When “new” doesn’t necessarily mean “improved”…
New car buyers have religiously looked towards the U.S. not-for-profit Consumer Reports annual automotive issue to get one of the more objective views on new showroom fare. And one of the features in this year’s annual is the calling out of a half-dozen new-for-2011 models that simply don’t measure up to their respective predecessors.
To wit: “Some [new] models, such as the Honda Odyssey, Mercedes-Benz E350, and Toyota Sienna, are still very good vehicles that we recommend. But they don't quite measure up to the standards set by their previous generation models. Others, such as the current BMW X5, Toyota 4Runner, and Volkswagen Jetta sedan, are clear disappointments.”
As much as I agree with CR’s callouts, there are still a few new models that I would classify as regressive. For instance:
• 2011 Scion xB The first-generation Scion xB was essentially a JDM Toyota bB, but with a Scion badge. So, when the current model arrived in the U.S. for 2007—with its folded-paper styling smoothed over, and sitting on a larger platform for American-sized drivers—it became just another small hatchback.
• 2011 BMW 5/6/7 Series Say what you will about the last decade of BMW design under former head pen Chris Bangle, but at least the cars looked distinctive. Yet since the departure of Bangle in 2009, BMW has regressed back to the “same sausage link, different length” styling rut that the automaker suffered through in the 1990s.
• 2011 Honda Accord Like the xB, here’s another blunder from a Japanese automaker catering to supersized Americans. The current Accord that debuted for 2008 is measurably larger, less fun-to-drive, harder to park and has a more complicated driver interface than the last version.
• 2011 Mitsubishi Galant Dating back to 1969, the Galant was to Mitsubishi as the GT-R is to Nissan: a technological tour de force, offering tremendous value over pricier German offerings. But as part of Mitsu’s push into the North American market, the Galant badge was transferred over the less-than-stellar U.S.-built version that’s been on sale (with nary an update) since 2004.
• 2011 Nissan Pathfinder You could see what Nissan was up to when it debuted its Murano for 2003. As a unibody, five-passenger utility vehicle, it effectively replaced the Pathfinder in Nissan showrooms. Two years later, the Pathfinder migrated to the midsize, body-on-frame, U.S.-built truck platform that also supported the Frontier and XTerrra. Not as nice to drive, less frugal, and not as well built, how many pre-2005 Pathfinder owners pine for their old car back?
[Source: Consumer Reports]