Top 10 bad cars from good brands

Every family has one: a bad apple. And so do automakers. Even the manufacturers that have gold star reputations and a strong showroom sometimes offer up a car or truck that stands out for all the wrong reasons. To whit, here are the top 10 bad cars from good brands:

BMW 4 & 6 Series Gran Coupes

The BMW 435i Gran Coupe.

The BMW 435i Gran Coupe.
Handout, BMW

From the German brand that brought you the shotgun marriage of a sports coupe and an SUV (see the BMW X6 and X4 Sports Activity Coupes) comes the new $44,900 BMW 4 and $87,900 6 Series Gran Coupes.

The BMW 4/6 Series Gran Coupes are “four-door” coupe versions of their respective 4/6-Series two-door Coupes. But with less passenger and cargo room than the respective BMW 3 and 5 Series four-door sedans they are based upon, and costing thousands more, we wonder: how “Gran” is that?

Cadillac XTS

2014 Cadillac XTS

2014 Cadillac XTS
PHOTO: Handout, Cadillac

General Motors’ Cadillac brand has been on an over-decade long path to battle global luxury brand leaders like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. And, for the most part, the results have been pretty good. But then we have the XTS sedan, a two-steps-back brand move if we ever saw one.

First seen for 2013, the $44,940 XTS caters to the type of traditional Caddy customer the brand’s been trying to shed for years. Although Cadillac dubs the XTS its “flagship” model, the four-door is essentially a $5,000 more expensive Chevrolet Impala with the more confusing Cadillac CUE infotainment system.

Chevrolet City Express

The 2015 Chevrolet City Express will be available in dealerships in U.S. and Canada in the fall of 2014.

The 2015 Chevrolet City Express will be available in dealerships in U.S. and Canada in the fall of 2014.
Handout, Chevrolet

While it would be inaccurate to call the Cadillac XTS a “rebadged” Impala, I have no problems throwing that derogatory term at the new Chevrolet City Express small commercial van, which is a rebadged version of the Nissan NV 200 City Express.

In a desperate move to catch up to Ford’s Transit Connect small van, by simply applying a Chevy Bow Tie to the Nissan, GM is basically admitting it dropped the ball in planning for a more fuel efficient commercial offering than its full-size Express van.

Honda CR-Z Hybrid

2012 Honda CR-Z

2012 Honda CR-Z
Handout, Honda

Honda seems to be recovering from its Lost Years, the time when it launched such duds as the Accord Crosstour, Insight Hybrid and this, the CR-Z Hybrid. The Insight is dead. And the Crosstour has lost its Accord badge. But the $22,755 CR-Z continues to be very un-Honda-like.

While the CR-Z was originally pitched as a fuel-efficient reincarnation of Honda’s CR-X sports coupe from the 1980s and 1990s, its real-world economy numbers aren’t all that, well, economical. And with only 130 horsepower on tap, it’s not much of a “sports coupe” ether.

Infiniti QX60

The styling of the Infiniti QX60 Hybrid features distinctive character lines and an unique rear window design to help set it apart.

The styling of the Infiniti QX60 Hybrid features distinctive character lines and an unique rear window design to help set it apart.
Russell Purcell, Driving

Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand got into some sales trouble in the late-1990s by offering chromed-up Nissans instead of unique products. But since then, the brand has fought back with distinctive platforms, powertrains and styling to separate its showroom from its more mainstream parent.

So what are we to make of the $43,000 Infiniti QX60? Not much, actually. From its shared platform to its shared powertrains to its shared safety kit to its ho-hum shared interior build quality, the QX60, which costs an extra $10,000 compared to the Nissan Pathfinder its based on, seems like one of the brand’s woeful attempts from decades ago.

Jeep Compass

2014 Jeep Compass

2014 Jeep Compass
PHOTO: Handout,

Fiat-Chrysler is counting on big global sales gains from its Jeep brand. Which explains excellent recent products like the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee and forthcoming Renegade. But there’s one Jeep in the barn the brand would like to forget: the $16,245 Compass.

Born in 2006 when the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands were owned by Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, the Compass (and its less slightly off-putting Patriot platform-mate) were launched with tepid powerplants, whiny CVT transmissions and faux Rubicon trail ratings. Time has not healed the wound.

Lexus GX 460

2014 Lexus GX

2014 Lexus GX
Handout, Lexus

There’s a reason why the $58,900 Lexus GX 460 is one of the few truck-based SUVs you can buy: few buyers in this class ever take their precious SUVs off paved roads. So while the Lexus SUV is actually quite useful as an off-roading tool, it’s more likely to be seen parked in front of a yoga studio.

Heavy, and powered by a thirsty V8 engine, the Lexus SUV has quite an appetite for gas. And the GX 460’s space-inefficient cabin means despite having three rows of seats, those aft of the second row will need to be gymnastic medalists.

Mini Cooper Countryman/Paceman

Mini Countryman

Mini Countryman
Handout, Mini

Blame hipsters for the not-so-Mini four-door Countryman and two-door Paceman. At the Countryman’s launch event in 2010, a Mini official blamed the Countryman’s existence on existing customers — those with children or extra stuff to carry around or those who can only afford one car.

That’s too bad. Because while the modern Mini brand was born on the backs of the 1950s’ minimalist original, the $25,500 Countryman/$26,800 Paceman compete with “normal” size cars, like VW Golfs and Ford Focus. And based on price and performance, the largest Minis — so far — come up short.

Porsche Panamera

2014 Porsche Panamera.

2014 Porsche Panamera
Handout, Porsche

While no one considers the Porsche Panamera a “sports car”, some of its more powerful iterations make for a much more engaging drive than the typical German luxobarge, like the $129,400, 440-hp GTS. But the base $89,500 Panamera is a Porsche four-door sedan to avoid.

The lack of an S on the back of this Panamera translates to “slow”. As in 6.3 agonizing seconds to go from zero to 100 km/hr — a second slower than the much less expensive Hyundai Genesis 5.0. Blame the Panamera’s run-of-the-mill, 310-hp V6, also found in the Volkswagen Touareg, among other VW Group vehicles. Are you buying a Porsche to drive slowly? We think not.

Land Rover LR2

2014 Land Rover LR2

2014 Land Rover LR2
Handout, Land Rover

Tata’s Land Rover is successfully venturing from its beast of burden past to more upscale neighbourhoods. Witness such good-looking recent models as the topline Range Rover and the urban-friendly Evoque compact. But during this transition, some Landies are still anchored to the past, the most tethered is the $39,990 LR2.

As much as the newer Evoque is more handsome and nicer to drive, the LR2 is looking dated and dull. The four-door LR’s interior is neither roomy nor especially luxurious. And it drives in a manner that would suit a slug.

About John LeBlanc