The Fickle Pheneomenon of Unwarranted Vitriol.

“I’d rather push a Chevy than drive a Ford”, the bumper sticker says. The world of motoring is a maelstrom of blind leanings and biases, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Many, many years ago, Skoda was the butt of cheap shots from British ‘comedians’, but these all stemmed from the Czech company’s unfortunate position behind the Iron Curtain, where building a car to cutting-edge Western standards simply wasn’t gonna happen. Yet, once the wall came down and Volkswagen took a controlling interest, there was still a considerable time delay – Skoda Jokes didn’t really fade away until the excellent Octavia was deep into production.
There are many cars, and other vehicles besides, which have garnered a sub-optimal image that really isn’t entirely warranted. Obvious contenders include the Pontiac Aztek, which was seemingly damned to ridicule by its looks more than any inherent failing, and the Yugo which was admittedly terrible, but so cheap as to make criticism rather cruel and redundant. There are certain machines, though, that are the target of vitriol so unjust it borders on slander.

A chance Twitter exchange with Antti Kautonen of this parish reminded me of the scorn poured over the poor old Lexus SC430. This is a boulevard cruiser which invariably appeals to folk of a certain age. It’s too big and lumbering to be responsive, it’s too flabby and porcine to be sleek. It’s opulent enough to be almost smothering, though, bristles with standard equipment (including a Mark Levinson audio system that incorporated a cassette player until the very end) and is built with the kind of precision that makes Swiss bank vaults seem disposable. There’s an uncannily smooth V8 engine under the hood, too. Yet the Top Gear trio claimed that its ride quality (and every other factor, for that matter) was sufficiently awful for it to secure the title of “Worst car in the history of the world”.
It’s got a retractable hard top, and it’s this that makes the SC430’s case for credibility. The Lexus’s ability to go topless and let the outside makes it a car in which you can enjoy yourself without really trying. It’s like a speedboat – not a pointy, bouncy thrashy one like a Scarab or a Cigarette, but a big, soft open dayboat from Chris Craft or one of the many smaller builders. A craft that isn’t designed to deliver adrenaline, but to allow you to savour the thrill of motion. It’s no coincidence that the SC430’s designer sought inspiration from Mediterranean harbours.  It explains the looks, too – although it does resemble an over-inflated Mercedes from the front, its aquatic influence partially excuses it.
I can definitely see the appeal of the SC430, and feel that its dismissal as a heavy, wobbly boulevard cruiser is unfair – because that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, and is very good at it. And that brings me to the next comfy, easygoing vehicle I have a soft spot for:

The Honda NT650V Deauville. It’s astonishing just how much venom there is out there for Honda’s middleweight all-rounder. I must first declare that I’m anything but an accomplished biker – my own two-wheel experiences have been either pillion or pushbike, with the exception of cross-field forays on non-roadworthy trail bikes. So I base my opinions on those that I’ve read in popular bike magazines, where anything that doesn’t thrill in some way is dismissed as an affront to motorcycling.
Even the most recent NT700V version only wheezes 65hp from its V-twin engine, and it’s fed to the ground via a maintenance-light shaft drive. Everything about the Deauville is about ease of use, and its built-in panniers lend it practicality. You could even order a CD changer. One notable critique I read, I forget where, said “it’s everything a motorcycle shouldn’t be. You may as well buy a car”.
I get what he means, but from where this non-biker is sitting, a power to weight ratio of 0.24hp per kilo fares strongly against the 0.15hp of a Ford Fiesta ST. Bikes, by the very virtue of what they are, offer more fun and involvement than cars, and the fact that the Deauville wasn’t designed for thrills at all makes its performance all the more appealing. Owners commonly report 0-60mph in sub six seconds, and 5.7 is reputedly Honda’s official reckoning. I reckon that’s quick enough to be fun.
In fact, the Deauville scores highly on my ‘what I’d ride if I rode’ list. You can load the panniers with luxuries and tootle off conveniently, comfortably and more quickly than you might in a car, and I’m sure you won’t have any less fun. To slate the Deauville (or Dullville as I’ve seen it referred) as boring is like condemning vanilla ice cream for being too plain. Both make a virtue out of being free of drama, and I believe this should be celebrated rather than berated.
So, with apologies if this subject has already been covered far more concisely in Hooniverse Asks, what car, bike, plane, train or boat suffers unduly from popular condemnation?
(All images courtesy and Honda)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

49 responses to “The Fickle Pheneomenon of Unwarranted Vitriol.”

  1. Borkwagen Avatar

    Jaguars. Outside the Top Gear-watching masses, they’re derided especially stateside as being unreliable retiree barges for people with more money than sense, when they are actually an excellent blend of handling and comfort. As for the unreliable part, well, at worst they’re equivalent to their German peers, and certain models and years are just plain unbreakable.
    I still can’t take the X-Type seriously though, but I blame Ford for that.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Not that I have put much/any mental energy into the comparison, but is the Jaguar any worse than the Audi A4 which I think shared underpinnings​with the Passat around the same time? It is one of those things that the enthusiasts bang on about but owners don’t care about.

      1. Borkwagen Avatar

        IIRC the difference is that Audi at least knew enough about AWD to make it somewhat reliable, while the X-type was a rush job that resulted in mechanical time bombs, at least in the AWD versions, that caused problems even for non-enthusiasts.

        1. stigshift Avatar

          All X-Types were AWD. Hence the moniker “X-Type”.

          1. Borkwagen Avatar

            Nope, the UK got a range of FWD ones. They didn’t bother calling them the F-Type though, that would’ve been silly. And borderline heretical.

          2. stigshift Avatar

            My apologies. Here in the Colonies, we only got the AWD versions. I blame my ignorance on the obvious dumbing down of my country. Didn’t think it would affect me so quickly…

          3. Borkwagen Avatar

            No worries, these things strike without warning. I’m also in the Colonies (though “New England” gives me unearned cred as being closer to ye olde country) so watch it happen to me too someday.

          4. cap'n fast Avatar
            cap’n fast

            dumbing down is caused by French Fries consumption

      2. Fresh-Outta-Nissans Avatar

        Have you driven an X-Type? They’re disastrous. Doesn’t compare even to Nissan, let alone Volkswagen.
        S-Types, despite the looks, are wonderful. Reliable enough, and smoother than anything this side of an F02 BMW, without compromising drivability. Highly recommended for the sub-$3k used luxury class. And there’s no pressure to fix anything that stops working, because all the parts are out of production anyway.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          No, nor a 2nd gen Mondeo. Then again if it is not better than the third generation I can understand how disappointing it might be.

    2. Lokki Avatar

      Jaguar came by its reputation for poor quality the hard way -they earned it.

      1. Borkwagen Avatar

        They go through cycles. See this early 2000s article about their recent golden age.

    3. tonyola Avatar

      I know the X-type has a lot of Ford DNA but but I still think it looks better then the contemporary S-type.

      1. stigshift Avatar

        You are correct. They look like Kia Amantis, and that’s no compliment for either…

        1. Borkwagen Avatar

          Can you really blame the original for looking like the knockoff though? And yes I know the S-type is in turn based on the older S-type.I can’t really make an effort to defend it though, I don’t like the looks either. I’m a total XJ man myself, unsuccessful modernizations aside.

      2. cap'n fast Avatar
        cap’n fast

        ford NVH and electrical DNA I hope. I may have to look at these soonest to replace my ageless mark viii. I may be fun; less suspension work at least. and
        AWD for winter fun rides.

        1. Borkwagen Avatar

          Lincoln or Jaguar Mk VIII? By simple numbers probably Lincoln, but always worth asking.

  2. fede Avatar

    maybe it’s the lowest of hanging fruit, but the camry? I always read that it is boring, but it should be a comfortable, safe, subtle, family sedan…
    where does the appreciation for the accord coupe fall into this? is that a car appreciated for what it is?

    1. dr zero Avatar
      dr zero

      The only Camry I’ve ever driven was a rental hybrid. Only real complaint for a cross country drive from Adelaide to Whyalla on a 1 in 50 year storm was the ride, which was surprisingly firm, presumably because of the battery. I still make fun of Dad’s mind, thereby entirely validating Rusty’s point.

  3. mdharrell Avatar

    I may at some point already have mentioned that I own an Allegro.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      And this causes people to display unwanted behavior toward you? 😉

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        That’s what I tell myself, yes.

  4. Professor Homernose Avatar
    Professor Homernose

    I’m fine with crossovers. I like the Honda HR-V. And I’d get one…if it cost $18,000 instead of $21,000.
    I’ve got stuff to do, and a tiny space to park in.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Hey, our Pilot got us up a steep mud-and-ice slicked dirt road outside of Ouray, CO that our Odyssey never would have handled. Sure, it’s not “real” 4WD because no low range, but it scrambled right up those hills on street-oriented Michelins with such poise that the missus in the passenger seat didn’t even realize the VTM system was doing its thing to get us up the hill.
      Yes, we had our minivan stage when all kids were in car seats. But we like to adventure a little, and we have had to turn around in the past when dirt roads get dicey. But now we’ll be able to push it a little more before deciding to turn around. Could we go further with a “real” 4×4 with low range and better than the Pilot’s 9″ of clearance? Sure, but that truck would suck to drive daily, which is 99% of the Pilot’s use.

  5. ptschett Avatar

    2005-11 Dodge Dakota. The arguments against it are usually:
    -no regular cab: but it doesn’t appear that there was any business case to develop a unique chassis length again…?
    -too big/heavy: comparing equal cabs it was about 3″ longer than before. Granted, the 4×2 did adopt the 4×4 front suspension so they were all the same height where 4×2’s had been lower before, and they added safety equipment, sound deadening and a new electronics architecture which all could add weight.
    -ugly: eye of the beholder, etc.
    -no bang-for-the-buck versus the Ram: which was almost always true honestly
    My take is that the Dakota was a victim of its own success at a time that the market for smaller pickups was shrinking — GM, Toyota, Nissan, even Honda all launched new midsize pickups with Dakota-like specifications in the ’04-’06 timeframe so there was less reason to specifically buy the Dodge.

  6. jeepjeff Avatar

    Not going to touch the Lexus (if you are looking for my most hated marque, well, there you go). But the bike. Now, I’m a minimalist when it comes to two wheel motoring. I want something light and athletic. I don’t want cargo space. I don’t want practicality. I want acceleration and nimbleness. My main use cases are scooting around the Bay Area efficiently and going for extended, one day rides.
    That said. Slow motorcycles are still faster than slow cars. Even if a bike is a Toyota Camry of Motorcycles, it’s still a motorcycle. Also, the Deauville can’t be everything that a motorcycle shouldn’t be. That’s called a “Honda Goldwing”. But that’s also still a bike, and I still wave at them and there are reasons to have one of those rather than a car.
    That said. I’m sticking with my ill-considered hooligan-mobiles.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      “…I’m a minimalist when it comes to two wheel motoring… going for extended, one day rides.”
      Yes, those of us who were on last year’s LeMons rally are aware of this.

    2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      If you are more interested in traveling by motorcycle than using one to administer G-force-induced adrenaline hits, the Deauville (and its slightly bored-out North American version, the NT700V) is perhaps the least compromised bike you can buy. The only criticism I had of it was an excessively high price tag.

  7. theskitter Avatar

    Now they all have near as makes no difference 300hp.
    The only thing stopping them from ripping your face off Ariel Atom-style at any given moment is the commitment of your right foot.
    Same thing for sub-100hp cars, but substitute ‘outrunning traffic’ for ‘ripping your face off’.
    All the vitriol is stuck in the ’80s.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      I once coaxed our Odyssey into oversteer on an off-ramp. Story time!
      I was out intentionally hooning the van one night when we were scheduled to get a new set of tires the next day. I figured I’d bake all I could off of the shitty Sumitomos before the nice Michelins got swapped on at Costco. After a while, inducing burnouts got boring, so I went to explore the limits of lateral cohesion.
      The rearmost seats were folded, the middle seats removed, and I had no passengers. VSA switched off, transmission pulled down to 2, and I lifted mid-turn when I felt the beginnings of understeer. I had expected the Odyssey to tighten its line, but the engine spinning at over 4000rpm gave more compression braking than I bargained for.
      At any rate, I got back on the gas and drove it out of the curve. I’ve spent enough time autocrossing FWD cars that it happened without thought. Due to the unexpected nature of the oversteer and the potential for stuffing the family hauler on which we relied, I just drove home after that.

    2. neight428 Avatar

      It’s the mom car stigma, people worrying about what others are thinking about their uncool lifestyle when (1) if they were thinking they had kids and crap to haul, they’d be correct and (2) people don’t actually care.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Surely a Minivan (short of an actual van) is the most rock and roll car there is? You’re not gonna get a drumkit in most things…

    3. salguod Avatar

      This. Minivans do more things well than any other vehicle. Things I did with my Odyssey:
      – Tote 6 adults and weekend gear 6 hours to Chicago in comfort
      – Tow a 2K pop up with 4 bikes on the roof and the five of us plus gear on 2 lane US 33 through the mountains of WV.
      – Haul many loads of 4×8 sheet goods
      – Haul lots of furniture including 2 sofas inside with the hatch closed
      – Haul 20-some bags of mulch
      – Average 20 mpg over 164K miles
      No car, SUV or truck can do all of that.

  8. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    Ford Pinto: Its rear mounted fuel tank design was shared by many other cars of the era, but the Pinto got all the vitriol. This is not to say Pinto was a great car, it wasn’t, but it wasn’t any more likely to blow up than a Mustang…or a Nova…!

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Plus, it’s possibly the smallest/lightest Ford into which a 302 can be stuffed without monster garage levels of fabrication. That’s gotta be worth something!

      1. cap'n fast Avatar
        cap’n fast

        we got a 460 stuffed into a runabout down in south florida way back when. and yes, a lot of chassis//body mods ensued. but let it be known that the car accelerated so hard that it would strain the your sweat thru the cool cushions.
        right turns with power on-not so good.

  9. Sjalabais Avatar

    The Volvo 140 was a “squeezed” car for decades. Used as organ donors for the technically similar Amazon, derided for looking like a 240 without offering the latter ones improved steering and safety.
    So they were cheap.
    Cheap is one of my favourite things. Turns out, the 140 is a brilliant car. Material choices are much better than in later 240’s (man-sized aluminum handles etc instead of plastic crap that gets brittle after only 30-40 years), it drives like a huge wagon should, is excellent on gravel, practical like few others, reliable, and dead simple. As the first car with 2×2 brake system and huuuge disks on all four corners, they overdid it a bit and you could stop a truck with this size of equipment. The pre-1973 dash gets 11/10 style points. Also, it still has the foot well flap to be opened on hot days. A brilliant, simple feature against Stinkfoot™.
    Alas, prices have been moving up from “WHAT?” to a more normal “undervalued” over the last decade or two, but too many have needlessly disappeared from the face of the earth.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      I remember being a “hater” back in the day, to me Volvos represented boring, an anathema to someone who loved the idea of light b-road weapon cars. They gave the impression of being heavy lumbering things. It’s only later that you realise that impression is wrong and older Volvos are often surprisingly light given their size and strength and 2 door 240 is a surprisingly good rally car.

  10. vega60 Avatar

    You are still skirting around the main problem of the SC430: For a truly excellent ‘ heavy, wobbly boulevard cruiser’ the suspension is far to crashy, uncomfortable and unrefined. A R129 SL is not ashamed to be a heavy boulevard cruiser and has the comfort to match. Lexus felt that they had to make the SC430 ‘sporty’ somehow, creating the ultimate ‘between the chairs’ failure: To heavy for a sports car, to crashy for a boat.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      That’s pretty much what I understand the problem to be, neither one or the other and nowhere near as nice as its Soarer/SC400 predecessor.

    2. Maymar Avatar

      If I were to buy a sedate drop-top weekend cruiser, I can’t think of a reason why an SC would be better than the far prettier Jag XK8 (except reliability, and if I’m racking up less than 5k a year, and have ~$15k to blow on a toy, it’s a non-issue as long as I’m not stranded).
      But then I also have no idea why you’d buy the hideous Lexus RC over the lighter and less hideous Lexus IS.

  11. tonyola Avatar

    BMWs, mainly because of their drivers.

  12. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

    The Honda Dullesville does deserve the vitriol. On bikes, as with cars, there is definitely a sense of whether or not the machine has personality and a built-in sense of fun. The Deauville would be a perfect commuter bike, much like a Hyundai Accent is a perfect commuter car. But you don’t want a motorcycle to behave like an appliance.
    But to answer the question with another bike reference, it’s the Suzuki DL650 V-STROM. It’s an ugly bike with a silly name, and fans of that model are the model train collectors or bird-watchers of the bikist world. However, it’s kind of a great bike. If you absolutely wring its neck it’ll hang with actual sporting bikes on tight mountain roads. It’ll also take a load of bags and pillion from Kansas to Alaska with relative ease. It’s a perfect all-rounder with a bit of spirit and doesn’t deserve the hate.

  13. Hillman_Hunter Avatar


    1. Vairship Avatar

      …(Plymouth) Crickets…

  14. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    there is a certain term used to describe the aztec or so many people think. however, the Pictionary has used a picture of the aztec to visually describe a word: hideous.
    i believe GM tried its best to to overcome the designs flaws and foibles but, even dressing it up as a buick was of no little consequence.GM still went into bankruptcy. that said, some people went and bought quite a few of the aztec. sort of a new vega.
    i wonder what all those aztec owners have done to get their self respect back. as if it was possible

  15. Maymar Avatar

    I sort of have an irrational instinct to protect a lot of the kneejerk hatred of any of the domestic manufacturers – they’re flawed, and I don’t feel the need to protect specific flaws, but I think wholesale rejection of everything they do is sort of shorthand for “I know better and have more discerning tastes than you.”
    And I feel like the most striking example of that is the PT Cruiser. Ostensibly, it’s a decently sized wagon that was available with both a turbo and a stick. Maybe a bit cheap, thirsty, and kept in production way too long, but except for the lame cruise night looks, it’s a fine, underwhelming car. It’s the 2nd gen Scion xB with less reliability (not none, just less), but more interesting versions.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      And it can fit in a compact parking spot,yet transport 2 humans + 4 large dogs. And with the manual trans it’s even somewhat fun to drive.

  16. cap'n fast Avatar
    cap’n fast

    depending on a trio of comedians for actual information and relevant opinion on automotive design and quality is like listening to late night talk show hosts for the latest cutting edge political commentary and actual news about what is going on in the world. all pretty much untrue and some of it probably just shaded deeply by personal opinion. usually not entertaining to some and to others their own reality.
    but hey! the three amigos were fun to watch. picturing a Ford GT in down town London traffic or Clarkson shoveling coal on a train engine was enough to make my day. but after a while(admittedly a long while) it got a bit old and we moved on.
    I have to strongly agree on the fun quotient of bikes bought for fun uses being negated by “fun” bikes that crap out every time we use them. AMF Harlys come to mind. ride on sunday, fix it again. Honda did a good job with that bike and made it reliable,too. the SC430 is a very nice ride and does exactly what the designers want. Quality is in the mind of the owner. as you said, savor the experience. owners who do not “savor the experience” of using one particular car is why we have used cars in the world.

%d bloggers like this: