QOTD: Worst Standard Car Design of the 2010s?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd worst standard car design of the 2010s

On 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]

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  • MiataReallyIsTheAnswer MiataReallyIsTheAnswer on Feb 14, 2020

    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.

  • Billjimtimbo Billjimtimbo on Apr 10, 2020

    I feel like, generally speaking, this decade has seen a lot of great automotive design. I think Mazda, Volvo, Audi, Honda (mostly) and Ford deserve a lot of credit for designing and building attractive and sometimes stunning vehicles. But there've been a whoooole lotta misses. For me, the worst offender is the first-gen Toyota Mirai. I know, it's not a conventional ICE car, so it might not fit the strict confines of this exercise, but JEEEZUS is that thing awkward. It features exactly zero flattering angles. I don't understand why automakers feel the need to make alternative-fuel vehicles as ungainly and weird looking as possible. (To be fair, the second-gen Mirai, debuting this year, is a stunner.) Honorable mentions: Toyota CH-R Toyota Prius (fourth generation) Toyota Avalon (current generation) Nissan Juke 2010 Kia Sportage 2014-present Jeep Cherokee Every single Lexus SUV from the entire decade

  • SCE to AUX Good summary, Matt.I like EVs, but not bans, subsidies, or carbon credits. Let them find their own level.PM Sunak has done a good thing, but I'm surprised at how sensibly early he made the call. Hopefully they'll ban the ban altogether.
  • SCE to AUX "Having spoken to plenty of suppliers over the years, many have told me they tried to adapt to EV production only to be confronted with inconsistent orders."Lofty sales predictions followed by reality.I once worked (very briefly) for a key supplier to Segway, back when "Ginger" was going to change the world. Many suppliers like us tooled up to support sales in the millions, only to sell thousands - and then went bankrupt.
  • SCE to AUX "all-electric vehicles, resulting in a scenario where automakers need fewer traditional suppliers"Is that really true? Fewer traditional suppliers, but they'll be replaced with other suppliers. You won't have the myriad of parts for an internal combustion engine and its accessories (exhaust, sensors), but you still have gear reducers (sometimes two or three), electric motors with lots of internal components, motor mounts, cooling systems, and switchgear.Battery packs aren't so simple, either, and the fire recalls show that quality control is paramount.The rest of the vehicle is pretty much the same - suspension, brakes, body, etc.
  • Theflyersfan As crazy as the NE/Mid-Atlantic I-95 corridor drivers can be, for the most part they pay attention and there aren't too many stupid games. I think at times it's just too crowded for that stuff. I've lived all over the US and the worst drivers are in parts of the Midwest. As I've mentioned before, Ohio drivers have ZERO lane discipline when it comes to cruising, merging, and exiting. And I've just seen it in this area (Louisville) where many drivers have literally no idea how to merge. I've never seen an area where drivers have no problems merging onto an interstate at 30 mph right in front of you. There are some gruesome wrecks at these merge points because it looks like drivers are just too timid to merge and speed up correctly. And the weaving and merging at cloverleaf exits (which in this day and age need to all go away) borders on comical in that no one has a bloody clue of let car merge in, you merge right to exit, and then someone repeats behind you. That way traffic moves. Not a chance here.And for all of the ragging LA drivers get, I found them just fine. It's actually kind of funny watching them rearrange themselves like after a NASCAR caution flag once traffic eases up and they line up, speed up to 80 mph for a few miles, only to come to a dead halt again. I think they are just so used to the mess of freeways and drivers that it's kind of a "we'll get there when we get there..." kind of attitude.
  • Analoggrotto I refuse to comment until Tassos comments.