Skip to main content

Why are so many luxury EVs ugly on the outside and gorgeous inside?

EVs aren’t just here, they’re everywhere. And as they gain momentum, they’re offering carmakers a big opportunity to reimagine both themselves and their cars. Ford completely reinvented the Mustang through the Mach-E, while Kia seems to be undergoing a complete renaissance, with electric models like the EV6 leading the charge.

But on the higher end, some carmakers seem to be going through some growing pains. Some of the most storied brands are putting out some of the ugliest new EVs, and yet inside, they’re luxurious in ways their gas counterparts never were. What’s going on?

New room to screw up

The likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz have spent decades honing their brand images, and decades gaining loyal followers who would buy nothing else. Their cars also follow a similar design language. BMW is known for its kidney grille, which is why fans were up in arms when the company oversized that grille on its most recent cars.

So what happens when you take the chance to reinvent yourself with the advent of an electrified driving experience? You run into some speed bumps. The Mercedes EQS looks very little like the S-Class that came before it, and the BMW iX is pretty different from the midsize SUVs that it’s been making for years. Frankly, both Mercedes’ and BMW’s EVs look pretty out of place.

Front three quarter view of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS.
Stephen Edelstein / Digital Trends

The Mercedes EQS is perhaps the worst offender. The car suffers issues similar to those that plagued Tesla in its early days. EVs don’t require the airflow of a front grille, which opens a lot of space that car designers have never really been able to play with. The EQS fills that with a faux grille that simply looks cheap, along with a Mercedes logo. The front end of the car in general looks bulbous, overextended, and plain silly.

The BMW iX is less egregious, but it still takes some getting used to. Gone are the larger, slanted headlights on offer by the likes of the X5, in favor of much slimmer undersized front lights. They, of course, flank another faux grille — one that mimics the huge new take on the kidney grille that features on some of BMW’s other cars.

An inside look

Step inside either of these two cars, however, and you’ll immediately forget the exterior that you may or may not like the look of.

The EQS’ interior screams luxury, with modern accent lighting, plush seating, and that Hyperscreen that extends across the front of the dash. Like the exterior, the interior is unlike like anything else in Mercedes’ fleet — or at least, it was until newer models offered similar features. While the exterior could be described as “bad different,” the interior is the exact opposite.

Hyperscreen display in the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS.
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

The iX doesn’t quite change as much about the interior of BMW’s cars, but that’s not a bad thing. You’ll still get premium leather seats and the crystal-looking software controller, and it looks and feels excellent.

Clearly, car designers at these companies know how to work with the advantages of an EV. So why do they have to make the outside so hideous?

It’s in the air

At least some of the look could be chalked up to aerodynamics. That’s especially true of the EQS, which Mercedes says is the world’s most aerodynamic production car — boasting a drag coefficient of 0.20.

And aerodynamics shouldn’t be ignored, either. While gas cars offer great range on a full tank and are very easy to fill up when they do run low, EVs are just now reaching ranges most drivers find acceptable. Engineers have to wring the most mileage from every kilowatt to ensure drivers don’t suffer from range anxiety.

But that isn’t the end of the story. The Mercedes EQS is the world’s most aerodynamic production car, but the same company has built an EV that’s even more aerodynamic — the EQXX — a car that looks seriously cool.

Driving shot of the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX.

Maybe that isn’t the fairest comparison. The EQXX is built to be sportier and much smaller than the EQS, which is built to be a large sedan. But at the very least, the EQXX proves that you don’t have to keep a grille-looking thing on the front of a car for it to look good, and in fact, moving to electrification is a good time to rethink the front of the car altogether.

Hope for the future

Growing pains are to be expected given how seismic a shift to electric cars is. But there is hope.

Remember the first few generations of the Tesla Model S? It suffered from similar issues around trying to mimic the grille with a front that just looked silly. The current Model S may feel like it’s aging a little in design, but at the very least it looks a whole lot more stylish than it used to — and there’s nothing resembling a big grille on the front.

A 2021 Tesla Model S.

I suspect other carmakers will follow a similar trajectory. Everyone (except perhaps Tesla) is still towards the beginning of their EV journey. Electric cars will evolve, and carmakers will adjust to their new design limitations — or to not having the same old design limitations.

And already, there’s a lot of reason to hope. While certainly not luxury cars, both the Kia EV6 and the Hyundai Ioniq simply look cool. And, on the higher-end front new entrants to the game, like Rivian, are paving the way for what a modern electric car can look like. Here’s hoping the traditional luxury carmakers can do enough to compete.

Editors' Recommendations

Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
Here’s how EVs charge as they drive on a stretch of Michigan road
Tech of the Week Electreon

Charging remains one of the biggest hurdles for mass EV adoption. Public charging infrastructure still isn’t extensive enough to merit driver confidence, and even the fastest chargers still require lengthy stops compared to refueling a gasoline car. But the State of Michigan and Israeli startup Electreon hope to prove that EVs can charge as they drive.

As detailed in a recent CleanTechnica explainer, the Michigan Department of Transportation is demonstrating in-road wireless charging hardware from Electreon on a quarter-mile stretch of 14th Street in Detroit. It’s being billed as the first such roadway in the U.S.

Read more
2025 Mercedes-Benz G580: range, price, release date, and more
Range of Mercedes-Benz G580 vehicles

Rumors about a full-size electric G-Class have been circulating for some time, but it's official now. The G-Wagon is going electric, in the form of the new fully electric "Mercedes-Benz G580 with EQ Technology." Yep, the name is a mouthful -- taking the name from the concept version of this car, the Concept EQG, might have been a better move. Bu, regardless, the vehicle is sure to appeal to those who want a G-Wagon while getting all the benefits of an EV.

Curious about the G580 with EQ Technology? Here's everything you need to know.
The G580 retains many of the design aspects of the G-Class you already know and love, and while the concept iteration had some modern touches, like light bars on the exterior of the car, the real-world version looks pretty similar to the non-electric G-Wagon, though that's not to say there aren't any design changes whatsoever.

Read more
Don’t get stranded: The best portable tire inflators in 2024
The DeWalt 20V Max portable tire inflator at a construction site.

There’s nothing worse than getting stranded on the side of the road because of a bad tire. That’s why it pays to drive around with a portable tire inflator hanging out somewhere in your car or truck. These devices aren’t very big, and you probably won’t even use it that much. That being said, when your tire-pressure sensor lights kicks on, you’ll be happy you have it.

Here are five of the best portable tire inflators you can toss in your trunk for 2024.

Read more