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To the human eye, shape trumps detail more often than not. The grandeur of a palace will grab your attention even if the colour of its bricks are not to your liking. The silhouette of a woman’s body is most likely going to stop a man in his tracks despite the fact that her eyes are too close together and her nose is too wide. A thick t-bone steak cut by the best butcher in Texas will have you salivating…. right up until you see that it’s 45% fat.

Likewise, the profile of a beautful new car, particularly as it passes you at high speed, will hold you spellbound. Maybe you hate twin-kidney grilles or bulbous fenders or angular taillights or oversized wheels, but the initial moment in which you spotted the shape of the vehicle will forever remain etched on your automotive conscience.

Yet automobiles basically come in only a handful of shapes. You have 1-box minivans, 2-box hatchbacks and wagons, 3-box sedans, wedge-like supercars and mid-engine roadsters, and back-on-its-haunches rear-wheel drive performance cars. Or, to be more specific, almost every vehicle’s shape could fall under the heading of: Dodge Grand Caravan, Volvo V70, Honda Accord, Lamborghini Gallardo, and Ford Mustang. Agreeing with that analysis doesn’t mean you don’t see differences – huge differences – between a Chevrolet Corvette and a Nissan 370Z. In fact, if anything, agreeing with that analysis only praises the talent of automotive designers who continue to work with the consistent limitations presented by four wheels, a powerplant, a cabin, and cargo space.

Now look at one vehicle segment, expanded slightly for the purposes of this article, for evidence of designer talent when styling large, high-end 3-box sedans. Because the Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide are actually hatchbacks and thus strikingly different in overall shape, they’re not appearing in pictures after the jump. But ten other big sedans, including a concept and a heavy-duty whippersnapper from Korea, are shown, all with emphasis on profile. We’ll all have unique guttural reactions to certain cars while finding others forgettable and some downright offensive. Deep down, these cars are rivals. However, they’re seen competing in a high-dollar arena where personal design preference holds far more weight than financing deals or brake horsepower figures. Click through the jump to decide for yourself.

Audi A8
Bentley Continental Flying Spur

BMW 7-Series

Cadillac Sixteen

Hyundai Equus

Jaguar XJ

Lexus LS

Maserati Quattroporte

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Rolls-Royce Ghost

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