Ed's Note: This article is feeling condescending as I review and ready it for publishing, and I regret that tone.
Nobody likes being spoken down to. That is not my intention. Starting from a basic place - Just to explain it all, as best I can, to someone for whom car design might not a passion area.
How to make a front-drive car sexy and stylish -- while keeping it primarily front-drive?
Not an easy task, and one that has taken many years to get anywhere near resultion. The clearest example of the ideas and design analyses explored below is the latest Mazda6, which is far more appealing in style and proportion than the also-handsome Ford Fusion.
Mazda6 versus Ford Fusion vs Mercedes-Benz C-Class
But Ford and Mazda split up, I hear you say. Yes, yes they did. But the Fusion and Mazda6 are still basically the same platform, engineered and based on the same Mazda6 of 2005 that the first Fusion also shared.
Do not believe me? Look a little closer at some of the details of these cars -- and you will not only see shared hard points here, but on numerous Volvo models as well. Primarily the S60.
So how did the Mazda6 get so sexified versus the Fusion? Is it better than the Fusion? Yes, from a rear-drive stance perspective, it is much better.
They did this in three simple ways -- all also employed here by the Peugeot Exalt concept versus its presumed 508 donor chassis.
-- Lower the hoodline
-- Move the windshield base rear-ward
-- move the entire cab rearward as much as feasible
EXALT CONCEPT vs. 508
WHAT'S IN A NOSE
Sounds easy, right? No sir. Very difficult. But not, strictly speaking, as difficult as French car-makers would have you believe...
Let's back up here a minute --- why do all French cars have a giant underbite of a front overhang? A style choice?
Nope. Old platforms, with certain structures like the front crush box (engine/dash/steering component set) that could not be changed or altered much. (Without hard work, which previously, Peugeot has ... not been known for... since...?
Has not ever been a core trait, really.)
So as crash regulations got tougher and tougher, the nose just kept adding its own crumple zones. Pedestrian safety? Just make the hood higher! Until you reach the total calamity we face today with the Renault Laguna. For three decades, French car companies have tried every visual trick in the book to make this jutting jawline attractive.
The apotheosis is in the Renault Laguna Coupe concept above -- which looks decent here, but is very angle-sensitive. RWD cars are not sensitive to angles in the same way, and love a good profile shot.
Overall, these developments shown in the China-led design of the EXALT bode very well for the forthcoming 2016 Peugeot 509 -- as a stylish car with far, far more upward mobility in China's booming limo market.
2014 Peugeot EXALT Concept