Clean lines, graceful proportions, and restraint.
After having written about the new Corvette the other day, I wanted to take a different tack...and be positive. If the Corvette isn't a particularly good-looking car, what is? Well, here's what I think is the best-looking car you can buy new in the world today.
It's the Maserati GranTurismo, a front-engined four-seat coupe with an eight-cylinder Ferrari engine. Introduced in 2007, it was designed by—or its design team was led by, as the case may be—Jason Castriota, an American working for Pininfarina of Cambiano, Italy. (This picture is a frame grab from Ignition episode 39; the ones up top and below are from the Maserati website.)
To me this car is a paragon of proportion, restraint, and gracefulness, combined with just the right amount of marque specificity and model distinctiveness. The long nose and big radiator scoop give it purpose without looking too face-like, and the headlights resist the current fashion of spidering all over the car in weird tendrils (cf. the current 458 Italia). The front overhang is just enough to suggest aggressiveness without cartoonish excess. To me it's just angular enough to be fashionable, but without overdoing it; and just curvaceous enough to be sculptural, without becoming feminine. And it has just the right amount of detailing and bling. (Love the trident. I've always had a soft spot for Maseratis.) Various Ferraris and Aston-Martins might live in the same neighborhoods, but to me this is still the best-looking car that can be bought new.
Of course, my appreciation is only aesthetic...I don't buy superdupercars, affordable or otherwise. And nobody cares about my opinion of what cars look like.
So why bring all this up?
It's just that...well, a little story. I had a girlfriend once a long time ago named Nell Leclair, who was an impressive and interesting person. She was a photographer and a freelance graphic artist, and had dealt with some very severe problems—mainly with depression—in inventive and resourceful ways. Among other things, she taught me one thing that I've remembered from time to time in the decades since I knew her.
We were talking about the habit of being critical—discussing a person we both knew who was caustically critical (and often entertainingly insulting) about everything. She said she didn't quite approve of that attitude, because it was so safe.
I was surprised by that word, and asked her what she meant, and she said—more or less—that hating or criticizing everything was safe because it meant you don't have to take a stand. Liking something means you are opening yourself up; if nothing is good enough for you it's another way of saying you're superior to everything. Very smug, very snug. Being insulting and critical, admittedy a position of attack when face-to-face, is psychologically actually a position of retreat.
It's more difficult to be positive—to be clear about why something is good—than it is to be negative. Negative criticism is easy. Positive criticism is hard.
I'm not averse to going negative from time to time. But I do get to feeling a little queasy sometimes when I get into the snarky doldrums—you know, that mood where you're just sort of dissing and dismissing this and that. Hundreds of very talented people put in thousands of hours and, no doubt, a steep payment in blood, sweat and tears to create the new Corvette, and then legions of guys like me come along—in my case, without any particular expertise, without a consuming enthusiasm for cars, even—and lazily slag away.
Well. I have the right. I see the world aesthetically, and I have always held that any of us should reserve the right to respond to aesthetic experiences as if the encounter were meaningful to us. How else do you stand a chance to get what's to be gotten out of art, for one thing? Staying open, having your own taste and your own opinions, resisting the dictates of official expertise, inviting growth and personal change—it's a dynamic state, and it's difficult to maintain sometimes.
But just being negative is too easy. Not for nothing is it often called "cheap."
Okay, slag away. But fair's fair: if you diss my pick, what's yours?
P.S. When good CGI goes bad:
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A DVD of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
R. Edelman: "If you like the outside of the Maserati GranTurismo, you would love the interior. I had an opportunity a few years ago to do a close inspection of one at the San Francisco Auto Show. Sitting inside the Maserati means being surrounded by the comfort and luxury provided by the leather and tasteful design that can only come from Italy. As driving is experienced from the inside of the car, there is no element of design that is more important than the interior. Combine desirable exterior and interior designs with performance and you have a modern day classic. How's that for being positive?"
Professor Batty: "With the three portholes on the side and the oval grille I actually thought the Maserati was a Buick concept car!"
Mike replies: You mean like all BMWs now look like Pontiacs?
Bill Hamilton: "Just got the Tesla Model S and the standing joke among 'S' owners is you need a bumper sticker that reads 'This is not a Maserati.'"
Bárbara: "I am usually just a silent reader of your blog, which I enjoy, thank you! Regarding your latest post about the Maserati, I liked it, although, I admit, I don't think too much about luxury cars being a monetarily poor soul, but, I really enjoyed the sage advice from your ex-girlfriend that you shared. Thanks for thinking of it again and sharing it here. Very poignant, indeed, and very good to remember, as you have, from time to time! I am grateful!"