New cars are finally making rear light bars cool and desirable

Bar-style rear light clusters are definitely not a new automotive design trend and, while they are cool, the vehicles they were featured on in the past really weren’t - just think of the not very pretty second-gen Ford Scorpio sedan, and you can understand why the trend didn’t take off until now.

In recent years, though, manufacturers have really adopted the trend of having a horizontal light bar running across the back of a car connecting the two rear light clusters, and now the coolest such light bars are on some higher end luxury cars. The proliferation of LED technology was definitely key to this dramatic popularity upswing, as now most taillight bars are animated in some way, and they can usually put on some sort of light show.

On top of just looking really striking and often quite pretty, this kind of setup has safety benefits as well - it makes the car even more visible from behind, so there is less chance of a rear-end collision.

More and more cars are bound to feature them in years to come, and it could become a staple design choice for more luxurious and expensive cars, although there are plenty of more affordable mainstream options that have light bars. As things stand, this is a list of the twenty cars with the biggest and boldest light bars available now - they all look so cool that it was hard to narrow it down to just ten.

Audi A8

Audi is one of the manufacturers that have adopted the rear light bar trend wholeheartedly, and such a design can be found adorning the rear of several of their cars, one of which is the new A8, the company’s flagship sedan. It uses more advanced OLED technology and it does a really cool animation when it turns on or off.

It also incorporates dynamic turn signals, but Audis without light bars also have those - what really sets the A8’s setup apart is just the sheer intricacy of fine detail - the more you zoom in and examine it closely, the more you see.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi A8.

Audi Q8

The Q8 is the latest Audi with a rear light bar and the company’s first high-riding vehicle to get one. The bar itself is not quite as spectacular as the one on the A8 sedan, but it’s still one of the most eye catching on the market and users can actually download an app to their phone and thus have it do its light show whenever you want.

Read our full review on the 2019 Audi Q8

Audi A7

If you want the biggest and boldest light bar on a current Audi, then you need look no further than the new A7 Sportback, the company’s luxury coupe/fastback model. It doesn’t get the A8’s OLED technology either, but it makes up for that through size, shape and brightness.

It’s not just a straight bar that runs across the rear, but has a more natural, flowing shape instead, with more bulbous ends that taper towards the middle. You really can’t not look when you’re behind one of these and it either brakes or has its indicators on - it’s all so mesmerizing and very cool to behold.

Read our full review on the 2019 Audi A7

Audi TT

2016 - 2018 Audi TT
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Audi also added a slim horizontal LED bar to the rear of its revised TT, but it is really not very impressive compared the the three aforementioned models from the manufacturer. All it does in the latest TT is third brake light duty and for those for whom more obvious light bars seem a bit too much, this more subtle approach may be more to their liking.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi TT

Aston Martin Vantage

2018 Aston Martin Vantage Exterior
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All-new diffuser and refined rear deck

Acting as a third brake light is also what the rear light bar in the new Aston Martin Vantage does. It’s somewhat similar to that of the Audi TT, but instead of running straight from one side to the other, it actually kinks upward around a small panel where the Aston Martin badge is placed - the Vantage has a truly great looking rear end and the light bar really contributes in that respect.

Read our full review on the 2018 Aston Martin Vantage

Bugatti Chiron

2018 Bugatti Chiron High Resolution Exterior
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The fact that the uber-expensive and exclusive Bugatti Chiron has a horizontal rear light bar is indication of just how posh a setup like this is considered nowadays. The Bugatti keeps things simple with no unnecessary details - just one LED bar running from side to side.

However, unlike other cars that have a similar design, the middle of the Chiron’s taillight bar doesn’t light up as the third brake light, but instead stays on all the time the lights are on.

Read our full review on the 2018 Bugatti Chiron

Lexus UX

2019 Lexus UX Exterior
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The only Lexus with a light bar is the smallest SUV made by the company, the new UX. It actually has quite a striking and sculptural looking rear end. Its rear lights look like the have fins that seem to draw inspiration from flamboyant 1950s and 1960s designs and the light bar design I think is very successful in this application.

Read our full review on the 2019 Lexus UX

Kia Proceed

2019 Kia ProCeed Exterior
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Kia’s new Proceed, the top of the range fastback model from the Ceed range, has an LED strip that runs from cluster to cluster, although unlike most cars on this list, it isn’t actually connected in the middle - this is a bit odd and I think it detracts a bit from the rear end drama of the Proceed, yet unlike other cars that pretend to have a rear light bar but have big gaps between the parts that do light up, here it’s not very noticeable.

Read our full review on the 2019 Kia Proceed

Lincoln Continental

Lincoln, like Audi, is another manufacturer that has fully embraced the trend, and in fact the vehicles it has on offer today all have a rear light bar setup. The Continental flagship is no exception, with an LED strip seamlessly connecting the top part of its rear lights.

Read our full review on the 2018 Lincoln Continental

Lincoln Nautilus

The Nautilus is one of the most recent additions to the Lincoln range and like all its stablemates, it too has a light bar. It is one clean, uninterrupted swoosh of light from one side of the rear to the other and it’s really glorious to look at. I think it’s even more spectacular to look at than the one on the flagship Continental sedan, but then again that model is meant to be a bit more understated than this.

Read our full review on the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus

Lincoln MKC

2019 Lincoln MKC
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Lincoln also sells the slightly older MKC high rider which gets its own LED bar. It doesn’t look like one single unit combined with the two actual light clusters, though, as there’s a small gap in the lighting on each side where they meet, but it’s still definitely qualifies for this list; the third brake light is separate, so the light bar is there purely to look good and give the car a unique light signature at night.

Read our full review on the 2019 Lincoln MKC

Lincoln MKZ

2017 Lincoln MKZ
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The first MKZ sedan is among the earliest contemporary Lincolns to adopt a light bar at the rear (it was launched in 2013) and the current model launched in 2017 retains and refines that design. The MKZ’s light bar is probably the most distinctive out of the entire Lincoln range and it really grants the sedan a very unique and unmistakable look - it is also a complete light bar with no interruptions, contributing the the very clean and minimalist overall aesthetic.

Read our full review on the 2018 Lincoln MKZ

Lincoln Navigator

The New Lincoln Navigator is Here, and You're Going to Want One High Resolution Exterior
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But the boldest taillight LED bar of any current Lincoln is the one found on the back of the Navigator SUV. The vehicle itself is quite big and brash, and its light bar is designed in accordance with these traits. The previous generation Navigator which preceded it also had a light bar rear cluster, so the fact that they kept it for the new one is proof of an evolutionary design strategy.

Read our full review on the 2018 Lincoln Navigator

Mercedes EQC

2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC Exterior
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No regular Mercedes Benz models have any kind of light bar, but the first in its line of electric vehicles, the EQC crossover, does have one. Its rear end design is very clean and cohesive, and the shape of the light bar is mirrored in the chrome look design element lower down on the bumper. It looks really classy and well designed for some reason, although I can’t quite put my finger as to why.

Read our full review on the 2019 Mercedes EQC

Porsche Panamera

2018 Porsche Panamera High Resolution Exterior
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Porsche designers seem to be fans of the whole light bar idea, and the Panamera has a full-width LED strip across its rear end , but it’s very subtly done and nowhere near as noticeable as the one on, say, the Lincoln Navigator - it does have one place right in the middle (where both halves of the two-piece electric rear spoiler meet), but it’s hardly noticeable and it doesn’t ruin the purity of the design.

Read our full review on the 2018 Porsche Panamera

Porsche Cayenne

2018 Porsche Cayenne High Resolution Exterior
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The rear end of the Porsche Cayenne looks very similar in many respects to that of the Panamera, especially when it comes to the shape of the rear light cluster. It adopts the same design theme and looks pretty much the same, but unlike the Panamera, its light strip runs seamlessly from side to side, so it’s that little bit cleaner and easier on the eye.

Read our full review on the 2018 Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Macan

Macan is Porsche’s smallest high-riding model and, while its rear end design is quite different to other models in the range, it still has a version of a light bar that was added as part of its midlife refresh. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an afterthought, but it looks less clean and well integrated into the overall design compared to other Porsche models.

Read our full review on the 2019 Porsche Macan

Toyota Avalon

2019 Toyota Avalon Exterior
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There are LED taillights out back

The only Toyota I was able to find with an actual, proper light bar is the latest Avalon sedan - I’m sure that out of the many models Toyota sells around the world there may be others, but I wasn’t able to track them down. There is a definite Lexus vibe about the Avalon’s rear end, and the light bar works very well with the overall design - it looks like a more toned down version of what they did with the rear end of the new Lexus UX mentioned above.

Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Avalon

SEAT Tarraco

The 2018 SEAT Tarraco SUV Shows up in Paris with Eyes for the 2019 Skoda Kodiaq and 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace
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The newest vehicle on this list is the SEAT’s first three-row SUV, the Tarraco. It has a sharp, chiseled look to its design, which extends to the rear lights too. They are connected by a simple light strip that’s doesn’t have any additional details, but it is definitely in-keeping with the vehicle’s overall aesthetic.

Final thoughts

2018 Audi A8 High Resolution Exterior
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It’s quite clear that currently mostly only premium cars have light bar-style rear lights and it has apparently become a bit of a status statement - I remember when I saw the new A8 out on the road for the very first time and how I couldn’t take my eyes away from the gorgeous OLED light bar. Audi and other manufacturers are definitely aware that they can create a very striking look with this kind of design and LED technology is really what made all of this possible.

Naturally, mainstream manufacturers will want a piece of that status-boosting light bar design in their cheaper cars too, so it won’t be a design feature reserved for luxury cars for much longer. Essentially, it looks as if the light bar motif is here to stay, at least in the near future, and it will be interesting to see what designers do with the idea to keep their creations looking fresh and unique.

Andrei Nedelea
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