2007 Auto Show Duds – Photo Gallery: Visiting a particular car dealership is similar to buying a new music CD. You pick and choose based on a hit song or popular vehicle, paying little attention to the extra tunes or the various sedans and trucks filling dead space on the lot. Recording artists would surely have an easier time if they limited their studio time to recording only the popular music, and auto makers might find it to be advantageous to avoid creating certain rides all together. To help out and demonstrate our point, we’ve compiled a list of the lamest and most offensive concept and production cars from the 2007 auto show season. View at your own risk.
Changfeng Liebao CS6-Y
Introduced to US automotive journalists by Chairman Li Jianxin, the Liebao CS6-Y is Changfeng’s most ambitious effort to date. Designed inside and out by Pininfarina, the CS6-Y is powered by a four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 140 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Features include GPS, air conditioning, ABS, airbags and a promise of “superexcellent internal and external quality.” However, what we saw on the stand in Detroit was anything but.
Chrysler Nassau Concept
The Nassau Concept represents the future look of Chrysler design without revealing a specific future model. Apparently, Chryslers of tomorrow will be hideous. Built on the 300 platform, it borrows the “four-door coupe” form used for the Mercedes-Benz CLS, albeit with much less success. The hatchback body accommodates four passengers, and the 120-inch wheelbase Nassau was designed to appear smaller than the 300 by using short overhangs and shaved corners. If there’s one highlight, it’s the 6.1-liter, 425-horsepower Hemi V8 under the carbon fiber hood – a great vision for the future, even as today’s gas prices teeter on $3.50 per gallon.
2008 Dodge Avenger
Dale Earnhardt was called the Intimidator, Arnie was called the Terminator. Why? Because Earnhardt’s #3 in a rearview mirror scared the bejeezus out of fellow race drivers, and Governor Schwarzenegger snuffed out bad guys in his own special biomechanical kick-ass way. Now we have the Dodge Avenger (a reintroduced name on the new Stratus replacement), so called because it avenges the carnage the imports have brought upon the midsize domestics. Well, actually, no it doesn’t really, um, avenge, so much as it offers in-your-face American style wrapped around a mediocre sedan. Honda and Toyota have little to worry about.
2008 Dodge Dakota
The outgoing Dakota was a decent, if not groundbreaking truck that underwhelmed in a few areas. The styling wasn’t our favorite, and we’re sorry to say that we don’t see the new Dakota’s nose as improving that situation much. The interior and driving experience are good for the class, and the addition of a more powerful V8 engine and six-speed automatic are good news in the power department. But the Dakota’s work is cut out for it. The Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier aren’t slouches, and the Honda Ridgeline – truck DNA issues aside – already offers a compelling choice for around-town truck users that aren’t concerned about appearance.
Dodge Demon Concept
Those Dodge guys are at it again. The Dodge Demon concept is a small, two-place roadster concept designed to be a competitor to the iconic Mazda MX-5, formerly known as the Miata. Its interior and exterior execution (if not style) indicate that the Demon was designed with an eye toward future production. But this isn't the first time we've seen something like this from the Chrysler Corporation. Anybody remember the 1998 Plymouth Pronto concept? Or the 2002 Dodge Razor? How about the 2004 Dodge Sling Shot? They were introduced with similar fanfare and winks about production models, but with the company's finances in turmoil and Chrysler's future ownership uncertain, we're guessing the Demon will join them on the Island of Unbuilt Concepts.
Ford Airstream Concept
Everyone knows that the only problem with those aluminum travel trailers from decades past was their lack of an engine and steering wheel. Add those bits in, and there’s little doubt that the U.S. would feature a motorized Airstream in every driveway. At least that’s the vision the minds at Ford seem to have, though its concept does feature a very modern powertrain. Apparently they’ve run the retro thing into the ground with their cars, so now they’re working on modernizing other elements of 20th century life.
2008 Ford Expedition Funkmaster Flex Edition
It’ll be produced in limited numbers later this fall, but we’re not sure if that’s because of Ford’s desire to create some special edition hubbub or because few people are expected to actually shell out hard-earned dollars for this red and black pig with orange pinstripes. Maybe diehard Funkmaster Flex fans will be waiting in line for the FMF-embroidered headrests, the 20-inch chrome rims, or one of the other accents that attempt to separate this oversized people hauler from every other large SUV on the road, or at least the millions that haven’t already been customized, arguably with more impressive results.
2008 Ford Focus
The Honda Civic looks futuristic, the Hyundai Elantra grows in size, the Mazda 3 handles like a sports car, and the Ford Focus? It gets an odd chromed side vent and a coupe variant reminiscent of the late ZX2. Maybe it’s because that car was so utterly forgettable that Ford decided to resurrect the design, giving it one more chance at success. Yeah, we’re not seeing a great future here, either. Ford, you need more of those Bold Moves you talk about on every other billboard, not warmed-over rides that fail to ignite a smidge of passion.
2008 Ford Taurus
What a mess. After debuting the revamped 2008 Ford Five Hundred family-sized sedan in Detroit, a month later Ford announces a name change to Taurus. So, the Taurus returns, the Five Hundred is dead, and the car, which actually ain’t all that bad, gets lost in the midst of a marketing black hole and buyers’ confusion. The Taurus has been updated with new styling, more power and standard safety features, and a quieter interior. The Five Hundred? If you've got one, maybe it'll be a collectable car one day. Then again, it may come back next year...
2008 Ford Taurus X
With a new look and more power, the Ford Taurus X may make everyone forget about the Ford Freestyle. With its family-friendly focus and improved powertrain, the X hits on some key crossover points. The main question is whether car-buying families are still paying attention to Ford, or if they’ve moved on to more stylish crossovers and consistent automakers. That, and the fact that the recently announced 2009 Ford Flex, essentially a slightly larger and immensely more memorable three-row non minivan, suggests yet another name change for the Freestyle/Taurus X: the Obsolete, or better yet, Dead Car Rolling.
Jeep Trailhawk Concept
The Trailhawk is a concept with no true defining vision. Jeep claims it's off-road capable – believable since it's based on the Wrangler Unlimited platform – yet also claiming it's a sophisticated and refined highway cruiser. Which is it? We all know it can’t be both. Is there something in the water at Jeep these days? Make a luxury SUV and it will be terrified of dirt; remember the scene at the end of Cars with the Hummer? On the other hand, tune a vehicle to be trail worthy and the words “refined” and “sophisticated” don’t come to mind.
Nissan Bevel Concept
There may be no better definition of a box on wheels than the Nissan Bevel concept – a bread van comes close, but it’s a tie at best. The wheel wells are slightly flared and the nose is pointy, but the majority of the body appears as a block rolling on 20-inch chrome wheels. Mmm, sexy. Up top is a solar panel, which comes in handy when it’s time to power up those circular saws and drills, and forward of the driver is a customizable and moveable console and gauge structure. All that, and it’s still one of the most disturbing visions we endured throughout the 2007 auto show season.
2008 Nissan Rogue
The term is fashionably late, not just late. Nissan apparently doesn’t understand the distinction. While the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have been hosting a helluva small crossover party, one that’s been keeping partygoers enjoying themselves for years, Nissan has been at home. You knew they’d come, but you figured that they were working on something exceptional for a grand, albeit delayed, entrance. Then there’s that quiet knock on the door, and you see that generic body, clad in brown, bringing party favors that were old news. That’s the 2008 Nissan Rogue in a nutshell – late to the party, dressed like everyone else, and offering little to separate it from the crowd.
2008 Pontiac Torrent GXP
Based on a rather underwhelming piece of engineering, the 2008 Pontiac Torrent GXP contains a fundamentally sound powertrain and several useful interior innovations. It’s in the details that the standard Torrent starts to fall apart. Perhaps the GXP's performance tweaks will help consumers to see past this SUV’s flaws. Then again, maybe not.
2008 Subaru Impreza
At the 2007 New York Auto Show Subaru succeeded in creating and subsequently filling a void all within the span of 24 hours. The debut of the 2008 Tribeca marked the death of the brand's fugliest ride, but just when you thought the funk had left the building, the 2008 Impreza took the stage early the next morning. There's nothing as offensive as the outgoing B9 Tribeca's schnoz, but the '08 Impreza's lines are boring and simulate what would result from tossing previous generation Hondas, Mazdas, and Toyotas in a blender. It's almost as though designers responded to styling complaints with "Fine. We give up."
Photos courtesy of: Staff and the manufacturers