The worst cars we drove this year
There aren’t any truly bad cars these days, but…
Tough break, Scion iM – you’re one of the worst cars we drove this year. We’ll talk more about that later in this slideshow, but for now, let’s explain the point of this list.
Thing is, none of the cars on this list are truly bad. There aren’t really any genuinely bad cars these days. The vehicles detailed here are more disappointing than anything else – bad executions of products that could have (and should have) been so much better.
Still, these are the cars that don’t give us fond memories. Of the hundreds upon hundreds of vehicles we tested in 2015, these are some of the worst. Missed our list of the best? Click here to see what we loved in 2015.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250
There are some things Mercedes does really well. Going cheap is not one of them. The GLA250 starts at $32,250. That seems pretty reasonable, for a Mercedes. The model I drove in 2015 had very few options, meaning its price was right near that base MSRP, and it felt like it. The GLA250's 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque aren't enough to get excited about, and its seven-speed automatic transmission struggles to serve up the exact amount of acceleration its driver is calling for. Worse yet, its ride is rough, somehow managing to feel both bouncy and jarring at the same time.
Mercedes-Benz makes some very good vehicles – in fact, the German automaker also makes the best car I drove in 2015 – but the GLA isn't one of them. If you're shopping for a new crossover and want to stay under $40,000, do yourself a favor and look elsewhere. Perhaps at your nearest Mazda dealership, where you could buy an absolutely loaded CX-5 for the same price as a stripped GLA. You'd surely enjoy a much better driving experience if you're willing to forego the three-pointed badge in this price bracket.
– Jeremy Korzeniewski
2015 BMW M4 Convertible
Under the skin the latest BMW M3/M4 is just as special as previous versions. Too bad you can't tell by driving it. Granted, my time this year was in the classic poseur-mobile of the M lineup. I don't begrudge the convertible model's existence, but undoing all the weight savings and structural rigidity that goes into making the M4 what it is dulls the charm.
BMW's M cars, even the plushier recent models, used to give you goosebumps just pulling out of the driveway. With its unique engine, suspension, and lightweight bodywork, the current M4 convertible just feels like a 335i in a gaudy bodykit. The steering and shifter are video-game numb. The synthesized engine noise sounds like something from a 1980s-era Yamaha keyboard. And cars are not the Whopper. I don't want it my way through endless custom settings, I want it the way the engineers decided was the best way.
Any Autoblog staffer will testify that I hate the "old car was better" chorus that plagues automotive journalism. Technology, regulations, and consumer demands proceed like time and tide. Comparing different automotive epochs is as pointless as arguing if the 1992 Chicago Bulls are better than the current Sacramento Kings. So it's not that the M4 Convertible isn't as good as the car that came before it. It's simply not good.
– Michael Austin
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
Oh, Mitsubishi. I want to see you succeed so badly, and I honestly think the refreshed Outlander is a good start. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s still the worst vehicle I drove in 2015.
This new Outlander would have been a great vehicle in 2006. But it’s playing in a class of vehicles that’s so brutally competitive that it just doesn’t do enough to make a case for itself. Every vehicle in the segment is better to drive. Every single one. The V6 is underpowered, unpleasant, and unrefined. It’s thirsty and it requires premium fuel. The ride is disconnected and the seats are uncomfortable.
Perhaps the best thing we can say is that there’s room for seven passengers, a rarity in a vehicle of this size. But that can’t overcome the litany of issues.
– Brandon Turkus
2016 Scion iM
There's nothing particularly terrible about the Scion iM, it just arrived at the worst possible time. Specifically, it launched right alongside the Scion iA sedan. What happened was Scion decided to sell a version of the Mazda2 here as the iA (smart!) and chose to rebadge a Euro-market Auris (muh?) as its hatchback sidekick. I think we would all have much rather gotten a Mazda2 hatchback with a Scion badge.
Everything the iA excels at – good steering, clean interior design, a nice manual transmission, okay styling aside from the catfish mouth up front – highlights where the iM falls flat. If the iM had shown up first, my mental comparison would instead be the dodgy xD it kind of replaces. But it didn't. It's another example of timing being everything, and since there really aren't many bad cars anymore, parking mediocre next to good in a showroom is that much more obvious.
– David Gluckman
2015 BMW X4
You know BMW’s tagline, "The Ultimate Driving Machine?" Well, this isn’t it. This isn’t the ultimate anything machine. Maybe the ultimate stupidity machine. Maybe.
BMW is so focused on chasing niche segments these days that it’s moving farther and farther away from actually making good drivers’ cars. The X4 is a perfect example. It looks bad, drives like crap, has very little interior space, and is less functional than cheaper offerings like the 3 Series Sport Wagon or X3. There is literally no reason to buy the X4 over any other BMW, or anything else in the class.
Perhaps worst of all, the creation of the X4 means other automakers are going to follow suit. There’s a Mercedes GLC Coupe on the way. I’m sure Audi will come up with something, too. And every single one will be dumb. The end.
– Steven Ewing
2016 Lexus GX 460
Lexus alleges a “pursuit of perfection” in its marketing slogan. The brand’s new GX 460 counts as a blight upon that claim. Rare is the car that brings so much all-around disappointment. I didn’t expect this big SUV to feel like a sports car, but its 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque were sorely lacking, and made for a frustrating experience in pretty much every driving condition.
You could almost understand if you were trading power for some fuel economy, but no, the GX 460 achieved a pitiful 18.5 miles per gallon during my seven days with it, and that included almost entirely highway driving. The EPA estimates it earns 15 mpg in city driving and 20 on highways, and potential buyers should remember that for its frequent fill-ups, this vehicle only accepts premium fuel. According to its window sticker, buyers will spend $5,500 more in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new vehicle. Ouch.
With options my test vehicle cost $65,570. At that price, you’d think the options would include some standard luxury features like adaptive cruise control or even a power rear gate. But such features, standard in many cars at half the price, were notably absent here.
Saving the worst for last: The car had numerous problems detecting the key fob in the vehicle for no apparent rhyme or reason. It never took more than a minute for the kinks in the system to subside, but more than a few times, I feared I’d be stuck. And there were many problems with the satellite radio. For approximately 80 percent of my time with the car, I received a “no signal” message, even though I had no problems along the same routes in my personal cars.
Don’t spend $65,570 for such frustrations. There are plenty of vehicles that offer better technology, better entertainment, and better luxury at half the price.
– Pete Bigelow
2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
It’s easy to pile on Mitsubishi, but the Outlander Sport is subpar in its segment. There are so many good and affordable crossovers, it would be hard to recommend this one over any of them. It’s a pretty harsh-riding vehicle, and the infotainment system is just plain bad. To be fair, I think it looks good, so props to Mitsubishi for conceiving a sharp design. But the Outlander Sport plays in one of the most competitive segments in the industry, and it needs to bring more than this to the fight.
– Greg Migliore
For an automaker with a small slice of the North American market, it's an open-and-shut case to offer a compact crossover. There's tons of demand, which should make for easy sales. Even the healthy operations are rushing in, so you'd think it'd be even more important for Mitsubishi, barely clinging to life here as it is.
Nope. The Outlander Sport is just not good.
First, the competition is fierce. You need to do more than compete on paper. Mitsubishi updated the Outlander Sport for 2015, but the fundamentals are very dated. The interior materials have been left in the dust, even for vehicles starting around $20,000, as the Outlander Sport does.
And let's talk more about price. You can bump right up against $30,000 with one of these. Who in their right mind pays that much for... this? Thirty grand buys a whole lot of excellent crossovers, where you don't suffer with a CVT or an infotainment system so bad I raised a fist in anger. Even acknowledging that most of these are probably going out the door with steep discounts, it's a lot of dough to tie up in a platform that's 10 years old, and wasn’t very good to begin with.
– Dan Roth
2015 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Want to see how much the pony car segment has improved? When it first hit the scene, the Genesis Coupe was already a neck behind the Camaro and Mustang in the race. And those cars were tweaked, improved, and then replaced by massively improved versions of themselves.
The Genesis Coupe hasn’t aged well, and it sure makes those other two seem even better by comparison. Frankly, it’s a bit of a hot mess, despite having all the theoretical components of a legitimate middle ground between muscle and import sport coupe of yore. A vague and unsatisfying manual compares poorly to the much better units in either the Ford or Chevy, so that’s one knock. The V6 lacks the punch to satisfy in our horsepower-saturated world, the steering is numb (a cardinal sin for a sports coupe), and there’s a distressing amount of off-throttle driveline snatch. Styling, on the innocuous side of oddball, sure doesn’t make up ground for any of the other shortcomings.
Partly, this is age showing. Hyundai probably won’t – but should – consider a sophomore effort, lightening and stiffening the package and injecting some precision into the driver’s major controls. Perhaps a pair of turbos would take the V6 into the 21st century? As it sits, the Coupe feels like too little having gone on for far too long.
– Alex Kierstein