Overall, vehicles have gotten better over time. Sure, they’ve also gotten larger and heavier. But in terms of technology and safety, new cars trump classic ones. However, not every vehicle improved over the years. In chasing refinement, some risk losing their way, and their reputations along the way. And there’s one car, in particular, that got worse with age.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse: a car that age made worse
The original Mitsubishi Eclipse is still a beloved performance car. As Donut Media and Hagerty explain, the car offered a turbocharged four-cylinder and all-wheel drive from the contemporary Lancer Evo, but in a coupe body. And when the AWD GSX hit the drag-strip, like the GMC Syclone before it, the RWD competition couldn’t keep up.
The second-gen car is arguably even more beloved than the original, due to its appearance in the first Fast and Furious movie. It, along with other ‘imports’ like the Toyota Supra, Subaru WRX, and Nissan Skyline GT-R, helped change the face of performance car culture in the US.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last. By the time the 3rd-gen came out in 2000, the AWD option had been nixed. The suspension was also softened up, and although the 3rd-gen Eclipse’s V6 made just as much power as the old turbocharged four-cylinder, it couldn’t be tuned to the same degree. By the time the 4th-gen model debuted in 2007, it was more of a cruiser than a sports car, according to Car and Driver. It exited the US market in 2012.
Now, the Eclipse is back, but it’s no longer a coupe. Instead, it’s now the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, a four-door crossover. It does a turbocharged four-cylinder and AWD, and Car and Driver claims it’s Mitsubishi’s “most polished product.” But while the Eclipse Cross is an excellent compact crossover, it’s no sports car. It’s not bad per se, just worse than it was, in that regard. Hence the Reddit upvotes.
But the Mitsubishi Eclipse isn’t the only car that got worse—compared to its origins—over time.
Other cars that got worse with age
Adding to Nissan’s current woes is the Pathfinder. According to Expedition Portal forum users and Truck Trend, the first Pathfinders were capable of hanging with off-road icons like the Toyota 4Runner and Mitsubishi Montero. The 2nd-gen SUV introduced traction control and ABS tuned for off-roading.
Now, however, Car and Driver finds it’s a long way from its roots. The current Pathfinder does have a comfy interior, but it’s dated, with AWD instead of 4WD, and is no longer body-on-frame. It’s an OK crossover, but not a 4Runner competitor.
Another vehicle that moved away from its roots was the Volkswagen Beetle. The original Beetle is a classic example of small, affordable transportation. Its status as a cultural icon, Business Insider explains, descends from these attributes. Volkswagen attempted to recapture the charm with redesigned versions, the New Beetle and Beetle.
To some extent, Popular Mechanics mused, it worked. But the problem, as Forbes described, was that the New Beetle and Beetle tried to ape the original’s charm, without adding anything special. Underneath, the last Beetle was basically a Golf, only more expensive, less practical, and not as quick.
There’s also another car that’s gotten worse as it’s aged: the BMW 3-Series. Although the 3-Series is still a quick and sporty luxury sedan, this former segment-leader has fallen behind. Motor Trend found the Genesis G70, Tesla Model 3, and Alfa Romeo Giulia to offer better driving experiences at similar—or better—levels of luxury. In its ranking of the five BMW 3-Series generations, Driving ranked the 5th-gen (the latest) at #4, and the 4th-gen dead last. It’s still a good car, but it’s no longer the Ultimate Driving Machine.
But some recovered
Although some cars got worse with age, others recovered. The Porsche 911, for example, bounced back from the IMS issue in the 996. The current 911, although expensive, is a match for some even more expensive supercars.
The Toyota Tacoma pickup truck has also managed to shake off some past issues. The 2016 and 2017 models were unreliable, and rusted, causing 2013-2015 models to spike in value. Now, however, the Tacoma is once again considered a reliable and capable pickup.
There are also two muscle cars mentioned on the r/Cars sub-Reddit thread: the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro. Both suffered through the Malaise Era and eventually went away. Now, though, the Challenger is enjoying strong sales and high popularity, thanks in part to performance models like the Hellcat and Redeye. The Camaro, too, has been praised for its handling and performance.
Some cars do get worse with age. But that doesn’t mean they can’t reverse the trend.
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