Friday, August 12, 2011

Top 10 ugliest SUVs of all time

Pontiac Aztek
SUVs are a relatively modern phenomenon, rising in popularity in the mid-90s and losing steam in the late-00s when gas prices rose. In this short amount of time, we've gotten some great designs (which I will save for a subsequent post) and some scary designs. I want to spend time discussing the latter. I've ranked the top 10 ugliest SUVs, in order of bad to worst. Click through to see:

Mercedes GLK
10. Mercedes GLK. If you haven't already noticed, I am a huge Mercedes it pains me to include the GLK on this list, but it must be done. The GLK is oddly proportioned throughout. The front end looks like a cartoon character, the sides are too boxy, and the car looks pretty wimpy for an SUV. The interior is up to Mercedes' standards, but the exterior falls short of competitors like the Q5 and SRX.

9. BMW X3. BMW has finally fixed the awful Bangle-era styling of its 3, 5, and 7 sedans, but there's still something very displeasing about the X3 - too many nips, tucks, creases, and bends for my liking. The rear windows between the C and D pillar are an ugly shape, and I don't like the little downward curls and creases on the sides of the car. The front end is nothing extraordinary. The interior is the design's only saving grace in my opinion.

Acura ZDX
8. Acura ZDX. As the Honda Crosstour's ugly sister, the ZDX has had a hard time getting notoriety as a contender in the swoopy-SUV category. After the success of the Mercedes CLS, all the car manufacturers are racing to get 4-door coupe designs on as many vehicles as possible - sedan and SUV. The ZDX is Acura's answer to the BMW X6, but falls short. The front end has Acura's ugly shield, the rear doors have Pathfinder-like handles, and the rump is too big. Acura tried way to hard on this one.

Jeep Compass
7. Jeep Compass. Jeep screwed up on the Compass / Patriot combo. The quirky Compass was meant for the female demographic, while the boxier Patriot was for the male counterpart. Instead, why not create 1 vehicle the entire population would want to buy? Neither car could actually go off road; based on the Dodge Caliber, this platform was meant to be an SUV-like successor to the Dodge Neon. The harmless looking Patriot was the less egregious of the 2 Jeeps. Meanwhile, the Compass is a hot mess of design cliches. We've got the triangular front indicator lights, the word "Compass" is written in huge letters on the fake aluminum-trimmed bumper, the D-pillar is ugly and provides poor rear visibility, and the rear doors have Pathfinder-like handles (similar to the aforementioned ZDX) to give a fake-coupe look. None of this works, and the car hasn't sold well. For 2011, Marchionne has ordered up some much-needed improvements to the front end and the bargain-basement interior...but is it enough?

Infiniti QX
6. Infiniti QX. One word to describe the QX: ghastly. Check out my article on Infinitis...nuff said.

Lincoln MKT
5. Lincoln MKT. The MKT would make a good hearse, but not much else. Check out my Lincoln article.

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
4. Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Kudos to Nissan for trying to push the design envelope...but it didn't work, sorry. The Murano's front end looks like a frog; shedding 2 doors and roof does not help its case. There is something unflattering and hunchbacked about the design. The rear lights are awkward, similar to the Toyota Venza. For close to $50k, I don't understand why you would get an unsporty convertible instead of the myriad of true 4-seater convertibles in that price-range. And if you're dead set on an SUV convertible, get a Jeep Wrangler.

Subaru B9 Tribeca
3. Subaru B9 Tribeca. There is something very feminine about the Tribeca's design. Nothing wrong with femininity, but a dainty SUV fundamentally confuses me. The front end is one of the biggest trainwrecks in modern auto design history. The rest of the car is forgettable and irrelevant. The dashboard is shaped in an ugly swirl. Subaru tried too hard to innovate, and the result was one of the ugliest SUVs in history.

Honda Crosstour
2. Honda Crosstour. What's the only thing worse than an Acura ZDX? Its hideous sister the Honda Crosstour. This ugly duckling came very close to unseating the #1 ugliest SUV. The Crosstour is Honda's self-indulgent take on the swoopy SUV, mixing a variety of poor design cues. When the car was revealed on Facebook, the overwhelming number of negative responses resulted in one of the worst marketing campaigns in history. Honda is so embarrassed of the bad publicity, that they removed "Accord" from the nameplate, which is now just "Crosstour". The front end is oddly proportioned and the grille looks like it was yanked off of a last-gen Honda Odyssey. The rear end is jacked up too much, and whereas the Porsche Panamera can pull off a big rump, the Crosstour doesn't manage to. Time for an emergency redesign, Honda.

Pontiac Aztek

1. Pontiac Aztek. The king of ugly SUVs reigns supreme! Despite being out of production for over 5 years, AND despite the fact that the Pontiac brand does not exist anymore, the Aztek is still often mentioned in car publications in reference to the quintessential ugly SUV. The Aztek concept was a cool idea - a study to design the most functional SUV. But when the concept met reality, too many design features were scrapped and the vision was compromised beyond repair. Excessive gray plastic body cladding, ugly wheel arches, an amphibious "double grille", an oddly-slanted rear end, and frumpy proportions throughout plague this car to this day. I personally believe the Aztek was the catalyst (followed by the G6 GXP) that eventually brought Pontiac to its demise.

Honorable Mention:
  • Toyota Venza
  • (First-gen) Toyota RAV4
  • Buick Rendezvous
  • Saab 9-7X
  • Chevy Blazer
  • (Current-gen) Honda CR-V


  1. Oh yes, you picked 'em good on this list. I agree wholeheartedly! Although, I don't hate the Crosstour as much as you . . .

  2. I never met an SUV that I actually liked. They are too ostentatious for what is a heavy replacement for a station wagon. Probably a very small percent of this type of car are ever driven off-road and are more likely to be used to transport kids and groceries. Why have a pretentious, over-priced muscle car that is used for errands.
    Redesigning them to be cross between a car and a truck doesn't make any more sense that to make smaller. They still cost too much and use more gas than is necessary. And they are ugly!

  3. How About the Toyota FJ? that is one disproportionate bastard.

  4. @ Peggy: Thanks. No matter how hard I try, I cannot find 1 redeeming design feature on the Crosstour. I guess it's a matter of preference.

    @ Warren: I agree that I'd choose a car over an SUV any day. However, there are some good looking SUVs: Range Rover Sport/Evoque, Audi Q5/Q7, Jeep GC, etc.

    @ irisfailsafe: Good call! Forgot about that "gem". Honda Element could also go on the list alongside the FJ.

  5. I'd say the X3 isn't that least it beats the GLK IMO. There are a lot uglier SUVs than that...for example, the second-gen Pilot (first-gen was a good-looking car, but with the second, I think they f'ed it up), and first-gen X3 way out-uglifies the second one...Also the previous-gen Durango was pretty ugly too. I think the Rendezvous beats a lot of the chumps on that list.

  6. @ Jon4Than: Definitely a matter of preference, but while the GLK is ugly, it is at least a simple, clean design. The X3 is ugly AND overstyled - I feel like the designers kept saying, "c'mon, let's add just one more crease..."

    Good call on the last-gen Durango! And what a shame, because the first-gen and current model are so good in comparison.

    Rendezvous could easily be on the list - nothing about that SUV is well-executed... interior, taillights, grille, side profile...

  7. The Crosstour is way uglier than the Acura ZDX. I actually like the BMW X5 and Mercedes GLK. I hate all of the Audi vehicles. On the other hand, I think Infiniti has some of the most stylish vehicles on the road. The Mitsubishi Outlander should've been on this list as well as the Toyota FJ. This list is way out of order for me. The Volvo XC90 could've made the list too