The year is 1978 and although it seems that I am dating myself, I can assure you that I was a very young lad. My father came home with his idea of pure American luxury: A Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. It was a bronze color whose metallic flakes sparkled in the light and filled me with awe. It was big and comfortable and (for the time) good-looking. It made me feel important. Many times when we were driving around I would sit in the back and pretend to be some important dignitary or businessman. During the time, I began to look at other cars to see what everyone else’s Dad had brought home from the dealer. I was astonished to see the bevy of shiny chrome and straight-edges sheet metal on the streets. The Lincoln Mark V, the Cadillac Sedan de Ville and The Electra by Buick. On the lower end, we had Oldsmobile’s 98 Regency and Ford’s twin yachts: The LTD and Grand Marquis. When I looked out the window of the New Yorker, I was treated to a veritable auto show. Truly, there was an ample amount of automotive class for the upper-middle class.
Fast-forward to 2014. I am in traffic and peer over to see a gleaming BMW 535i in the next lane. It is smooth and svelte. Muscular but long and low-slung. The 5-series BMW’s are the bread-and-butter of the line and they are beautiful – not that any other 5’s were hideous, but it makes the Bangle-butt Bimmers a distant memory. In several other lanes, creeping along in their commute, were its competition. The Lexus GS looks better than it has since its inception. The E-Class Benz could use some help in the interior department, in my opinion, but the new design language has me doing double takes on a ‘Benz; I haven’t done that since the W-124 S-Class. Jaguar’s new XF translates the brand’s new design language quite well and who would pass up the chance to slide a new Maserati Ghibli in their reserved parking spot?
If I dare climb down the latter a rung or two, I can peer at a good-looking Volvo S60 or Nissan Maxima. Grandma might lean toward the Toyota Avalon but for once, the grandkids won’t be ashamed to ask for the keys. My glory days of America-made hardware aren’t over. The Lincoln MKS has a muscular heft the Lincolns haven’t had since the 50’s. Cadillac slid an ATS right under the baby Caddy and pushed the CTS upmarket. Buick Lucernes and Chrysler 300 still deserve respect and look good in their own right.
Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry aren’t bad to be seen in nowadays either.
This all makes me appreciate what manufacturers are doing for the middle class. Once upon a time, the middle child was left as the sales leader with little or no effort in styling. All that was reserved for the flagships. No more. I am so glad that there is an ample number of nice looking cars for up-and-coming professionals, families and normal working people. I’m glad that carmakers have stopped treating the middle children of their lineups as if they were invisible. People want more than price in something they have to use every day. They want style, good looks, and something that makes them feel like they are getting a car – not some meager, bare-bones transport utility. Maybe one can’t afford the flagship, but they once again can be proud of the ship they have. To some young kid, it’s 1978 all over again.