List: Ten Cars That Are All Bark And No Bite

By Steven J. Ewing

December 14, 2009


Mitsubishi Eclipse — In the early 1990s, the Eclipse was a good choice for bargain enthusiasts. (Your author owned a '92 Eclipse with the turbo-four and all-wheel drive. Great car.) In recent years, though, the funny Mitsu has been plagued with horrible interior refinement and not-so-great driving dynamics. What a shame.


Saturn Sky — When General Motors launched the Sky roadster as the sister to the Solstice in 2006, we were greatly impressed with the bold exterior styling. But a Miata fighter? Hardly. The Sky is a portly roadster with a weak naturally aspirated engine and really poor interior materials. "A" for effort, GM.


Kia Forte Koup — Looking at Kia's latest two-door makes us wish we could take one Civic Si hunting, but the non-aggressive powertrain underneath means we'll be left in the dust each and every time.


Nissan Altima Coupe — A sporty two-door from Nissan that doesn't wear a Z badge? Good thought, but the base car's 2.5-liter four and CVT are really weak, and upgrading to the V-6 won't help things all that much, either.


Jeep Compass Rallye — We don't even want to look at the Rallye Compass, let alone attempt to take one off-roading. This is one case of an appearance package gone horribly wrong.


Ford Edge Sport — Twenty-two-inch chrome wheels and a revised front fascia aren't sporty, but if "sportiness" and "tons of wind/road noise and harsh ride quality" go together in your book, we suppose it fits the bill.


Ford Mustang V-6 — Ford's Pony Car got a sexy new shape for 2010. Sadly, the base model still makes due with an outdated 4.0-liter V-6 barely passing the 200-horsepower mark. It looks great, but you won't be doing any smoky burnouts in this 'Stang. We have much higher hopes for the 2011 V-6 Mustang, though, what with its all-new 305-horsepower engine (thank God).


Dodge Challenger SE — Like the V-6 Mustang, the Challenger's muscle car exterior does very little to match the 3.5-liter V-6, horrible steering, bad transmission, and poor interior quality. A shame, because it's such a looker.


Lexus IS250 — The Lexus IS looks like it has the potential to be a pretty aggressive sport sedan poised to take on the BMW 3-Series. The 250, however, with its 2.5-liter V-6 and only 204 horsepower is a real slug with little to no driver involvement.


Nissan Rogue Krom — When Nissan did the Krom treatment to the Cube, it was cute and sort of fun. But the Rogue? Not so much. It might look sporty and crisp, but there's an anemic four-cylinder engine and buzzy CVT under that hood.

Mitsubishi Saturn Kia Nissan Jeep Ford Ford Dodge Lexus Nissan

In automotive terms, a "sleeper" is a car that doesn't look like it'll do much damage, but once it hits the road, it's a real performance dream. Think of the Mazdaspeed3 or BMW 335d -- two cars that don't look all that vicious but are really stunning driver's cars.

These cars, however, are just the opposite.

In this list, we present the cars that are stylistically overdone without the performance or quality to match the exterior shape. And while some of these cars aren't that bad to drive, they still don't live up to their sheetmetal.