A white 2022 Hyundai Veloster N is shown from the front at a high angle.

Requiem for Those at the End of the Road (Part 2)

I love year-end countdowns! A year still seems long enough to forget everything that’s happened. Hit songs I haven’t heard since the spring, blockbusters I still haven’t seen, events in my life that meant a lot then got lost in the fog of daily battles. This countdown is a lot like that. It’s a celebration for sure, but less about the exciting new things and more about the old ones that are going away.

This two-part memorial series is reflecting on the 26 most significant automotive models for whom 2022-2023 is the last model year, the swan song, the final hurrah. In Part 1, I broke down the 16 worst of the lot, models which––according to my science––are not worth missing. Now for Part 2, we get to the juicy stuff. The Top 10 most mournable cancellations of 2022-2023 are below, but first, a refresher on the methods used to determine where each model lands:

The Science of the List

Each of this year’s outgoing models is evaluated based on:

  • How long they’ve been around
  • How many were made
  • What their specs are (power, torque, efficiency, MSRP) in their final year
  • The views on their most popular YouTube video (a general popularity / cultural significance indicator)
  • Whether they’re being replaced or not (true/false)
  • Whether they have the “it” factor (true/false, subjective)

The values are converted into a 0-10 rating and then weighted by criteria. This is so that really important factors (like the length of the production run or YouTube popularity) count for more points than others (like cost and total sales numbers). The low-weighted replacement and “it” factors play significant roles in determining whether we’ll actually miss a model as well.

The lowest score out of 100 was an 8.2 by the Nissan Rogue Sport; #1 scores a 63! Even so, #10 doesn’t quite have half as many points as that, showing that it’s a steep climb to the top of the automotive mountain.

Thanks for the Memories, Prom Kings and Queens

These are the runner-ups at the Super Bowl, 2nd place in American Idol, and Grammy winners who were called up off-camera. How else can one remark on the demise of cars that are mostly long-lived but relatively uninteresting or really exciting but super-niche? #10-#6 covers a broad range of models that I am genuinely sad to let go of, significant models whose demise is tainted by a tragic sense of failure and decline in the way it all went down.

#10: Hyundai Veloster N – 30.1/100

“Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse” – Nick Romano in Willard Motley’s Knock on any Door.

The Veloster N took this mantra to heart (the “good-looking” part being a debatable point). Since all other Veloster models are already gone, the three-year-old N is arguably the shortest-lived model on the outs this year, but I didn’t count it as such because I see this as Hyundai’s way of making sure their hot hatch’s last call is a strong one. Exciting performance numbers, universal acclaim, and a huge YouTube presence put it at the tail end of our top 10 most “missable” departing cars. Famous for the “N Grin Mode” overboost function, which temporarily increases torque by nearly 10% for hilariously noisy highway passes, this eye-catching, exhaust-popping hooligan-mobile is joyful for joy’s sake, and its end comes far too soon.

A black 2022 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye is shown from the front while performing a burnout.

#9: Dodge Challenger – 35.8/100

I still remember when the third generation Challenger was going to happen for real, for sure, and I unlocked its concept version in Need for Speed: Carbon. The most authentic retro reincarnation of the 00s muscle revival has lived a storied life, with Redeye and Demon variants making the Hellcat seem tame and achieving near-supercar status for a Dodge land yacht. Recusing itself from the scrappy track-based competition between the Mustang and Camaro, the rather-be-cruisin’ and bruisin’ Challenger has barely changed for 14 years, and I absolutely love it that way. Its demise is hardly premature, but it leaves a two-ton hole in my heart.

#8: Acura NSX – 38.4/100

The most thoroughly botched halo car of a generation, the NSX is still way too cool not to be missed. Sold this year exclusively in the Type S format, Acura’s “affordable” supercar is among the most powerful and expensive cars to leave us after 2022. The shame of it is that despite severely delaying the initial release of this long-sought revival, Acura did absolutely nothing to provide any sort of attainable sports car in their lineup for aspirational shoppers to settle on, to give them a taste of the NSX. Nobody said to themselves, “Well, I can’t afford the NSX ––better get an ILX instead.” The car has been an objective business failure in that sense. Still, at least it existed, and I’ll melt on the day I see one––though with fewer than 1,800 in the world, I might be waiting for a very long time.

#7: Volkswagen Passat – 38.9/100

That’s not right, is it? 2022 is the 50th year of Passat production; surely it can’t be the last, right? Wrong. The sucker-punch of having the familiar swept out from under my feet is why the Passat’s departure hurts. After the 19th-longest run of any model of all time, with more than 12 million units sold, the otherwise unremarkable Passat was supposed to be untouchable. But, lagging far behind Camry and Accord has taken its toll, and this stalwart model is yet another canary in the sedan coal mine. It doesn’t really offer anything to miss except classy style, and yet I will miss it.

#6: Nissan Maxima – 41.9/100

The last “normal” car on the list is the outgoing Maxima. Styling that still looks fresh seven years into this generation capitalizes on the nameplate’s legacy as an exciting, affordable family sedan, but truthfully the source of that excitement––sporty performance––is long gone. Maxima’s 43-year run––somewhere around #30 on the list of longest-running nameplates ever––earns it this ranking here. Its feature performance in a drag race video on YouTube, showing a sleeper Maxima torch a freakin’ 911 on the strip, has a little bit to do with that as well.

A blue 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is shown from a high angle.

The Weeping, the Tearing of Robes, the Gnashing of Teeth

And now we’ve finally come to it. The top 5 most grief-worthy terminations––or celebration-worthy memorials––of the 2022-2023 model years. They’ve all been around for a while; they’re expensive and exciting as hell, possessing that “it” factor that makes a car special to average auto fans and influential in popular culture. Even though some of them really are due to pass on, they all make me ask for just five more minutes, a juice box, and read another story, please. Please?

#5: Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 – 42.5/100

It’s a little funny for this to be included here. Is the GT500 ever truly gone? Is it really a “model” or just a trim/performance package? I couldn’t find sales numbers for the GT500, leaning me towards the latter, but on the other hand, is a year without a GT500 a year worth remembering?

That’s a lot of questions. We don’t have time for questions; we have tires to destroy! 760 hp and 625 lb-ft––the 2nd-highest and highest values on this list––will do that. The modern iteration has been around in nearly continuous production for 18 years and is responsible for seeing the Mustang transform from a greaser’s smokeshow to a genuine track weapon, with bonafide supercar performance results to back up the numbers. The Dark Horse edition that ostensibly replaces it has big shoes to fill.

#4 (maybe): Nissan GT-R – 43.1/100

Every time I see an R35 GT-R, a chill races up my spine and down my arms, the hushed whisper echoing in my ears: “Godzilla!” There’s a special kind of magic in the Skyline lineage. From Gran Turismo to The Fast and the Furious (my personal indoctrination to the Church of GT-R was Need For Speed: Underground), every car fan learned to love Nissan’s incredible high-end sports car.

Nissan announced a 2023 GT-R as I wrote this, so it is possible that this model’s place on this list is premature despite seeming to have been canceled. For now, I’m kicking it off this list. Stop making me mourn you before you’re gone! However, there is no news of a 2024 model, so it is still possible that this model is on the outs as it has been discontinued in other countries. Either way, I am leaving it here to remind you how cool of a model it is.

#3: Audi R8 – 43.7/100

Poised at the line like a panther ready to strike, few supercars have ever hit the mark like the R8 has. It’s no ultra-rare icon like a Ferrari F50, not by a long shot, nor is it a benchmark setter for sheer performance numbers like the new Mercedes-AMG ONE. But it’s a perfect example of a halo car done right. The V10 Lamborghini powertrain dressed in Audi’s design language was everything a starry-eyed kid could hope for, the very definition of an aspirational supercar. Sleek and gorgeous, it didn’t matter how quick it was (which was admittedly “very”), just that it was there to be seen, and that even though you couldn’t have one, maybe you could have an S7 or S4––genuine sports cars which looked kind of like an R8 and delivered a nugget of the same experience for a fraction of the price.

Early ’10s Audi features one of my personal favorite design languages, giving the R8 serious clout as a dream car. The media machine helped by creating huge popularity through an amazing promotional campaign––from the I, Robot concept car to an NFS: Carbon feature to a spotlit cameo in Iron Man––for what might otherwise have been an obscure performance car that wasn’t quite “performancy” enough to make waves. Now with a one-year-only series of GT trims, 2023 marks the end of not only one of the best halo cars ever made but the remarkable V10 engine that made it so special. So long, and thanks for the memories.

#2: Ford GT – 45.1/100

670 hp and 550 lb-ft aren’t the biggest numbers on this list, but the lightweight, aerodynamic packaging they power makes them substantial anyway. A 3.0 second 0-60 time doesn’t lie, though it blurs the lines of reality some. The GT is arguably a hypercar, and from an everyday manufacturer––that just doesn’t happen in this industry. But Ford remains as proud as ever of their incredible Le Mans achievements in the 1960s and brought the GT name back for the second time in 2017 to celebrate them.

One of the coolest-looking cars in production today, the super-limited GT has spent the last little while being released in special heritage editions with a livery that highlights the history of the name by cosplaying as legendary race cars. Did I mention that it keeps company with Lotus, Lambo, Ferrari, and Bugatti? It’s a Ford, the reputational (if not financial) underdog in those elite circles, the American outsider which has earned its place among them nonetheless. We may never see another with an ICE, and I lament that there are so few of them for us to enjoy.

A white 2022 Ford GT Heritage Edition is shown from the front at an angle.

#1: Lamborghini Aventador – 63.0/100

The only reason there’s still any Aventador at all is the disastrous fire aboard and sinking of the Felicity Ace, which was carrying (among hundreds of other supercars) the last few Aventadors to roll off the line. Lamborghini fired things back up just to replace them and is finally shuttering the Aventador for good. Its 12-year run is par for the course of Lambo flagships, but years-long chatter that “this is the last one” makes it feel overdue. We’ll miss it all the same.

Lamborghini is like Ferrari’s rebellious little brother, not bothering much with racing but bothering very, very much with performance, and has long established an identity as the icon of presence at the cost of practicality. Their 50-year lineage of wedge-shaped supercar flagships––Countach, Diablo, Murcielago, and now Aventador––have produced 500 years’ worth of poster material.

Despite living in an enormous shadow cast by its predecessors, the Aventador attained hallowed ground by holding, for 2.5 years, the Nurburgring Nordschleife production car lap record at 6:44.97––the only Lamborghini to achieve the feat, at least since 1989. What makes it more special is that this is one of the last V12 engines, maybe ever. Emissions requirements and electrification means the guttural howls and hair-raising shrieks of a chorus of pistons just don’t fly anymore, and so this year marks the end of more than one legendary era.

It’s been the fastest Lamborghini, the base of a dozen super-limited editions, and even the platform for a one-year-only Countach that just screams “Blade Runner 2049”. The angles are sharp and aggressive, and so is the sound. It doesn’t make any dang sense, and it’s been the coolest car on Earth for more than a decade. There’ll be something else to replace it, no doubt, and like those which preceded it, we’ll remember its time fondly. But we’re ready, I think, to let the Aventador go.

The Best and the Worst

I’m not sure there was any other way for the Aventador, Maxima, Transit Connect, and Rogue Sport to end up on the same list, but here we are. The “last hurrah” list for 2022-2023 shows us that nothing is permanent. From the R8s we’ll dearly miss to the EcoSports we won’t; the goodbyes are almost too many to count.

Is it a sign of the times to see so many models closing the door? Perhaps. I haven’t done this before; maybe it’s normal to shed so many names at the end of each year. Either way, the inexorable market shift towards crossovers, curious timing for the demise of certain legendary models, and recklessly rapid electrification have combined to create a pretty heavy memorial list. Ah, this electric future of ours…it’s exciting, but the winds of change sure do sting the eyes.