Every car company likes to promote its cars as the most fun-to-drive and capable vehicles on the market. Not that it’s a surprise, as no one will buy a car that’s sold through blander, but perhaps more realistic advertising. While these companies certainly aren’t lying in their ads, there are many cars that would struggle to provide the enjoyable experience depicted in the commercial. Even though nearly every automotive company is plenty capable of building incredible cars, it’s unavoidable that the brand will eventually produce something terrible. And when that happens, the marketing department has to work overtime make the car look more interesting than it actually is.
However, sometimes automakers decide that these cars need an additional push to attract car enthusiasts into the showroom. Under these circumstances, car companies will produce a custom concept car to show off the potential performance or off-road capabilities of an otherwise boring model. While these concepts could potentially be more fun to drive than the cars they are based on, such vehicles tend to just be a reminder of what the production car could’ve been if there was more effort put into it. Other times, automakers will release special edition cars that look a little different but are still every bit as terrible as the standard model. While some of these 20 cars may be cool, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still based on horribly dull cars.
20 Buick Lucerne
The Buick Lucerne was one of the last traditional Buicks, in that it was a large, lifeless, front-wheel-drive boat. The only thing that made the car even a little interesting was the Northstar V8 option, which increased its output to 275 horsepower. The car didn’t even have a stately or commanding appearance that would draw in traditional luxury buyers.
In what seems to be an attempt to make the car more attractive to younger consumers, Buick had a number of modification businesses build their own custom Lucerne for SEMA in 2006.
While a couple of these cars did improve the model’s appearance, most of these custom jobs, such as the pictured MTX Audio Lucerne, were trying to appeal to a customer base that would never be interested in a dull car like the Lucerne.
19 Nissan Rogue Star Wars Edition
If there’s a more boring and average crossover than the Nissan Rogue, it would probably be Nissan’s own Rogue Sport. Cars like the Rogue are the reason why many car enthusiasts have disdain for crossovers. Motivated by an uninspired four-cylinder and lifeless CVT, the Rogue has nothing to offer in the driving experience department.
Following a mid-2000s idea of cool, Nissan started offering the Rogue, and many other vehicles in its lineup, in the Midnight Edition trim.
This option blacks out the car’s trim and wheels. This effect can look menacing on some cars, and pathetic on others. Guess which category the Rogue falls in to. And if that wasn’t enough, Nissan also offered the Rogue in a Star Wars edition to cash in on Star Wars Rogue One. This model was basically a Midnight Edition with a couple Star Wars badges slapped on it. How cool.
18 Scion iA Lowrider
Scion was originally meant to be Toyota’s cheap, innovative, and cool brand that built attractive cars for young buyers. However, other than the tC, original xB, and FR-S, the majority of Scion’s lineup didn’t stand out much from Toyota’s supposedly less cool alternatives. Perhaps the most emblematic example was the iA. The iA wasn’t a Scion nor a Toyota, but rather a rebadged Mazda with an angry catfish face. Despite the brand’s faults, Scion did make some genuinely cool SEMA concept cars, but their iA lowrider wasn’t one of them. While the paint job, wheels, and interior were all perfect for a lowrider, the iA’s size and shape were basically the opposite of what’s desired in a lowrider. While it was an ambitious concept car that had excellent attention to detail, the car itself couldn’t live up to the modifications it was given
17 Chrysler 200 Super S
The Chrysler 200 isn’t the brand’s most well-received model. While the car isn’t necessarily as bad as everyone claims it is, it’s certainly nothing special either. This was especially true for the first-generation 200, which was largely a reworked Chrysler Sebring, which was an awful car. Credit where credit's due, turning a Sebring into a boring car is still a vast improvement.
Even with a V6 motor, the 200 still isn’t a particularly sporty car, but Chrysler felt the need to bring out its performance side by raiding the Mopar aftermarket catalog.
The resulting 200 Super S has a body kit, cold air intake, and a cat-back exhaust. Needless to say, the Super S didn’t fool anyone into thinking the 200 was a sports car.
16 Ford Ranger Edge
The Ford Ranger was once the simplest workhorse truck that one could buy. It was a small, somewhat fuel efficient, cheap pickup. While some trucks, such as the Sierra and F-150, can be aspirational vehicles due to their performance and luxury trims, the Ranger was only purchased by people who needed nothing more than a capable truck that could take a beating. Ford decided to make their Ranger a bit more enticing to buyers who wanted a nicer ride. Unfortunately, the model that resulted was the Ranger Edge. The Edge was simply a Ranger XL with body-colored bumpers and trim. It still lacked cruise control and came with the gutless four-cylinder as standard. Simply put, the Edge was hardly an improvement over the standard Ranger and didn’t offer anything to buyers who wanted a nicer truck.
15 Jeep Compass Rallye
While Jeep has produced many amazing SUVs and off-roaders, not every car the brand makes is good. In fact, some are downright terrible. The Jeep Compass is not only the worst Jeep ever made, but it’s easily one of the worst cars of the last decade. The Compass wasn’t really built for any kind of off-roading, which is a bit of an oversight for a Jeep design. It didn’t help that this crossover was based on the mess of a car that was the Dodge Caliber. Combine that with awkward styling and the Compass was a legendarily awful vehicle. Jeep tried to entice British consumers by offering the model in a Rallye package that gave the car a different set of wheels, fog lights, and ground effects. However, despite the name, its gutless motor and awful CVT certainly didn’t make this car rally-worthy in any way.
14 Kia Optima A1A
Even though Kia has been rebuilding its brand by creating cars like the luxurious K900 and sporty Stinger, much of their lineup is still made up of affordable cars suited for daily driving. The Optima is Kia’s entry into the mid-size market. It’s not particularly notable for its performance or interior quality, though it is a decently styled car for the market it occupies. Kia tried to make the model more interesting by producing the A1A Optima concept.
Named after a Florida highway, this four-door convertible offers passengers a considerably more luxurious interior over the standard model as it’s covered in white leather.
Furthering this car’s exclusive appearance, the A1A also features suicide rear doors. While the A1A was an intriguing concept, the model offered no vision into the future, as Kia never made a convertible version of the Optima.
13 Chevrolet Equinox Redline
Automakers can greatly improve a model by offering packages that clean up the car’s exterior and improve its driving characteristics with enhanced suspension and engine components. However, the laziest way to increase interest in a car is by offering an appearance package that forgoes any additional performance. Similar to Nissan’s Midnight Edition, Chevy’s Redline package is sporty in looks only. Redline adds a blacked-out grille, black bowtie emblems, and black rims with red accents. While that’s a good look for the Camaro and Silverado, the looks lose some of its appeal when it's applied to the boring Equinox. Painting parts of an Equinox black or red with the intent of making it look cool is like trying to make your parents cool. It’s not a bad car, but the Redline trim is just trying too hard to attract consumers who would never buy an Equinox.
12 Fiat 500L Custom
Fiat returned to the US with the intent of offering chic, but affordable cars. Despite the majority of its American lineup being based on the 500, many of these models are excellent cars in their own way, even if they’re not the most reliable vehicles on the market. The exception to this is the 500L. This lumpy compact crossover lacks much of the brand’s handsome styling and offers little over its competition. It doesn’t even have a performance variant, which could’ve been an easy option, as the 500 Abarth motor could probably fit under the 500L’s hood. To make the model more interesting, Fiat built the 500L Custom, which featured unique wheels, a two-tone paint job, a front splitter, and a cat-back exhaust. Clearly, none of these modifications make up for the car’s poor reliability and offensive styling.
11 Kia Sedona School of Rock
It is probably an understatement to say that minivans are terribly uncool. That’s not a surprise, as these vehicles are designed only to be practical people movers with no performance or styling aspirations. The Kia Sedona is certainly no exception to this. The Sedona itself is actually a fairly lackluster offering on the minivan market in comparison to models like the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica. The School of Rock concept was created between Kia and the School of Rock to create the ultimate vehicle for a band. It’s designed to store all of a band’s equipment, work as a recording studio, and can be transformed into a mobile stage for spur of the moment performances. However, a minivan is the polar opposite of a rock star ride.
10 Chrysler PT Cruiser Special Editions
If there’s a vehicle that is widely considered to be horrifically unattractive, it would be the Chrysler PT Cruiser. While its retro styling was meant to be reminiscent of the Plymouth Prowler, the awkwardly proportioned five-door hatchback body twisted and distorted any good lines the design may have originally had. Despite current opinion, the PT Cruiser was actually a popular vehicle for a couple years before its unique styling grew tired. This didn’t stop Chrysler from attempting to bring back the car’s popularity.
There was a turbocharged GT model that used a detuned Neon SRT-4 motor and a convertible version that allowed passersby to identify the drivers.
And those two examples were the models that had effort put into them. Chrysler also produced multiple special editions that were mostly existing trims but with fancier names.
9 Chevrolet Sonic RS
Chevy currently sells three different small cars with affordability in mind. There’s the Cruze, which is the most fuel-efficient car in Chevy’s lineup, the Spark, an awkwardly proportioned hatchback offered with less than 100 horsepower, and then there’s the Sonic. While the Sonic may look like a budget hot hatch, it doesn’t really offer much in the way of performance. It can be configured with either a naturally aspirated motor or a turbocharged one, however, both produce the same amount of power. In an attempt to make the Sonic look like an appealing car for modifying, Chevrolet made the Sonic RS concept. Unfortunately, it seems that Chevy thought that Fast and Furious graphics would make the car look cool in 2014. This Sonic has a bright yellow paint job paired with blue wheels that match the awful graphics. As for power, its only modifications are the usual catalog parts.
8 Acura ILX Galpin
Other than the NSX, Acura doesn’t make much in the way of a dedicated performance car. While the company will make claims about building high-performance cars and crossovers, these vehicles are largely built on sedate Honda platforms. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the ILX; a Civic-based luxury car that failed to make many good impressions upon its launch. It didn’t help that the model wasn’t particularly sporty, due in part to its low output four-cylinder motor. As part of advertising the redesigned ILX, Acura had an example of the car modified by Galpin Auto Sports. This bright yellow sedan has custom bodywork, new exhaust, and lowered suspension. While these modifications undeniably made that particular ILX look better, it did nothing to improve opinions of the standard car.
7 BMW X1 M Sport
Despite BMW’s reputation for building performance vehicles, not everything the brand makes is a sports car. The X1 was the logical follow up to the X5 and smaller X3. Seeing the rising popularity of compact crossovers, BMW decided to cash in on the segment by offering the X1.
While the original X1 had some performance with its six-cylinder engine options, the second-generation was only offered with four-cylinders.
This model simply isn’t near as appealing as its larger stablemates, partially due to its strange, low proportions that don’t look right on a crossover. BMW offers the model with an M Sport package, but don’t get excited. It offers the buyer a unique appearance package, lowered suspension, some M badges, and that’s about it. This is probably the least sporty car to ever bear an M badge.
6 Hyundai Tucson Sport
Hyundai has made a few intriguing performance cars over the years, with models like the Tiburon and Genesis Coupe. However, the majority of their cars remain normal daily drivers. Cars like the Elantra and Sonata aren’t anything special to drive, but they are at least capable and reliable commuter cars. However, with hatchbacks and sedans losing their popularity these days, much of Hyundai’s lineup is comprised of crossovers. One of their better selling models is the Tucson, which is much like many other crossovers in that they’re not all that fun to drive. However, Hyundai displayed the Tucson Sport concept, built by Vaccar, which features a turbocharged motor, improved suspension, and a custom paint job. Despite the improved performance and appearance, the Sport didn’t fool anyone into thinking that the production Tucson is a performance model.
5 Dodge Nitro Hemi
The late-2000s was a tough time for American car companies, and none more so than Chrysler. One of the biggest signs of Chrysler’s struggle was the Dodge Nitro. This mid-size SUV was based on the terrible second-generation Jeep Liberty. Featuring large wheel arches and a squared-off face, the Nitro was a less than successful attempt to make an aggressive-looking SUV. Further hurting this SUV’s tough-guy appearance was its selection of weak, yet still inefficient V6s. In an attempt to give the Nitro performance that lived up to its appearance, Dodge created the Nitro Hemi concept. The name gives away the primary change to this Nitro.
Under the hood is a 360-horsepower, 5.7-Hemi V8 hooked up to a five-speed manual transmission.
It also featured larger brakes and 22-inch rims. However, no matter what engine is stuffed under its hood, the car is still a Nitro.
4 Toyota CH-R R-Tuned
Toyota is currently producing six different SUVs and crossovers, each for a particular consumer base. The CH-R is advertised as a performance vehicle of sorts, but its specs don’t exactly back that idea up. Powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine that makes a mere 144 horsepower, the CH-R won’t be setting any speed records. And it won’t be a particularly engaging drive with a CVT behind that lackluster engine. However, the R-Tuned concept is no joke. This CH-R has a huge turbo on that 2.0-liter motor, boosting its output to around 600 horsepower. Combine that with a manual transmission, a huge wing, and some sticky tires, and Toyota claims that this crossover is faster around Big Willow Race Track than a Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 GT3. Unfortunately, this custom car clearly doesn’t represent the performance of the production model.
3 Honda Pilot Pre-Runner
One of the biggest things supposedly holding back crossovers from competing with real SUVs is their off-road capabilities. Real SUVs have more ground clearance due to their body-on-frame design and have more articulation due to their simpler live axles. Crossovers are often based on car or minivan platforms that aren’t optimized for off-roading. The Honda Pilot is usually considered to be one of these incapable machines, but Honda was determined to change that idea. Honda built up a Pilot to be a support vehicle for their Baja 1000 Ridgeline truck. Surprisingly this Pilot isn’t too heavily modified, as it sports an LED bar, off-road tires, bumper guards, and not much else. Despite the Pilot proving to be surprisingly capable with minor modifications, there won’t be many Jeep guys rushing to replace their Wrangler with a Pilot anytime soon.
2 Chevrolet Traverse SUP
There are many companies that try to appeal to millennials and Chevy is no exception, especially when it comes to some of their ads. Chevy is also similar to those other companies in that these ads often come off as pandering and condescending. However, the Chevy Traverse SUP concept may be the first time this marketing strategy was encompassed in a concept car.
This Traverse is supposedly built around the sport of stand-up paddleboarding.
Or at least, it has a roof rack designed to carry the board and paddle. Further, this Traverse is sporting silver paint with blue wave motifs wrapped around the vehicle. It also features a black grille and rims, which clashes with the bright paintwork. Needless to say, a paint job and roof rack will hardly bring young buyers to Chevy dealerships in droves.
1 Dodge Avenger StormTrooper
The Dodge Avenger is another vehicle that shows how Chrysler was struggling in the late-2000s. Based largely on the awful Chrysler Sebring, the Avenger is a mid-size sedan that offered very little over its competition. Despite the attempt at aggressive styling, this car could never offer its driver satisfying performance. In order to make the car somewhat exciting, Dodge created the Avenger StormTrooper concept. Besides being a reference to a certain well-known sci-fi franchise, the StormTrooper has a tuned 4.0-liter V6 under the hood, rather than the smaller V6s or four-cylinder motors that powered the production cars. This custom car also has a unique body kit, larger wheels, and a white interior with SRT seats. However, despite all of these changes, the StormTrooper is still a Dodge Avenger, and there’s almost nothing that could make the Avenger an appealing car.