Fallen Heroes: 5 famous cars that have lost their way!
What did these vehicles ever do to deserve this?
We've all heard of this story, in various forms. A big car company makes incredible car, and everyone falls in love with it. The car starts getting dated, so the maker begins work on the next generation. In attempting to make the car faster, or safer, the carmaker messed up the formula that made the original so good. The new model just doesn't have the same looks, or feel, or even charm as the old one. Sadly, this happens quite frequently in the automotive world. Here's my list of the top 5, in order of least bad to absolute worst.
5. Fiat 500
The original Fiat 500 was small, cute, affordable and very charming. It wasn't fast at all, but it basically invented the city car. Easy to park, and did I mention cheap? It was a perfect ride for the average Italian person, and it showed, given that Fiat sold thousands of these.
So what exactly went wrong? Let's put it this way:
The modern 500 looks as if someone had taken an original and melted it a little. It isn't small anymore either with the largest model growing to nearly twice the size of the original.
The only benefit the new car gets is a bit more space (which is not really what you're looking for in this sort of car) and a more powerful engine (which is still slow by today's standards).
Looking at the above image of a 500L, you can see that quite a bit has changed, mostly for the worse.
4. Toyota Supra
Ah yes, we all love this car. It was super beautiful, and if it wasn't fast enough for you, the legendary 2JZ inline 6 could be turbo'd to produce more than 2,000hp with the right tune. The Supra is known for beating supercars, even with the most basic tune. It's no wonder that a good A80 Supra is worth nearly $100,000! Sadly the A80 was discontinued in 2002.
Toyota would be without a true halo car for nearly 18 years after that. In early 2019, Toyota revealed the next generation Supra, and to say it upset a few purists would be an understatement. Rather than have the famous 2JZ or an improved version of it, the new Supra featured a BMW-sourced inline-4 or 6. While the BMW engines were certainly good, there was no way that they could match the sound and tuning potential of the 2JZ.
That's not even the worst of its wrongs. The A90 featured only a (gasp) 8-speed automatic transmission. Not even a dual-clutch. This removed quite a bit of driving enjoyment, and made a lot of people mad. There is still hope for a manual in later models, but the BMW engine is staying.
I'm not going to talk much about the styling, because there are a lot of varying opinions on it. I don't overly like it, but many people I know think it looks great.
3. Volkswagen Beetle
The Beetle suffered a fate much like that of the Fiat 500, only worse. Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, it held a small but reliable engine in the rear. People all over the world thought it was perfect for their needs. Cheap, reliable but still with a decent amount of room in it. Like the Ford Model T, this car mobilized the masses, especially Germany as their economy recovered from WWII. The Beetle stayed in production, basically unchanged, until 2003 when the Volkswagen New Beetle was released.
And boy was that thing ugly. The designers tried to keep to the styling cues of the original, but it ended up looking off. The proportions didn't work properly, and it looked like someone had taken an original and inflated it like a balloon.
To save costs, VW also put the new body work on a modified version of the Golf chassis. This meant moving the engine to the front, and making it front-wheel-drive. The Golf has an amazing chassis, but it really changed the look and feel of the car.
The end result was pointless. The Golf was a fair amount cheaper than the heavier, less practical and much uglier New Beetle. Let's just say that they didn't sell well.
What the New Beetle looked like
Once VW realized that sales for the New Beetle had become a complete flop, they introduced the next generation. It certainly looked better, but still cost more than a Golf and was still ugly. VW discontinued the Beetle in 2019.
2. BMW 3-Series
The E30-E46 BMW M3s we created when BMW was in its prime. They were good-looking, fast and most importantly, fun to drive. They weren't terribly expensive either. If the M3 was a bit much, you could pick up a 325i far cheaper, with plenty of sporting capabilities. No wonder BMW sold a ton of these.
Unfortunately, after 3 nearly perfect generations, BMW screwed it all up. People started complaining about numb steering and "feeling disconnected from the road". The worst was still to come.
By the time the F80 generation came by, BMW had basically stripped this car of its identity. Nearly all F80s were sold with automatic transmissions (with a handful of manuals), and the 2-door was split from the 3-series lineup, and created into the 4-series.
Now, the M3 is even worse. BMW thought it would be a great idea to stick a huge vertical grille, completely dominating the front of the car. Pundits compared it to beaver teeth, and even said "If that BMW's kidneys are that swollen, it should go see a doctor!"
The huge grille is here to stay, too. The 4-series follows the same fate, and the 5 is likely next. On the bright side, the new M3 will be offered with a manual transmission. And at least it doesn't look half as bad as the iX.
1. Mitsubishi Eclipse
The first and second generation Mitsubishi Eclipses were brilliant. They were AWD, and the powerful engine came straight from the Lancer EVO. They could be tuned to create insane power, and if one pulled up to you at a stoplight, you KNEW you were gonna lose.
It was when the 3rd gen was released that things started going wrong. Mitsubishi ditched the AWD for FWD, and replaced the EVO's engine with a miserable 4-cylinder. The car came as a convertible, which added a ton of weight, and it just wasn't fast anymore. It didn't look nearly as good either. Things didn't get any better with the 4th gen, and it was discontinued in 2011.
In 2017, while smoking weed and drinking lots of beer (ok, I made that up), the folks at Mitsubishi came up with the Eclipse Cross. It was a really lame, crossover that took design cues from the Pontiac Aztek. Without the Eclipse nameplate, this crossover would have been just bad. But being named after an iconic JDM car, it was absolutely terrible.
What it is
It came with a dinky 1.5L 4-cylinder and a CVT. What could be worse than this?