In the last few years, a few cars have received more than their fair share of media attention. The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, for example, which a few outlets have stopped just short of describing as the return of Jesus. A few others didn’t bother stopping short. There’s been a similar reaction to some of the updated Chrysler products, proving that all it takes to win over car journalists is a nip and tuck outside, a few new materials inside, and a fleet of well-equipped press cars generously loaned to anyone who asks.
But what about those cars that don’t get any coverage? You know the ones: those cars that even the manufacturer gave up on, but they keep selling because the factories have to stay open. The cars you haven’t seen advertised since someone at AIG said “Let’s do more of these wonderful credit default swaps!” The ones that have “$5000 off!” written on the windshield as you drive by. Except, of course, at a Chrysler dealer, where that’s every car.
Fortunately, those cars aren’t forgotten by everyone. Your old pal Doug is here to remind you of several new cars that you might be surprised to find out are, in fact, still new cars.
Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator
Ford has managed to equal or best nearly every offering from archrival General Motors in most market segments. This is the exception.
Like most cars on this list, the Expedition and Navigator were decent vehicles when their current bodystyles came out. But that was in 2003. Times have changed, and – with the exception of a facelift six years ago – the Expedition and Navigator have not.
The sad thing here, if you’re Ford, is that the Navigator actually beat the Escalade to the NBA star market by an entire model year. Back when both vehicles were just full-size SUVs with some leather and a chrome grille, the Escalade was a me-too competitor in a growing segment. But while GM dreamed big and gave the Escalade the development dollars to flourish, Lincoln aimed squarely for airport limo services. Both companies hit their marks.
I remember seeing a Honda Ridgeline for the first time. Of course, I remember it only vaguely, since it was eight years ago. But I distinctly recall thinking two things: one, this is the ugliest truck since the Lincoln Blackwood; and two, Honda might be on to something with this whole car-based pickup idea.
In the ensuing eight years, I have dramatically recanted one of my views – and it’s not the one that involves the Lincoln Blackwood. Stranger than the Ridgeline’s looks is the fact you can still buy one new, as if there’s anyone left who hasn’t had the chance to get their hands on a Ridgeline since it came out in 2005.
Land Rover LR2
The successor to Land Rover’s transmission-eating Freelander is still on sale. In fact, it was updated for the 2013 model year. To be fair, it’s not strange that Land Rover offers an entry-level SUV. What’s unusual is that they continue to sell it, even in the face of rising competition from… Land Rover.
The LR2 starts at $37,000. The recently released Range Rover Evoque – which is the same size and uses the same engine – is around $4,000 more. Say all you want about the Evoque’s styling, but it’s like a trendy iPhone to the LR2’s company-issued Blackberry. So who would choose an LR2 when the Evoque is priced so closely? Only Land Rover dealers, who use them religiously as service loaners. Think of it as a Captiva Sport that’s fit for the Queen.
Mitsubishi’s Entire Lineup
Pop quiz: name a current Mitsubishi. The Endeavor is gone. The Galant is gone. The Eclipse is gone. What the hell is left?
Mitsubishi currently sells only four vehicles in North America. There’s the Lancer and its derivatives, which include the Sportback and the Evolution. There’s the Outlander, which people sometimes buy on accident. There’s the Outlander Sport, also known as the RVR in Canada, where it doesn’t sell either. And there’s an egg-shaped electric car whose name includes three capital letters and two uses of a lowercase i.
Hands up: who has seen a Mitsubishi on temporary plates in the last year? Mitsubishi dealers don’t count, though I get the feeling most of them don’t see it often enough.
It’s been ten years since the Nissan Armada came out. Since then, Infiniti launched a twin version called the QX56. Then, Infiniti redesigned the twin version. Then, Infiniti renamed the twin version. And what has Nissan done to keep the Armada fresh? Nothing. Yet it inexplicably still exists, wearing the same body panels it did in 2003. To me, this is incredibly confounding since a redesign would require nothing more than slapping a different grille and trim on the QX56.
My theory is there’s an intense ongoing debate at Nissan about the Armada’s future. Half want it redesigned; half want to kill it. Until an agreement is reached, it soldiers on, facing huge competition mostly from used versions of itself and taking up a rather large amount of space on Nissan dealer lots.
The 2000s, I suspect, will be remembered by some for spawning a fleet of compact cars that were inexplicably shaped like boxes. No one asked for these cars. In fact, no one BOUGHT these cars, with the exception of a few divorced, middle-aged women who were “trying something different.”
Nearly all of the box cars have been redesigned, like the Scion xB, or killed, like the Honda Element. But perhaps the strangest of them all, the Nissan Cube, still continues with its famed Cube Pubes firmly planted on the dashboard.
Of all the cars on this list, this one surprised me the most. Yes, even though its Pontiac Vibe twin is dead, you can still get a 2013 Toyota Matrix. Actually, you should get a 2013 Toyota Matrix, especially if you’re considering a Corolla, since the Matrix is more practical, better looking, and – most importantly – not a Corolla.
Despite the Matrix’s positive traits, Toyota has given up all hope for the hatchback, creating its last ad for the car sometime during the Bush years. My theory: Toyota was responsible for the engineering; Pontiac for the advertising. We certainly know it wasn’t the other way around.
You’re the type of person who wants a Volvo. Somehow, you’re also the type of person who wants a convertible. If you’re still nodding your head, congratulations: you’re one of eleven.
And yet, the C70 has been available for around 15 years, including about seven in its current form. Today’s model STARTS at $41,000, which is more than twice the cost of a used one with the same exact bodystyle. So who buys ‘em? Presumably, only people who crashed their old ones and now appear in those safety books Volvo salesmen always seem to have handy. And even they get six grand off.
Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time 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.