“Beauty, like supreme dominion, is only supported by opinion”- Benjamin Franklin.
Beauty has always been a subjective thing, and so often we see something as beautiful after it proves its value to us in many other ways. At that point, our opinions have moved beyond simple outward appearance toward richer, deeper feelings.
The Pontiac Aztek has been the automotive press whipping post for more than a decade. I penned another blog post in 2010 defending this oddity of the vehicular realm.
You can read that post here; The Much Maligned Aztek.
What follows are definitely my personal views, and while some of the vehicles on the list may well be sturdy, reliable machines that have been good to their owners, the fact remains I find their outward appearance revolting. If anything, this is a turnabout for all the insulting press I’ve read about our Pontiac over the last ten years.
And here we go….
As mentioned in the related post, this was the Aztek sister ship, and how it escaped insult along with its sibling is beyond me. While its styling might not be as edgy as the Pontiac, I’ve seen cliff boulders with more pleasing lines. The large tail lights accentuate the bizarre hatch glass, which with its black trim looks like a giant welt growing off the rear like a tumor. If the Buick were featured in an episode of Cars, I could hear the following lines.
Buick; “Excuse me, honey, do my tail lights make my butt look big?”
Hummer H2; “Not as blocky as mine, baby, but I like some boom in the back.”
This was one of the Aztek competitors in the SUV market, but I’ve yet to see this vehicle make an ugly car list. With that pig snout grille and body side sculpting that looks like its about to sprout pontoons, I guess it was considered more adventurous. Wild Boars are adventurous, dangerous, and unreliable, but they still aren’t attractive. Its nice to know the Mitsubishi has natural company.
Honda owners are some of the most loyal on the planet, but I think even they have to admit the company’s styling tastes comes in ebbs and flows. Let’s face it, there are some mundane looking Hondas in this world, but the conflicting lines of the roof against the sloping back windows make me feel like this vehicle was designed after one too many bottles of saki. Go home, Sensei, you’re drunk.
Sometimes you wonder if a certain model is produced in only one color. While I have seen the rare Lexus in black or gold, pearl white appears to be their dominant choice. The overall ovoid shape of this vehicle immediately clicks in my brain as an egg on wheels. As a car nut kid I did my share of model bashing, but I never put Humpty Dumpty on a set of truck tires. This was also one of the first vehicles equipped with clear tail light lenses that turn red when lit, and being stuck behind a RX in traffic is akin to having a red-eyed robot winking at you. Both ugly and annoying.
To “juke” means to move in a zig-zag fashion, and I think that’s exactly what the designer of this car was doing at the drawing board. Was it one of those freak days when the exterminator didn’t keep his appointment and the studio was crawling with offensive little bugs? Was it a nightmare the designer just had to get off his chest the next morning?
For all of the “WTF” questions that have been asked over how the Aztek made it to production, I scream those questions from the rooftops over this car. Every time I see one I suppress an overpowering urge to swat it with a giant backhoe.
For all those who point to the Veloster and call it cute, quirky, different, or some other adjective to deflect its oddball looks, I point backward a generation to two cars that hit the market with similar descriptors; the AMC Gremlin and its bloated cousin the Pacer.
I actually owned a Pacer for a short time and found it to be a very useful and reliable car, but that did nothing to stem the non-stop flow of stares and jokes I took during that time. I have to admit one of my co-workers summed up owning a Pacer in simple terms, “It’s kind of like a bathtub. You don’t mind being in it, but don’t exactly want to be seen there.”
I think the biggest benefit of owning a Veloster is that if you’re driving it, you don’t have to see it passing by.
I read that in Japan, owning a boxy looking vehicle is considered macho, and for all the things Japanese culture has given us, I hope that one is never widely adopted. Although given the short term success of the Hummer, and now the growing sales of the mini-boxes, I’m left to wonder. Many of the micro-vans or whatever their popular nickname happens to be, remind me of basic kitchen appliances. Toasters, canisters, or what-have-you, but the Nissan Cube should be renamed the Icebox. This offbeat, asymmetrical, styling hangover painted white looks like you should clear a parking spot in your kitchen. But hey, picnics and pot luck dinners should be breeze. Nissan should offer massive discounts to catering services the world over.
The poor, lost child Durango has been through some tough changes. The SUV started off well enough, borrowing from its Dakota cousin, and all seemed well until the tumultuous years Chrysler ownership bounced from Daimler-Benz to the inept hands of the Cerberus Group. (The latter knowing NOTHING about running a car company, and boy did it show.) Thankfully, the passionate people in control these days have transformed the Durango into a truck that begs for its life to be a Charger, but those murky models in between were insane bastard offspring of a mish-mash of Jeep and Ram truck DNA.
Not attractive from any angle, these Lego-block beasts should be herded to service in the distant wilderness where wild animals could care less, and park rangers will never lose them as much as they might want to.
If this is the future of automotive technology then its time for me to move to an urban location over-run with public transportation. This latest product from the Bavarian Motor Werks might be cutting edge, but it looks like a deformed astronaut helmet. I almost envision a frustrated chief of design sounding off to his staff, “Give me a car so advanced and incredible I wont give a damn what it looks like!” Job done, except the rest of us just might disagree with the apathy toward appearance.
Here is yet another left field sister ship. The Honda Accord Crosstour, now known simply as the Crosstour, has drawn its share of detractors. Despite the criticism from the press, the Crosstour has found a niche in the market as it pulls off the utility of a wagon without quite looking like one. All of which probably pleases the execs at Honda no end since the Crosstour replaced the Accord wagon to begin with. While the Crosstour sports a love-it or hate-it appearance, its Acura cousin pushes that envelope to its outer limits.
(I say cousin vs sister since the ZDX is based on the Pilot, not the Accord)
The styling attempts to hide the rear doors fail in execution, and the more sharply angled glass lines only make the vehicle look more cramped. (Actually it is cramped, because rear seat headroom is midget sized)
But for me, the biggest laugher is the beaver-tooth front grill treatment. Acuras are meant to be upscale cars, but I would feel a pang of nausea every time I looked in my driveway only to see Punxsutawney Phil staring back at me with glowing eyes. I’ve noticed more recent models with the grill given a muted black treatment in an effort to tone down the effect. That’s nice; the beaver needs his teeth cleaned. Those morning coffee stains are just annoying.
And my Aztek is ugly? Maybe so, but she aint alone by a long shot!
– T. August Green