With Thanksgiving approaching, I'd like to give thanks for the automotive feast that I've sampled over the year, including treats such as the Dodge Viper, Porsche 911 GT3, Volkswagen R32, and BMW 335i convertible.
But every year some cars should list cranberries and yams on the options menu. These are the turkeysfat, feathered and ready for slaughter. Over the past 25 years, there have been some all-time fowls. We're talking cars with bloated styling, horrid performance and more than a hint of lemon.
Sure, even today's worst cars are miles better than the duds of two decades ago. But while the list could have been clogged like Ozzy Osbourne's shower drain with notorious 1980s junkers, that would've been too easy. Instead, I wanted to include the worst offenders of a more recent vintage.
So belly up to the table, and break out the antacid. Here are some ultimate automotive turkeys of the past 25 years.
GMC Envoy XUV (2004)
American consumers were already fleeing en masse from clunky truck-based SUVs when GM released the Envoy XUV. Not the nail in the coffin for GM's moribund midsize SUVs, the XUV was the coffin minus the nails. Besides hideous looks, handling and quality, the Envoy featured a huge sunroof in the cargo area, perfect for hauling grandfather clocks, ficus trees and GM's baggage. No one bit, not even grandfather clock owners.
Pontiac Aztek (2001)
The Aztek offended the automotive gods like no car in recent memory. GM's first attempt at a crossover SUVwith seemingly no clue to what that meantwas a hunchbacked hobgoblin that even casual observers realized was bone ugly (wags dubbed it the Azkrak). The Aztek's big moment was as a prize on the inaugural season of "Survivor." For the public, it proved a car you couldn't have given away on a desert island.
Jaguar X-Type (2001)
The Jaguar X-Type gave fans the worst of both worlds, a Jaguar with all the glitches, but none of the style or performance. Over its first year, I drove three versions that revealed the identical defect: a false trunk-ajar warning. In another, a chunk of door trim fell into my lap when I shut it. Throw in flabby handling, a mediocre V6 and plummeting sales, and it's no wonder that Jag has canceled the X-Type and given up on the entry-luxury segment.
Lincoln Blackwood (2002)
A savvy 10-year-old with a Tonka collection could have foreseen the disaster called the Blackwood. This "truck" had no four-wheel drive and a carpeted cargo bed below a powered cover, apparently designed for hauling mink coats. Available in any color you liked, as long as it was black, did I mention it cost $52,000? Glitches with the motorized bed cover delayed the Blackwood's arrival, but the funeral came early. Barely 3,000 were sold over 15 months before Lincoln mercifully pulled the plug.
Saturn Ion (2002)
For this we waited 10 years? That was the market's response to the Ion, Saturn's late-arriving, second-generation small car. This plastic-bodied pile with a Fisher Price interior was dead on arrival, so bad that GM was forced into a rush-job redesign during its first year on sale. In the final ignominy, this year's cancellation of the Ion also marks the end of the line for Saturn's original Spring Hill, Tennessee plant.
Mercury Marauder (2003)
The Marauder was supposed to be a movie cop car, a bad-ass American muscle sedan in the vein of the wildly successful Chrysler 300. Three problems: The Marauder looked more Social Security than undercover security. Second, the car was Social Securityan antiquated Grand Marquis below its blacked-out body. Third, its 4.6-liter 302-horsepower V8 felt so slow that the only perps you could catch were teenagers on foot.
Chrysler TC by Maserati (1989)
The Motown Maserati was the mutant offspring of Lee Iacocca and his friend Alejandro de Tomaso, creator of the de Tomaso Pantera while Iacocca was at Ford. The "TC" might have stood for "total crap." The removable hardtop on this Italian-disguised Chrysler K-Car leaked water all over its tacky leather interior. Chrysler called it a Mercedes competitor. Americans fell over laughing, buying only 7,300 copies over three years.
Message Board: Do you disagree with these choices for top automotive turkeys? Did your car make the list? What cars did we miss? Voice your opinion!
Sterling 825 (1987)
How is it possible to ruin an Acura Legend? Ask the British. Rover's star-crossed exercise in international cooperation took a benchmark of Japanese reliability, forced it through the sausage maker of British manufacturing, and out popped the Sterling. Americans should have dumped this fast-rusting abomination straight into Boston Harbor.
Yugo GV (1985)
As entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin schemes today to bring China's Chery automobiles to the U.S., let's recall his suspiciously similar red-state effort: The Yugo. The junker that spawned a thousand punch lines (and even more Toyota converts) was built in Yugoslavia, to equally dubious quality standards. Based on the Fiat 128, the no-go Yugo gained more notoriety in 1989, when Leslie Pluhar plunged nearly 160 feet to her death when the wind blew her 1987 Yugo over the railing of Michigan's Mackinac Bridge.
Cadillac Cimarron (1982)
A Cimarron is a horse, of course. But the Cadillac Cimarron was more like a horse by-product, a tarted-up Chevy Cavalier that GM tried to pass off as a real Caddy. With its inflated price and oil-spewing enginethe first four-cylinder in any Cadillac since 1914the Cimarron helped trash Cadillac's reputation and its finances. Today, as Cadillac rebuilds its image with solid models such as the new CTS sedan, product director John Howell has a picture of the Cimarron hanging in his office, captioned, "Lest We Forget."
Lawrence Ulrich lives in Brooklyn and writes about cars. His reviews and features appear regularly in The New York Times, Popular Science, Men's Vogue and Travel + Leisure Golf.
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