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    Automotive
    Friday, January 27, 2023

    Enjoy this feast of automotive turkeys

    Rear side view of Mercury Capri. (Dreamstime/TNS)
    Be thankful they've become extinct

    Thanksgiving is over, and you’ve no doubt had your fill of turkey, but what about the kind that you might have driven? Yes, there are a number of four-wheeled turkeys. Give this list a look, and then give thanks that these turkeys have passed from new car showrooms.

    Acura ZDX  (2010-2013)Why it’s foul: While many German automakers have created sporting SUVs by adding a sloping backlight over the cargo hold to make them look sleeker, it eliminates a lot of usable space, thus killing its utility. Not only did Acura have the misfortune of getting there first, the ZDX was cramped and pricey.You’re kidding: Debuting at about the same time, the Honda Crosstour sported a similar design, significantly more space and a far lower sticker price, instantly dooming the cramped ZDX to history. Neither the Crosstour nor ZDX proved popular, however.

    Chrysler Imperial  (1990-1993)Why it’s foul: Having achieved his biggest success by transforming the Ford Falcon into the Mustang, Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca shrunk and stretched the humble compact K-Car into many different models, including what has to be the worst Chrysler Imperial ever to wear the badge,You’re kidding: With styling and handling that was two decades out of date, the Imperial failed to attract converts from other German, Japanese or American luxury brands. A sad end to a once-great name.

    GMC Envoy XUV (2003-2005)Why it’s foul: It could be argued that the GMC Envoy XUV’s letters stood for Xtra Ungainly Vehicle, as its styling mimicked an idea that was equally unpopular 40 years prior in the 1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire: put a sunroof over the cargo hold, not the passenger compartment, for maximum hauling flexibility.You’re kidding: While one could transform the Envoy XUV into a pickup by sealing the cargo area from the cabin, the 1,208-pound payload was too low to make it useable – especially if you’re hauling a refrigerator.

    Jaguar X-Type (2002-2008)Why it’s foul: After spending millions to acquire and retool Jaguar, Ford Motor Co. needed a volume model to make the brand profitable. In response, they created a BMW 3 Series competitor featuring the same retro styling as the larger S-Type, but used the humble Ford Mondeo, sold stateside as the Ford Contour, as a starting point.You’re kidding: Lacking the necessary panache, the X-Type’s front-wheel drive platform, didn’t feel like a real Jaguar, which typically uses rear-wheel drive. Premature transmission failures didn’t help its reputation either.

    Lincoln Blackwood (2002)Why it’s foul: Realizing that most Lincoln owners also owned a pickup, the brand decided to grab a piece of the action. So Lincoln lined the cargo bed in aluminum and carpet, and topped it with a cargo bed cover that can’t be removed. Better for hauling polo mallets than garden pallets, it failed to find an audience.You’re kidding: Lincoln pulled the plug after 3,356 were built, making it the shortest-lived Lincoln in history.

    Mercury Capri (1991-1994)Why it’s foul: Timing is everything in life, and this Capri arrived shortly after the Mazda Miata debuted. Unlike the rear-wheel-drive Miata, the front-wheel-drive Capri used parts from the previous-generation Mazda 323, making it far more pedestrian than promising.You’re kidding: If you’re going to compete with the Mazda Miata, at least endow it with more fetching styling, or superior build quality, or sportier handling. The Capri had none of these things.

    Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet (2011-2014)Why it’s foul: It must have seemed like a good idea at the time: makes a convertible version of the Murano convertible. But the awkward lump that resulted had little sex appeal, decent driving dynamics or storage space.You’re kidding: Pricey and rare when new, used examples are inexplicably highly sought after, and retain two-thirds of their original value.

    Pontiac Aztek (2001-2005)Why it’s foul: A half-decent-looking concept vehicle was transformed into this vehicle once the bean-counters worked over the design department, building it using GM’s minivan platform. Amazingly, it looks better with the optional tent open.You’re kidding: The center console doubled as a cooler and could be removed. Still a great idea, no one has copied it.

    Smart ForTwo (2008-2019)Why it’s foul: Never very fuel efficient despite its Lilliputian size, this two-seat hatchback’s raison d’être no longer exists, thanks to low fuel prices and consumers’ distaste for economy cars. A tiny car that came out of collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Swatch, the Lilliputian ForTwo was already 10 years old when it arrived in the U.S.You’re kidding: While some consumers thought they were buying a bargain-priced Mercedes, the ForTwo used a Mitsubishi powerplant. Even a switch to an electric driveline in 2017, good for 58 miles on a charge, wasn’t enough to save this relic.

    Volkswagen Routan (2009-2012)Why it’s foul: Once Volkswagen had trotted out a production version of its retro-themed New Beetle concept, it was assumed that the same thing would happen with its Microbus concept. Instead, VW released the Routan.You’re kidding: Little more than a fancier Chrysler Town & Country, the Routan owed nothing to the Eurovans, Vanagons, and Microbuses that preceded it. It shows the contempt executives had of Americans.

    2010 White Acura ZDX (Dreamstime/TNS)
    The 2005 Jaguar X-Type VDP (Ford/TNS)
    The 2004 Pontiac Aztek seen in the "Breaking Bad" series shares display space at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
    The electric version of the ultra-compact, two-door, two-seat 2011 Smart Fortwo. (Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
    2002 Pontiac Aztek (General Motors/TNS)
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