Car and Driver
Losing a loved one hurts, but never being able to experience the rapid kaboom from the now-discontinued Viper ACR’s 8.4-liter V-10 is downright calamitous. We’ll admit, it’s somewhat strange to grieve for a car you have never owned, but it’s also proof that a few automobiles, despite never resting behind our own garage doors, still have had a profound impact on our lives.
We’ve recently lost some good ones, but not all are gone forever. The heartbeat of cars like the Viper might be quiet for now, but revivals of old favorites like the Ford Bronco, Acura Integra, and Toyota Supra make us hopeful. We like this trend and can think of some immediate additions automakers could apply to their promised fully electric lineups. Here are the 14 cars we wish still existed today.
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The automobile’s future may be electric, but today there’s no shortage of gas-swilling party boats such as the 470-hp Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 or the even crazier 702-hp Ram 1500 TRX. What if the AMC Eagle returned under the Jeep brand as a high-flying off-road wagon, replete with one of Stellantis’s big V-8s under its hood? (Or maybe the company’s new “Hurricane” straight-six?) An Eagle TRX, if you will. Imagine an absolute screamer of a performance off-roader that paired the rugged body-on-frame platform of Jeep’s Wrangler with a wagon body shell, not to mention enough ground clearance to use a Toyota Prius Prime as a jack stand. The 1981 AMC Eagle Sport SX/4 we tested more than four decades ago may have been slow, terrible on gas, and particularly heavy for a unibody car, but it was fun to drive, as illustrated in the snowbank photo above. —Austin Irwin
Legend has it that BMW engineers worked in their spare time to build a coupe version of the Z3 Roadster. When the engineers finally revealed the coupe, the board approved the creation putting it into production for the 1999 model year. At least that’s the legend. The platform is known as the E36/8 and like the Z3, it is a marriage of E30 and E36 bits. Nicknamed the “clown shoe” for its shoe-like proportions, the first two model years of the M version came with a 240-hp 3.2-liter inline-six from the E36 M3. Later versions received the high-revving 315-hp 3.2-liter inline-six from the E46 M3. Early cars ran to 60 in 5.3 seconds with the higher-powered version reducing that time to 4.8 seconds.“If the Corvette is a rebellious child of the extended automotive family, the M coupe is the blackest of sheep. It is the punk kid out behind the garage smoking cigarettes while holding a skin magazine in one hand and throwing rocks through windows with the other, all the while teaching the neighborhood children the more colorful portions of Anglo-Saxon. Oh, and he’s ugly, too.”—Dan Pund, December 2001. —Tony Quiroga
The Chevy SSR concept car revealed at the 2000 Detroit auto show got a positive response, but by the time the retro pickup/roadster mashup debuted for 2003, it was a dud. Instead of the 6.0-liter V-8 found in the concept, the production car arrived with a 5.3-liter V-8 with just 300 horsepower to shift well over 4000 pounds of vehicle, and the performance couldn’t match the SSR’s sporty looks. Chevy fitted the 6.0-liter LS2 for 2005 with an extra 90 horses, and while performance improved, it was too late to save the SSR, and the following model year was its last.
Just because General Motors fuddled the original SSR’s debut doesn’t mean the SSR couldn’t work today. While an electric SSR revival would remain an immensely heavy vehicle, the glorious instant torque of electric motors would give the SSR the zip the original lacked. And yes, the folding hardtop roof and covered bed would once again make it fairly impractical as an actual truck, but Chevy could position it as a flagship lifestyle vehicle much like the ridiculous GMC Hummer EV. The chrome strip connecting the circular headlights could easily become a trendy LED light bar as on the Silverado EV, and Chevy could even call it the El Camino SS EV. —Caleb Miller
Fun and affordable were the characteristics that made the Datsun 510 a hit. When it debuted in 1967, it did for Datsun what racing did for, well, the Datsun 510. In the first five years of its life, the 510 sold roughly 360,000 units. For a while, the 510 was the poster child for Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing. It was a small rear-wheel-drive car that enthusiasts watched win on race tracks while dealers watched them race out of showrooms. Today, that segment is dominated by the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Subaru BRZ, and Toyota GR86. And like the 510, those cars deliver driving pleasure at a mainstream price. Sure, I’m excited about the new 400-hp Z, but the next-gen sports car’s entry fee will start at over $40,000.
Nissan teased us at the 2013 Tokyo auto show with the exciting IDx concept car. Unfortunately, the IDx (DX is 510 in Roman numerals) was a party that never started. It’s time for Nissan to give enthusiasts an affordable weekend racer again. If Nissan built a rear-drive IDx using the guts of its electric Leaf, it might not match the upcoming Ariya EV in range or luxury, but market it wearing a set of Enkei RPF1s, and the right audience would take note. —Austin Irwin
The Dodge Viper was a scenic overlook with no guardrails, too beautiful and too dangerous to exist in the public realm. By the time the last generation rolled around, the Viper was a much safer snake, but it was too late, its naturally-aspirated mountain motor couldn’t hang with emission rules or turbocharged competition, and its low-slung cabin was unfit for multiple airbags and crash testing changes. I understand why the Viper got the ax, but it doesn’t stop me from missing it.
There should always be some vehicular option out there that’s just too much for most people, a kind of automotive Everest to taunt us out of our lane-change assist and massaging-seat stupor and remind us that we have the option to take control of our own lives, hold ourselves against the clutch on a hill unassisted, and rattle windows with a garbage-truck-from-hell roar. Bring back the Viper. Make us drive again. —Elana Scherr
For years American enthusiasts said nightly prayers that Ford would bring over the hottest version of the Focus hatch. In 2016, years into the Focus’ third generation, Ford finally brought over a Focus RS for U.S. customers. At a base price of $36,605, it cost about double what the base Focus cost, but the extra cash brought a 350-hp 2.3-liter turbo-four, a trick all-wheel-drive system, Recaro seats, and a slick six-speed manual transmission. Hitting 60 took a mere 4.6 seconds, which is impressive, but the real joy of this rally-inspired hatch was how it well it unwinds a great road. A harsh ride and the high price kept buyers away, and Ford pulled the plug in 2018. The fourth-gen Focus offered in the rest of the world will reportedly not get an RS version. So, the Focus RS was a one-and-done offering in the States. —Tony Quiroga
Automakers in the U.S. market have largely foregone the trichotomy of small, fun, and fuel-efficient. Examples certainly exist on that spectrum, but they’re generally omitting one of the aforementioned criteria to some degree. With fuel prices reaching record highs in certain areas across the country, what if a quirky, fun, EPA fanboy three-door were still on the market? The Honda CR-Z is the perfect candidate, and it’s a shame it sold so poorly. I had always loved the CR-Z from a styling perspective and was just as enamored after driving a post-refresh model. Better yet, I bumped into an owner who had expertly equipped his 2016 Z with an HKS supercharger kit, BC Racing coilovers, an aftermarket exhaust, and a few other odds and ends. Pushing over 200 ponies, this hopped-up CR-Z was an absolute joy to throw around a twisty two-lane and is to this day one of the best experiences I’ve had in a front-driver. If Honda were to toss some of their Type-R spice into a new CR-Z, while maintaining the hybrid and three pedals, it would have at least one order at launch from yours truly. —Jacob Kurowicki
Cheap new cars are barely a thing anymore, and the Honda Fit was one of the best in recent memory. The first two generations were real standouts because of the way they combined fuel efficiency with sharp handling and a huge cargo area. The third and final generation of the Fit shared the same innovative layout that placed the fuel tank under the front seats, meaning it was still amazingly spacious and versatile for its diminutive size. But it didn’t have quite as quirky of a personality and wasn’t as fun to drive as its predecessors were. Even so, when Honda canceled the Fit in 2020 it was a huge loss for budget-minded buyers and enthusiasts alike. For a base price of just over $17,000, the Fit offered more cargo space than many small SUVs along with up to 36 mpg combined and a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. The HR-V subcompact SUV that was spawned from the Fit’s platform is a sorry substitute, as it costs significantly more, is less fun to drive, and will abandon its Fit underpinnings with the redesigned 2023 model. The fact that the charming Fit hatchback has continued on elsewhere in the world makes its loss sting even more. —Joey Capparella
The Honda S2000 is one of the most memorable Japanese cars from the early 2000s. Being a small, lightweight sports car, like the Mazda Miata, the S2000 is fun to drive hard whether on a track or on country roads. With the top down you can enjoy Honda’s famous VTEC scream as you reach the 8800-rpm redline, and the experience is everything that you’d want in a small, capable, sports car. Honda enjoys a massive following for its cars from the 1990s through the early 2000s, and the S2000 holds a spot as one of the greats from that era. With Toyota and Subaru entering the small sports car scene with the BRZ/GR86, it would be the perfect time for Honda to bring back its iconic, high-revving, two-seat roadster again. —Michael Simari
The declining popularity of large sedans killed the Kia Cadenza, and that’s a real shame. It was unappreciated in its time, but the final generation Cadenza—which ran from the 2017 through 2020 model years—was a handsome, feature-packed, near-luxury vehicle with a price tag within reach of the average buyer. If this formula sounds familiar, it’s because the same one has been applied to the slam-dunk Telluride SUV, which we’ve named to our 10Best list three years running. Does that make the Cadenza the Telluride of sedans? Maybe not. And of course there are sports sedans out there from Alfa Romeo and BMW that provide a more entertaining on-road experience than the Cadenza did. But sometimes you just want a peaceful, classy, quiet car, and that’s precisely what the Cadenza delivered. —Drew Dorian
The last Mazda pickup in the U.S. was discontinued in 2008. The B-series was based on the third-generation Ford Ranger, but continued to exist globally, sharing its guts with Australian-built Rangers until about 2020. However, while Ford brought the Ranger back to the U.S. in 2019, the Mazda BT pickup would leave its Ranger underpinnings for a partnership with Isuzu. The Isuzu D-Max, which previously shared its platform with our Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, now serves as the mechanical twin to the Mazda BT-50 that’s sold today. It’s a love story as dramatic as the first two weeks in junior high. If Mazda were to return to the mid-size pickup segment in the U.S., it would join the Toyota Tacoma and Jeep Gladiator as the only pickups sold in the U.S. with a manual transmission. —Austin Irwin
Call it unique or just plain ugly, the Pontiac Aztek was meant to marry a sporty impression and the off-road ability of a Chevy Blazer. Unfortunately, it was powered by a 185-hp V-6 engine and had the looks of something built by Fisher-Price. It offered innovative optional features, though, such as a front center console that doubled as a cooler, a sliding cargo floor with a grocery compartment, and a camping package with an attachable tent and air mattress. Those are all useful for the great outdoors, but the Aztek lasted only from 2001 to 2005 (though it did have the honor of serving as the pace car for the Daytona 500).
While many think that the Aztek shouldn’t ever return, its strange design and funky options would make some young folks happy. I could see how the roomy back with a sliding floor would be appealing to parents hauling strollers and all sorts of kid stuff. Not to mention the dog owner that could put the back seats down and have a lovely space for their pet to travel and then go camp! Who wouldn’t want this fun and quirky car? —Rebecca Hackett
Technically, this car still exists, but only outside the U.S. The Land Cruiser didn’t sell well here, which is why, sadly, Toyota isn’t bringing the new 300-series model to our shores after a 60-plus-year run. We do get the Lexus LX600, though, which is based on the Land Cruiser’s new TNGA-F body-on-frame platform and gets the same new twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V-6, but it’s fancied up with big wheels and obtrusive body kit that doesn’t make it ideal for cruising the land. A new Land Cruiser GR Sport model looks sick and comes standard with Toyota’s new Electronic-Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System and front and rear lockers. We miss the only true full-size body-on-frame off-roader that’s left, and there are rumors it could one day return. Toyota, please bring it back soon. —Connor Hoffman
If Robin Williams’ Genie from Aladdin granted me one wish to resurrect a car that no longer exists, I’d bring back the second-gen Toyota MR2. Sure, Toyota showrooms currently host a couple of terrific sports cars in the GR86 and Supra, but not only does their cross-pollination with other non-Toyota models muddy their bloodlines, but neither has the exotic mid-engine configuration of the MR2. Nowadays, the C8 Corvette and Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster are the least expensive mid-engine sports cars out there, but reviving the MR2 would give enthusiasts with a lower budget a more affordable supercar look-alike.
Sold in the U.S. for the 1991 through 1995 model years, the second generation of the MR2 offered two inline-fours, a naturally aspirated 2.2-liter with up to 135 horsepower and a 200-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter. The MR2 Turbo is obviously more desirable due to its punchier performance and claimed 142-mph top speed. Plus, it came standard with a five-speed manual, T-tops, and–yes–air conditioning. If the Genie let us make one twist to our wish, we’d ask that the earlier model years come with the updated rear suspension and larger wheel-and-tire combo that was introduced for ’93 to solve an issue with snap oversteer. With this generation of MR2s back on the road, we can all relive the days before bloated curb weights and excessive tech features, when a twisty road could be enjoyed while listening to ’90s hits like Hansen’s MMMBop with open T-tops. —Eric Stafford
These Vehicles Are Dead for 2022
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