There’s nothing worse than discovering that an attractive woman (or man, I won’t judge) has a bad personality. Picture it: you meet someone. You hit it off. You exchange numbers. You go home and excitedly search for your new object of interest on Facebook. You find their profile. And then … you discover multiple uses of the word “YOLO.” Ouch.
This is, of course, also true in the automotive world. It’s sad when you’re captivated by a car at an auto show, then at a dealer, then on the road, and then – when you finally go test drive it – you discover it’s awful in every way. These are a few of my favorite cars that look good but aren’t.
1991-1994 Ford Explorer
The ’91-’94 Explorer is the single best-looking SUV ever made. I know this because I recently polled everyone in my immediate vicinity on the issue, and it went like this:
Doug: Yes, the Explorer is the best-looking SUV ever made.
My neighbor: Not home.
Obviously, this poll has some problems. But so did the Explorer. I won’t go into the transmission troubles, or the wheel hub issue. I won’t even touch on the lack of rear headrests or that awful two-spoke steering wheel. I’ll just say this: the ’91-’94 Explorer offers minimal protection from a dinosaur attack. Despite these issues, there are still quite a few first-generation Explorers on the road. Life, uh… life finds a way.
1991-1996 Infiniti G20
I love the first-generation G20, and I recommend it to everyone who comes to me and says “I have four thousand dollars to buy a car, what should I get?!” Usually, they ignore my suggestion and somehow end up with a late-model Prius. But the G20 was small and underpowered, and most have been driven into the ground by people who actually only had four thousand dollars to buy a car. Still: it was absolutely handsome. Especially in Gran Turismo 2.
Virtually Any Land Rover
Man, Land Rovers look cool. I have one, and when I drive down the road, I roll the windows down and blast music so people look at me and think: Wow, that guy looks cool. I know they think this because they jealously honk at me while I’m texting all my friends (on my iPhone 5, duh) because I’m so popular. YOLO!
OK, I don’t do any of those things. I mean, occasionally I roll the windows down, but usually just because the air-conditioning has broken. And that’s the problem: while Land Rovers look like they’re ready for safari, or at least parking on the grass when all the legal spots are taken at the mall, they’re actually only capable of electrical malfunctions. And no one looks cool standing on the side of the road.
1999-2003 Mitsubishi Galant
I always felt that Mitsubishi really got midsize sedan styling just right with this car. Everything was well-proportioned. The narrow grille made it look sporty and cool. There were some decent wheel designs. Honestly, it looked like a poor man’s BMW.
Unfortunately, it drove like a poor man’s Mitsubishi, which is already a poor man’s Nissan, which itself is a poor man’s Toyota, and I could continue this forever until I’ve offended the owners of every single car brand except Rolls-Royce. So I’ll leave you with this: when equipped with its optional V6 (which went into less than a quarter of cars), the ’99-’03 Galant did 0-60 in about nine seconds. That, ladies and gentleman, is a poor man’s engineering team.
1995-1997 Volkswagen Passat
The ’95-’97 Passat was a handsome car. That was important for Volkswagen, because people certainly weren’t going to buy the Passat based on its merits. Those included a 115-horsepower four-cylinder that propelled the cars up hills, according to Volkswagen; a 172-horsepower V6 that – most days – was not on fire; a 90-horsepower diesel that propelled the car nowhere, but got 40 mpg while doing it; and, most importantly, a dashboard without a glovebox. (Their reasoning was probably: “If Porsche can do it, so can we,” forgetting, perhaps, that Porsche doesn’t consider its first model year to be a “testing period.”)
2004-2007 Volvo S60R
The Volvo S60R just screams “tremendously attractive.” Those huge wheels; those chiseled shoulder lines. The decision to sell the first few in Flash Green until the acid wore off at the factory.
The problems start when you look at the badge. And deal with the reliability nightmare that was the car’s Haldex all-wheel drive system. And, worse, when you drive the dog that was the S60R Automatic. As a result, the best way to enjoy an S60R is from the privacy of your own home on a late-night AutoTrader.com search with a bag of chips. Or possibly a dealer test drive – as long as it’s a stick shift. Just don’t sign anything. Especially if it’s Flash Green.
OK, folks: you have my nominations. What do you think are some of today’s most attractive cars that aren’t very good?
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.