Luxury cars are meant to be the ultimate example of what a car can be, with no compromises. A customer puts the extra money down to have the smoothest ride, the latest gadgets, and the most elegant looks. As a bonus, most modern luxury cars are even designed to go around corners like they’re on rails while maintaining a serene environment for passengers. And with such high build quality in mind, buyers expect their fancy new rides to provide comfort for many years to come. However, making a car that can live up to that long list of traits is quite difficult, and not every car can be a Rolls-Royce.
Many brands have tried to make their mark in the luxury market and failed simply because they didn't know what they were doing. These companies are often unfamiliar with what consumers want in a high-end luxury car, or they’re incapable of marketing a new model correctly. But it’s not just newcomers that create awful luxury models. Many terrible cars were created by established marques that didn't know how to handle a swiftly changing market or simply released a lazy design and hoped the brand alone would sell it. Some of the biggest disappointments can even come from the most well-known names in the industry. Sometimes, a famous and highly regarded model can transform into lackluster failures over time. The following 25 luxury cars should be avoided at all costs.
25 Acura ILX
For the 2016 model year, Acura completely redesigned the ILX with a new sporty image. It looked better and featured a dual-clutch transmission and a redesigned interior. Like many other brands, Acura was trying to rejuvenate their car by pushing the performance angle. However, nothing could cover up the fact that the ILX was just a Honda Civic underneath. A cramped, cheap-feeling interior made the car feel like anything but a luxury car. And to kill the sporty vibe, it only had a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder powering it. If that wasn’t enough, Consumer Reports found that it was the least satisfying car to owners, who cited the car’s poor build quality, performance, and ride. In the Consumer Reports list, the ILX narrowly bested the likes of the Dodge Dart and Jeep Compass—but as the least satisfying car to own overall. Ouch.
24 BMW 7-Series (E65)
The BMW 7-Series is pretty much the opposite of what you'd expect to find on this list. BMW knows a thing or two about luxury and can even give you a spice of performance with your comfortable land barge. Its looks are both imposing and classic BMW. It’s world-renowned for its technology, comfort, and build quality. What more could you want? Well, if you’re buying the E65 7-Series, produced from 2001 through 2008, you'd probably want some better styling. This generation featured some of the most grotesque looks of any BMW. The horribly misshapen headlights and the strange lumpy trunk definitely make this car a stain on BMW’s record. The E65 also had questionable build quality, which included problematic doors that were recalled for potentially flying open while driving.
23 Chrysler TC by Maserati
Chrysler isn't really the coolest brand on the market today, but that was even more true in the 1980s. Back then, nearly everything they made was a K-car. If you aren't familiar with the K-car, all you need to know is that it was a very basic front-wheel-drive car platform for cheap automobiles. In what seems to be an attempt to change their image, Chrysler decided that pairing up with Maserati would spice up the brand, resulting in the Chrysler TC by Maserati. Yes, that's really its name.
While one would expect to find a Maserati engine powering this car, the reality was a Mitsubishi V6 (if you were lucky—an inline four was also offered). Maserati really only designed the body, but unfortunately, Maserati aesthetics in the '80s were at a low point for the marque. In the end, this Chrysler just reinforced the poor image of both brands.
22 Used Cadillac Escalade
The Cadillac Escalade is easily the marque’s most recognizable modern vehicle. It has bold styling and is the go-to choice for rappers and mob bosses. If you’re willing to put up with some questionable GM reliability, the Escalade can be a good choice for those in need of a rolling McMansion—that is, as long as you’re referring to the current model.
Escalades are rendered irrelevant the second a new model comes out. Buying a used one is kind of like bragging to your friends that you just bought last year’s iPhone. Who cares anymore? They also depreciate at about the same rate as that of the iPhone. And if you really want to go for the most irrelevant Escalade, get the EXT pickup with only two rows of seating and a tiny bed.
21 BMW X6
It’s hard to go wrong with a BMW X5. It’s a good blend of performance and comfort, all in the body of a practical SUV. However, what if you want the tall driving position of an SUV but the practicality of a sports sedan? Then BMW has the answer for you!
The BMW X6 is a hideous vehicle for any number of reasons. Its coupe-like styling looks awkward sitting up so high, resulting in its body panels needing to be stretched downward to fit the ride height. The big question is, what's the point of this car? A BMW X5 is a practical SUV with plenty of room and an optional third row. The X6, on the other hand, reduces the amount of interior space as a result of the strange body. The worst part is that the X6 is more expensive than the considerably better-looking and more practical X5.
20 Cadillac Allanté
The Cadillac Allanté was introduced for the 1987 model year and was meant to be a new sports car to compete with European options, such as the Mercedes SL. It featured a lot of technology for the ‘80s, with an impressive digital dashboard and the then-new Northstar V8 motor in later models. However, this front-wheel-drive convertible wasn't even close to competing with the simpler Mercedes SL. It’s crazy to believe that someone at Cadillac thought the Allanté's boxy styling could compete with the gorgeous SL's. And to top it off, the horrendous 4.1-liter “High Technology” V8 found in early models was both underpowered and unreliable. Finally, to make this car even more unappealing to consumers, Cadillac charged over $55,000 for this hot mess back in the '80s. That’s over $120,000 today!
19 Hummer H2
Sure, the Hummer H2 was marketed as a tough off-road machine, but it cost as much as many other luxury SUVs and even had a Luxury trim. Besides, it's not like many owners actually used the truck for its off-road abilities but instead as a status symbol. The H2 was a vehicle for those who thought the Cadillac Escalade and the Range Rover were just too restrained and subtle. However, the H2 made for a terrible luxury vehicle due to its cheap plastic-filled interior, poor amount of interior space, and the fact you could get something considerably better for the same price. Of course, even if it had a perfect, high-quality interior, it’s still a Hummer H2, and—let's be honest here—it's hard to think of a more embarrassing car to be seen in than a Hummer.
18 Cadillac Seville
The Cadillac Seville is another example of Cadillac trying to retrieve its customers back from the foreign brands. It was a smaller model that debuted in 1975 meant to appeal to buyers of BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes. Are you sensing a pattern with Cadillac yet? The first generation was decently successful, appealing to buyers who wanted a Cadillac that was smaller than an aircraft carrier. So, what went wrong?
The second-generation Seville, debuting in 1980, was redesigned with a bizarre new look. The slumped back is the obvious culprit of why this car was so terrible. This look might have been able to live on as an example of quirky styling if it didn’t contrast so heavily with the extremely conservative front end. It makes you wonder if Cadillac was trying to create the automotive version of a mullet.
17 Volkswagen Phaeton
The makers of the people’s car aren't where most would look for high-end luxury. However, in 2003, Volkswagen offered the Phaeton as an alternative to the industry-standard Mercedes S-Class. It featured both V8 and W12 options for propulsion and shared much of its underpinnings with the Bentley Flying Spur. What's not to love?
For starters, the discrete styling proved to be a problem. Look at that picture. Could you tell that car apart from the considerably cheaper Passat? Sure, not everyone wants a flashy car that screams out how much it costs, but a real luxury car should have some sort of presence as it rolls by, and the Phaeton completely lacks that. While Bentley underpinnings may sound good in theory, you'll be receiving a Bentley-sized bill when something breaks. And things will break.
16 Cadillac Catera
Today, Cadillac offers a variety of sedans and coupes, including the excellent compact ATS. However, for many decades, Cadillac struggled with the concept of a small performance car and seemed unable to get the formula right to beat the German competition. So, Cadillac decided that if they couldn't beat them, they’d join them. The new Catera would be built by a German company.
Unfortunately, the German car Cadillac chose to base the Catera upon was the Opel Omega, which didn't provide good genes for a luxury car. While the Catera was rear-wheel drive, a rarity for a Cadillac at the time, Car and Driver reported that it simply didn't have the performance it should've had. To make things worse, the Catera was horribly unreliable as well. The moral of the story is that not every German car is a winner.
15 Chrysler Imperial
Imperial once was Chrysler’s premiere brand that competed with Cadillac and Lincoln, back when those two were the best in the business. However, Imperial was discontinued in 1975, and the brand became largely forgotten. Chrysler did attempt to revive the name as a model a couple times, with the last one from the early '90s being a pathetic car undeserving of the old nameplate.
While it’s not always a bad thing to build a luxury car off of a lesser model, it's usually recommended to make the new car resemble the base vehicle as little as possible. Chrysler, however, was unable to accomplish this goal. You'd have to be blind to not see the Chrysler Imperial's resemblance to other K-cars in the Mopar lineup. A set of disappearing headlights and a landau top just couldn't hide the cost-cutting.
14 Lincoln MKS
Lincoln isn't the premier brand that it once was. It used to produce some of the finest luxury cars money could buy, and it created some iconic designs along the way. As the brand declined after the 1970s, the cars showed less effort being put into them over the years. Many of Lincoln's models barely hid the fact that they were simply Fords underneath, a trend that can still be seen today.
While there are many terrible Lincolns to choose from, the MKS may be one of the most egregious examples of a rebranded Ford. Sold all the way until 2016, the MKS did a terrible job of hiding the model's Taurus origins, both inside and out. Basically, you were paying a lot of extra money for that awful waterfall grille.
13 Cadillac Cimarron
Cadillac went through many different changes throughout the years, always trying to figure out what luxury car customers wanted after the '70s. This led to many poor choices, the Cimarron being one of them. The idea was solid: make a compact luxury car that was good on gas.
The problem was that the basis for this car was the Chevy Cavalier, which was itself an awful economy car. The Cimarron was the first car Cadillac had sold with a manual transmission in decades, but unfortunately, not for the purpose of being a sports car, but simply because it was cheap. Then again, you probably would want the manual to get as much speed out of the few four cylinders that powered many Cimarrons. It’s truly baffling that Cadillac sold any of these wretched cars.
12 Mercedes A-Class
Compact luxury cars are popular in Europe. When roads are narrow and gas costs double North American prices, it makes sense to buy a small car equipped with all the fancy materials of a big high-end car. While there are good examples of these compact luxury cars, Mercedes had trouble with one of their attempts in the '90s.
The original Mercedes A-Class may be one of the worst-designed Mercedes-Benzes to exist. It looks like a tiny minivan with awkward proportions and has the ugliest wrap-around rear window this side of a Nissan Cube. Of course, the A-Class is probably best known for tipping over during the infamous moose test. Mercedes fixed the problem by altering the suspension and the stability control, and The New York Times reported that Mercedes heavily advertised these fixes. Sadly, the car’s looks weren't addressed.
11 2003-2008 Maserati Quattroporte
Maserati is currently one of the sexiest brands in the business. It’s hard to think of a car company that makes sedans—and now crossovers—that are as exclusive as Maserati. One of the cars responsible for the brand's current popularity was the Maserati Quattroporte. This large, performance-oriented luxury sedan with unique styling and a price comparable to other high-performance large luxury cars made the company more visible than ever.
While depreciation has put the Quattroporte within reach of many normal consumers, it’s not an ideal choice for a family car. Early fifth generation Quattroportes launched with a Ferrari-based DuoSelect transmission that was completely inappropriate for any luxury vehicle. Not only did you have to shift it yourself using the paddles, but it was also so clunky and slow that Motor Trend and other reviewers expressed delight when the Quattroporte was offered with a normal automatic. It’s not often you hear that from automotive journalists.
10 Kia K900
I’m sure there are a few of you who are surprised to see a Kia on this list. Yes, Kia tried to compete with the big dogs in luxury with a model called the "K900 in 2014. It was based on the Hyundai Genesis and the Equus but wasn't able to garner as much attention as those models—not even with Morpheus from "The Matrix" advertising the car.
The K900 isn't an awful car, but it was a strange choice for Kia to enter in such a market. The car could be viewed as a budget alternative to the S-Class and the 7-Series, but who would choose to buy a Kia over those excellent models? Even the Genesis and the Equus made more sense due to their unique styling. The K900 simply couldn't compete and remained largely unknown to many potential consumers.
9 Lincoln Blackwood
America loves its pickups and its luxury cars. It's an obvious combination that's starting to get popular today. However, Lincoln got a jump on the competition and started producing a luxury pickup, called the "Blackwood," in 2002. Despite the idea being solid, the execution would be the model's downfall.
The Lincoln Blackwood was based on the crew cab Ford F-150 and had an undeniably unique look with a Navigator front end and a bed with fake wood trim on the outside. If that wasn't tacky enough, it didn't have a tailgate and instead had barn doors with a hard tonneau cover. Moreover, the Blackwood was useless as a pickup. The bed was carpeted, and the vehicle was only available in two-wheel drive, making it more of an extraordinarily large sedan, rather than a pickup.
8 Lincoln Mark LT
Lincoln just doesn't learn, does it? After trying one failed luxury pickup, Lincoln decided to make another one that addressed the issues with the Blackwood. The Mark LT discarded many of the silly designs its predecessor had, such as the strange bed and the rear-wheel-drive-only setup. However, it seems that Lincoln overcompensated while it was undoing the Blackwood.
Despite all the jokes and mockery the Blackwood received and deserved, would you believe that it was the pickup Lincoln put effort into? The exterior design of the Mark LT is laughably lazy, as Lincoln apparently decided that a large chrome grille and some fake tail lights on the tailgate would be enough to keep customers away from the cheaper F-150. Maybe this pickup will appeal to you if you’re the type of person who likes the stick-on chrome accessories in Pep Boys.
7 Cadillac XLR
Many years after the Allanté debacle, Cadillac decided to have another go at high-end European sports cars, such as the Mercedes SL and the Jaguar XK. Unlike the last time, Cadillac used the solid-performing Corvette as a base to for building their new model. The XLR would both improve the Corvette's pitiful interior and give it a fancy folding metal roof while giving Cadillac a car with real performance credentials. What could go wrong?
For starters, Cadillac decided not to use the Corvette's excellent 400-horsepower V8, instead opting for its own, 320-horsepower Northstar motor. Further dampening the Cadillac's performance was a heavier curb weight, likely due to that roof. While there was an XLR-V with a supercharged motor, it wasn't enough to bring the spotlight to Cadillac over competitors—or even the Corvette—and the XLR was discontinued.
6 BMW i3
While Tesla is the go-to choice for premium electric cars, they're not the only option available. BMW currently sells two electrified options: the i8 and the i3. The plug-in hybrid i8 is meant to be an electric supercar with looks to match. The i3, on the other hand, is trying to be the city car of the future, although not a very interesting one.
The BMW i3 does offer some impressive statistics, with both a reasonable range of 205 miles and a zero-to-sixty time of 6.8 seconds, according to BMW. The problem is the styling. The i3 is lumpy and awkwardly proportioned, with small rear doors to access the back seats. It seems that BMW was preoccupied with producing a car of the future without considering that today's buyers may want a car that doesn't look like a blown up SMART car.
5 1975-1978 Dodge Charger SE
It’s hard to think of a more iconic American car than the classic Dodge Charger. Its sexy styling and V8 grunt make it a staple of movies and video games to this day. Unfortunately, when the 1970s came around, seemingly every car on the American market suddenly lost their performance and styling due to new government regulations. To try and save sales, Chrysler did what many other American brands did: turn muscle cars into personal luxury vehicles.
If the pictured Charger SE looks familiar, it’s because this ‘Charger’ is really a Chrysler Cordoba. While the Cordoba was fine for Chrysler at the time, it didn't make any sense to sell it under the Charger name. If all that wasn't embarrassing enough for the model, Dodge even sold a Daytona version of this Charger that was really just a sticker package. While this isn't the most pathetic Charger in existence, it was a very questionable luxury car.
4 Lexus RX
While Lexus originally became popular for its solid LS400 model, Lexus's more recent success is likely due to the RX. In the mid-2000s, when America was going SUV crazy, Lexus responded to the demand with the RX, a more conservative SUV that set the precedent for today's crossovers. It was a huge hit and became a staple of the brand's lineup. And then Lexus ruined it.
So, what do you do when you earn the trust of many buyers looking for a practical, luxurious crossover? Stick on a huge, ugly spindle grille that scares off old people. While the spindle grille, introduced on the RX in 2015, can work on an aggressive sports car, it's another story on a crossover. It looks as if Lexus was trying to liven up their old SUV by making it look sportier. However, there are better (and better-looking) options for buyers looking for a performance luxury SUV.
3 Maserati Ghibli
While the Maserati Quattroporte had a jerky start, it opened the brand to customers who wouldn't have otherwise bought a Maserati by offering a gorgeous, practical Italian sedan. The newer Ghibli was a similar approach with a smaller, cheaper model. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to the Maserati name.
The Ghibli may have good power and style, but you can get that in many other sedans with considerably better build quality. You would expect the highest-grade materials to be used in a Maserati, but the Ghibli just doesn't make the cut. It seems that Maserati chose to go digging through the FCA parts bin when putting together the Ghibli’s interior. Anyone spending over $70,000 on a luxury car simply shouldn't have to put up with parts sharing.
2 Cadillac ELR
This is yet another example of a good idea poorly executed. The Cadillac ELR was an obvious choice for the Cadillac lineup. Take the popular Chevy Volt, put on a sleek body, and improve the interior. It doesn't get much more foolproof than that, especially when the car you built was as good looking as the ELR. But Cadillac found a way to ruin it.
The first problem was practicality. While the sleek coupe body looks great, it was too small and cramped to fit anyone in the back seats, something the four-door Tesla Model S could do easily. The interior layout was a mess as well, featuring Cadillac’s much-maligned CUE system that uses annoying soft touch buttons. Topping everything off was a higher base price than the far trendier Tesla Model S. It's no wonder the ELR lasted only two years.
What else could be at the top of this list? The Edsel is the biggest luxury-car failure ever made. Its bizarre styling didn’t gel with consumers at the time, and no amount of hyping the car up could get the American consumers interested in a car just because it had a strange grille.
Not only did this fail to grab consumer; it was a failure for Ford as well. Ford made a huge gamble on their new Edsel lineup and lost the bet. The Washington Post claims that Ford lost $250 million on the Edsel and that development was so troublesome, early models had issues from the factory. Overall, the Edsel is one of the worst luxury cars of all time. It failed to lure buyers to the new brand and even burned early adopters. The Edsel may be a neat car today, but it certainly wasn't when it was new.