Yes, ladies and gentlemen, all good things must come to an end, and a lot of nameplates ended their runs in 2012. Of course not all of these cars were very good. We’ve broken down the major automotive deaths of 2012, and added our comments on whether or not we’ll miss the fallen. Take a look.
Low-Volume Japanese Cars:
The Kizashi was a serious attempt by flailing Suzuki to make inroads in the mid-size sedan segment, with its direct steering, good engine, and handsome looks. But the four-door wasn’t enough to keep Suzuki Motor America from Chapter 11: American Suzuki Motor Corporation filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and will stop selling cars in the U.S. market. (Suzuki will continue to offer motorcycles, ATVs, and marine equipment here.)
We Won’t Miss: Suzuki Equator, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Suzuxi SX4, Mitsubishi Galant, Lexus HS
Suzuki’s Kizashi was a good attempt, but its other models–the Equator pickup, Grand Vitara SUV, and SX4 hatchback/sedan–weren’t as enjoyable or rewarding. Most were plagued by old technologies that kept them from competing against newer vehicles (the Grand Vitara’s old engine and transmission, for example, put the SUV miles behind others in the fuel efficiency game). As for the Mitsubishi Galant, it may have once been an interesting mid-size sedan, but it grew old and inefficient as competitors spiced up their commuter cars. The Lexus HS, meanwhile, was an interesting idea–a Prius for people who don’t want to be seen driving Priuses–but even its lashes of leather and on-board technology weren’t enough to score a lot of love. Instead, the HS is dead while the even quirkier CT stays on the Lexus order sheet.
Both of these cars died this year, only to be replaced by newer and flashier versions (the DB9 and f12berlinetta, respectively). While we really like the look of the new cars, there is something to be said for the old ones. Ferrari’s 599–penned by the inimitable Jason Casriota, who also designed the Saab PhoeniX–had a brash and attractive look when it debuted in 2006, and the Aston Martin DBS will forever be known as Daniel Craig’s first Bond car from Casino Royale in 2006.
Maybach was cool enough to become the limousine of choice for pop music royalty–the Maybach famously starred in the “Otis” music video by Kanye West and Jay-Z, and has been the star of a handful of songs by rapper Rick Ross (who also named his record label Maybach Music Group). But no amount of rap love can mask the fact that the Maybachs were just tarted up last-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Classes. The Maybach is now dead in favor of–you guessed it–a tarted up current Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Yes, we know, Saab’s death spanned all of last year and a bit of the one before it, so we’re going to use this opportunity to give the quirky Swedish brand one last send-off. While some cars are aptly described as square pegs in round holes, we’d hazard that Saabs were round pegs for square holes: they served their intended purposes well (compact sport sedan, mid-size luxury sedan, et cetera), but they didn’t fit the molds set by the likes of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz in the European premium car market.
We’ll especially miss the Saab 9-3, which managed to look good and drive reasonably well even with years of minor changes. We might miss the 9-5 even more: it was a distinctive sedan that barely had time to launch (in its newest iteration) before the brand died.
As for the Volvo C30, we salute Volvo for having the gall to make a small car with a funky engine. The 2.5-liter turbocharged I-5 made 227 horsepower in stock form and 250 in Polestar tune, enough to make the car quick and entertaining. For fans of the previous-generation European Ford Focus ST, Volvo made the next best thing, and then put it on sale in the U.S. We’ll miss the quick little rascal.
While we salute Saab and Volvo, not everything they made was brilliant or quirky. The 9-4x always looked a bit–off–and its turbocharged engine wasn’t strong enough to power a car of its weight. The 9-4x is succeeded by the Cadillac SRX, which ditched the 2.8T for a 3.6-liter, direct-injected V-6 from the CTS (among other things).
As for the S40, there’s not a lot to say about it, mostly because it was so old when Volvo gave it the axe earlier this year. With an exception for its 2008-model-year facelift, the S40 has been with us in basically the same form since mid-2004. As cars like the S60 brought the fight to BMW and Audi, the S40 continued to grow old in the tooth.
Both of these ‘utes have been — or shortly will be — replaced, but the important thing to note with Jeep’s mini four-by-four and Acura’s mini-MDX are that the new versions will/do take a very different tone than their predecessors. The old Acura RDX used a turbocharged I-4 and a slick torque-vectoring AWD system, but was replaced with a new CUV with a naturally aspirated V-6 and a simple AWD system; the Liberty loses its truck-like platform for one pulled from the Alfa Romeo/Chrysler Group car/CUV stable. In the case of the new RDX, the new car is plenty good, but we still miss the old quirks.
Veracruz, please don’t let the door tap you on the bumper on the way out: the Veracruz was one of the last bastions of “old Hyundai,” one of the last of the Hyundai products to go without a Fluidic Sculpture/Precision-themed redesign. The new Veracruz–now dubbed the Santa Fe–weighs less, goes further on a gallon of gas, makes more power, and looks much better. We aren’t rushing to make funeral arrangements for the old one.
The Lotus Elise/Exige
The Elise and Exige get their own category in this list for one reason: the Elise and Exige existed largely in a category of one (two, really) when they were on sale in the United States. No other car seemed to make so much from so little: with an engine that once powered select Pontiac Vibes and a chassis so small and low to the ground that ingress and egress was charlie horse-inducing, but on the road and at the track it was a revelation to drive. When we bid adieu to the Elise earlier this year, Eric Tingwall wrote “the Elise’s few faults — like a balky shifter and abhorrent ingress — recede with every mile driven. The humble yet hungry engine, the pure steering, and the Elise’s willingness to follow your every intention make it one car that changes how you feel about all other cars. I should own an Elise. I should own this Elise.” We agree, Eric. We agree.