Saturday, April 12, 2014

Car Features - Car and Driver: Dishonorable Mention

There is a reason why the coveted Car of the Year Award exists: this is to know the best automobiles sold in the market. However, Car and Driver magazine (and Motor Trend and Automobile magazines) bought back their words on some vehicles in which they are anything but award-worthy of the award for some reasons. Do take note that the lemon law was not in existence yet and features like Bluetooth and airbags mounted in the seatbelts were basically a dream.

Let us now give you the dishonorable roll, ladies and gentlemen.
The Year: 1983
The Car: Renault Alliance
The Award: Car and Driver 10Best Cars and Motor Trend Car of the Year

Placing a French car (the Renault 9, to be exact) to an American setting is done by placing things that American loves in a car such as an monochrome interior and assembling it at Nash's assembly line in Wisconsin. The import from France had a 1.4 engine making 60hp (heck, 30 years later, a Kia Rio 1.4 carries 106hp) but the real deficiency lies on this: French made cars aren't exactly known for their reliability which resulted to rusted units in the late 80s that resulted to the drop of resale value.

The Year: 2002
The Car: Ford Thunderbird
The Award: Motor Trend Car of the Year

Retro was in during the late 90s and the early 00s, with models from Chrysler, Volkswagen, and MINI flying off dealers. Ford took advantage of the scene by reviving the Thunderbird name and incorporating 1955 design cues. Fantastic design, but the rest of the car was based on the Lincoln LS which is a not-so-stellar car to begin with. It looks good but it is not a fantastic performer, since it is one overweight beast. The novelty worn off with sales decreasing each year since 2002.

The Year: 1971
The Car: Chevrolet Vega
The Award: Motor Trend Car of the Year

The early 70s saw the spike on fuel prices which necessitated the American manufacturers to have a sub-compact which rivaled Toyota, Volkswagen, Datsun, and Honda back then. We all know the exploding fuel tanks from Ford Pintos, which made the Chevy Vega a better proposition. One can get a plethora of body configurations, handling which connects to the car, Camaro looks for less, and an aluminum engine which was ahead of its time. But then the cylinders lying in the aluminum engine are faulty which leads oil pour on them, resulting to a smoky Vega back then. Plus the body can't withstand the elements nature throws in, which is why one can't see this car anymore in existence.

The Year: 1997
The Car: Cadillac Catera
The Award: Automobile All Stars

There is a good thing about being a large brand is one can borrow the vehicle to suit different tastes. Well, adapting a car for a certain market without further studying what they want can lead to a sales disaster. The folks at GM took the German Opel Omega, redesign it and slap the Catera badge which seems to be great. The bad news is it felt porky since the engine can't take the weight and reliability issues sprouted one by one. Looks like BMW and Benz didn't feel scared at all during that time and it was one forgettable car in the US, since pitching in Cindy Crawford and the ducks (which are animated) weren't that much effective.

The Year: 1985
The Car: Merkur XR4Ti
The Award: Car and Driver 10Best Cars

Another case of taking out a European car (in this situation, the three door Ford Sierra) for the American market without being successful. Ford fitted the 2.3 turbocharged engine and glued the Merkur (pronounced as 'Mare-coor') badges which were then sold beside large Lincoln and Mercury sedans. It looked nice while the engine provided a somewhat delightful performance but four years later Ford pulled the plug for the Merkur, which only some took notice of it since US regulations and exchange rates took a toll to these cars.

The Year: 1997
The Car: Chevrolet Malibu
The Award: Motor Trend Car of the Year

One of the volume sellers but one of the unremarkable piece of automobiles sold back then. It took home the bacon but the car drove and handled blandly and its 2.4 4-cylinder had 150hp while a 3.1 V6 carried 155hp paired to a 4-speed automatic, something embarrassing to begin with. And US rent-a-car companies love them, especially that this generation still continued on with the sixth generation model as the "Classic" with sales exclusive for them.

The Year: 1990
The Car: Lincoln Town Car
The Award: Motor Trend Car of the Year

Making a new generation of a car is one tough decision for a manufacturer. The wizards at Lincoln drank the Town Car some growth pills without bothering to change the mechanical parts including a floaty suspension (which is one reason why people love being ridden in one), a very hard steering radius, an archaic 4.9 V8 displacing 150hp, and a turtle 4-speed automatic. Responding to some criticisms, a 190hp 4.6 V8 was placed in it but even after that, the technologies used is still the same until its redesign in 1998, in which it was still the Town Car you know since your high school days.

The Year: 1980
The Car: Chevrolet Citation
The Award: Motor Trend Car of the Year

The Citation was Chevrolet's counterpart in the X-Car platform - a front wheel drive compact car composed of the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix. At first, it was decent enough with two engines that are old-school and a very Detroit interior with plastic abound. It had some bad stuff such as loose bolts in the suspension, rusty body, noisy transmission, and falling interior trim. A car with great dreams that got to a sink hole of nightmares.

The Year: 1974
The Car: Ford Mustang II
The Award: Motor Trend Car of the Year

Mustangs were known for their raw power from their V8 engines, but Ford took a step backward with the second generation Mustang since they've ditched the V8s for wheezy 4-cylinder and V6 engines in the name of fuel efficiency no thanks to the oil crisis prevalent during that time. Exterior designs are funny than ferocious, plus the platform was based on the minuscule Ford Pinto. Oh wait, Ford placed a V8 engine for a short tenure with 129hp (I am not kidding here) that played a very dangerous role in the car's structure.

The Year: 1995
The Car: Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique
The Award: Car and Driver 10Best Cars

Back in 1995, Chrysler and Ford launched the Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus (the Plymouth Breeze didn't come along until 1996) and the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique respectively. The unfortunate child on the list is the latter pair since they were deemed too small to compete with since it was based on the European Ford Mondeo. Americans simply cannot appreciate this vehicle due to its compact size found in the rear bench (even adding some leg room didn't help either). And having a small car competing with the Accord and Camry in price, things get doomed.


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