Things we hate about the cars we love

Designing and engineering a car is a balance. If an automaker puts a lot of money into one aspect of a car, other areas may suffer to meet a price target. The struggle between engineering and design is real: good cars can look bad, and vice versa. If the car is meant to handle well, how much power does it really need? Big engines add weight, after all. Colin Chapman had some thoughts on this, we’ve heard.

All those considerations and others play into what reviewers and customers think about any given car. On top of all that, simple matters of opinion may differ between company engineers, accountants, and project leaders, as well as the automotive media and the buying public.

The upshot? Just about every car on the market is a balance of good and bad. Thankfully, the bad portion of that equation is much smaller today than it has been in the past, but even the cars we love still have some foibles. Here, we chose eight of our favorites—and then tear a hole in them.

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Alfa Romeo 4C. With its carbon fiber structure, the Alfa Romeo 4C is a pocket-sized supercar for as little as $57,000. Thanks to the manual steering, it has more road feel than any car on the market today. The lightweight architecture and low-slung stance make it a canyon carver and track athlete that few can match. Its 1.75-liter turbocharged engine spins out a modest 237 horsepower, but with less than 2,500 pounds to move along, it launches the car from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds.

What we hate. The problems happen when there isn’t a track or twisty road to tackle. Then, many of the 4C’s strengths become weaknesses. The ride is buckboard hard, the engine clicks and whirs and whines right behind the driver, and the steering requires brute strength at low speeds. Getting in and out requires genuine core strength, and once inside, the interior just looks cheap and plasticky with a radio from 1995. Bottom line: The 4C makes a great toy—but a horrible daily driver.

Chevrolet Corvette. If you’ve never driven the C7 generation, you’ve never driven the Corvette. It’s so comfortable that it borders on refined. The seats are world class, the ride doesn’t beat you up, and the interior materials are appropriate for the price. Even in base form, it’s so powerful that it can rip from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. And if you can get it on a twisty road or even a racetrack, it delivers tons of grip and smiles galore. On top of all that, in terms of performance for the dollar, nothing can touch it.

What we hate. So what’s wrong with it? Nothing really, except the decades old stigma of buying a Corvette. Some may appreciate the looks in a high-tech-fighter-jet-for-the-street kind of way, but others will think they’re over the top and lacking in grace. Sure you may want a ‘Vette, but how will you look in a satin jacket with your hair in a ducktail. The Corvette is brilliant. It just makes people think you’re the kind of guy who gets his jollies doing burnouts in the parking lot of your kid’s school. 

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Chevrolet Camaro. We love the sixth-generation Camaro. In fact, we love it so much that we named the Camaro SS the Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2016. With its new, lighter chassis, and its Corvette-derived V-8, an argument could be made that it’s a four-seat ‘Vette with a starting price that’s about $20,000 lower. The steering is fantastic, the sounds are intoxicating, and twisty roads are pure joy behind the wheel of the Camaro. Heck, the ride is pretty good, too.

What we hate. The Camaro may be the most flawed car on this list. In the pursuit of design, practical concerns took a back seat. The most notable issue is the gun-slit greenhouse created by the high beltline and low roof line. After all, who needs to see out of a 455-hp car? The rear seat is also an afterthought and the trunk opening is almost comically small. The interior is improved from the last generation, but it’s not up to the quality standards of most cars at this price. Still, we love the Camaro. Warts and all.

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