I saw an early Subaru Tribeca behind me in traffic the other day, and it got me thinking about the ugliest cars in America over the past decade. Let’s face it: there weren’t a lot cars styled between 2000 and 2009 that are going to be considered “future classics”. The list below is mine, therefore it’s subjective; if you own one of these cars, you can write me until your fingers go numb about how good the car is, but it still won’t change my mind. Beauty may indeed be skin deep, but in the case of the cars below, well, ugly goes all the way to the bone.
2005 – 2008 Subaru Tribeca
Let’s give Subaru credit before we criticize them: the Tribeca was their attempt to break out of the boring, cookie-cutter crossover mold. They succeeded, but only by grafting the face of a snarling wolverine onto their personal luxury compact crossover. I have no doubt that early Tribecas are good vehicles (as most Subaru’s are), but sometimes “edgy” styling just works out to be hideous styling.
2002 – 2008 BMW Z4
Just when you thought that the Chris-Bangle-designed BMW 5 Series was the ugliest automobile in the brand’s history, along comes the BMW Z4, also a creation of Bangle. The car’s styling was almost universally disliked when it hit the market in 2002, and one critic described it as being “styled with a machete”. Sadly, the Z4 was a better car than the Z3 it replaced, but buyers avoided it like week-old sushi thanks to it’s “flame surfaced” lines. A restyling for the 2009 model year helped, but that’s damning by faint praise.
2009 Acura TL
When Acura launched the fourth generation of their popular TL sedan in 2009, a collective groan went up from car buyers everywhere. Acura, it appeared, had borrowed a page from Subaru’s playbook; instead of grafting a snarling badger on the front of the TL, they instead opted for a grinning robot. Potential buyers left Acura showrooms faster than White Castle hamburgers leave the digestive system, and 2012 saw front and rear styling improvements for both the Acura TL and TSX.
2003 – 2007 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe
If you needed proof that Saturn was living on borrowed time, it came in the form of the 2003 Saturn Ion. Perhaps the car wasn’t as hideous as some on this list, but sometimes bland works out to be the same thing. If you want bland, the Saturn ion was steamed white rice with celery and water chestnuts, served with a glass of tepid water. Take the C-pillar, for example: did Saturn’s stylists simply run out of money and call it a day? And what about the front end, which only got uglier year after year after year? Line up the various styles of the Saturn Ion, and you can watch the division’s descent into oblivion; like the car itself, it’s not pleasant to look at.
2001 – 2005 Pontiac Aztec
No list of ugly cars would be complete without the Pontiac Aztek, the car that has become synonymous with ugly. Built for only five model years, the Aztek managed to remain hideous throughout it’s production run. No attempt at freshening from Pontiac’s designers made a bit of difference, and sales never came close to GM’s forecast of 75,000 units per year. By the final year, sales amounted to just 5,020 units, and you could still buy new Azteks from dealer inventory as late as 2007. Ultimately, the Aztek served as proof that design by committee simply doesn’t work when it comes to automobiles.
These are my top five, but what are yours? Give me your ugliest five cars sold in the US from 2000 to 2009.