When you think of the “most stylish cars,” you might consider some of the most exotic-looking new cars available to those with deep pockets. But who can pinpoint exactly what makes a car stylish? A stylish car is not necessarily the best-looking car of its day (or year), but one whose magnificence stands the test of time. And stylishness isn’t exclusively about design or performance—it’s also the sum of so many intangibles that the best we can say is, well, we know it when we see it. Choosing the most stylish cars is a tough job, but somebody has to do it. So without further ado, here are five from the last 50 years that still got it goin’ on.
Mercedes Benz 230, 250, and 280 SL (1960s)
SL stands for “superleicht” (super light), but these tidy German roadsters exude sturdiness beyond their size. The cars in this line were known as “pagodas” for their roofs, which were lower in the middle. Remaining largely unchanged throughout the ’60s, these cars amounted to a key chapter in a long history of achingly sharp Benzes. Removable hardtops are an attractive plus. In fact, Jeremy Clarkson of the British automotive television show Top Gear touted the 280 SL as one of the cars from the 1960s that has stood the test of time.
Porsche 911 (1963–present)
It debuted at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show as the 901, the first six-cylinder, road-ready Porsche ever built. Since its introduction, it has undergone continuous development, though the basic concept has remained unchanged. Throughout its lifetime, the 911 has been modified by private teams and by the factory itself for racing, rallying, and many forms of automotive competition, and it’s among the most successful competition cars ever. In the 1999 international poll for the award of Car of the Century, the 911 came in fifth—and is one of two in the top five spots that has remained continuously in production. With its iconic rear slope and unmistakable headlights, the 911 is one of the truly great car designs of the twentieth century. No wonder they’re still making them!
Aston Martin DB5 (1963–65)
Named after Aston head David Brown, the DB5 is famous for being the first and most recognized cinematic Bond car, first appearing in Goldfinger and subsequently in Thunderball, Golden Eye, and many other 007 films. To promote the film, the DB5 was showcased at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, where it was dubbed “the most famous car in the world.” It was later made in a convertible model as well. The DB was so hot that it came with a built-in fire extinguisher!
Lamborghini Countach (1974–1990)
The Countach shows off futuristic styling (especially in its inception back in the 1970s). The design both pioneered and popularized the wedge-shaped, sharply angled look popular in many high-performance sports cars. The “cab forward” design concept, which pushes the passenger compartment forward in order to accommodate a larger engine, was also popularized by the Countach. Scissor doors that lift up and tilt forward complete the trademark look. In 2004, American car magazine Sports Car International named this car number three on its list of Top Sports Cars of the 1970s and number ten on its list of Top Sports Cars of the 1980s. The name, pronounced kun-tosh, is the Italian Piedmontese exclamation used by men when they see an extremely beautiful woman. That kind of says it all.
Mercedes Benz CLS (2004–present)
The 2000s gave rise to the four-door coupe. Technically, a coupe has two doors. Mercedes made people forget that once they laid eyes on the Benz CLS—the first four-door coupe of the decade with all the latest safety features. Based on the overwhelming success of this car, luxury-car makers from BMW to Porsche to Bugatti followed up with their own sedans with coupe styling. Still, none looks as fresh as the CLS, even eight years after its debut.
What do you think is the most stylish car?