There are almost no truly awful vehicles these days. These aren’t necessarily the worst cars, trucks, or SUVs I drove in 2009, but in one way or another, they were the most distressing or dissapointing.
Chevrolet Camaro SS
I really rather liked the V6-powered RS model—frugal, fast, and quick-witted. But the heavily hyped, 426hp big brother never met expectations. Sure, it looked awesome, but the Camaro SS neither pulled as hard as it should or had the decisive handling promised (blame its lardy chassis), and it didn’t even sound all that great.
Chrysler Sebring Convertible
Unlike the decent but unfulfilling SS, this one is rubbish: craptastic interior materials, a flexy structure, weak engines, overwrought styling inside and out, and an insanely high asking price akin to that of real convertibles. Bankruptcy anyone?
Forget about what I think of its exterior styling (or lack thereof); what sucks about the Terrain is how badly it misses the mark set long ago by the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The 4-cylinder model promises great fuel economy: EPA ratings of 20mpg city and 29mpg highway. Yet, on a long drive across the Midwest, cruise set at 70mph, we couldn’t top 20.2mpg on the trip computer; in town it did 17. I might of thought I had a particularly slow-witted example, except that other independent reviews concurred. And, when you choose that engine—which sounds like a cement mixer, by the way—you get the most horrid electrically-assisted power steering, which needs constant minute corrections to keep going strait, and which keeps changing its assistance in the middle of a corner. Yeck!
Take tech from the brilliant new Prius, add 700 pounds of excess weight, and what do you get? A slow, noisy, ugly pig of a ‘luxury’ car that barely gets over 30mpg in the real world and costs $10,000 or $15,000 more. A seriously missed opportunity to create a new market niche. Roll on the European turbodiesels. Please.
It sounded great: Americans like wagons, but don’t want to be seen driving them. So allow your California design studio to turn out this cool looking crossovery thing, with terrific stance, proportion, and surface detailing. Give it a groovy, well-sized interior, and offer a nice choice of engines and either front- or all-wheel drive. Then, built it using cruddy materials (undermining the sense of luxury) to make a higher profit, assemble it poorly here in the good ole’ U.S. of A., and finally, make sure it isn’t even that good to drive. The Venza is noisy, rides poorly on its big, blingy wheels, and is blighted by under-developed, feel-free electric power steering. Over to you, Nissan Murano.
Even the worst of these where perfectly adequate—if overpriced compared to more worthy competitors. But it was actually a great year for cars; tomorrow we’ll celebrate that.