List: Ten Cars That Looked Better Before Their Makeovers

By Steven J. Ewing

October 22, 2008


ACURA TL Last Generation: 2004 - 2008 Current Generation: 2009 A lot of controversy has been stirred over the contrasting chevron grille that Acura has put on most of its new models, and while the last-gen TL wasn't necessarily a huge step forward in sporty expression, we prefer its cleaner lines and less-contrived aesthetic.


BMW 5-SERIES Last Generation: 1996 - 2003 Current Generation: 2004 - Present When Chris Bangle took his designer's pen to the 5-Series for 2004, it stirred a lot of mixed emotions amongst the automotive media, with some outlets even proclaiming it as the ugliest 5-Series ever made. Many of Bangle’s design cues (first seen in the 7-Series) have been showing up in other brands, however, so perhaps he’s having the last laugh. Still, as the 1996-2003 was one of the most balanced sedan designs we’ve yet seen, we’re not buying any of it.


CHRYSLER SEBRING CONVERTIBLE Last Generation: 2004 - 2007 Current Generation: 2008 - Present While we wouldn't hand out any design awards to the last-generation Chrysler Sebring Convertible, the current model's front and rear ends look like they were designed in two completely different rooms. The 2004-2007 iteration may have been less imaginative, but it looked more balanced. While the sedan bodystyle won’t win any awards, the big raspberry is reserved for the convertible model, whose lengthy rear proportions and awkward trunk lid shut-line make it look like a quasi-pickup from some angles.


DODGE VIPER Last Generation: 1996 - 2002 Current Generation: 2008 - Present We know, we know, we technically skipped a generation, but the styling of that particular model was hardly changed when the 2008 Viper made its debut. Although it's a bit hard to tell in pictures, older models were more aggressive and less bulbous. Although still attractive, the new Viper's styling is a bit too soft and rounded-- it simply doesn't look as raw or cutthroat as its predecessor.


INFINITI FX Last Generation: 2003 - 2008 Current Generation: 2009 The former FX was a bold statement for Infiniti: a crossover vehicle skewed toward high performance and high art at the expense of outright functionality. The new FX still carries that theme, but the new front end’s contrived grille and awkward headlamps has lost the clean look that made the first FX so popular.


LINCOLN NAVIGATOR Last Generation: 2003 - 2006 Current Generation: 2007 - Present It's no secret that the chrome-happy electric razor schnoz of the Navigator has not made friends within the automotive media. The simpler, more polished look of the previous Navigator wasn’t subtle, but it was a great deal classier on a vehicle that was one of the pioneers of the full-size luxury SUV segment.


Last Generation: 2003 - 2007 Current Generation: 2008 - Present Among the NextAutos staff, putting the Murano on this list was a really tough sell for at least a couple of us. Still, the detractors won out, claiming that the first-generation Murano's shape was boldly rounded and wholly original, while the styling of the new Murano seems overwrought, especially in the headlight/grille area.


SAAB 9-5 Last Generation: 1997 - 2005 Current Generation: 2006 - Present While the original Saab 9-5 was a simple case of evolutionary design, the current 9-5 looks like a bad bit of rhinoplasty has been grafted onto an older car (which it has). The chrome surrounds on the headlamps and the grille look out of place, and the front overhang looks far more pronounced than its predecessor, giving the 9-5 an oddly nose-heavy look.


SCION xB Last Generation: 2004 - 2007 Current Generation: 2008 - Present The original Scion xB had an iconic cubist design that really helped kickstart the Scion brand in America. But when the new, bubbly, bulgy, blind-spotty xB debuted for 2008, Scion started to lose sales traction in the U.S., while resale value on the original xBox continues to be the stuff of owner dreams. Coincidence?


VOLKSWAGEN JETTA Last Generation: 1999 - 2004 Current Generation: 2005 - Present While the last-generation Jetta’s simple forms, clean bodysides and rounded wheel arches screamed class-above European refinement, the current Jetta was a step in the wrong direction. The chrome grille, larger proportions, and bloated design even strikes us as a bit derivative-Japanese from certain vantage points.


Most of the time, when an automaker completely overhauls one of their models, it's a good step forward for not only the car, but for the brand it represents. However, there are other times where the design teams make some questionable decisions and the new products end up looking worse than their predecessors.

Thus, we present our list of ten cars that, from a design standpoint, we think looked better in their previous generation. Scroll through our gallery to see all of the contenders, and leave a comment with any cars that you think we may have missed, and/or maligned.