We've all done embarrassing things, I'll be the first to admit that. Thankfully though, our embarrassments are easily untagged on Facebook or fade into memory, instead of lurking and rusting on the streets for the next few decades. Carmakers, unfortunately, don't have that luxury.
Now this list isn't cars that were bad in general, or poorly constructed. If that were the case, we'd be including whole swaths of British Leyland. This is about brands that should have known better, and cars that no one will speak of in polite company for decades to come. Many of these cars were built with good reason at the time, but that doesn't mean they should've been made.
In fact, the lesson taken from many of these cars is "desperation is no excuse."
The Chevy Monte Carlo nameplate is a storied one, with a line of V8-powered coupes heading back to 1970. In 1995, GM brought it back for a two-door based on the Chevy Lumina and powered by a 3.8 liter V6 that somehow managed to only produce 210 horsepower and a bench seat in the front. 210 may sound like a lot, but it sure didn't feel that way:
Ahh yes, the Monte Lumina Carlo "Z34" with about 50 horsepower and the turning radius of the Exxon Valdez. Interior falls apart within 10 minutes of being delivered, rides like a truck, handles like a bobsled on asphalt, changing the battery involves removing structural elements and the windshield washer fluid reservoir, the seats are atrocious, the steering wheel feels like a marshmallow, there's no headroom, it sucks on gas, it's slower than frozen dog shit, and it's ugly as cardinal sin. The epitome of late 90's GM cars.
Fuckin' A...what a piece.
Jaguar nowadays is known for building beautiful, dynamic, and forward-thinking cars like the XFR and the F-Type, and has a history of fantastic sports cars and luxury vehicles as well. In the late 1990s, though, the company was in a bad way, with retro-styled sedans based on aging platforms that couldn't compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. So, under corporate parent Ford's direction, they came up with the X-Type, based on the Ford Mondeo. It somehow sold surprisingly well, despite being fat, ugly, and underpowered. In Europe the base model came with only 126 horsepower, and even the guys at Jaguar knew it wasn't a real Jaguar, according to the Financial Times:
Offering a rare insight into events at the British luxury carmaker following its purchase by Ford for $1.4bn in 1989, Mr Callum indicated that there had frequently been tensions in the relationship. He disclosed that, in spite of Jaguar management denials at the time, the X-Type small Jaguar - sales of which have fallen far below expectations - was essentially designed in Detroit and presented as close to a fait accompli to reluctant designers and engineers at Jaguar's Whitley design centre, near the Midlands city of Coventry.
Meant to re-capture the spirit of the light and fun little CRX, the CR-Z is neither light, nor very much fun. The hybrid engine only puts out 122 horsepower, and still only gets 33 miles per gallon. The highest praise we offered when it debuted three years ago was that it reminded us of a "sleepy, sedated Fit." Somehow it's still on sale, though they actually seem fairly rare.
In Ford's defense, the Mustang II debuted at the worst part of the first 1970's Oil Crisis. Even still, the second generation of the original Pony Car debuted with a 2.3L four-cylinder engine putting out a stonkin' 88 horsepower. Eighty-eight. It wasn't even available with eight cylinders, as the range-topping engine was a V6 with 105 horses. This, from the car that practically invented muscle.
Don't worry, Chevy, you're not getting away with your atrophied "muscle" either:
1982 Camaro. 90hp, 3-speed slushbox, and 0-60 in about 20 seconds. Not the best way to introduce the 3rd generation of your most popular muscle car!
The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is the bizarre answer to a bizarre question nobody asked. And this is from the same company that is also currently manufacturing the unfathomably great Nissan GT-R.
Suggested By: FrankLR3, Photo Credit: Nissan
The Aston Martin Cygnet is another car with an excuse. "Created" by Aston to comply with European emissions regulations, it's really just a Toyota iQ with the face re-arranged and some leather. The genius maker of the DB5, the new Vanquish, and the V12 Vantage should not be in the bizarrely-priced economy car market.
Yes, it was essentially a Ford Probe that had the name of a 1960s muscle car on the back, but I included this particular car and put it so high up for personal reasons. I had a friend with one of these, which I had the misfortune of driving on a few occasions, and it was awful in every single way. The clutch was terrible, the shifter was like stirring coal, the engine didn't exist, and the suspension must've completely collapsed at some point. I think he had it junked. Good riddance.
Suggested By: Chapple, Photo Credit: Mercury
As Volkswagen was heading upmarket in the US with the Phaeton, Mercedes was heading down:
The Mercedes Benz C class Sportcoupe. It was the worst of the worst built of Mercedes Benz in their worst time period and to top it all off it really had no reason to exist other than to dip the company into a lower class of car. The ride is rough, the car is very hard and plasticy, certain engines are prone to trying to self destruct and lets face it, if you wanted a 2 door car that was based on the C class you were just wanting to buy the CLK.
And yet somehow, the masochists that purchased this model have the highest return rate to buy another Mercedes Benz of any other model they've ever put out.
Most embarrassments you recover from. You move on, you build on your mistakes, and you forget the past. You don't blunder so bad that you keep licking your wounds ten years after the fact:
If you really want to dump on Neutered Luxury Trucks, go with the worst example to date. Riding the cheap upgrade, big margin wave of the Navigator, Ford gave it's F150 the same treatment, calling it the Blackwood.
Except they stripped out every ounce of actual utility from the vehicle, save for towing, by making it a RWD only pickup with an Aluminum lined, carpeted, power tonneau'd bed. Oh, and fake vinyl wrap "Blackwood" cladding, leftover from the canceled Country Squire
Forget how bad the vehicle was. This was made while Lincoln was at a crossroads. The Mark VIII had just been cancelled, the Continental was walking dead, and the Town Car was, well, still Panther. This was where they decided to pour their resources rather than refining their new RWD LS sedan. This is a symbol of the fall of the brand. Now we're stuck with a lifeless shell of a company, making badge engineered Fords that bastardize the Mark (MK?) name (Infiniti really thinks this is a good branding strategy?). I pray that Lincoln makes it, but I can't help but feel anger at the brand managers every time I see one of these (Online anyway, I don't think Ford actually sold any, did they?)
Suggested By: ffoc01, Photo Credit: Lincoln
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Topshot credit: Peter White