I had the chance to drive a 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 to lunch last week. I didn't drive the car long enough to really evaluate it, but it only took a half a block to turn heads on the street. I was particularly amazed by how many people were reaching for camera phones and pointing. It's not like the Challenger design is new it pretty much looks like a 30-year-old car. Still, people were very interested in the Challenger, especially in orange paint, and it was impossible to go unnoticed.
This mostly amazed me because I had the 2009 Nissan GT-R for a night a few weeks ago and almost nobody noticed that car. I know the GT-R is more of a cult car than the Challenger, but it still amazed me that the best bang-for-your-buck rocket ship on the street only turned a handful of heads. Sure, the design of the GT-R isn't as timeless as the Porsche 911 Turbo it was designed to dethrone, but the GT-R was bright red and should have stuck out. If nothing else, it looks like it drove straight out of Gran Turismo 5.
Maybe it isn't surprising, but to the general public, the design of a car is much more important than the technical sophistication or ultimate performance. Do you connect more with the performance or design of cars?