Aerodynamic Looks Can Be Deceiving

DETROIT — Looks can be deceiving when it comes to a vehicle's aerodynamic attributes. So say top designers from Detroit's Big Three auto makers, speaking to the Automotive Press Assn. here.

DETROIT — Looks can be deceiving when it comes to a vehicle's aerodynamic attributes.

So say top designers from Detroit's Big Three auto makers, speaking to the Automotive Press Assn. here.

In some cases, vehicles that look very aerodynamic, are not at all, says Brandon Faurote, Chrysler Group's director of advanced product design.

“You would think the Lamborghini Countach would be the most slick in the business, but it's terrible for aero, so sometimes you're fooled,” he says.

Fellow designer Ralph Gilles, vice president-Jeep and truck design studio, cites another example: A yet-to-be announced Dodge SUV was given two front ends: one streamlined and sleek, the other more traditional and squared-off. When the two were presented to a consumer test panel, the results were as expected, Gilles says.

“One nose was aerodynamic, very slick looking,” he says, “and the other was our typical Dodge look, but it actually had superior aerodynamics…because we spent more time on it. “But everyone immediately assumed the slick nose was more aerodynamic.”

One car this panel of experts agrees had a dramatic impact on the aerodynamic design of production vehicles is the Ford Taurus. A redesigned version of the mid- 1990s had a strong aerodynamic appearance. Critics called it a “jellybean.”

“It was more the perception of aerodynamics,” says Moray Callum, Ford's car design director. He adds, “There was the assumption that it was more streamlined and air moved around it much better. I'm not sure it did.”

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