By Casey Williams – Auto Reviewer

What’s in (and out) in auto styling? We pick Detroit’s top designs for 2009

One more season of listening to Michael Kors and Nina Garcia snip nastily on "Project Runway" might be enough to make me murder Little Orphan Annie on the way to chopping up Grandma’s underwear.

But similar to the design reality series — and its offspring — the same automakers that create divine designs can bomb with hideous rubbish.

So we put on our Heidi hat and took the liberty of choosing what you should like in automotive fashion. These are some of the best-executed automobiles of today, blending historic cues with modern edge-ism to excite drivers and voyeurs alike. (We also picked some less-than-terrific looks of years past; see sidebar on Page 11.)

The beauty of these rides is, you win just by playing — and everyone else will know you realize what’s in and what’s out. Auf wiedersehen!

Audi A5 Coupe

Sporting the hottest body ever to come from Audi, the A5 Coupe stops traffic and causes irregular heartbeats. It has the presence of a Bentley, the performance of a swift German sportscar and the looks of a Janice Dickinson model … all with the highest quality materials known to Autobahn romps. Magnum would have traded his Ferrari in a half-blink for a ride like this.

Saturn Astra 3-Door

The Saturn Astra, above, turns the traditional 3-door wagon into a sleek road warrior; for eye-popping glamour, the Audi A5 Coupe, below, may be the loveliest machine on the Autobahn.

Saturn looked to General Motors’ German studios for inspiration in coming up with the Astra. An arching windowline gives the impression of a tight coupe, drawing your eyes away from the longer roofline that takes the form of a small station wagon. Attention to detail can be seen in how the plastic under the taillamps lens has corrugation that echoes the body curves. As Tim Gunn might say, "Nice construction." They certainly figured out how to make it work.

Cadillac CTS SportWagon
Cadillac has not had fins like these since the 1950s — and back then, they were not so high or well-lit. Harley Earl didn’t even come close with the ’59 models in achieving this kind of sleek beauty.

A station wagon flashing high fin is astounding. Even better, the front has the same huge grille, raked windshield, stacked headlamps and razor light tubes as the CTS sedan. You can tell it’s a Cadillac from three miles behind.

Buick Invicta Concept

Buick’s stunning new Invicta concept car is an instant classic. – PHOTO COURTESY OF GENERAL MOTORS

Stunning! Designed in China where Buick dominates the market, and coming early next year as the next LaCrosse, the Invicta has classic sweep spear styling, toothy chrome grille, starship controls and ventiports on the hood surface. It is to Buick what the CTS is to Cadillac: Elegant, contemporary and classically inspired. Primo!

Dodge Ram
Created while Daimler still ran Chrysler, this Ram is as bold as ever, but sculpted to reduce drag. Its interior is like a Chrysler 300C’s and dressed to the nines with leather, woodgrain and gadgets. Ram Box carves space in the bedsides for fishing and sports gear. If Mercedes built a truck, this would be it.

Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe

There’s a reason Rolls-Royce makes one of the most expensive cars on the planet: They are worth every penny. – PHOTO COURTESY OF ROLLS-ROYCE

Wafting by with the presence of a gentleman’s yacht, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe bears traditional outerwear with a formal roofline and outhouse-size Parthenon grille. Rear-hinged power doors open to the world’s finest hides, slain timber, star twinkle roof lighting and any custom feature your dreams may bring. Ask and R-R craftsmen grant your wildest wish. Divine.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice Drive print edition Fall, 2008.

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