Cool Cars That Died Too Young

Car Culture

Gone before their time, these awesome rides failed to meet the grade.

The story typically goes something like this: an automaker tries something unique with a certain model, auto critics applaud the move, the car launches with a lot of fanfare before ultimately failing to meet sales expectations. We’ve seen this happen time and again, but automakers today are more conservative about taking chances. Combined with shifts in consumer buying habits, automakers see less of a need to develop relatively high-risk vehicles. Of course, sales are hard if not outright impossible to fully predict, but there are certain vehicle body styles that are more popular than others. Sometimes a vehicle is simply too expensive or too niche. There are many reasons why some cars are sent to the crusher and others live long and fruitful lives.

We’ve gathered a list of cool cars that have already been dropped, served a death notice, or are likely to get one very soon. Despite their ultimate fate, we’re still fans. Too bad their time is limited or they’re already gone, possibly forever.

Dodge Viper

You gotta give credit where it’s due because Dodge made the bold and risky decision to re-launch its hardcore and ofttimes unforgiving V10-powered coupe in 2013. Although the new Viper was a true Viper in every sense (V10, six-speed manual), it was somewhat more refined and easier to live with than any of its predecessors. With a total of 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, the fifth-generation Viper was better than ever and, for the first time, had stability control. Needless to say, Viper fans were thrilled their beloved all-American performance beast was back. Unfortunately, and despite its solid reception, Viper sales were not good.

By late 2013, FCA reduced Viper production by one-third due to low sales and high inventory. In spring 2014, production was temporarily halted for two months because of, again, slow sales. FCA later cut the Viper’s price tag by $15,000 and that still didn’t bring in enough buyers. And .

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Jaguar XK

It marked the beginning of a new design era for Jaguar back in 2006 when it was revealed, but. Shame. Penned by Jaguar’s famed design boss Ian Callum, the Jaguar XK proved the UK carmaker was still fully capable of building sleek, sexy, and powerful two-doors. Although larger than its F-Type successor, the XK was a true grand tourer with a few V8s to choose from. It was the right kind of Jaguar flagship for the time and could be had as either a coupe or convertible. Its biggest drawback was its size, even though some saw this as one of its most redeeming features.

If the XK were still around today (assuming it’d been redesigned) it’d be a direct competitor to the reborn BMW 8 Series. And yes, the upcoming M8 versus an XK-S GT (, so who knows) would be an interesting shootout to witness.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

There was no way we could write this feature without including the . It was the tenth and, sadly, last generation Evo we’re most familiar with mainly because of its relatively long production life. It was revealed for the North American market in concept form in 2007, followed by the production version’s arrival the following year. It was sold until 2016.

All North American Evos came powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 291 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque linked to either a six-speed twin-clutch gearbox or a traditional six-speed manual. The rally-inspired, AWD hot sedan only had one major competitor: the Subaru WRX STI. It may have been special, but the and unlike the Subie, Mitsubishi did not commit itself to its long-term survival.

Although today’s WRX and WRX STI still have a more limited audience, sales are still solid enough for Subaru to justify them. Imagine what it would have been like if Mitsubishi was in better financial health and, above all, saw itself as a true performance brand.

Volkswagen Beetle

The Volkswagen Beetle is an icon that’s about to die. Again. The German automaker recently unveiled the and this time it looks like it’s gone for good. There are no plans for a successor as VW very much wants to move on with its planned I.D. range of all-electric vehicles and the Beetle is no longer the “People’s Car.” Honestly, it hasn’t been for a long time.

The New Beetle, launched for 1998, was the direct successor to the original icon. Today’s third-generation Beetle immediately succeeded the New Beetle for 2012 because there was still a strong enough market for coupes and convertibles with a small rear seat.

Today, however, consumers are ditching coupes for crossovers, hence VW’s strategic decision to focus on all-electric CUVs. The VW Beetle has real personality and we always dug its modern yet still semi-retro styling. Alas, the upcoming model year will be its last.

Audi R8

Audi has not explicitly said it will discontinue its R8 supercar when the current second-generation needs a redesign, but there is growing evidence to suggest this could happen. The best evidence comes directly from and there are no immediate plans to begin doing so. Why? Audi management is apparently not interested.

However, last August at Pebble Beach Audi revealed its , which could very well preview an all-electric supercar. Remember, the original R8 was something of a game-changer for its segment because of its user-friendliness, earning it the title of ‘the daily supercar.’ Maybe Audi wants to do something like that again, only with an all-electric and equally driver friendly vehicle.

Lincoln Continental

Lincoln admitted to us a couple of years ago that . Ford management signed off on a new flagship large sedan for its luxury brand without committing to a nameplate. As development continued, it only made sense to resurrect a name from the brand’s historic past. While today’s Continental, which hit the market for 2016, has been universally praised for being an excellent all-around luxury cruiser, the sedan segment itself is dying out. A majority of buyers want crossovers and Lincoln has a full lineup to offer them, so why bother sticking with a big sedan nobody wants? Makes no business sense.

It’s too bad because the tenth-generation Continental brilliantly blends bold styling with just the right amount of classical elements. Heck, there were even rumors a suicide door option would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, it appears that 2020 will most likely be the big sedan’s final year. No successor is planned that we know of.

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