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Whether it’s the luxurious Grand Prix, the mid-engine Fiero, or the top-performing Trans Am, Pontiac’s history abounds with iconic cars. However, one vehicle went too far in its innovation and ended up ridiculed as the ugliest car of all time: the Pontiac Aztek.

The Aztek is one of the first modern crossover SUVs, with production spanning from the 2001 to 2005 model years. Tom Peters, the designer behind many fantastic General Motors vehicles, including the C7 Chevy Corvette, designed the Aztek. Peters viewed it as a radially designed adventure-heavy SUV that was not for everyone. Pontiac was known as GM’s excitement brand, and the Aztek was built to spearhead that brand in style. With adventure-inspired styling, the Aztek had some of the coolest features a car has ever had.

Here are eight excellent features in the so-called ugliest car, the Pontiac Aztek.

The Pontiac Aztek was one of the ugliest cars ever made
Pontiac Aztek | Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

1. Head-up display

The Pontiac Aztek boasted a high-end, high-tech feature: a head-up display. It’s a projection of the car’s speedometer and other instrumentation data on the front windshield. This option was available only in the higher-end Aztek GT trim. Still, it’s an impressively futuristic feature in a crossover SUV from the early 2000s.

2. Removable cooler

Instead of a traditional center console, the Aztek had an insulated cooler. It could be left in place and used as a center console, but that would defy the Aztek’s adventuresome spirit. This cooler could hold a 12-pack of your favorite beverage. It could also be easily removed using its lift-up handle.

3. Party-ready tailgate

The Aztek wasn’t built with a traditional tailgate. This Pontiac SUV touted two seats and two cupholders in the tailgate, making it perfect for break time at work or a spot to party before the big game.

4. Rear speakers

Though many vehicles have rear passenger audio controls, the Aztek had those controls in the rear cargo area. So, users could control the volume and radio station selection from a panel in the back of the Aztek.

5. Air compressor 

Another Pontiac Aztek feature in the cargo area, next to the rear audio controls, was an air compressor. According to TFL, the built-in compressor was available only in trims with the tow package. It could inflate everything from bike tires, basketballs, and air mattresses to the Aztek’s tires.

6. Durable body moldings 

The Aztek’s black plastic body moldings aren’t just a controversial design choice. They’re made of durable plastic, making the SUV’s sides dent-resistant. If you’re out adventuring in your Aztek, you won’t have to worry about getting too close to rocks or keeping people from hitting your car — these black plastic body parts keep your Aztek free from damage. In 2002, Pontiac redesigned the Aztek’s cladding to match the body color.

7. Electronic level control 

If an Aztek model had the towing package installed, it could also be optioned with an automatic electric level control. This system works by keeping the rear end level when loading equipment. Instead of the back end sagging under heavy weight, the level control works alongside the suspension to keep the Aztek level at all times.

8. Aztek tent 

Owners could also get an Aztek-specific tent to fit over the rear hatch. It was offered alongside an Aztek-branded air mattress, which could be inflated using the onboard compressor.

Did the Pontiac Aztek fail because it was the ugliest car?

Well, yes and no. The Pontiac Aztek failed because it didn’t appeal to a broad range of consumers, primarily due to its looks and focus on an adventurous lifestyle. Popular SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 sell well because of their wide appeal. On the other hand, General Motors made the Aztek’s target demographic too specific, so too few customers related to it.

Is the Pontiac Aztek a cool car now?

With an immediately recognizable design and unique features, the Aztek is better than most remember. If you want to experience one of these now-cool midsize SUVs, they’re cheap on the used market. However, because they were fairly unpopular, finding one in good shape could prove challenging. Happy hunting!