Visibility is defined as: quality or fact or degree of being visible; perceptible by the eye or obvious to the eye. The word when used in combination with automobiles generally means a couple things; it can mean how easy the car is to actually see or how easy the car is to see out of from inside the interior. Our matter of course today deals with the later, one that our partners over at have touched on recently with their drive thrus and Camaros story.

It used to be in the ‘50s and ‘60s that you could have a great honking car with fairly involved design details AND be able to see out of them over your shoulder. Sure some were better than others, but in general you couldn’t loose a Semi Truck in your blind spot. Today, even with the emphasis on safety, car designs seem to have forgotten the careful blend of style and visibility. This discussion really stems from new cars like the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, 2010 Ford Taurus, Focus and event the Lincoln MKT. Not to leave people out, even the foreign automakers seem to have this challenge. The last Lexus I was in I also found it hard to see out the back.

2010 Ford Taurus

2010 Ford Taurus

So what gives? Are we to rely on back-up cameras, blind spot monitoring systems, lane change guidance and cross-traffic warning systems to keep us safe? Will replace a car that you can actually see out of? I grew up driving all types of cars and the worse were the old MG’s from the ‘50s and ‘60s when they had the ragtop up; you might as well be driving in a tank enclosure, but really no one drives these cars regularly with the tops up. However, in the case of the Camaro or Taurus, you are pretty much locked in to having the top attached (unless you have a convertible conversion in mind).

Don’t get me wrong; I think the body on the new Camaro is stunning. It is probably one of the nicest designs we have seen come out of GM in decades. The question is, why does a throwback design today have worse visibility that the car it was designed after? Is it the structural safety? And if it is, where do you draw the line at structural improvements? If you can’t see out of the car you are driving, is it really safe?

These are things I keep pondering and when I get a good answer I will let you know, but until then my best advice is this:

When looking for a small, medium or even large car make sure you test drive it in situations you would find yourself in on a daily basis. You might even want to take a test drive in the dark to see how comfortable it is to pilot with the absence of light. Make sure you are willing to live with the quirks and consequences your new car of choice may have because when push-comes-to-shove no insurance company will care if you just didn’t see that truck in the lane next to you.