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Don’t drag me down: 10 cars that mastered aerodynamics

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The history of aerodynamic production cars is fascinating, and below, we’ve listed their coefficient of drag value (Cd). Check out what automotive crashworthiness is and if aerodynamics influences it. 

1. 1947 Saab 92 – Cd 0.30

With a drag coefficient of 0.30, it can still punch a hole through the air more efficiently than some modern production cars. Its design combines elegant 1940s streamlining ideals with practical proportions that allowed its successor, the 96, to be produced until 1980.

2. 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia – Cd 0.34

Alfa Romeo used it in cars, including the Giulia saloon in 1962. It didn’t resemble a teardrop at all. It was surprisingly boxy. With the help of a wind tunnel, reducing drag, and a “Kamm tail,” the Giulia was the sleekest saloon of its era, with a Cd of just 0.34.

3. 1970 Citroën GS – Cd 0.31

The Citroen DS of 1955 was relatively sleek for its era at 0.36, but the GS, designed to sit below the DS, was a significant advancement. At the same time, a gently sloping roof and cut-off tail allowed air to escape as efficiently as possible.

4. 1982 Audi 100 – Cd 0.30

In the past, aerodynamic cars were overtly streamlined, with tapering profiles and organically smooth curves. Still, the third-generation Audi 100 of 1982 took a predictably Ingolstadt approach to the art of slipping through the air: science.

5. 1989 Opel/Vauxhall Calibra – Cd 0.26

When the Opel and Vauxhall Calibra debuted in 1989, it ushered in a new, cleaner styling trend for the 1990s. It was and still is a rather attractive vehicle, and, as it turns out, it had an aerodynamic design

6. 1996 General Motors EV1 – Cd 0.19

The EV1 would have struggled for a usable range if it hadn’t been the most aerodynamic production car ever made, powered first by lead-acid batteries and later by nickel-metal hydride cells (which nearly doubled the range to 105 miles). GM effectively killed the project in the early 2000s by reclaiming and crushing the leased vehicles.

7. 1999 Honda Insight – Cd 0.25

Honda’s first hybrid might appear to be a sly copy of the EV1, but it reimagined the 1984 CR-X. The CR-X already had a Cd of 0.32 thanks to clean lines, a roofline perfectly angled to keep airflow attached, and a sharply cut-off tail, but the Insight pushed this even further.

8. 1999 Audi A2 – Cd 0.28

Its aerodynamics were due to clever surfacing and attention to detail. The crucial tapering roofline was present and correct, while the “grille” at the front was a smooth panel that flipped down to allow drivers to top up the oil and screenwash.

9. 2013 Volkswagen XL1 – Cd 0.19

It is the most aerodynamic production car ever built – if not in the exact quantities as the new Mercedes EQS.

10. 2021 Tesla Model S – Cd 0.208

When the Model S first appeared in 2012, it had a drag coefficient of 0.24. While its large frontal area meant a large frontal area, the low drag made it more slippery than the pill-shaped Toyota Prius.

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