Luxury models are often among the most desirable cars out there. Who wouldn’t want to spend tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a car that told everyone just by looking at it that what you had was exclusive?
Of course, the Germans have perfected the luxury car market. Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz continue to forge their decades-long histories of making sophisticated, lavish cars that will keep consumers lining up to buy. Asian automakers also seem to be getting the hang of this formula. Lexus has a hold on the international market, while Genesis is making strides despite being founded only a few years ago.
But when it comes to luxury, American cars tell a different story. Lincolns and Cadillacs were once driven by dignitaries everywhere. Cadillac even had a slogan that said it all: The standard of the world. However, they also had their fair share of flops tarnishing their chic image. Here are 10 examples you can learn more about.
When Chevy released the long-awaited Volt in 2011, it made waves in the American car market. People loved the idea of having an electric car that also ran on gasoline, reducing range anxiety while still allowing customers to make huge fuel savings. GM thought it would be a good idea to bring the Volt into the luxury segment, especially considering how much the rich and famous have warmed to cars like the Toyota Prius. Enter the Cadillac ELR.
The concept car-like design was cool at first, but the gimmick quickly wore off. What drove customers away from the ELR in the first place were two things: the hefty starting price of $76,000 for a slow, cramped coupe, and the much faster, much more practical Tesla Model S that had already won the admiration of the ELR’s target market .
2000-2005 Cadillac DeVille
The last generation of the Cadillac DeVille was the first car to come with LED taillights and a night vision camera, which you would think is a highly desirable piece of automotive history. But one thing undoes everything that made it so great.
The 4.6-liter Northstar V8 gained quite a reputation for unreliability, so much so that today mechanics often refuse to work on it. Because of their tight cylinder heads, they can get extremely hot. This leads to excessive oil burning and coolant burning, the latter often causing the engine to overheat.
The Lincoln LS was a swipe at the BMW 5 Series of Ford’s luxury branch. It came with an optional V8 and was even one of the few Lincolns ever marketed with a manual transmission. It also served as the basis for other luxury cars such as the Jaguar S-Type and XF. This all sounds great, but the pleasantries end once you climb aboard.
It had a cheap interior, with cheap plastics. Take away the wood, and the hard black plastic center console will make you think you’re in a much cheaper Japanese or Korean offering. Although it won some awards for combining driving fun with traditional Americana, it lived a short life and production ended in 2006.
The Lincoln LS wasn’t the only attempt to bring European driving pleasure to the United States. The Cadillac Catera was not Cadillac’s first, but second try to make a sporty compact sedan to compete against the BMW 3 Series.
Based on the German Opel Omega, the Catera didn’t have the same level of refinement as its other German rivals. In addition, it was marred by recalls that made financing the car difficult to sell. After five years, the Catera was no more and was replaced by Cadillac’s third successful attempt at a 3 Series fighter, the CTS.
No, that’s not a Bentley or Rolls-Royce. It’s a $40,000 Chrysler based on the same chassis as an old Mercedes-Benz E-Class that you can find on Craigslist for $4,000 and a broken air suspension.
Initially, the interior was a feast of fake wood and cheap, raw plastic. Things improved in 2011 when it received an extensive refresh. However, it still has to live up to the sophistication of its competition. Unsurprisingly, it will be out of production after this year.
If there’s any credit to be given to the Lincoln MKT it’s that it’s the ugliest thing to come out of Ford’s product portfolio since the Mk2 Scorpio in Europe.
Based on the equally polarizing Ford Flex, the MKT was meant to compete against luxury family crossovers such as the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, Audi Q7, Acura MDX and Volvo XC90. Unfortunately, it had a front and back that only a parent company could love. Unfortunately for the New Yorkers, it became the successor to the vehicles in the Town Car livery.
Cadillac’s introduction to the world market was not a good one. The Seville was a legendary nameplate, dating back to the 1970s, but the iterations from this century leave a lot to be desired.
It was the first car Cadillac ever sold worldwide, and when reviewers got their hands on one, they had a lot to say. For example, Jeremy Clarkson called it “a cross between a Mercedes and a Lexus and a torture chamber.” Not exactly a glossy review, right?
By the year 2000, it was hard to call Chrysler a luxury brand, despite their constant efforts to be one. And no effort was worse than the Sebring, later dubbed the 200.
The Sebring was based on the same size sedan Dodge produced, be it the Stratus or the Avenger. The 2nd generation Sebring was renamed the 200, which saw one more generation before production ceased altogether. Throughout its run, it was cursed with unreliability and quality issues, and was a poor excuse for luxury all around.
I have referred to the Catera as Cadillac’s second attempt to recreate European luxury, here is their first. From 1982 it was the Cadillac Cimarron.
Its unimpressive looks come as no surprise considering they come from the cheap Chevrolet Cavalier. Cadillac just took the liberty of slapping some crests on the front and rear of the car, upgrading a few materials on the inside, and calling it luxury. This, of course, did not appeal to consumers and production ceased after six years.
Mercedes-Benz diesels from the 1970s and 1980s are praised for their near-indestructibility. The Cadillac version is the opposite. They offered the Oldsmobile diesel in several of their models from the late 1970s through the early 1980s, which did not last long in the market.
Well, they actually didn’t last long at all. Oil burning led to engine failures that were all too common, so much so that dealers would offer to trade the diesel engines for a gas engine. Lawsuits resulted in Cadillac having to pay 80 percent of the cost to replace the engine. It was a disaster for Cadillac, which would not produce new diesel in the United States until the current-generation Escalade.