Cars That Don’t Live up to Their Marketing


“You can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd.” My uncle said, upon hearing that I had fitted my 1994 Oldsmobile Achieva with a mesh grille, neon interior lights, and a stereo system. Though youthful endeavors in attempting to spruce up a substandard automobile may have been misguided, automakers are occasionally guilty of doing the same thing. Thought it is quickly becoming a thing of the past, car companies have been known to market a lackluster automobile as something much more. Here are five sub-par cars that don’t meet their marketing:

Ford Mustang II Cobra II

Mustang II Cobra II

Rule of thumb for Fords: any time there is a “II” in the model name, things aren’t going to end well. (See Bronco II) The Mustang II was underpowered, even in V8 form and was ugly as sin. The oil embargo hit American automakers hard, and many had no clue to to build a fuel efficient car that was also fun. The Mustang II is proof just how blindsided American car makers were.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

There is nothing worse than a sticker package to make a staid car seem more sporting than it really is. There is perhaps no better example from recent history than the 2000 to 2007 Monte Carlo SS. Now, the actual NASCAR racecar Monte Carlo had a V8, manual transmission and rear-wheel drive. Even in the 1983 to 1988 SS. All road versions of the 2000s Monte Carlo SS were front wheel drive and automatic. Sounds sporting? No, it doesn’t. Neither does a 200-horsepower V6 and SS badges on a big, lumbering coupe. The Monte Carlo SS is a glimpse back to a time gone by, and not in a good way.

Jaguar S-Type

Jaguar S-Type

Jaguar currently has an impressive offering of fully modern luxury sedans, but there was a time when the brand was lost, torn between traditional, comfort-based ride, and modern, performance-oriented cars like the BMW 5 Series. To take on the 5 Series, Ford (which owned Jag at the time) employed the DEW platform of the Lincoln LS. Competent entry luxury car, but a 5 Series competitor, it is not. The car never lived up to its billing, and the 1963 S-Type-inspired looks never landed.

Honda Civic Si

View photo

Civic Si

Fueled by the “Fast and the Furious” movies, the import tuner craze reached a fever pitch in the early 2000’s. That push greatly over-inflated the cachet of a car like the Civic Si. While many generations of the Si have a cult following, the 00-05 generation is a bit of an enigma. It was built in England and was a totally separate model and bodystle from the rest of the Civic lineup. It was 150 pounds heavier and the MacPherson strut suspension paled in comparison to the double-wishbone setup of the earlier Si. The interior is ugly, the throws of the transmission are nothing like what a sportscar should be, yet somehow this car gets billing as a performance machine. It makes no sense.

Dodge Stratus Turbo/Stratus R/T

Dodge Stratus RT Turbo

I guess the folks at Dodge did not learn the lesson from watching the Chevy Monte Carlo. A sporty name and some body cladding do not make a car go faster. The thing about the Stratus Turbo is that it is actually worse because it goes for a more aggressive look. The whole package is capped off by the bolt-on rear spoiler that looks like it was purchased from Auto Zone.

The lesson here, people, is that if you are going to drive a slow car- own it. The only thing you accomplish by purchasing a car that looks faster than it goes is you raise the expectations of those who see the spoilers and stickers- only to be let down by lackluster performance.

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