There are a lot of unappealing cars that most of us would never buy, and wish that automakers had never built. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking of the Pontiac G5 right now. Or the G3. Or really any Pontiac made since about 1976. Except, of course, for the G8, which is automotive perfection according to their owners, who show them off in large numbers at cars and coffee events and do burnouts as they leave.
But how about a variation on the theme? What about cars that you’d never buy, but you’re glad were built? This question was inspired by a post on my blog where someone described the Buick Reatta this way. I don’t agree. To me, the Reatta belongs in the former category, somewhere between the Pontiac G6 and that awful Daewoo-based LeMans hatchback.
Instead, here are a few of my picks.
Buick Regal GS
I find the latest Regal GS absolutely gorgeous, reasonably priced, and surprisingly well-equipped. But what the hell do I know: I liked the old Regal GS. Yes, the one they sold from 1997 to 2004. Perhaps this invalidates all of my opinions for those of you who weren’t already skeptical after my post about Lincoln. The problem with the Regal GS – aside from the fact that it’s currently front-wheel drive – is obvious: it’s a freaking Buick. I wouldn’t buy it. But I’m pleased that GM had the balls to produce it.
Dodge Ram SRT-10
Unless I lived in one of those small towns where it’s a perfectly legitimate weekend night activity to cruise up and down Main Street, I would never buy a pickup. But there’s something hilariously cool about a full-size truck with an 8.3-liter V10 under the hood and an available six-speed manual transmission. I’m so glad Chrysler made this truck. I give a thumbs-up to the driver whenever I see one. (Which is usually returned with an offer to race, even if I’m standing on the sidewalk.) But I would never be caught dead in the driver’s seat.
Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
I absolutely love the SVT Raptor. I think it’s one of the coolest ideas in modern automotive history. In fact, I think car ideas should be measured on a scale of “Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet to Ford F-150 SVT Raptor.” Sto ‘n’ Go seating would be in Raptor territory, while the Murano CrossCab camp would include the Cadillac DTS and Maserati’s CambioCorsa transmission. But for as much as I love the Raptor, I think it projects a rather negative image, namely: if you vote Democrat, this truck will eat you.
Honda Insight (2000-2006)
The original Honda Insight is a tiny little car that can’t get out of its own way – and it certainly can’t get out of the way of people in SVT Raptors. But aren’t you glad these things exist? I love the original Insight, if only because it’s a stick shift hybrid that can do 80 miles per gallon. On a downhill. With a tailwind. Assuming the battery is still functioning. Yes, speed and size are the two things that would keep me from buying one. But I’m glad there are still a few people out there committed to keeping their original Insight on the road, no matter how many SVT Raptors get in their rearview mirrors.
The Juke is heinously ugly from virtually every angle. But it’s one of the few cars that manages to be so unattractive that it’s charming. I don’t think I’d buy a Juke for several reasons, the biggest of which is that it’s not particularly spry. But in the world of compact crossovers each styled to resemble slight variations on each other, the Juke is tremendously refreshing.
Porsche Cayenne manual
The fact that you can still get a Cayenne with a stick shift is Porsche’s greatest strength. That’s because it shows that somewhere beyond those thick German walls, someone still has a sense of humor. Someone still exists from the days of checkerboard seats and the murderous 930. Obviously, though, you could never actually buy a manual Cayenne, since the market is limited to about eleven rich Boston doctors with farms in New Hampshire, plus the occasional CarMax rep who grabs one at auction without realizing it’s a stick. (“Why’s this so cheap? I got a great deal! … Oh.”)
These are my choices, but now it’s your turn to announce some “cars I’d never buy, but I’m glad got built.” Or, you can just post angry comments about that Pontiac G8 remark. You know; whichever.
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.