On Wednesday last week we looked back on the recently ended decade, seeking the best design found on the sort of cars people can actually afford. Today, we’ll flip the question and go in search of the design failures.
As before, we have a few rules for our selection game. Only standard production cars are up for debate. No design exercises that didn’t make it to dealer lots, no bespoke vehicles for billionaires, and no super or exotic high-end rides. Keep things accessible, and the starting price of your terrible-looking car under $100,000. And it must have had a model year between 2010 and 2019.
Look at this deformed bar of soap:
That’s right, my pick for worst of the decade is the Lexus SC 430. Lexus’ luxury coupe had a great start. Its first generation had inline-six and V8 engines and was based on the same platform as the Supra everyone loved. Design work started in America at Calty Design Research in 1987, and it was introduced for 1992. After a long model run through 2000, it was time for something new.
A second-generation SC was in development by 1997; this time Lexus wanted the luxury cruiser to be even more amenable to Americans than before. It seems they targeted particularly those from San Diego and Palm Beach. Thus, the Sports Coupe changed its last name to Convertible. Instead of spending time in a studio, a design group from Europe and Japan took a vacation to the French Riviera. There, they looked at buildings and yachts and things. Little surprise, then, that they returned with a boat.
Rounded in every possible place, the new SC 430 bore no resemblance to the departed SC 300/400. Gone was the stylish sports luxury, replaced with the Floridian-favorite folding metal roof. Also gone was the six-cylinder offering, replaced with a singular 4.3-liter V8 from the LS 430 (not a bad thing), paired unfortunately and solely to automatic transmissions.
Given the new SC was much less an SC and instead a different sort of car, sales results weren’t surprising: they grew 27-fold at introduction. The peak of over 25,000 sales in the first model year quickly dropped to 10,000 the next year. A relative cliff occurred after, and by the final year of 2010, all the special editions in the world couldn’t sell more than 328 in the US. They lingered on lots in 2011 and 2012, as the retirees and realtors who bought one circa 2002 found they didn’t need another.
The SC wasn’t really replaced, though some might argue the LC is its successor. I say that it’s too big and too expensive. It’s also too good looking, as the second SC was a real dog. All the ingredients were there: build quality, know-how, engine choice, and interior materials. It fell down largely because of the design, and they should’ve done much better. Embarrassing.
What’s your pick for worst design of the 2010s?
[Images: BMW, Lexus]