The end of the car is coming. The sky is falling, too, if you haven’t heard the rampant digital ink screaming from every corner of the Internet over the last few years. It’s true that overall, cars in just about every form take a beating to trucks, sport-utility vehicles and crossovers. But there is a trend that is starting to appear, and from where I’m personally sitting, I’m not sure if I like it or not: the SUV or crossover that tries to echo a popular car, especially one with a performance background or history.
Selling a vehicle on it’s nameplate alone is a risk. Ask anyone with Chrysler history about every time the “Charger” nameplate morphed. From musclecar to brougham coupe to a wind-up hatchback to the most pissed-off looking cop car made to date, there had to be kickback. But FCA tried to keep the Charger formula going: the 1975-77 Charger SE and Sport could still be big-blocked, the FWD Chargers were trying to be sporty (the Shelby-branded ones were honestly wicked for the day) and four-doors be damned, the late-model cars have been impressive, aging not only nicely but somehow getting better as the platform gets older. That’s how you do things, but FCA has also done what I’m willing to argue is the best take on the copycat idea with the Durango. I drove an SRT Durango at the beginning of this year, and compared to many LX-platform Chargers, it feels right…it is a large SUV, but overall, it’s pleasant and it’s fast. Shame that it’s so expensive, sure, but price out a Charger with a 392 and the cost seems a bit more relevant.
There is Ford’s take…or rather, rumored take. One of the many new CUV/SUV vehicles that will take over for Ford’s mostly car-less future is an EV sports-utility that is best known as “Mach 1”…a Mustang trim level and a severe irritation for any Mustang fan out there. There hasn’t been jack-squat from the company describing the vehicle other than it will be a 300-mile performance setup and that Mustang-inspired cues are probably going to influence design. Remember when Ford almost turned the Mustang into a front-drive sports coupe in the mid-1980s? Remember how well that went down? A bomb blast of letters flowed in that ranged from pleading to outright venom, and that proved to be enough to not only give the Fox Mustang a stay of execution, but to start the program that turned into the Fox4/SN-95 cars of the 1990s.
Finally, look at Chevrolet’s upcoming Blazer, a crossover that rides on the same platform as the GMC Acadia and looks like someone jammed the air compressor up a sixth-gen Camaro’s tailpipe and didn’t stop until it was shaped like a Nissan Rouge. I’m sure some committee within GM thought that adding Camaro styling touches to a crossover ute would make it appealing, but from where we sit the arrow not only missed the mark, but it embedded itself in the water cooler and now there’s a mess to clean up. The Blazer represents what we most fear…keep the visuals, remove the fun, act like nobody noticed.
Or there’s the fourth option: at this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise, this fifth-gen Camaro was spotted, wearing most of a Dodge Magnum’s roofline as a phantom Nomad wagon. Using the Zeta platform to create a wagonette does give us ideas: the car has increased utility, a shape that manages to tread on the line between insane and cool, and would compare to crossovers in footprint size. That’d work, right? Nah, probably not. Shame, though…we could dream.
(“Nomaro” pictures: Jalopnik)