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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Design: Pininfarina's Sintesi is Future Fantasy From the Past

Auto show season keeps rolling on with the upcoming Geneva show expected to herald the usual array of production and concept vehicles. Falling squarely into the concept category is famed Italian design house Pininfarina's Sintesi. Pininfarina is famous for it's many iconic Ferrari designs and for it's consultations with Honda among others.

Sintesi is posited as Pininfarina's glimpse into the future as the picture above attests. Still to my eye the emphasis on longer, lower, and wider is a throwback to the design ethos of the 1970s and 80s when aerodynamics became an industry craze. Pininfarina's 1970 Ferrari Modulo is at the extreme of this approach:

As for the merits of the Sintesi design, at first glance what appears to be almost bland and a little bit derivative yields up some very tasty details. The subtle details and converging shapes at the rear flanks are very well handled, as is the indent leading to the lower body side vent. The coupe-like roofline is also notable, along with the huge windshield which seems to have come off of a late-60s Can-Am racer. The front-end opening and the side fender venst seem less harmonious however, and the side glass with its windows-within windows opening also harks back to design studies of the late 70s and early 80s. Also notable are the lovely chamfering around the edges at the front and rear (visible on the picture at the very top of the page).

Why all of these references to 70s and 80s concept design language? Most likely the return to prominence of fuel efficiency as a major issue for global auto manufacturers. The 90s were a time out from escalating fuel prices and in Europe and the United States the evolution of design language towards a lower, longer, "jellybean" like blob began to modify into taller forms like SUV's, crossovers, and tall hatches. Now that fuel prices are back on the rise and countries like the United States are looking again at mandating fuel economy standards, design firms like Pininfarina can be expected to take a second look at these older, more aerodynamic (and thus more fuel efficient as they require less power to move through the air) designs.

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