling that made the 1994 Land Rover Discovery an icon.



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RELATED: Design Analysis: 1999-2003 Land Rover Discovery Series II

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[Images: Land Rover, Wikipedia, Amazon]

Which Generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class Looks Best?

A style icon and international status symbol, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has long been a force to be reckoned with in the full-size luxury sedan segment. Today we’ll look back at four generations of the S-Class, starting with the 1992-1999 third-generation S-Class, known as W140, and ending with the current S-Class, the W222, which was introduced in the U.S. for model year 2014.

1992-1999 S-Class (W140)

Often referred to as “over-engineered” this generation S-Class was clearly synthesized during the decadent 80’s. It launched after years of delays amid a global recession in the 90’s and was perceived as overly complex. The W140 was too late in its development stages when the extraordinary 1989 Lexus LS hit the market costing tens of thousands of dollars less, so upon its arrival the W140’s value proposition was called into question. In terms of styling the W140 took the elegant and imposing lines of the previous generation and essentially super-sized them. Trapezoidal tail lights were joined by a decorative horizonal strip along the truck opening. The A- and D-pillars were both sharply angled and the bodysides were intersected with decorate color-coded plastic trim on early models and with bodycolor paint below a scuff guard on later versions. The no-nonsense interior was beautifully constructed and classically Teutonic, but did not move the style needle forward much, as it was essentially an update on the prior generation. The overall effect was imposing and solemn, the W140 S-Class was a big and serious looking vehicle, both inside and out. Holding a place in the ultra-luxury sphere, the 1992 S-Class has a starting MSRP of $69,400, a staggering $25,100 more than the 1992 Lexus LS’s starting MSRP of $44,300.

2000-2006 S-Class (W220)

Lightness would come in the form of the fourth-generation S-Class, known as W220, which was introduced for the 2000 model year and sold through 2006. Physically and stylistically less heavy than its predecessor, sweeping lines and sculpted bodysides replaces the slab-sided and boxy aesthetic of old. The S-Class’s dimensions also downsized slightly during this generation, although interior space increased due to creative packaging. Ovoid headlamps echoed the E-Class and Maybach concept car and the tail lamps had more style flourishes than the staid previous generation. Sweeping changes came to the interior as well. Described as “Italianate”, generously applied wood trim enveloped the cabin and circular lines replaced squared-off shapes and this was the first S-Class to feature an integrated navigation system. The W220 was a big leap forward in terms of style, however quality suffered as the automaker sought to achieve cost savings to better compete with the Lexus LS. The 2000 S-Class had a starting MSRP of $69,700 for the V-8 S430, down from an MSRP of $73,900 for the equivalent 1999 S420, opening up accessibility and leading to this generation being the best-selling S-Class to date. For comparison, by 2000 the Lexus LS400 MSRP has risen to $54,005, narrowing the price gap to $15,695.

2007-2014 S-Class (W220)

Marking a return to its boxy and imposing roots, the fifth-generation S-Class, known as W220, picked up styling cues, especially in the rear, from the Maybach. It looked more substantial both inside and out than the previous generation, with increased dimensions and a noticeably taller trunk line. Higher quality materials lined the interior which featured a layered and more complex design, and enhanced infotainment capabilities. Readily available AMG packages saw many S-Classes of this generation outfitted with aprons and large AMG wheels, which sat in juxtaposition to the formal lines. This shook off some of the design elements seem on the prior generation to adopt a more serve and brooding look, especially noticeable with the exaggerating rear wheel arches and sharply curved headlamps. Deploying the mid-size E-Class to battle it out with Lexus, this generation S-Class had a significant increase in its starting MSRP, jumping $15,700 from the 2000 model year MSRP to a starting price of $85,400 in 2007. The large price increase curtailed accessibility and reinforced S-Class exclusivity and pushing it well beyond the 2007 Lexus LS’s MSRP of $61,000 and creating a $24,400 gap between the models.

2015-Present S-Class (W222)

Smoothing out some of the harshness of the (*), the **** generation S-Class was introduced for model year ***** and is currently in production. This was more of an evolutionary design that is distinguished by downsized tail lamps which appear better integrated into the sheet metal, a graceful character line with scalloping along the doors replacing, toned down wheel arches and a softer contouring of the head lamp fixtures, which now incorporate three rows of LED daytime running lights. Inside, a large infotainment screen dominates the dash and is connected to the instrument panel. The blocky design found in the previous generation made way for more organic forms along the door panels and console and ornate speaker grilles became a design signature introduced on the S-Class that would make its way throughout the Mercedes-Benz range. The 2015 S-Class carried a starting MSRP of $92,900, a $7,500 increase over the 2007 W220’s starting price. Meanwhile, the 2015 Lexus LS’s pricing $75,465, leading to a price gap of $17,436 between the two models.

Street Sighting: Early 2000’s Volvo S60

In our last Street Sighting we reported on the quirky Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe of the early 2000’s. Now, as Volvo prepares to release the all-new third generation S60 sedan, Third Auto revisits the original S60 model that was sold through 2001-2005 model years.

Volvo S60 front

Volvo boldly entered the turn of the century with a sleek new design language that debuted with the large S80 sedan in 1999. The curvy lines and shapely contours replaced the brand’s iconic boxy design and made a style statement that reached its zenith with the midsize 2001 S60. The more compact proportions of the S60 was a template for Volvo to be more daring with their design philosophy, as evidenced by the exaggerated hipline curve and emboldened taillight treatment compared to the conservatively executed S80.

Volvo S60 rear

Also available in wagon form, known as the V70, the S60 sedan competed against the likes of the Acura TL, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac CTS and Infiniti G35 in the entry-level luxury sedan category. Of all the vehicles within its class, perhaps the Volvo aged best, especially when equipped with larger wheels.

The crème de la crème of the S60 range was the R model. Equipped with performance and aesthetic upgrades, the radical S60 R was powerful and imposing. At a time when BMW 3 Series were the ubiquitous luxury performance sedan, the S60 R offered an eccentric alternative.

Volvo S60 R rear

Available in a range of compelling colors and equipped with glorious wheel designs, the Volvo S60 has style that has stood the test of time and still looks fresh 17 years on.

See more coverage of unusual 2000’s cars in our “2000 & Late” series:

2000 & Late: 2002-2005 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor

2000 & Late: 2002-2004 Nissan Altima

[Images: ThirdAuto.com, Wikipedia]

Design Analysis: Generation One (2000-2006) BMW X5

The BMW X5 traces its origins back to the 2000 model year when the first generation made its debut. This was the first SUV for the automaker and joined the 3- 5- and 7-Series as well as the Z3 and Z8 in BMW’s lineup. This pre-Bangle era was when BMW hit its peak, both in terms of driving dynamics and design.

The first generation X5 was an imposing and serious-looking vehicle that incorporated classic BMW design elements into a crossover shape. Artful design composition utilized light and shadows to minimize the visual mass of the tall door panels. Especially visible on silver X5’s is the concave surface below the protruding scuff guard  that bisects the door into distinct sections and significantly lessens its mass compared to a more conventional design slab-sided designs, common among traditional SUV’s of the era.

A perfectly proportioned grille and wheel designs the continue to look fresh today, make the first generation X5 a trend-setter that was highly influential on crossover designs rolled out in subsequent years from other manufacturers. Black cladding along the entire base of the X5 served to give the SUV a rugged look, while simultaneously hiding visual mass.

Stunning design continues in the back of the X5. The classic Hofmeister kink is present and nicely incorporated into a gently contoured D-pillar. Subtle surface detailing is present on the tailgate as well where a horizontal line bisects concave and convex sheetmetal. The exhaust tips were masterfully integrated into negative space in a blacked out valance  below the bumper, giving the X5 a wicked and menacing look.

Thanks for reading Third Auto. Like us on Facebook and check in as we continue to report on car news, car reviews and industry analysis.

[Images: ThirdAuto.com, Wikipedia]


2019 Cadillac XT4: What If…

Cadillac recently introduced the 2019 XT4 compact luxury SUV at the New York International Auto Show, where we’ll be reporting from in just a few days. The XT4 builds on the design language seen on the CT6 and influenced by the Escala concept car.

2019 Cadillac XT4

The 2018 Cadillac XT4 was introduced at the New York International Auto Show this week.

In analyzing the design it seems rather nondescript and it would be very difficult to distinguish which manufacturer produced it when viewed from the front or side. It seems that Cadillac as intentionally excluding much of the “bling” that makes the Escalade its most recognizable, not to mention best-selling, model in its lineup. That is truly a shame because the lack of adornment makes the styling of the XT4 suffer.  In fact, certain models of the Audi Q5 have more chrome and shiny bits than than the XT4. For heaven’s sake, no Audi should ever be covered in more chrome than a Cadillac.

Instead, Cadillac should be fully leveraging the success of the Escalade by offering the same self-confident design in this smaller package. Make the grille massive and reflective, make the wheels chrome, add brightwork to the mirrors, door handles, lower doors and roof rails and remove all black plastic trim. Then suddenly the XT4 will not only out style its competitors, it’ll also look like a proper Cadillac. Why not take it a step further an even resurrect some wheel designs from Cadillac’s 100+ years in the car business and offer an “Eldorado”  wheel package and a “Fleetwood” grille treatment. Vintage is in and the brand has so much vintage material to work with, unlike many of its competitors.

Unfortunately, Cadillac chose the safe route and made a crossover that looks nice, but not special. It’s a missed opportunity. Cadillac should embrace its heritage of producing bold and elegant designs that stand out from the crowd.

With this in mind, I took to Microsoft paint and made a rudimentary update of the 2019 Cadillac XT4 while on a flight yesterday. I updated the front to incorporate more brand characteristics like a large grille and a more luxurious bumper treatment and added chrome detailing to the lower valance.

XT4 Redux

A re-imagined XT4 with more of Cadillac’s signature design elements.

The changes are simple but they collectively have a major impact on the vehicle’s identity; it just looks more like a Cadillac.

What are your thoughts? Let us know on Facebook. Thanks for reading Third Auto.

[Images: Cadillac]

The Meaning Behind Third Auto’s Name & Logo

Today we’re exploring the meaning of the Third Auto name and how its logo came to be. The shape of the logo represents the roman numeral three and all colors featured were carefully selected to represent specific meanings.

Third Auto Logo

Thanks for reading Third Auto. Like us on Facebook and check in as we continue to report on car news, car reviews and industry analysis.

[Images: FCA, Jagaur]


2000 & Late: 2002-2004 Nissan Altima

2000 and Late: 2002-2006 Nissan Altima

Clean and modern, the early 2000’s Altima still looks fresh today.

The Altima emerged as Nissan experience a design renaissance after being acqu

The third generation Nissan Altima Debuted in 2002, replacing its dowdy, droopy predecessor and elevating the platform into the midsize category. The design was minimalistic and has aged remarkably well. Free of any styling gimmicks, the look was purposeful, modern and far cooler than the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord it competed against.

The early-2000’s was when we saw trunklids begin to rise significantly on sedans. The look has remained en vogue ever since, so the Altima’s high decklid surrounded by complex vertical taillamps has stood the test of time.

[Images: Nissan]

Infiniti And Beyond: With Its Recent Hot Steak, What’s Ahead for the Brand?

Propelled by the popular QX60, Infiniti is quickly catching up to Acura on the sales chart. Last month there was a difference of just 201 sales in the United States between the two brands. Sales are up double digits year to date while Acura’s are down by around 5%. Whether or not this momentum can be maintained is entirely contingent upon the brand’s SUV lineup.

Holding court in the compact luxury SUV field is the QX30, sibling to the Mercedes-Benz GLA. Although the QX30 sell in far fewer numbers than the GLA, it fills an important place in Infiniti’s lineup as the segment continues to grow. Next up the ladder is the QX50, formerly the EX37. Due to be replaced in 2018, Infiniti has previewed the new design with the QX50 Concept which debuted at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. It does away with the awkward proportions that doubtlessly hindered sales of the old model and echoes the design aesthetic that has made the QX60 a head-turner and sales powerhouse. It will also feature a fuel-efficient Miller cycle engine, which Infiniti has stated will provide six cylinder levels of performance with the efficiency of a four cylinder.

Into the upper echelon, 2018 is expected to bring a restyled QX80. The QX80 Monograph concept which debuted at last at the 2017 New York Auto Show previews a streamlined design that does away with the ungainly proportions and McMansion-on-wheels bling factor of the current QX80.

Overall, Infiniti looks set to overtake Acura in the year ahead with a slew of updated models. With no SUVs below the RDX or above the MDX, choices are limited for shoppers and updates of the existing models might not be enough to plug the holes in Acura’s sinking ship.

[Images: Infiniti]

Chrysler Minivans

What is it about the Chrysler minivans that makes them so fascinating? There’s the underdog story of how they helped save Chrysler from its dark days in the 80s. There’s the friendly  styling that contrasted sharply with monstrosities like the Chevrolet Astro, Ford Aerostar, VW Vanagon, Chevrolet Lumina APV and Toyota Previa.


The ultra-modern General Motors minivan designs were radical and did not resonate with consumers. 

And who would forget the woodgrain trim? That signature styling key that somehow fit. For its first three generations Chrysler had the secret minivan sauce. Focus was lost with the half-hearted forth generation and didn’t really rebound until the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

Check back in with Third Auto as we continue to explore the marvelously practical minivan in coming features.

[Images: Brian Rogers, GM]