2019 Jeep CherokeeThe 2019 Jeep Cherokee has been revealed, and to the surprise of precisely no one on Earth, its controversial front end has been made more conventional and thus less controversial. This midcycle redesign got us thinking about past "course correction" redesigns, where carmakers responded to widespread criticisms (and occasional horror) of pundits and the public alike by obviously changing the design in the middle of a generation.
2014 Jeep CherokeeIntroduced for 2014, the Cherokee was a shocking departure from the brick-like Cherokee of old and indeed every other Jeep (though we'd argue the original Compass was far more egregious). The high-mounted LED running lights and mid-mounted headlights were of particular concern, as was the oddly bent grille. The rear didn't have too many fans, either, though the Cherokee still managed to sell in pretty hefty numbers looking like this ... unlike some of the cars to come.
2005 Subaru B9 TribecaGaaaah! Kill it. Kill it! All these years later and the Subaru B9 Tribeca is still ghastly, and it even dragged its ghastliness onto the Impreza (click ahead).
2007 Subaru TribecaThe Tribeca went from ghastly to extremely dull in a mere two years as Subaru read the tea leaves that screamed "Your new seven-passenger family crossover is scaring the children of those families." Oh, and it dropped the obtuse "B9" from its name for good measure. Unfortunately for Subaru, ugliness was the least of the Tribeca's problems and despite being on sale for a shocking number of years, it never caught on.
2012 Honda CivicThe 2012 Honda Civic was the automotive equivalent of a punt. While Hyundai introduced a stylish new Elantra and Ford introduced a dynamic new Focus, Honda brought out an all-new Civic that looked pretty much like the old Civic but with a worse interior. It was like Honda wasn't trying anymore. Thankfully, the overwhelming criticism of this underwhelming effort didn't go unnoticed by Honda.
2013 Honda CivicOnly one year later, which is clearly the record for emergency redesigns, Honda significantly overhauled the Civic to be much closer to what the latest generation should've been from the beginning. It had a more premium look in keeping with its competitors, its interior was upgraded, and even its structure was enhanced for better crash protection (which wasn't really a problem). This was more about looks: it was about Honda's reputation. It was a wakeup call that arguably led to the outstanding new products we're seeing today. Honda is trying again.
2002 BMW 7 SeriesBehold, the Bangle Butt. Named after BMW head designer Chris Bangle, the radical new 7 Series' oddly separately trunk lid was almost universally derided among the automotive press. Some would argue the front was even worse, but it was the hind quarters that really cheesed people off.
2006 BMW 7 SeriesThe 7 Series kept its controversial styling for four years, but for 2006, things were toned down and made a little more traditional. The front in particular was improved, while the odd horizontal reflector strip on the tail was canned and more BMW-like L-shaped taillights added. What remained, however, was that Bangle Butt. Like much of Mr. Bangle's work, it would influence designers throughout the car industry.
2007 Chrysler SebringAs a general rule, anything mechanically related to the Dodge Caliber was/is terrible. That would include the 2007 Chrysler Sebring, which was not only ugly (those headlights, those hood strakes, that chopped tail) but a comically bad midsize sedan as well. This was apparently a Honda Accord competitor ... cue the laugh track.
2010 Chrysler 200So bad was the Sebring that Chrysler not only thoroughly overhauled it for 2010, but it even changed the name to the Chrysler 200. It clearly looked better, the interior was no longer constructed from 99 Cent Store plastics, and it received a class-leading V6. Of course, this was only enough to get Chrysler up to "least desirable car in its class" from "no where remotely close to even being least desirable car in its class." Oh, we forgot about the Dodge Avenger. That was actually worse.
1996 Ford TaurusWe have to give Ford credit. It was really trying with the 1996 Ford Taurus, a car that was intended to be as radical and therefore successful as its mid-80s predecessor. It would've been easy to just produce a mildly evolved and similarly square Taurus, but the company tried to instead be fashion forward. This car really was shocking, and although it still sold in big numbers, it never approached its predecessor. Its over-the-top, ovals inside-and-out design motif clearly was the main reason for that.
2000 Ford TaurusStill, could be worse. At least the oval Taurus was different — this redesign of it was a snooze fest, an instant rental car. Worse still, the midsize sedan segment had radically moved forward dynamically with the latest Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, putting the Taurus at an even greater disadvantage. The nameplate would never recover.
1998 Fiat MultiplaJust look at this crazy thing. The googly, separated eyes. The bulbous greenhouse that looks like it was dropped onto the bottom of the car not unlike the Popemobile. The bolt-upright tumblehome of said greenhouse. The Multipla, a six-seater mini minivan Kia Rondo-ish thing, was absolutely bizarre. It even garnered a fair amount of accolades at the time for its many ingeniously practical elements. But wowsers, just look at it.
2004 Fiat MultiplaI think what we're learning here is that toning down a radical design often results in something even worse. Visually challenging is better than visually anonymous.
2001 Subaru ImprezaThe Impreza didn't just receive a midcycle course correction — it received two of them. This would be the "Bugeyed" Impreza, which scared people when they first caught a glimpse of those jumbo round headlights, jumbo round foglights and frowning grille. It looked a bit amphibian. In retrospect, this was actually the best-looking of the bunch. At least it went with the rest of the car.
2004 Subaru ImprezaYep, this was worse: the Blobeye. Though less shocking than the 2001 Impreza, the 2004 was boring and almost Korean (for the time) in its anonymity. "Sure, this'll do" is what this car said.
2006 Subaru Impreza
"So that B9 Tribeca we have coming out is going to be a huge hit. Let's make the Impreza look like it!"
Nope, terrible idea. This "Hawk Eye" look, which is an insult to both the bird of prey and Alan Alda, just doesn't match the rest of the car at all. At least it was more interesting than the Blobeye, but this poor car just couldn't catch a break.
2006 Jeep Compass
Once again proving that rule about Dodge Caliber-related vehicles (see Sebring) ...
The Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot were basically the same vehicle, but in focus groups, women overwhelmingly gravitated to the Compass design whereas men preferred the Patriot. The solution: Sell both! Not womankind's finest hour.