Welcome back, avid readers. So far I’ve told you about the coming conversion to autonomous cars and the invasion of the electrical upstarts; I’ve given you tips on finding the right four-wheeled companion and gushed about my own car; I’ve told you my favorites and given you some history on how I came to love automobiles. Basically, you’ve heard all the good stuff, but as with anything, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. So here are my three worst cars in the world.
What could possibly earn a car this useless glory? First, it is made by a company that can, and has, made a higher-quality car. Second, it just isn’t worth the money demanded. Third, it doesn’t do anything very well. With that, let’s get to my first worst.
Volkswagen (VW) is a huge company, and they have built some excellent cars over the years. Their Golf GTIs are legends within the car-lover community for their bargain pricing, brilliant handling, and astonishing speed. I expected great quality from the German brand with every car they delivered to our shores, but in September of 2015, VW got busted. In a scandal that rocked their entire company, it was revealed that their hyper-efficient diesel lineup hid special programming designed to meet U.S. emission standards. While in test conditions, the cars emitted very low nitrous oxide levels; but once on the road in normal conditions, the cars emitted up to 40 times the allowed testing levels. VW had touted these vehicles as the future of cleaner burning diesel and heralded the low emissions as a sign of progress. And although I may be cheating here by including a whole drove of cars in one place, I believe every one of those cars that VW ended up having to buy back from their customers earns itself a place on this list.
For my next choice, I have to go with a legendary brand’s greatest mistake. The automaker sponsored by the greatest quarterback of all time, our very own Tom Brady, and the world’s most famous spy, James Bond. Yes, Aston Martin. The great British brand continues to make stunningly beautiful and speedy automobiles and benefits from a rich racing history. Their DBS almost made my list of favorite cars ever: its 510 horsepower, six-liter, V12 is an all-time great engine, and the body is to die for. So when they announced they’d be making a tiny Smart Car competitor, I did a dumbfounded double take. In a partnership with Toyota, Aston Martin did some face lifts to the Japanese automaker’s iQ. The finished product—the Cygnet—was the equivalent of a fake Gucci bag: a Toyota with Aston Martin badges on the front and rear along with a price tag beyond $40,000. As if to add insult to injury, this tiny two-seater is as slow as a snail. Toyota’s version of the car is the exact same, but $24,000 cheaper. Aston Martin even had the audacity to say that this abomination would only be available to current owners of Aston Martins. The car was a flop, and hopefully Aston Martin has learned its lesson not to be meddling with any engines under 500 horsepower.
For the third, and probably worst, car, we come back to Toyota. The brand name is synonymous with quality and long-lasting durability, as Toyota has always made sturdy cars and priced them fairly. Toyota also owns Lexus, their luxury division. However, Lexus is a pretty boring brand; they make fancy Toyotas for people who couldn’t care less about what they are driving. To their credit, Lexus cars have made valiant strides in recent years to compete with Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Audi in the executive class of sumptuous grandeur. They even made a super car—a very fast car—the LFA, which was admittedly brilliant (excellent handling, divine gearbox, and an engine that revved to an astonishing 9000 RPM). And although Lexus is a brand that, even if it is vanilla, usually knows what it is doing and has a parent company that can boast a similar record of excellence, it somehow convinced itself that the Lexus SC 430 was a good idea. The car was said to be modeled after a European luxury yacht shape and profile. So… the car looks like a slug. The heads of Lexus at the time called it their flagship vehicle and hailed its neat, folding metal roof. The car cost a staggering $79,000 yet did not go fast or handle well. And for $25,000 less, you could’ve bought a BMW 5-series, which did do all of those things and avoided unfortunate similarities to gastropods.
If you’re ever offered the keys to any of these, remember… just say no.