Car and Driver has been a stalwart of automotive journalism since 1955. Almost 70 years after going into print, C&D retains the same slogan they’ve always had — “Intelligence. Independence. Irreverence.”
All that alliteration is intended to convey that C&D writers are committed to telling it like it is. That might sound easy, but with automakers commanding billion-dollar bank accounts and the opinion of the American people on the line, you can bet that journalists are encouraged to have nice things to say.
So, have automotive journalists lost their edge? Nope. It might be less common that someone puts out a car deserving of a real clobbering from the press, but even if the major publications choose to sugar coat things, the internet has upheld the promise of irreverence that C&D committed to all those years ago.
Don’t believe me? Check out some examples of the most scathing reviews from our friends online and in print. You don’t even have to like cars to get a laugh from reading these.
2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible—Jeremy Clarkson, The Sunday Times
If ever a car needed a dose of Prozac, it was the Chrysler Sebring. As the poster child for rental fleet convertibles, the Sebring was hated by enthusiasts and berated by critics for being utterly uninteresting in styling, performance and interior appointments.
So if you’re Chrysler, and you know this ho-hum blandmobile is making the rounds with journalistic testers, you might want to avoid this guy: Jeremy Clarkson — journalistic celebrity of Top Gear fame, known for his primate-like antics and penchant for verbally butchering even cars that don’t deserve the treatment. Hide the keys.
But Clarkson did get his hands on a set of 2008 Sebring Keys, and what he wrote was an “automotive horror story,” of what Clarkson called “almost certainly the worst car in the entire world.”
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage—John Pearly Huffman, The New York Times
We’re not sure what it is about publications with “Times” in the name throwing down the proverbial glove in a car review, but perhaps the only review appropriate to follow Clarkson’s opus on the Sebring Convertible was published in May 2014. The title? “It’s Cheap, but is it Overpriced?”
Unlike the case of the Chrysler, which sets some form of a bar by attempting to be a mid-sized, quasi-sporting kind of car, the Mitsubishi Mirage only wants to be an econobox. Sadly, Huffman explains that it can’t even manage that well.
“The reborn Mitsubishi Mirage lowers expectations, strangles them and buries their remains in a deep unmarked grave,” he writes. “Disappointment this profound shouldn’t come with 60 months of financing.” No wonder Mitsubishi had to sell to Nissan.
Yugo — Doug Demuro, Autotrader Oversteer
In car enthusiast circles, the Yugo has become something of a red-headed stepchild. The thing is, Yugos are so rare that few people ever actually drive them and offer objective feedback. Doug Demuro got his hands on one for an article and video review, and the result is comedy gold.
Along with teaching you how the Yugo was imported by the same Malcolm Bricklin that gave us Subaru, Demuro repeatedly expresses being impressed at how comically bad the Yugo is, saying things like:
You knew it would be slow the moment you looked at it, or the moment you heard of its ‘cheapest car’ status, or the moment you did any research on what’s actually powering it (a 55-horsepower 1.1-liter carbureted 4-cylinder). But if you had any doubts about its slowness, they’d be erased the second you opened the hood, when you discovered the engine is sharing its space with the spare tire. And that the spare tire is larger.
Good to know the Yugo lives up, or down, to the hype.
2014 Ram ProMaster 1500 EcoDiesel — Daniel Pund, Car & Driver
We mentioned C&D earlier, and this review is proof positive that the time-honored publication still knows how to place their punches. Americans might not be well acquainted with the tall diesel-powered cargo van, but there are many flavors of these on the road in Europe, so the ProMaster 1500 actually does have to prove itself.
Sadly for Ram, Pund lets loose on the ProMaster 1500 hammer-and-tong, calling it a “shovel-faced thing that appears to have been cobbled together from spare parts.” And that’s before he ever attempts to drive it. Let’s just say automated manuals are best left to sports cars — we’ll take a decent automatic any day in a van, thank you.
1988 Suzuki Samurai — Consumer Reports
People are divided on the topic of the Suzuki Samurai. For some, it’s an affordable Jeep Wrangler alternative. For others, it’s a death trap. Even if the little off-roader is susceptible to rollover — which all tall, short-wheelbase cars are — it’s not cool to exaggerate the problem in your review.
That’s exactly what Consumer Reports did, though. They bashed the Samurai, which probably deserved some ire from a publication targeted at potential buyers, but they also tweaked their tests to make the Samurai look even less safe than it was. Wouldn’t it have just been simpler to let the goofy 4X4 speak for itself?
2015 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet — Doug Demuro, Jalopnik
Before he worked at Autotrader, Doug Demuro’s automotive musings found their home on the pages of well-known Kinja blog, Jalopnik. In April of 2015, Doug gave us one of that blog’s finest moments — he even says so himself in the piece.
“When I look back on my writing career, I believe I will cite July 26, 2015, as the ultimate pinnacle,” Doug writes. “That was the day I got to drive an overpriced convertible SUV that looks like an angry clothing iron.”
You don’t have to be a car critic to recognize that the Murano CrossCabriolet would be a tremendous flop. Doug’s combination of goofiness, car knowledge and one-of-a-kind style erase any doubt that this thing was the hidden gem Nissan wanted us all to believe it was.
More Where Those Came From
If you haven’t had your fill of the automotive press doing their best to expose the worst cars around, don’t worry. There are more of these reviews out there. The fact is most modern cars are very good, and competition is continually raising the bar for the industry, thereby benefitting consumers. But when something exceptionally bad does come along, at least it provides some quality reading material.