It's a saying that beautifully describes the automotive industry, 'aging is a privilege, not a right'. Over the years, various manufacturers have been able to perfect the masterful art of designing an instant classic. A well-balanced car with clean and simple features that can look great on the showroom floor, but also stand the ultimate test of time.
However, with the pressure to wow audiences at launch, some automakers become so overzealous that they create a product with the shelf-life of a lone banana on top of the refrigerator. We can all agree that nobody likes bruised bananas unless you're making banana bread, but that's a discussion for another day! Here is a list of 5 early 2000's cars that have aged well, and 5 that haven't.
10 Aged Well: Lotus Elise
The ride and handling of the lightweight Lotus Elise could easily be the subject of a traditional haiku poem. The British-made vehicle is in its natural element carving up corners and tearing up backroads. They don't have an insane amount of power but ask anyone that's ever driven one and they'll tell you it's probably the most fun they've had behind the wheel.
However, that's not all this street-legal go-kart that specialized in turning heads is known for. The affordable mid-engine roadster came with an aggressive yet charming appeal. It had curves that would catch anyone staring and it was nearly impossible to not smugly look back as you walked away after a drive. It's no wonder the Lotus Elise fundamentally remained unchanged during the course of its production.
9 Aged Well: E46 BMW M3
The BMW M3 is the high-performance version of the iconic 3-series. A vehicle that has become the benchmark in its class for many years for focusing on one thing, the driver. The lines on the body effortlessly flow from the front to the rear and the flared fenders were enough to let everyone know this wasn't your ordinary 3-series.
The key to its classic nature is how subtle and sincere the package organically comes together. The E46 isn't a car that screams for attention, but it does strut a great amount of confidence. With its perfect blend of power, handling, and aesthetics, many say this generation of the M3 is the greatest of all time.
8 Aged Well: Land Rover LR3
If you saw one drive by, you probably wouldn't guess it's 15 years old. In the fall of 2004, Land Rover replaced its rugged Discovery model with the brand new LR3. It was loaded with a V8 borrowed from Jaguar, had bold exterior lines and was fashioned for the person that wanted to adventure off the beaten path.
Luxury met reliability in a handsomely squared-off rugged package that could look great parked outside of a nightclub or on safari in the Serengeti. A luxury SUV that hasn't forgotten its utilitarian roots and holds up aesthetically today, what's not to love.
7 Aged Well: Honda S2000
It was Honda's 50th birthday present to itself, and it did not disappoint. Nearly 20 years later, the S2000 remains a cult favorite and can often be seen at race tracks and custom car shows around the world. It has a perfect weight balance, a marvelous engine that screams all the way up to 9,000 rpm and it was only available with one gearbox option, a six-speed manual.
Sports car purists appreciated the look of the long snout on the Honda S2000 because it meant the engine could be pushed back to further perfect the center of gravity. The package remained unchanged for the 10 years and essentially earned the title of becoming the "better Miata."
6 Aged Well: Aston Martin Vanquish
If you're in the mood for three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half of Kina Lillet, shaken not stirred with a large thin lemon peel slice, then I have the car for you: the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish was the official James Bond car in Die Another Day. In the film, this masterful work of art was embellished with rockets enclosed in the grille, automatic guns that popped out off the bonnet, and spiked tires.
However, all of that was unnecessary because even today the V12 Vanquish could simply kill with its looks. This British beauty packed some curves and rear fender stylings that would surely get Sir Mix-a-Lot's approval. When it comes to the automotive industry, that never goes out of style.
5 Aged Poorly: Pontiac Aztek
So far, the vehicles on our list have been serious head turners. However, our next car is known for breaking necks for all the wrong reasons. The Pontiac Aztek is what happens when an automotive maker fails to use the buddy system. If only they had a friend that could have told them to 'stop trying so hard'.
The Aztek's body was over-styled and it appears as if the designers were going for shock rather than finding the timeless lines that consumers are naturally drawn to. In retrospect, this is rather surprising considering that the same person that made the Aztek was also in charge of designing the C7 Corvette.
4 Aged Poorly: Chrysler PT Cruiser
It wasn't a minivan, it wasn't a sport utility vehicle and if it existed today, the crossovers probably wouldn't want to hang out with the Chrysler PT Cruiser either. When seen driving down the road, the PT seems like a fish out of water. Its aesthetics were brutally polarizing, and the general consensus was that it was an 'old people car'.
It is possible to fuse retro styling with a modern twist, but the PT Cruiser has not aged well because it appears that whoever did the mixing was a little heavy-handed with both and thus the car lacked an identity.
3 Aged Poorly: Mitsubishi Eclipse (3rd Generation)
The Fast and Furious franchise helped boost the popularity of a few vehicles like the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Nissan Skyline, and the Toyota Supra. However, of those three, the Eclipse quickly fell from grace shortly after the movie marketing fizzled. Mitsubishi had an unprecedented opportunity to introduce a new generation of Eclipse during the custom import scene peak, but unfortunately, their efforts fell dramatically short in the styling department.
The 3rd generation Eclipse came with the weird ridges that ran down the side of the doors and an overall design that just wasn't satisfying the thirst for an aggressive car that could be modded by the import scene.
2 Aged Poorly: Toyota Echo
There was a time when the Toyota brand could do no wrong, but then things changed. The Echo was part of a project created to attract younger buyers. When it came to fuel economy and affordability, the Echo excelled. In addition, buying a Toyota meant getting the added reliability, but there was only one problem. Proportions are key when it comes to designing a car.
Unfortunately, for the Toyota Echo, even the unusual centralized gauge cluster demonstrated the overall lack of design. The desire to bring in youthful drivers with an edgy product worked in the company's favor when it came to the Celica, but with the softer, more rounder appearing models like the MR2 Spyder and the Echo, the effort fell short.
1 Aged Poorly: Chrysler Crossfire
It was one of those concepts that worked better on paper, but visually couldn't quite cut it in the real world. The Chrysler Crossfire obtains hints of the Mercedes SLK underneath with features that optically promised it could perhaps be something we would all grow into. Sort of like a teenager in middle-school with big feet, the Crossfire conjured the idea that someday this uniquely designed machine would fit the standard mold.
Unfortunately, that day never came and the awkward Crossfire never grew on the world. The result was a clumsy package that had its very brief moment in time but then faded into the sunset.