By on February 11, 2011

Good news! The 2012 Acura TL has had a beak-ectomy. I was so personally affected by the super-Accord’s gorgeous front end that I spent a full hour talking about it to the, ahem, auto-show professional assigned to said entry-luxury sedan. She was quite knowledgeable, and when she wore her heels we happened to be exactly the same height.

My normal auto-show companion, Vodka McBigbra, couldn’t take time off from her busy schedule of cutting hair in the late afternoon and watching reruns of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to make the event, so instead I brought the fellow who owns the other half of my race team. I explained to him that, since he was an Egyptian Christian who had decided to begin attending an evangelical church, that he would have to go by the name “Coptic McDigsGod”. He disapproved of that almost as much as he disapproved of my conversation with Miss Acura Representative.

Coptic McDigsGod fancies himself quite the aesthete. He has a lot to say about everything from McCormick Place’s water features (“Did they really spend all that money so a machine could imitate urination?”) to the Camaro ZL1’s visual impact (“Far too subtle compared to the GT500”). Still, I don’t think he was quite prepared for the new Infiniti QX56. First, he refused to believe that the “portholes” were factory-installed. “Nobody would do that. Would they?” Then he simply wandered around the nose of the thing in a daze. “This is quite possibly the ugliest truck ever built. It fails on every level, from design to execution.” I found it difficult to disagree.

Later on that day, we found ourselves being highway-buddied by an Indiana-plated QX56. No matter what speed I set the cruise control — 60, 65, 83! — the distended nose stayed firmly planted in my passenger-side mirror. I knew how Ahab felt at the end of Moby-Dick, tortured by a whale I did not have the power to conquer or avoid. It took a vigorous simulation of impaired driving — holding my phone obviously up to my face while drifting out of my lane into his — to make some space. The driver of the QX made the decision to call me in to the Indiana State Patrol, I think. The effort of dialing his own phone caused him to drift into the next lane, terrifying a woman in a Camry and possibly causing her to dial the Indiana State Patrol. I punched the Town Car into hyperspace as the circle of abuse behind us continued.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Now that the TL is beak-free, does the QX56 have any contenders in the battle for Uggo Of The Year? Your answers on a postcard… or in the handy form below.

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74 Comments on “Ask The Best and Brightest: The Worst Design Statement Of 2011?...”

  • avatar

    I think the new TL is actually a step backwards.  Some might have found the previous design ugly, but at least it stood out.  The new smoothed over TL just says ‘car’.
    I agree with you 100% on the fake ventiports though (although I hear that they are real on one side of the QX, is that true?).  Even more egregious – aren’t the number of ports supposed to match the number of cylinders on that bank on each side?  There isn’t a V6 QX option is there?

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree with you on the TL … I think it’s  step backwards as well.  It’s now far more anonymous and not all that good looking.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on the TL! I was just starting to love the old design for its distinctiveness, and then they go and make it about as noticeable as a Lumina. Still, 6M + V6 + SH-AWD isn’t bad.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      It still looks like a TL in my rear view mirror. It’s must more beigey. Totally unimpressive.

      And yes, the new QX looks like ass. But then, a lot of Nissan stuff is like that – Cube, Juke, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      “aren’t the number of ports supposed to match the number of cylinders on that bank on each side?”
      Maybe the middle two cylinders on each bank have siamesed exhaust ports, and the ventiports represent the number of ports… it’s so ugly, it should have a flathead (no offense to flathead lovers) with no more than 70hp, so everybody can put this monstrosity far behind them.
      Talking about ventiport count, the Maserati QP also has only three ports on each flank.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know if most TL buyers are looking to in your face with their face(s).
      I read ventiports next to Maserati and I thought for a moment that you were saying they had 20 doors.  :)

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      ” Some might have found the previous design ugly, but at least it stood out.  The new smoothed over TL just says ‘car’.”
      I for one, like to drive cars that are not obnoxiously and weirdly styled. I always think that if my cars is not standing out like a sore thumb, people who do not like me will not know I am around, and the cops will leave me alone.

  • avatar

    I think I’d have to give the nod to Lincoln on this one, especially the MKX and MKT. The overall styling is fine enough, but the grill throws me off every time I see it. The grill on the 2011 Edge seems overblown as well, but not as bad as the Lincolns. I haven’t see the Infiniti in person, but it’s cartoon-like design seems overly exaggerated by the vehicle’s massive size.
    I suspect many will pick the Juke, but I actually like the Juke. It’s a bit cartoon-like as well, but in better proportions.
    p.s., The Acura TL looks great, by the way.

    • 0 avatar

      I forgot about the Juke, that should be right up there near first place for uggo-of-the-year.  I don’t mind cartoony fun styling if it is done well, like in the smiling Mazdas, I love those cars. The Juke looks deformed and angry, not fun and playful, so the design just falls apart to me.

    • 0 avatar

      The Juke’s ad campaign, at least on TV, has done nothing to help it. The driver in the “donut” ad comes across as such a tool, the “skinny jeans” kid from the Toyota is enjoying the deflection…

    • 0 avatar

      There are a myriad of hideous cars on the market, from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes in your face clumsiness to Jaguar’s Robocop 6000SUX effort to compete with them. Mainstream cars like the Focus hatch are scarred by ugly fascias and stupid rooflines, but the JUKE stands alone. It is the last word in ugly and in stupid. The ONLY positive thing you can say about it is that with a bleeding edge technology Nissan drivetrain, at least they won’t be on the road for long. I remember when there was a purple Sentra, 200SX or Altima every few blocks. They were gone as quickly as losing politicians’ bumperstickers after an election.

  • avatar

    When I saw the QX last year at the NY auto show my reaction was that whoever designed it should fired and never allowed to work in the auto industry ever again.  My opinion intensifies with every glimpse.

  • avatar

    I’m actually personally offended by the black plastic insert in the C-pillar of the Jaguar XJ. The most misguided design statement since the quad STACKED tailpipes of the Ferrari California. If Jaguar actually had a window insert in the C-pillar, then it would’ve been okey. But blacked out plastic? That’s a cheap trick. Awfully cheap. But what I’m most offended about, is that the trick is in the neither/nor category. If they had wanted the effect of an all surrounding greenhouse, then a window would’ve been fine. If they did not, then off with it. Achieving that goal with black plastic is swines for pearls. It’s a design shortcut more worthy of a rental Sebring than a Jaguar. And we are not amused.

    • 0 avatar

      Ingvar: Black plastic triangles are clearly a spreading disease. A guy at work just bought a Chevy Cruze, and the first thing I did was to tap on the plastic triangle, and it was hollow underneath. My first thought was that dealers could hide a lot of dope under there!

    • 0 avatar

      Besides that awful C pillar. Don’t forget the Jaguar’s ugly tailights.

  • avatar

    There’s just no arguing it, the QX IS the ugliest vehicle on the road.
    I don’t, however, see how the new Acura beak is much of an improvement.  It appears that they just filed off the point a bit but you could still open beer bottles with it.

  • avatar

    It appears the Acura has been demoted from corporal to just a pfc. In its case, rank does not have its privileges. I suppose it is a bit more “vanilla”, but in a good sort of way. The Infiniti? You’ve gotta be kidding me! The Nissan Cube is a Hope Diamond by comparison, and I like the Cube, ’cause it does work. BUT…one thing to consider: any vehicle you can actually see out of has merit for someone – but not me. Cincinnati Auto Show next weekend. We have our tickets. It’ll be interesting to see how much new stuff will be on display. Can’t wait! That goes for my wife, too, as she also is an enthusiast, according to some of the descriptions going on the last few days. She loves her CR-V, but also loves cars in general, especially convertibles like me, our MX5 included – just not paying for them!

  • avatar

    Jalopnik 5.0 is twenty trillion times worse than any of these examples.

  • avatar

    I love the fake fender-porthole look. It gave me an excuse to train my teenagers to approach owners of Maseratis and exclaim how beautiful the new Buick is.

  • avatar

    I like Nissan.

  • avatar

    Great first paragraph, Jack.  Beak-ectomy or not it’s still a butt- or should I say shnoz-ugly front end.  Thank god there are still tons of 04-08 TL’s around in excellent shape.  As for one of the biggest disappointments of 2010, I got passed by a new Jag XJ on I-275 this week and was deeply saddened.  It looks like a Lincoln with a ridiculously big and gaudy leaping cat on the trunk.  Are these the same people that designed the XF??  What the hell happened?

  • avatar

    I’d have to agree with Jack on this one.
    The super-beaked TL’s styling may have made it stand out, but in a bad way. The rest of the car was gorgeous and I particularly liked the sculpted rear end, but the pointy nose was an instant turn-off. The only saving grace at the time was that the SH-AWD version could be equipped with 3 pedals. With the redesign, it’s only slightly more anonymous but gains aesthetic appeal.
    The new QX on the other hand shows no visual improvement over the last version. Inifniti’s design does not apply well to anything larger than the FX.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    The QX is actually the Buick Caballero wagon come back to haunt us.  Now if Infiniti would add a chrome sweap spear I could get behind the design as a “statement.”   

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know, Dan. True, the Buick was really over the top – a “chrome tank”, as my buddy and me used to call them, along with the Century Rivieras with the three-piece rear windows, but, man, those were beautiful, plus most other Ponchos and Olds and Caddies! The only problem, though, was that by the late 1960’s in the St. Louis area, rust and weather had taken its toll on most of those cars, Chevys included, and they all lost their luster many years previous, so all looked pretty tired and quite unattractive by then. Much as I harp on about pillarless hardtops on here, h/t wagons really didn’t work in any make or model, at least for me, but they did get credit for trying! It seems to be a lost art. There is a law, however, that only Buicks are allowed to have portholes (ahem, “venti-ports”), with due consideration given to Maserati, but no one else! You are correct about the sweep spear, though. It was a very distinctive feature on the late-60’s mid-sized Buick Skylarks and brought back on the 90’s Skylarks and you couldn’t mistake them for anything else. On an Infiniti? I’ll let you know…

  • avatar

    Do-it-yourself ventiports are all the rage here in Chicaoland South, appearing on everything from Aveos to Escalades. I guess Infiniti is just factory installing the feature for buyers, kind of like when mfrs figured out that if buyers were paying for upgraded sound systems then they should capture those $ by building them in themselves.

  • avatar

    I was no fan of the TL’s beak; I refer to it as a “cow catcher.”
    But in my opinion – with the elimination of this distinctive element – the TL now looks even more like the Nissan Altima, as it always has in profile and in the greenhouse. As others have posted, it’s very generic.

  • avatar

    I don’t even know why Acura even tries to be something different anymore.  Any car that made them unique is no longer sold.  They still do a large part in differentiating the Acura platform from their Honda corporate cousins with a more advanced awd system but the designs are polarizing and IMHO overly gadgeted.  Acura wants to compete with BMW but most of their cars are FWD based…really the closest competitor for the RL/TL/TSX is the Lexus ES – not a very good strategy to have 3 models that are similarly sized with the same engine (and for a long time only sported FWD).  The heavier the car the less “sporty” FWD can be.

  • avatar

    For what it’s worth; I’d buy something called a “Honda Super Accord.” That’s what the TL should be. There’s already precedent: Super-Handling AWD…

    Anyway, I’m going to the Baltimore Auto Show this weekend with a girl who not only knows nothing about cars, she doesn’t even have a license. She is an artist, however, so I’m interested hear her unblemished opinions about certain models’ designs, inside and out.

    Finally, while the Juke is actually growing on me (it’s nothing if not striking in person), I’m not going to deny that it is quite horrendously ugly. I really can’t think of anything worse at the moment.

  • avatar

    The TL looks like a Saturn.

  • avatar

    The portholes don’t bother me as much as the size of the wheels on that QX, what are they, 24’s?   I don’t get all the Acura hate, either, they never looked that bad to me, compared to a lot of stuff out there.

  • avatar

    Upon closer examination of the Infiniti in question, here are my recommendations from a design point of view.
    1. Flatten out the top of the grille. Upward-bulging grilles look fat and undistinctive.
    2. Remove the ventiports. Replace with the vehicle name, unless the vents actually serve a purpose. Get a waiver from Buick.
    3. Run the current horizontal crease line over the fenders all along the length of the vehicle.
    4. Smaller wheels and add tires with sidewalls. The pioneers experienced too many wheel breakdowns back in the day due to lack of cushioning, and I’m afraid drivers of this will experience same.
    5. Side molding to protect from door dings.
    That’s about it. End of being serious now.

  • avatar

    Agreed on the QX, saw one last weekend. An unfortunate edition to Infiniti’s otherwise stylish lineup. Haven’t seen the new TL yet.

    Jack, ever ride a PK Ripper?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Sure, many a time. Never owned one, though; they were always too short.

      My old frenemy, video-game superstar Todd Lyons, is now the main endorser for Fuji’s revitalized SE Racing line.

    • 0 avatar

      Just bought my 8-year old a 20″ SE Racing Bronco Mini.  Really nice welds and specced well.  Maybe an OM Flyer for Dad someday. Or a Volume Sledgehammer.

      /bike daydreaming

  • avatar

    The ugliness of the QX is enhanced by its sheer mass.  I’m surprised it doesn’t have Vespa scooters orbiting it.  Were it merely an ugly small car, there would be no need to react with “Dear God, what is that thing?!” as it approached.  So on that count it wins, even over the prior TL.
    The TL had the distinction of being the car that was good looking…except.  They put Roseanne Barr’s head on Marissa Miller’s body…it was a damn shame more than anything.  I think the Acura ZDX is uglier than the TL.

    • 0 avatar

      While I agree the QX56 is utterly atrocious, I think the 2011 Nissan Quest edges it out for the title. I didn’t think it was possible to take the basic shape of a minivan and turn it into something so horrendous. It looks like someone slammed the front of a new Elantra onto a Ford Flex.

  • avatar

    Ugly of the Year Award goes to the Nissan Juke, followed by the Acura ZDX / Honda CrossTour twins. Fake ventiports, grills or scoops of any kind but especially in CHROME automatically win you a Honorable Mention in the ugly category.
    My wife saw a Juke a week ago and actually slowed down (allowing it to pass) just so she could see the name plate. This way she knew who committed the crime and could report it to the authorities.

  • avatar

    The worst design statement of 2011:
    Cadillac art and science – I’ve never liked it and it’s hung around far too long.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    Please no more “flab-sided” Toyotas and their imitators.  They all have a bad case of muffin top.  The Tundra is the worst offender.

  • avatar

    The rear wraparound window on a Lexus CT 200h + the awkward proportions help make it my ugliest of the year.

  • avatar

    Gripe about the fountains all you want; there’s something about them that makes you stop and stare.  Maybe just trying to figure out if it’s safe to make a grab for the spare change people sometimes throw near the jets.

  • avatar

    The TL redesign reminds me of when BMW tried to step back from the Bangled 7 series and made the design even worse. A controversial design maybe polarizing but if it coherent, then at least its still a design. Making rash changes to some details only makes it worse by making it disjointed and robbing it of any merit that it may have had.

  • avatar

    Jesus! I thought it was the Nissan/Infiniti.

  • avatar

    The QX is ugly/gaudy in the same way a Silverado with 100 Pep Boys accessories and inside-out wheels is ugly.  Get rid of all the extraneous gewgaws and the giant rims and it wouldn’t be nearly as horrific.
    I have to say it seems Nissan has nailed the target demographic for this vehicle…from what I’ve seen the concept of understatement seems to have eluded most of the drivers of this beast in general.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    The QX56 ranks right up there with the 1961 Imperial as one of the ugliest vehicles of the last half century.  It’s a timeless example of utterly tasteless excess.
    That said, the Juke comes in a respectable second place.  How could Nissan fall so quickly?  A few years ago it was pumping out some interesting designs.

  • avatar

    The QX is one hideous vehicle. So is the Juke. But I have to be honest, I’m more offended that I have to be surrounded by lazy, generic, me-too styling of a Corolla or Camry than by an Aztek or Crosstour. Bring on interesting, forward thinking designs!

  • avatar

    Um, when Miss Acura Representative had her heels on, she was exactly your height? When did she NOT have her heels on?

  • avatar

    Sorry but the TL is still as ghastly as ever, just like the rest of the Acura lineup. Acura accidentally made some decent looking cars with the previous generation TL and TSX, but they sure corrected that.
    As for the QX, really the ONLY good looking truck in that class is the Range Rover. Everything else is just varying degrees of ugly.

  • avatar

    You know the Acuras are bad when my (not car savvy) wife asked me at the car show “what the heck is that thing?” while scrunching up her nose to indicate that it stunk.

  • avatar

    Look no further than Nissans latest and greatest piles whether they be the new flying coffin(Quest) the Joke(Juke) or the discombobulated box(Cube) or bringing up the rear the grinning Chesire cat(Murano).

  • avatar

    2011’s worst design statement award goes to the Japanese collectively. Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Toyota have clearly lost their way. Most of their recent designs are simply awful. Ill-conceived, ill-proportioned and poorly executed. Unless they can right their ships and proceed quickly in new design directions, they will start to lose customers in droves. The emperor is wearing no clothes.

  • avatar

    I’ll have to agree that the Nissan Joke – I mean Juke – is by far the worst. The more you look it the little details in the design, the worse it looks. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet of styling cues all thrown together badly to create something – well, indigestible.
    The ZDX is about as bad – I remember the first time I saw one was after eating lunch one day, and I thought someone had spiked my food with some psychedelic substance.
    The QX56 – well, it just looks MASSIVE.
    Oh well, at least the PT Cruiser and Sebring are gone…

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I see Nissan got rid of the goofy roofline but still managed to keep the QX “gouge my eyes out” ugly. 

  • avatar

    I don’t know how many really qualify as 2011, as in new-design-for-2011.
    But the stacked pipes on the California, and most of that car’s design is idiotic,
    the Toyota Yaris is particularly disgusting,
    The X3 kinda looks like the solids left in an Oktoberfest runoff sluice,
    the BMW 6 is existentially-discouraging in a way only Nietzsche could love with its Droopy Dog headlights,
    the current Quattroporte is not as handsome as the old one,
    the Ford Ranger sort of looks like a minor dump Toby Keith took behind a stage sometime back in the late 90s,
    the Juke? -well everyone huffs a little spray cement propellant in the design studio once or twice in their lives, now don’t they?
    I still can’t get over that gorgeous, Audrey Hepburnesque girl Karolina Wydra’s face in the ZDX commercial; -what a crime to put it so near something only good for wedging giant doors open?
    But Yes, you have it. Fish, -meet Barrel.
    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaannd: PULL!
    That Infiniti SUV you mention is the worst;
    -even with that same company doing more and more to make their once good-looking designs progressively uglier, like over-modeling the wheel-arch and hood swoopiness.
    (after Da’Silva changed our minds about those type of things with his A5)

  • avatar

    The person tailgating you with the QX56 probably had the adaptive cruise control set on “Irritate”.
    People who drive these are required to have their cheeks puffed out.

  • avatar

    The 2011 Accord. Not only has the front end been misshapen to match the crosstour but the back trunk lid has been given Lincoln strips that are a different shade of red than the actual taillights.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Jack: the most effective tactic I have found with the idiots on I65 (and there are a lot of them) is to take my foot off the accelerator pedal. Eventually, he will realize that you have almost come to a halt in the middle of nowhere, and he will speed away. I seldom have to do it twice.

  • avatar

    I’ve long held that the Dodge Caliber is the ugliest car on the road. But this QX… I’m going to have to rethink it. It may be a tie. In comparison, the TL is a piker in the ugliness dept.

  • avatar

    What about the Accord Crosstour?  It looks disproportionate from every angle and doesn’t have the utility to justify it.  Though the QX is one seriously ugly truck…

  • avatar

    The TL’s design issues can’t be fixed with a refresh. The hard points and fundamental design of the car is flawed. Too much metal, too high a shoulder line, too much overhang… the garish cyber beak & 2 ft tall bumpers are just the rotten icings on the ugly cake. The previous gen was much more adept at concealing the car’s (similar) girth.
    Not to mention in its sacrifice for SH-AWD, the TL loses a significant 10cf of interior volume to a nearly identically equipped $8K cheaper Accord EX-L V6. With the old TL you paid for the appreciable power boost, significantly improved interior & exterior aesthetics, and (at least early on) the option of having a stickshift in a sedan (that was unavailable in the Accord). The current TL literally gave up every advantage it had over the old one….

  • avatar
    George B

    A good indicator of design failure is when it only looks ok in a specific color that hides a design feature.  For example, too much chrome like the Ford fusion grill looks better on a silver car.  The Mazda 3 looks better in black to hide the smile.
    I think the Acura TL would look better in black to help hide it’s bulk and blacked out trim to hide the beak and tramp stamp.  Like putting a slightly chunky girl in a little black dress.  Bonus points for substituting a RonJon grill and putting the Batman logo on it.
    The Infiniti QX56 design fails so bad that silver paint to tone down the chrome excesses doesn’t help.  Imagine how much worse it would look in red.

  • avatar

    From the pictures, I like the new Acura front end.  A little boring, maybe, but that’s better than buttugly.

  • avatar

    The point of the Infiniti is to be big and forward and ostentatious. I think it’s succeeded admirably. There’s some awkwardness of proportion, but no worse than you’d find in the M-series sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Love all of Infiniti’s V8 sedans (whether the Q or M series) but can never remember which year the V8s became good.  I do recall that some of the early ones had issues. 

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