The auto industry is a fickle lady. One moment you’re on top and have the vehicle that everyone wants, and the next you’re old news—with all of the attention on someone else’s product. To combat this, car companies are constantly updating and redesigning their vehicles to keep them fresh, new, and exciting—in order to attract customers. This tactic typically works, especially when companies do more than offer a few new exterior colors and actually take the time to redesign a tried-and-true classic with a modern look and feel. Bonus points if they can keep it similar but also fresh.
However, not all companies are as good as others at redesigning and updating their vehicles, resulting in a wide range of models that look and feel as old as they are (or worse, even older than they actually are). For every model like the reinvigorated Kia K5 (previously the Optima), you have something like the Toyota Prius, which feels dated and stale by comparison. Let’s take a look at some of the vehicles out there that deserve comprehensive redesigning and updates—to give them a fighting chance in the crowded auto market.
Chrysler (All of Them!)
I’ll get to some specific models down below, but first, I need to cover a few companies whose full lineup is in need of some love. Few come to mind as quickly as the Chrysler lineup, such as it is. For one thing, there’s very little here; whereas Chrysler once had a wide range of options and was a major player in the industry, the brand has been whittled down to just two models: the Pacifica and the Chrysler 300. Okay, there’s a hybrid option for the Pacifica—but that’s not really a third model, now is it?
The Chrysler Pacifica isn’t exactly a train wreck, but it’s not the sort of vehicle that gets your heart racing either. With models like the Kia Carnival reinvigorating the minivan market, the Pacifica could use a big redesign to make it more attractive and competitive. Similarly, the Chrysler 300 is just sort of a run-of-the-mill sedan that looks fine, but “fine” is hardly enough when it’s half of your lineup. Its big blocky front grille lacks a lot in terms of aesthetic appeal and it just feels like an older sedan in need of some attention.
Lexus (Just as Bad as Chrysler!)
Lexus is in a similar yet opposite shape as Chrysler (that’ll make sense, trust me) in that it has a lineup that’s largely underwhelming. There are a lot more options from Lexus, but their expansive lineup is still very lackluster. The biggest offender is that they all just look…the same. You see something like the Lexus IS and think, “Okay, that looks like a pretty stylish luxury car,” but then you look at the Lexus ES and think, “Wait, didn’t I just see that car?”
Even worse, the defining trait of the Lexus aesthetic these days seems to be a massive front grille (why is every car company going hard on these big grilles?) that dominates the front end. Every model has this big, weird grille—even their performance coupes. While it creates an overall distinctive feel that marks all of these models as Lexus products, it also creates an unpleasant “sameness” to them. Lexus needs to ditch this horrendous grille and give each model its own identity, while still making them cohesive as a lineup.
Dodge (Not as Bad, but Need Some Love)
I might get some heat for this, but the classic American muscle car needs an update—don’t come for me, just hear me out. The overall look and feel of the Charger and Challenger is okay, but has become rather lackluster. You have incredible engine options in these beasts, especially if you’re ready to break the bank on a Hellcat or Hellcat Redeye model. But, there’s certainly room for improvement. To be clear, I don’t want to take away what makes them unique; I love that the Charger gives you a four-door muscle car while the Challenger has rear-wheel drive.
The bodies of these two models, however, need a redesign. I’m not talking about anything as revolutionary as the C8 Corvette, but rather an aesthetic update that takes these vehicles to the next level. It would be great to see the Challenger and Charger look new, while still keeping some of the classic flair they have; how to do this is best left up to experts with better design skills than I have.
While we’re at it, let’s toss the Durango into the Chrysler lineup. That way, “Dodge” is purely synonymous with “muscle car,” and Chrysler would get a much-needed boost.
Now let’s pick on Toyota for the rest of this piece—because why not? First off, the Toyota Prius is a decent little sedan that is utterly lacking when compared to similar models out there. It’s not awful by any stretch, but it feels quite dated and (strangely enough) rather overdesigned in terms of its general aesthetic. The angles on it just feel like someone was going wild with their favorite Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, adding harsh edges and curves willy-nilly without any real overall goal. This is a car that could use some visual editing to dial back the excess; less would very much be more in this case—so subtle details can pop, rather than be overwhelmed by a cacophony of design.
Even though the Tacoma got a facelift just a couple of years ago, it still desperately needs a full redesign and update. For starters, the market for this type of truck has become increasingly competitive in recent years, so there are plenty of other options out there—including the Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado. The current generation of the Tacoma launched in 2015, which is essentially a geological age for the auto industry, and it feels pretty lacking at this point.
Last year, the off-road-focused TRD Pro models finally had a dealer-installed lift kit made available, but this still feels like Toyota is playing catch-up with their competitors. Honestly, it might not be a bad idea for a new generation of the Tacoma to launch. Toyota can scale it down to a compact pickup, since smaller trucks are becoming increasingly popular.
Toyota 4Runner (Sorry Toyota!)
The Toyota 4Runner has been around for about 40 years at this point and the current generation has been going on for a quarter of that! The fifth-generation model of the 4Runner launched for the 2010 model year and has been going “strong” ever since. Sadly, the 4Runner still very much feels like a 2010 model in many ways. It’s been updated repeatedly and new features and options keep getting added to the 4Runner; however, many of these changes are as minor as the addition of LED lights and faux leather interiors. There’s only so much that can be done without a proper update and redesign.
I won’t even mention the fact that the 4Runner’s front-end looks like Jake the Dog from Adventure Time (though I just did, and now you’ll never be able to unsee it!) Sales for the 4Runner have remained strong throughout the years and it just seems to get more popular year after year, so I suppose Toyota has little reason to redesign and update this thing. Still, it would be nice to see it get an all-new generation sooner rather than later. Perhaps a redesigned 4Runner could compete with new options like the recently updated Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ford Bronco.