By on March 10, 2020

Image: Ford

We’ve talked in the past about models that left a bad first impression, then grew into themselves over successive years and generations — eventually earning our respect, and perhaps even our desire. My choice in that exercise was the Mercedes-Benz CLS, a model that aged like Robert Downey Jr. over its 20-year lifespan.

For the uninformed among us, that’s a good thing.

That particular change in perception was the result of fastidious German designers. This time around, let’s find examples where it isn’t the model that’s changed — it’s us. In short order, our initial disdain turned into something altogether different. Same car, same generation, but a different view.

Keep in mind we’re looking for positive examples here, not instances where we ended up hating something even more than we already did.

This thought, like most others, came to me as I sat motionless at a stop light, lulled into a trancelike state by a strange, incessant ticking. Like a metronome, it was. Anyway, to my left was a rear-quarter view of a crossover America can’t get enough of. If this family-friendly CUV was a person, it would be Pam Anderson bounding down the beach in 1993. Yes, we’re talking about the Toyota RAV4, as ubiquitous as vehicles get, and one that underwent a fairly radical change for 2019.

At first glance, I was underwhelmed with the RAV’s metamorphosis. Yes, the previous gen was dated, boasting all the sex appeal of a mailbox, but the new one, while becoming thankfully butchier, carried a body and face only a mother (and apparently hundreds of thousands of American consumers) could love. Its upsized visage looked like a disgruntled baby dinosaur. “Busy” best described the creases adorning its flanks and fascia. And that floating roof? That black demarcation line partway up the rearmost pillar did not look natural. The roof, she does not float.

Fast forward to this week and things had changed. In the hour or so I remained at that light, I took stock of the RAV4. Reassessed my earlier assumptions. Turns out I had been too hard on the no-longer-little CUV. Its taillights call to mind Jeep and Volkswagen; the upturned rear bumper gives the impression of greater ground clearance and off-road ability. In TRD guise, the sour face grows far more inviting, taking on a conventional shape. And those wheel arches…

In short, its body reflects a concerted effort to be different.

It’s quite possible last year’s release of the new Ford Escape caused me to see the RAV4 in a different light. Hey, this thing at least tries not to be a blob! I can’t think of anyone who’d choose the Blue Oval CUV for its looks over the RAV4, but that’s just me and my circle.

Enough rambling. What current model did you change your mind about?

[Images: Ford, Toyota]

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20 Comments on “QOTD: Having a Change of Heart?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Toyota in general. I’d say Toyota’s styling on new releases for the last 5 years or so have been much better in the metal than in photographs.

    Not handsome in real life mind you but not frightening to small children like the photographs.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      Toyota and Honda both have made some decent looking machines lately. Some are still boring-mobiles, but the Accord and Passport, and RAV-4, Corolla, Camry are decent looking cars.
      Now, the Civic went from appliance to a 10 year old’s transformer toy for some reason, and the less said about what they’ve done to the Prius the better. But at least they aren’t boring.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    The new full size RAM pickup. When the pics started coming out before the release I hated it. Now I think it’s the best looking full size truck.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    The 370Z.

    By virtue of not changing for so long, its kept more of what I like about cars intact for longer than its newer “improved” rivals.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    I was pretty violently turned off by the new Gladiator but recently saw one in black and said “OK, that could work.”

    I’m pretty irrational in my new love for the 2020 Panamera especially considering what I used to think of older models

    I wouldn’t kick an H3 SUT Hummer out of my driveway like I would’ve of in the past.

    Wakeboats, a true scourge of any lake, are something I now appreciate more and more.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    BMW X2

    Will be interesting to see how the sales compare between the Bronco Sport and the Escape.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    I fail to grasp how anyone would want a fake Jeep when they can buy the real deal. Clearly Toyoduh copied a Jeep and is passing it off as a cheap Chinese level of a knockoff gaining sales it otherwise would have not earned being original. I can see why Toyoduh would do this since the rest of its lineup is hideous and weird. Perhaps they should change the chimp lineup of designers.

    • 0 avatar
      MeJ

      Why buy a Toyota over a Jeep???
      That’s almost laughable if you consider quality a measure of vehicle building.
      When the new Jeeps came out they had frame welds that were breaking! On a rugged (supposed) off road vehicle this would be a bit of an issue. Not to mention FCA’s overall reputation for horrible build quality.
      Why would you even consider the over priced Jeep?

    • 0 avatar
      WhatsMyNextCar

      @cprescott Your insistence on “Toyoduh” doesn’t come across as wit; it makes you sound unintelligent. Aside from that, who made any point about Toyota copying a Jeep? The closest was maybe Steph’s likening the RAV’s taillights to an unnamed Jeep model. Is that what you focused on? You think Toyota benchmarked a Jeep when it redesigned the RAV4? Jeep doesn’t have a model in the class that’s worth pursuing. Toyota would have benchmarked the CR-V, its closest sales competitor, and maybe the CX-5, the highest-praised model in the segment. Others may include the Tiguan or Escape. Maybe a Rogue or Equinox. Jeep? Nah. The Cherokee is too old at this point.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Elantra GT. Just from sitting impressions. A year ago I wasn’t impressed. But this year, after sitting in many other cars, I actually think that GT is one of the better ones. Also VWs. This year they had manual Golf, Jetta, etc at the show. After trying their clutch/shifter combination, I feel better about it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    BMWs. I’ve become a fan of their vehicles over the past two years after being largely negative on them for several.

    Close runner up to PHEVs. I was unsure of the concept when the Volt first came out but I’m pretty sold on it now. I just wish more of them offered RWD.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Pretty much the entire current Volvo lineup (60-series and larger). I dismissed them out of hand when they came out because of the conversion to a 4-cylinder engine lineup. But the styling grew on me, and then I test drove a couple during our shopping process last year. Now my feelings are that it’s still too bad about the 4-cylinder sound, but the styling inside and out and the comfort more than make up for the engines.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Blazer. Because of its original version, the new one doesn’t fit the name and as a result I simply didn’t like it. On the other hand, if you ignore what the name was and look at the new model for what it is, I actually like it and even suggested it as a replacement for my wife’s ’16 Renegade.

    She’s buying a ’20 Renegade Trailhawk instead. More power than her older one with more features she wants. She gets to teach an all-new 9-speed auto when to shift. Took me about three months with the first one because it didn’t want to downshift quickly enough on shallow grades but that’s an easy thing to correct by simply using the ‘manual’ mode on the shifter. A few longer trips doing that and it learned to shift at the bottom of the grade instead of straining halfway up the grade.

  • avatar
    millerluke

    Tesla 3. A sibling has one, and at first I thought ‘What the hell?!’ Hated the tablet mounted in the centre of the dash, the stupid gimmicks, the way it drove. I mean, aside the acceleration – that’s awesome!

    But, having driven it a few times now over the past months, I’ve come to see it as an effective vehicle, and one well-suited to the short drives my wife has to regularly make. In fact, I can’t help but think it will be on our short list when we have to replace her vehicle

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    Kia Stinger. I’ve always liked the styling, and of course its classic sport sedan approach. But I never thought I might want one, because it doesn’t have MT and I thought it was simply too long for my tight garage. I learned, however, that it’s not as long as it looks, and is in fact shorter than the Accord. So despite the lack of MT, I decided to test a 2.0T version with AWD, and thought it was great. I could easily imagine owning one. I’m waiting for Kia to add AEB to the base model, and hopefully the upcoming corporate 2.5T/8DCT drivetrain. If they make these changes for 2021, it could happen.

    Also Tesla Model 3. I was largely indifferent to the Model 3, again because it never occurred to me as a viable option. But while helping my business partner choose her next car, we decided to try one, and we both loved it. To my surprise, I got used to the tablet display fairly quickly, and it’s a fantastic driver’s car IMO. We all know about the acceleration, but it has excellent handling and steering feel too. Heck, one Model 3 has more steering feedback than an entire lot of 3 Series BMWs. The range still isn’t ideal because I wouldn’t be able to get to my parents’ place and back on a single charge, but it’s close and I could probably make it work by tolerating a little inconvenience.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    My choice would have to be the Chrysler triplets, specifically the Charger. When first released I thought the 300C was a bit too “let’s add this because it’s required” and not quite designed per se and the Charger looked like a toddler’s rendition of muscle. The Challenger, in its modern iteration, has always been handsome and has gotten moreso.

    Fast forward to now and the 300 has been massaged into a more cohesive design, the Charger has been cleaned up and the Challenger looks better, if only subtly, than ever. I know many preferred the first generation of the boxy 300, but the current one looks much better in my eyes. Perhaps I’m biased because I had one for a while and greatly appreciated its looks and road presence, even though it had niggling issues from the jump.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I’ve always believed that the Chrysler 300 was more of an intentional throwback to the Chrysler Imperial of the Green Hornet TV series fame than to any previous 300 itself. Though I have to admit that as a Black Beauty the newer one is a far better handling car than the original Imperial was. I’ve read statements that the Black Beauty modified for TV was almost undriveable in anything but a straight line.

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