By on February 12, 2020

2011 BMW 535i GT - Image: BMWOn Wednesday last week we looked back on the recently ended decade, seeking the best design found on the sort of cars people can actually afford. Today, we’ll flip the question and go in search of the design failures.

As before, we have a few rules for our selection game. Only standard production cars are up for debate. No design exercises that didn’t make it to dealer lots, no bespoke vehicles for billionaires, and no super or exotic high-end rides. Keep things accessible, and the starting price of your terrible-looking car under $100,000. And it must have had a model year between 2010 and 2019.

Look at this deformed bar of soap:

That’s right, my pick for worst of the decade is the Lexus SC 430. Lexus’ luxury coupe had a great start. Its first generation had inline-six and V8 engines and was based on the same platform as the Supra everyone loved. Design work started in America at Calty Design Research in 1987, and it was introduced for 1992. After a long model run through 2000, it was time for something new.

A second-generation SC was in development by 1997; this time Lexus wanted the luxury cruiser to be even more amenable to Americans than before. It seems they targeted particularly those from San Diego and Palm Beach. Thus, the Sports Coupe changed its last name to Convertible. Instead of spending time in a studio, a design group from Europe and Japan took a vacation to the French Riviera. There, they looked at buildings and yachts and things. Little surprise, then, that they returned with a boat.

Rounded in every possible place, the new SC 430 bore no resemblance to the departed SC 300/400. Gone was the stylish sports luxury, replaced with the Floridian-favorite folding metal roof. Also gone was the six-cylinder offering, replaced with a singular 4.3-liter V8 from the LS 430 (not a bad thing), paired unfortunately and solely to automatic transmissions.

Given the new SC was much less an SC and instead a different sort of car, sales results weren’t surprising: they grew 27-fold at introduction. The peak of over 25,000 sales in the first model year quickly dropped to 10,000 the next year. A relative cliff occurred after, and by the final year of 2010, all the special editions in the world couldn’t sell more than 328 in the US. They lingered on lots in 2011 and 2012, as the retirees and realtors who bought one circa 2002 found they didn’t need another.

The SC wasn’t really replaced, though some might argue the LC is its successor. I say that it’s too big and too expensive. It’s also too good looking, as the second SC was a real dog. All the ingredients were there: build quality, know-how, engine choice, and interior materials. It fell down largely because of the design, and they should’ve done much better. Embarrassing.

What’s your pick for worst design of the 2010s?

[Images: BMW, Lexus]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

70 Comments on “QOTD: Worst Standard Car Design of the 2010s?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    This is easy, Nissan Crosscabriolet

    https://s3-prod.autoweek.com/s3fs-public/2014_nissan_murano_cc_03.jpg

    It was impossible NOT to look like a total dork driving it :(

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      DING DING DING, shut it down we have a winner.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        No lie, I know a guy in Iowa whose wife LOVES her cross/cab. She is on her 3rd.

        My conversation with him when I found this out…Oh, your the one..

        The only good thing that came from the horrible Tsunami that wiped out Fukishima years ago was the parking lot of cross cabs that were staged to get loaded on transports and were wiped out. I am certain Nissan took the insurance dough with a sigh of relief that they were not going to have to support the dealer network to unload them in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      oh… thats bad.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      A co-worker of mine was driving his father’s Morono for a few days last week while his car was in the shop. I parked beside that horrible beast and sadly was forced to bask in its mediocrity. Like I told my brother, “That car is the answer to the question nobody asked.”

    • 0 avatar
      Proud2BUnion

      Funny, I saw a black Crosscabriolet yesterday!
      I was driving near the Nissan dealership, so I assumed the driver was headed for service.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Lie2Me wins.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I remember the first time I saw a “GT” BMW. “What in the **** is that?” The high, hatchback deck on a sedan was just weird, like it was just tacked on. Hans said “good enough!”

    Somehow Audi pulled it off the with A7 – at least better

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The good news about ugly BMWs is that once the lease is up they disappear from sight and are rarely seen again. I used to see theses GTs everywhere and just as suddenly they were gone

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        “The good news about ugly BMWs is that once the lease is up they disappear from sight and are rarely seen again. I used to see theses GTs everywhere and just as suddenly they were gone”

        So true, what happened to all those GTs? They were everywhere around 2012-13 and then gone.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The GTs don’t compete with anything at Audi. The 3 GT, 5 GT and 6 GT are liftbacks, but they have longer wheelbases than their comparable sedans, longer roofs, and sit higher. They are sort of a half-step between a car and a crossover. Think more “upmarket Accord Crosstour” than “A7-fighter.”

      The Gran Coupe BMWs are competitors for the Audi four-door coupes. The 4 GC is a direct counterpart to the A5 Sportback. The 6 GC (although not a liftback) was in the same class as the A7 and CLS. But now they’ve moved it upmarket and it has become the 8 GC.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      No, the A7 looks like a dog dropping a deuce. Always will. The Panamera looks weird, but at leasts it doesn’t look like my Husky in the back yard.

      Never understood why people like it. If you like tiny windows and sexy shape, the CLS has always pulled off the look better. If you like the hatch convenience, Regal Sportback, Stinger and Arteon all look better, as does the smaller A5.

      The A7 is not a good looking car no matter how many people say it is. They’re wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “No, the A7 looks like a dog dropping a deuce.”

        I just spent like 5 productive minutes comparing Google images of “dog defecating” and “2020 A7 profile” and I don’t see what you’re talking about.

        The A7 tapers back like a relatively conventional car. It isn’t all bunched and hunched up at the back like the old Crossfire (or a dog crapping).

      • 0 avatar
        MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

        Agreed, A7 is like as if they kept making the Chevy Citation and updated it a little over the years.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Audi pulled off the five-door fastback look on the A7 because it was long and low. That BMW just looks…dorky.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Some other ones that come to mind:

    The MINI Coupe and Paceman – the answer to a question that no one asked.

    The Accord Crosstour. Some funky proportions.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    Acura ZDX. Saw one yesterday in the wild for the first time in about 5 years.

  • avatar
    neil733

    If you are willing to spread your search outside the US, then the Fiat 500L MPW (the longer 7-seat version) takes my prize. The standard Fiat 500L is no looker, but its already poor proportions are stretched beyond any possible definition of attractiveness in the longer 7-seater.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    What I find so amusing is the abuse the Pontiac Aztec took in the late 90’s early 00’s. Fast forward a decade and some change and suddenly Honda, BMW, Acura, MB all show up with some ghastly looking SUV that appears to be a direct descendant of the Aztec. At least in the Aztec you needn’t smash your head every time you got in the back seat.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The other day I was driving and there was a nicely maintained Aztec right in front of me. Compared to many of today’s crossovers it looked good with nice proportions and the dual glass hatch.

  • avatar
    ajla

    That smiley Mazda3 they sold from ’09-’13. I *hated* that design.

    Close runner up to the big beak and pointy butt Acura TL from the same years.

  • avatar

    There is a Cross Cabrio in my area…so I’ve seen the unicorn. It makes no sense, really.

    I think the GT is ungainly, but back in the 90’s, I had a SAAB 900T, and the combo of large frame and hatchback, plus a turbo four, showed how ahead of their time they truly were.

    Lexus SC ? A friend’s wife (lady who lunches), the target market, loved hers, until the lease was up, and she was off to a Porsche SUV.

    I still hold irrational hate for Camry Solara.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Anything with the EU-compliant bullnose. I get the reason for the general shape (pedestrian safety) but man, has it genericized (and ruined) the look of a lot of cars- especially the Mustang (IMO.) Now everything has to have that flat nose, high cowl, drooping hood line, headlamps pushed out to the edge, and at best you can design a grille to make it look somewhat like it’s supposed to be.

    Or just make it look duck-lipped like Tesla.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    Some very worthy contenders posted. I’ll toss in any Lexus SUV from 2016-present, particularly the RX and GX.

  • avatar
    loner

    Let’s not forget the Lincoln MkT. Ewwww.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I never hated the 5 GT. It looks alright enough. I do think it was stupid for BMW to discontinue the 5 Touring (wagon) here in the states, and then give us the GT. It was doomed.

    As for me, I vote for the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Because ewww.

    Or the previous-generation (there’s now a new one) Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe, which looks like a dog taking a squat on someone’s lawn. I once had custody of a 2016 AMG GLE 63 S Coupe for an entire Sunday, and all I could think was how ugly it was from the outside.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      I never hated the 5 GT either. It’s a different market than the regular 5. If you add the visuals (M-sport and whatnot) with the N55, you can try to make that little pig sporty. but the GT was the other side of the pendulum, staid and dignified. In the right colors with the right wheels, it looks like someone important is driving it or being driven in it. I’ll never buy one because it’s too big, but I never minded it.

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    Not a fan of the Toyota C-HR. Especially the ones with the white roof. Ugh.

    Just get a Corolla Hatchback. It’s cheaper and looks better.

    • 0 avatar
      saturnotaku

      A Corolla hatch would be easier to see out of, too. C-HR has the worst overall visibility of any vehicle I’ve seen, including the Camaro.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        I recently had a mid-level CH-R as a rental. 100% agree. It drives home the point of questioning why the mini-CUVs exist. It couldn’t break 30mpg on the highway (with the cruise set at 70), the CVT/engine combo really wasn’t on the same page, the back seat was a joke, and there was no more cargo space than what someone could find in a far more efficient hatchback. The styling (if you want to call it that) is going to age terribly, and changing lanes and backing up, even with the camera, was an adventure.
        Hopefully some kind of sanity returns in the next generation of vehicles because I don’t see how something as crazy as this can be sustained.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Couldn’t see out the back of that thing at the auto show!

      The local Mazda dealer was smart and didn’t have 3 hatch on hand, but probably worse than the C-HR, you could hide a 747 in the blind spots!

  • avatar
    Fleuger99

    Yes, the BMW 5-series GT was ‘different’ but it was very practical being a large hatchback-wagonish vehicle.

    Totally agree about the Honda Crosstour, hideous from any angle.

    The Infiniti QX80, large SUV is very ugly along with the Kia Amanti, very ugly with ZERO style.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Toyota Solara?

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Have to throw in the design that hung around way too long: the smart fourtwo. It might have worked in Europe where the streets resemble alleys and parking is an all-out contact sport, but just wasn’t going to work here with almost zero trunk room, an engine that wouldn’t power a John Deere riding mower, and very poor economy for a vehicle of its size. It was interesting at first, especially seeing them in Europe years before they came state-side, but, kind of like the New Beetle, when the newness wore off, so did the reason for it to exist.

    And I’ll throw in the stream of mini-CUVs flooding the streets now. CH-R, HR-V, X1, Q3, EcoSport, etc. They either all look like an organic blobby mess, or have too many design cues from their big brothers crammed into a much smaller space and it ends up a hot mess.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      There is someone close to me who has a one-car driveway on a street with no street parking. Having two smart fortwos allows them to have two cars.

      But you’re generally right that the only reason to buy one is for parking.

  • avatar
    millerluke

    When the current gen first came out, I really hated the Chevy Suburban/GMC Yukon XL trucks – they looked like hearses on stilts, like someone just decided to tack on an extra three feet to the back. The smaller ones look okay, but the largest ones, not so much

  • avatar
    gasser

    Lexus SC 430. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We’ve had one for 15 years, a 2005. We still love it. Build quality?? Solid, and after replacing some wear items (due to pot hole streets in L.A,) its quiet and handles well. Interior leather and wood still look great. Yes, the V8 is only 300hp in an era when that is turbo 4 numbers, but the V-8/5 speed auto will easily pull you quickly up to freeway speeds. Top goes up and down without a problem. As a bonus, it feels safe in an era of giant SUVs. IDK what more anyone could ask. I guess if your frame of reference is Hellcat power or Corvette origami the SC430 falls short.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The Lexus SC 430 was a departure from the SC 300/400 sport coupe and intended as a luxury coupe competitor to the Benz SL and Jaguar XK. Price wise it packed it some more value with nice upscale interior furnishings. And of course the vaulted Lexus reliability.
    Unlike the Benz it had a vestigial rear seat for the obligatory ladies who lunch poodle or child. And unlike the Jag it has a retractable roof.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Audi A7 – reasons (If you need any) are above. Yeah, the BMW hunchback of Bavaria looks terrible and yes, the Lincoln MKT looks like a cataract laden senior citizen designed it, but the A7 is awful.

    Audi doesn’t agree and the buyers of the deuce dropping design call it pretty, but it’s not.

    I bet the Venn diagram of people who buy/lease the A7 and those who have vision correction lenses strong than -5.0 is just a circle.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I nominate pre-facelift Kia Venga. It’s a painfully generic bloated blob, devoid of any personality or joy. The most appliance-like mediocre vehicle ever built.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    All vehicles made by Cadihack, Infiniti, Toyoduh and Honduh during this period. This was the start of the hideous era that continues to this day. Without fail, these automakers built the ugliest things on the road and should be banned to preserve our eyesight.

  • avatar
    slap

    Anything with a huge gaping grill. Like Lexus.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’ve always liked the 5 GT, I’ve never sat in one or driven, but the hatchback utility and ridiculous amount of rear legroom coupled with narrow width for city parking would work for me. Kind of like a modern Merkur Scorpio, which I have driven /ridden in.
    My understanding is that the GT was pretty much made for Chinese market whose drivers (?) like to be driven.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I find the Hyundai Kona looks like a furtive little bandit, an automotive raccoon. It’s those “headlights”, the ultimate in dork cartoon looks.

    Don’t get the ragging on the SC430, considering the unbroken string of spindle-grilled uggers Lexus has unleashed on the world since then. Had a pal who had two new ones, and in the real world, it was obvious the aura of quality those things put out up close; stock photos of beige ones do not give any palpable idea of the effect. He had a ’93 SC400 from new for nine years before the SC430, and preferred the new one to drive.

    Lexus took the perfectly decent GS and spindle-grille ruined it along with the IS, then added an amateur redo to the IS profile for good measure, with a gratuitous character line to nowhere which made for stupid metalwork at the bottom of the rear doors. Post Fukushima syndrome?

    To add to these travesties were that tribute to the plastic bumper maker’s art, the NX proboscis, followed by a horrid little deflation of it aptly named UX. The RX350 long wheelbase Hulk is now used to illustrate the word “ungainly” in better dictionaries everywhere.

    Forget the SC430, the entire Lexus lineup now sucks big time, excepting the LC. if you really want to barf at the mere thought, think of the LFA with a modern Lexus grille. Runs screaming from the room in horror …

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I hereby nominate my 2016 Prius. Weird headlights, and the rear end is just whacky. The 2019 revision is a big improvement.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    My answer to nearly any “worst of” question in this decade is the Range Rover Evoque, and this question is no exception.

    It projects the image of a yappy Shih Tzu. The attempt to force in cues from larger Range Rovers is just sort of comical.

    Other choices: Toyota C-HR, Mercedes GLA-Class.

  • avatar
    markf

    I have to agree with the author, the SC430. It looks like a jellybean with wheels.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Mitsubishi’s I-MIEV. A Smart Fortwo is a 250 GT California by comparison.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I don’t understand this contest for worst, or even the one for best design. They’re all the same wind tunnel determined shape. You might as well have a contest for best/worst front and rear clip.

  • avatar
    bd2

    The Prius and the Toyota rebadge of the Mazda2 (w/ that massive, fugly grille) are definitely up there.

    The BMW GT’s were always dorky looking compared to the Gran Coupes (really don’t know why BMW did both), kinda like the humpback whale Tesla “crossovers.”

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    Nissan Cube

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    HAS to be the slopeyback “premium SUVs” where BMW and Mercedes take a reasonably useful vehicle and chop off a bunch of practical cargo space in the hopes of convincing buyers it’s “sporty” with that stupid angled rear end.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Lie2me: I still don’t see how taking a drive even with no destination is in any way a harmful activity. If you...
  • JimZ: People like him always manage to find convenient exceptions for themselves.
  • Art Vandelay: “It would take years and billions of dollars worth of investment to build a new supply chain like...
  • JimZ: IIRC in MI the governor specifically clarified that stopping people “just to see what they’re doing” is no...
  • Corey Lewis: I think the way it’s worded in the sheltering commandments, the police could stop you and see...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Timothy Cain
  • Matthew Guy
  • Ronnie Schreiber
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth