Modern cars have come a long way. I know, every writer from ever automotive decade has said exactly those words. Mind-blowing tech and performance capabilities at the time lose their luster and eventually become a joke. Like claiming a 9-second 0-60mph as ‘sporty.’ Today, though, we are at the peak. Cars don’t need engine swaps and aggressive amounts of bolt-on performance parts to be fast and capable performers. An intake, exhaust, tune, suspension, and brake upgrades are all it takes to have a decently fast modern car. This is mostly thanks to turbos and direct injection, which gives owners the ability to dramatically improve their cars without more than a few bolt-ons and a flash tune. So how do you make your car stand out when everyone is essentially working with the same recipe for success? The answer comes in the form of unique mods and visual upgrades that we will outline here today.
Okay, so we don’t really mean any car. And style points are going to be relative, considering you might not agree with our definition of style. What we mean is how to add style points and make your contemporary European performance car both stand out and fit into the expectations of ‘Instagram’ style. Effectively, how to make everyone love your car as much as you do.
First, the most important thing you can do is go into any project, big or small, with the right attitude. If you are doing it because you like it and you want to do it, you’ve got the right idea. If you are only modifying your car so you can get attention from people you don’t know, maybe you should reconsider, because if you build your car for someone else, you may not like the results. Or the cost.
That aside, there’s a pretty basic formula these days to turn any commuter car into a clout god, give or take a few substitutions and derivations. Before you buy any exterior upgrades, though, you need to determine what style suits you.
There are essentially three major overall themes or categories that have been defined in the ‘scene’ over the last decade:
Stance – completely slammed, usually on air but sometimes static, with flashy, three-piece wheels, over fenders/wide body kits, non-functional front lips, side blades, diffusers, and generally modeled after the Japanese drift scene from the 90s/early 2000s.
OEM Plus – lowered, on OEM wheels or OEM-style wheels by an aftermarket company, often the upscale versions like Alpina, BBS, RH, or Rotiform. Usually fitted with OEM options for exterior like Mtech kits for BMW or European-only options. Euro bumpers, Heckeblendes, Spoilers, front lips, and an overall ‘clean’ look that generally looks like a highly optioned factory build that is usually very custom.
Streetcar – functional race car for the street. Canards, carbon fiber, big wings, loud exhaust, functional aero like big splitters and diffusers, maybe some functional duct work to the brakes or engine, meaty fitment on lightweight wheels. Usually static on some nice coilovers, maybe wide body or at least flares/over fenders.
Each of the three is fairly distinct, but blends of one or more style often find their way into builds that show off a combination of different aspects to form a single picture. Taking elements from each theme to make a composition all your own is what it takes to be different. With that, let’s look at some popular choices you could make to get started from a proven list of upgrades.
Whether you’re going for stance, OEM plus, or a streetcar look, all use front lips and splitters, they just differ on the execution. Our Carbon Fiber front lip spoilers are definitely more visual than anything else, so for a ground-hugging stance build, they are perfect. For the OEM Plus look, you might have to go elsewhere if you have an Audi/Volkswagen. For a first upgrade, though, you can’t go wrong with a front lip.
Again, same idea, different execution for each style. All three styles can benefit visually from a rear diffuser. You might have to make your own if you want the full-on ‘race car for the street’ look, but if you just want style points, the ECS Carbon Fiber Rear Diffuser options for your Audi/Volkswagen/BMW are a great place to start.
These extensions add width and depth to your car with a distinctly motorsport style. Again, you can make functional extensions that bolt to your frame and flat floors for the real streetcar style, or go with some add-ons like our Carbon Fiber Side Blade Extensions for your Audi B8 or B9. We have a few others, too, but if you don’t have an Audi, you might just have to make your own or find some OEM skirts with similar effects, like E36 Mtech skirts.
An integrated rear spoiler, commonly called a ‘ducktail,’ is quite popular these days. For stance or OEM plus builds, these integrated spoilers are an excellent option. ECS and Turner both have choices for most Audi, BMW, and VW models. For a more ‘battlestance’ or functional race car look, a swan neck, chassis mount wing is definitely the move, but you better have the build to back something that attention-demanding up or it will just look ricey.
The technology around vinyl wrapping has improved. The products last much longer and make the work involved to install them much more worth the effort. Wraps allow you to change your color or add crazy graphics that don’t look tacky like the old-school vinyl graphics did. This is excellent for any style build, but primarily in the stance and streetcar worlds.
Obviously, more goes into a build than just a few tack-on upgrades. What this list serves to do is give you an idea of the different options you have to set your car apart visually once you have it where you want in terms of suspension, wheels, interior, and engine mods. But again, since modern cars don’t need much to be good performers, they also don’t need much to look drastically different. With just a front lip, side blades, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser, you can give your car a motorsports-inspired vibe that matches the performance capabilities and accentuates the car’s stance with an aggressive visual element.