The Best Looking Sedans of 2015 catch the industry in a bit of a transition period. After brands like Hyundai and Kia injected a new appreciation for design into the mainstream at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, this more recent generation of vehicles has seen both automakers and customers alike shift their focus. Consider: According to a 2014 study by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), vehicle design was rated only the seventh most important factor when buying a new car, behind fuel economy, cost of ownership, power/performance, advanced safety systems, versatility/utility, and build quality/reliability.
At the same time, except for LED lighting signatures, most designers do seem to have dialed back their efforts to match consumers’ expectations.
But some sedans have stuck to their style-conscious ways, even among the more mainstream brands that most appeal to buyers, and it’s those we honor here.
Honda’s premium brand has launched a number of new entries in recent years, all with a renewed focus on modernized style, and it’s the 2015 Acura TLX that lands on our list of Best Looking Sedans.
The No. 1 design details, obviously, are the TLX’s standard Jewel Eye LED headlights, each featuring five LEDs that are arranged in a receding row to extend the lines of the latest “power plenum grille.” And while Acura designers have had their challenges in the past with that grille design, in the TLX, the results are much more effective, especially in the way the main grille bar seems to flow directly back under the car’s hood creases.
It’s also nice to see that the TLX avoids simple parallel lines on its flanks, relying instead on multiple diverging angles and tautly drawn sheet metal to emphasize its relatively short front and rear overhangs.
Yes, the 2015 Buick LaCrosse still features the brand’s regrettable and retro-themed “porthole” exterior accents, but that’s not enough to keep it off of our list of Best Looking Sedans. After all, the big Buick offers a canvas almost 197 inches in length, and the brand’s artists took full advantage of that size to provide a long, looping character line that could almost fool drivers into thinking the LaCrosse was a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan. Meanwhile, the lower grille shows an unexpectedly deeply sculpted, one-piece appearance that makes a marked contrast to the increasingly complicated designs found on many of its rivals. Above this sits a thick-barred waterfall grille that eschews garish design cues for a more restrained and sophisticated appearance.
Now if the brand could just do something about those portholes ….
With a cabin that appears pulled toward the back of the vehicle, creating a sports car’s long-hood, short-rear proportions, the 2015 Cadillac ATS enters our list of Best Looking Sedans with the kind of sophisticated technical appearance that has become a hallmark of the brand’s Art and Science design era. The face of the ATS perfectly exemplifies the look, with its glistening headlight cases that appear to be blown backward by the vehicle’s intense acceleration, its many multi-dimensional details, and front fog lights that seem to hide behind the latter to integrate with the former.
Cadillac designers then seal the deal with a notably well-done rear appearance that, from some angles, calls to mind the classic boat-tailed Auburns from the 1930s, and from others showcases a prominent, unusually shaped center high-mounted stop light/rear spoiler.
A full decade after the first modern-day version debuted, the 2015 Chrysler 300 remains one of the Best Looking Sedans in the country and is firmly entrenched at the forefront of full-size style. In fact, designers have freshened up the 300 yet further for the new model year, leading off the changes with a new version of the “face of Chrysler.” The look is refreshingly clean and simple, with bold, discrete style cues and, of course, a revised LED lighting signature that echoes the same crisp design.
But the 300 also manages to look noticeably light on its feet. Here, pronounced wheel arches help make the difference, especially up front where the long shoulder line of the car actually intersects with the wheel-arch shape.
The view from the back of the 300 has evolved, too, displaying a nearly sheer face that leaves one wanting to see even more of the car.
Although it gets most of its attention for its performance—see the 204-mph Hellcat—the 2015 Dodge Charger also can use its four-door muscle-car style to muscle its way onto our list of Best Looking Sedans. It was, remember, one of the first sedans to re-introduce multi-dimensional, scalloped-style doors to the industry, and designers have tamed some of the excesses of recent generations with a more mature look that is still just as aggressive as before. That includes a campaign to “re-sculpt and refine nearly every body panel” for the 2015 model year.
The results really show up in the upper grille and headlights, both of with rely on shorter, more horizontal proportions to accentuate the car’s wide and sporty stance. In turn, that also makes a better match for the rear of the vehicle, where the Dodge racetrack-style taillamps stretch from brake light to brake light.
The Kia brand has developed a particularly strong track record for daring design, so much so that even its compact sedan—the 2015 Kia Forte—qualifies as one of Autobytel’s Best Look Sedans of the year.
The Forte stands out from the rest of the compact crowd, which tends to favor straight-line sheet-metal accents, with an interestingly curvy character line along the bottom of its door and a nice use of details to create a cohesive look. For example, the upper character line is more traditionally done, but it’s also echoed in the aggressive angle of the window bottoms and continues forward past the front wheels to help create a scooped-out shape ahead of the headlights. And naturally, those headlamps can be set off by LED positioning lights for an angrier appearance.
Not bad for a car that starts from just $15,890.
Academy-Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey may be onto something, as the 2015 Lincoln MKZ certainly is on our list of Best Looking Sedans.
Helping matters, the MKZ shows off the sort of monolithic presence that comes from being carved out of a solid piece of metal, but it’s additionally accented by details like dual character lines along the car’s flanks. And designers didn’t take the easy way out with just two parallel lines. Instead, the upper one seems to arc gracefully over the front wheel arch, also creating a prominent shoulder for the car, before subtly converging towardthe lower crease at the back, where full-width rear lighting emphasizes the car’s athletic proportions. The integrated dual exhaust outlets are a sophisticated touch as well, with designers also using the Lincoln “split-wing” grille for a unique style advantage.
Photo by Christian Wardlaw
The 2015 Mazda Mazda6 is nearing the end of its life-cycle, with a refreshed 2016 model on its way to dealers, but either is a welcome addition to our latest bunch of Best Looking Sedans.
That’s because both rely on the dynamic “Kodo—soul of motion” design language for swoopy and organic exterior shapes, highlighted by what’s become a recent Mazda hallmark: front-wheel arches that manage to be both particularly prominent and smoothly integrated with the rest of the Mazda6’s appearance. An air splitter also helps create a sporty appearance at the front of the vehicle, with the Mazda “wing” trim for the front grille also finding a similar complement at the rear.
Other style changes to watch for the 2016 model include revised front grille fins and a new LED lighting pattern for the rear combination lamps.
With the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA—the four-door coupe entry for our Best Looking Sedans roster—you get the feeling that designers had a very specific task in mind: Hiding the brand’s least-expensive model beneath its most outrageous exterior. As a result, the M-B “style rebel” serves up a severely arched roofline and ready-to-pounce stance, complemented by scalloped doors and a pronounced, sectional grille treatment. That “diamond bock” grille also offers star-like accents that seem to expand around M-B’s own hallmark star badge, while those sculpted doors provide an eye-catching multi-surfaced effect that travels the full length of the car.
Mercedes designers also tout the CLA’s lighting signature as an important style cue, calling out the “flame effect” LED front accent lights while also deploying a distinctive double-shaped pattern for the brake lights.
As surely as form follows function, the streamlined 2015 Tesla Model S follows as the next of our Best Looking Sedans (despite its rear liftgate).
Thanks to Tesla’s attention to aerodynamic detail, the Model S doesn’t just offer a coefficient of drag of 0.24—well under the mark of even the slipperiest supercars—it also wears a smooth and curvy exterior unmarred by mundane items like door handles; those only pop out when activated by the car’s proximity key fob, and otherwise remain flush with the rest of the sheet metal. The sides of the car are extremely taut, too, thanks to prominent wheel wells that make the plane of the doors seem pulled in tighter toward the body.
It’s also worth noting that all the effort creates a more organic overall design, with aero enhancements that seem like a natural part of the car, not last-minute add-ons.