Car people love to criticize. For proof, just look at any review of the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Or any article about a Chrysler product released in the last 20 years. Or the comments on my TTAC posts. But there are times when our criticism goes too far. Sometimes, journalists and car people alike beat up half-decent cars just because we can’t see ourselves behind the wheel. Here’s a look at a few of those half-decent cars that never quite deserved the bad rap they got.
Although the Crosstour gets bashed for its styling, car guys tend to forget about its target demographic: people who transport long triangular objects. For them, it’s either the Crosstour or the BMW X6 – and I wouldn’t wish the X6 on anyone. The Crosstour also boasts 271 horsepower and all-wheel drive – the same exact specs as the Evo VII. So what if it looks a little different? Throw three diamonds on the front and call it an Evo Wagon. Journalists would love it.
When the X-Type came out, it had its share of flaws. Namely, it was dull and expensive. But today, it’s just dull: the average ask for a used X-Type on AutoTrader.com is only $8,800. For a Jag! I know what you’re thinking: it’s going to break down all the time. But since the X-Type was a Ford Mondeo underneath, it will probably just break down some of the time. Plus, there was a wagon. And a stick shift. So really, it’s just like a 3 Series – as long as you look past the styling, build quality, driving experience, and brand cachet.
There is no earthly reason why the Lexus RX deserves the beating it earns from car guys. Just ask the suburban housewives who drive them. What’s not to like? Smooth ride, numb steering, drab colors. No, it won’t be at home at an autocross. It’ll never traverse a muddy hill. It would probably look out of place in the parking lot of a race track. But it does have a spot for your purse. What else is there?
The SLK has earned a reputation as a hairdresser’s car, which is odd since few hairdressers could afford its, ahem, optimistic $50,000 price tag. Instead, it’s a car you drive to the hairdresser’s, but only after Starbucks, Pilates, and a brisk walk around your neighborhood wearing yoga pants. The main reason the SLK makes this list is because it still offers a six-speed manual. And there’s something ballsy about making a stick shift even after enthusiasts, journalists, and your own customers beg you to stop. Rock on, Mercedes.
The Cube looks really weird. It has a piece of shag carpeting on the dash that appears vaguely useful until you turn it over, where a warning label says “Do not place anything on this product.” Its headliner looks like a coffin, and its driving position was apparently suggested by Prevost. But, dear readers, would you really rather have a Toyota Corolla? The Cube is what happens when buyers beg for “unique.” The Versa is what happens when those buyers get turned off by the very thing they’ve requested.
Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
Just kidding, it’s awful.
Journalists really loved to pick on the poor Aztek when it came out in the summer of 2000. But it’s easy to criticize when you’re not actually spending the money – and the Aztek was quite a deal. Base price: $21,000. GM trunk money: $18,500. Or something like that. Plus, you could put those savings towards Aztek accessories, such as an optional tent that rose from the tailgate like a cancerous tumor. Interestingly, this improved the Aztek’s styling. It was also a handy place to hide from friends who may have otherwise seen you willingly riding inside.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so please feel free to chime in with suggestions. Suggestions… and criticism. Because otherwise, we wouldn’t be car people.
Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.