Buying a car is a balancing act. You need something that works for your life, but you want something that’s amazing. Practicality usually wins the day. Why, then, is something as impractical as the gullwing door gaining traction?
The first car that pops into my head when I think of these doors is the DeLorean. That has a lot to do with being a teenager in the 80s and loving the Back to the Future movies.
That time-travelling DeLorean with its flux capacitor and gullwing doors was cool. It was also in no way practical as anyone who owned a DeLorean will tell you. Gullwing doors are difficult to live with, especially if you want to park your car in a garage.
The only time they make sense is on a supercar because a supercar isn’t practical to start. You can have your personal valet park it and he can deal with all manner of funky door.
Yet, you’ll find gullwing doors on the new Tesla Model X. They’re supposed to open in such a way that it’s possible to use the doors in a tighter spot, but they still look like they’ll be a problem in any kind of garage.
The Lincoln Navigator Concept that debuted at the New York Auto show also had gullwing doors. They open and steps fold down so passengers and the driver can step right into the car. They were insane.
Hyundai is getting in on the action, too. According to Autoblog, Hyundai filed a patent for an RV with gullwing doors for access to the second and third rows.
They’re slightly more practical than other gullwings, however, because they convert for those times you’re stuck in a tight spot. If you can’t open them up, then you can still get out by sliding them like the doors on a minivan. Cool, but why not go with standard minivan doors in the first place?
Hyundai sees this as an RV, not a minivan, and is trying to appeal to those who camp on a regular basis. It’s a neat idea, but whether it’s one that works easily and will appeal to their target buyer is debatable. No one goes camping to sit in their cars.
There’s also the whole safety issue. It’s tough to open a door that moves up if your car somehow ends up on its roof. The DeLorean had windows that were designed to be kicked out. The Mercedes SLS AMG takes a different approach with explosive bolts to shoot the doors right off their hinges.
Those solutions work, but so do traditional doors. We don’t really need to invent a better door, but automakers are trying darned hard to do it anyway.