With the good, must come the bad.
That's just the way the world works. We have to have balance for two reasons:
1) I'd be doing a HUGE disservice to you if I didn't tell you what vehicles fell short; and
2) It's nice to have complete transparency.
Last night I announced my list of top vehicles for 2013 and tonight I will mark the ones that were dreadful. Trust me, this isn't as much fun as it may seem.
So, shall we?
1) Toyota Avalon: This was a vehicle I had incredibly high hopes for. Typically, Toyota Avalons look as though they're styled from bars of soap. Unimaginative and unattractive, they're just not the kind of vehicle I could ever picture myself behind the wheel of. When the all-new Avalon was debuted in New York though, it looked high-end and luxurious. "Great," I thought. Toyota got it together. Boy, was I wrong. If you've sat in a General Motors interior, you've sat in the new Avalon. Plastics are cheap, seats are flat and, my God, it looks as though the company put stitching in vinyl on the dash to make it look expensive. It doesn't. Then there's the powertrain that is devoid of any personality. Essentially, Toyota doesn't make any apologies for the appliance it created. But let me point out how unbelievably expensive this dishwasher is. Its base price starts at $31,340. If you tack on options you quickly are in the high $30s and the navigation unit graphical user interface is incredibly dated. Oh, and the mpg on the non-hybrid car? 19 mpg.
2) Mercedes-Benz GL550: I used to think Mercedes was incapable of putting out a "meh" product but it has proved me wrong. An all-new generation product, it sports a nicely outfitted interior, modern conveniences and the typical COMAND system you find in any Benz. So, what's the problem? It's SO damn big. And, it's heavy as hell, even with the all-new bi-turbo V8 pushing out 429 horsepower it feels like it is constantly stuck in the mud. When turning it feels like a ship. Honestly, there's no point to this vehicle unless you need a MASSIVE seven-seater sport-utility vehicle. If you don't, why not go get the new Land Rover Range Rover that does EVERYTHING better than the GL? The worst part about the GL550? The test vehicle I had the squeakiest second row I've ever heard in the history of mankind. It reminded me of two things: 1) an awful public transit bus, and 2) a 1980s GM conversion van. Neither of those embody luxury or a base price nearly $90,000.
3) BMW X5: This may seem to be a curveball for some of you, but here here, BMW has really let me down with the all-new X5. Why? Well, that's because it's the same as the old X5, essentially. It's just been reskinned. At the car's launch the executives talked about how successful the last-gen vehicle was. In fact, the last-gen X5 actually sold more units year-over-year from 2011 to 2012. The sales numbers released for year-end 2013 though shows a 10 percent decrease in X5 sales YOY. So, I guess the folks decided that the product that makes up about one-third of the business should not change drastically. You know, why fix something if it ain't broke? For an organization always saying its on the cutting-edge, it did NOT innovate one bit with the all-new X5, which is a volume product for them. It's a damn good product BUT revamping the interior with a high-res screen that reminds me of an Apple MacBook retina display isn't going to cut it when other automakers are shaving 700-800 pounds from their products and making them VERY attractive as well.
4) Audi RS5: I feel like I am going on a German binge right now, but hear me out. If you're looking for a luxury, grand tourer you've come to the right place. If you're looking for a German sports car, this is NOT it. While a lot of people fawn over the 4.2-liter V8, which produces 450 horsepower, in the RS5 it really isn't anything special. You have to rev the pants off of it to feel like you're doing much since this RS feels like a whale. The steering is numb and far too heavy, then the ride is not the smoothest thanks to the 20-some-odd inch wheels. Long story short, the RS5 feels too similar to the old V8 S5, which I hated then for the same reasons. It's not particularly special, the interior is no different and it's expensive to boot, starting at $69,600. When you see what Audi is doing with the likes of the RS7, you have to wonder why they held back SO much with the RS5. Would it have raised the cost THAT much?
5) Ford GT500: I hate this car for the exact reason why I love it. The unreal supercharged V8 churns out a jaw dropping 662 horsepower stock. That sounds like fun on paper but in the real day-to-day it's awful, particularly when the chassis is not using an independent rear suspension. Sure, that's what gives the Mustang it's "character," but in all honesty if you take the time to equip the vehicle with adjustable Bilstein dampers it's time to move away from a live axle. If you're looking for a track car and you missed out on the BOSS then pull the trigger. If you're looking for a daily driver then the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is the better pick. I'll sum up the GT500 like this: it's a lot of fun in the same way a Razor scooter is, it's fun and unrefined, but you look like an utter idiot if you're not a child.
6) Mazda 6: Another vehicle I had tremendous hopes for. Based off the sexual look of the Takerai Concept car, the Mazda 6 is a helluva looker. It looks as though it's a luxury car with its sharp lines and swagger. But Mazda cheaped out on bits of its interior that makes me want to scream. The tester Mazda sent my way had a manual gearbox with a clutch so light and numb it is not particularly engaging — no pun intended. The worst part about it? Mazda equipped it with a proper infotainment screen but it is literally one of the worst GUIs I have ever seen. It's not intuitive or easy to get a handle on. At least it handles like a smaller vehicle. I thought this would be a breakout car for Mazda but it seems like the brand left all it's juice for the all-new 3 instead.
7) Toyota RAV4: If I wanted a washer or dryer, I'd go get one at Sears and attach four wheels to it. It boasts the "face" only a mother could love. Well, at least its interior is BETTER than the Avalon though that's not saying much. I wish I could say something nice about it, but I'd be lying.