I have noticed an issue, but unfortunately haven’t had the time, that I want to talk about in some newer cars: size. Almost all new cars get bigger – just look at any 1993 Toyota Camry/Honda Accord, and then look at them now. They’ve grown tremendously. In fact, you could arguably say that the 1993 Honda Accord is the same size as today’s Honda Civic. In most cases, it’s justified – families need more room, and fuel efficiency usually keeps pace. New engines, new transmissions, more aerodynamic designs, help the larger car keep the same (or maybe even get better) fuel mileage.

However, just take a look at the 2010 Buick Lacrosse/Ford Taurus. Now, before I get into my rant, I really like both cars. In fact, the Lacrosse actually looks so good, I don’t know why more people aren’t buying them. Material quality, build quality, sound levels – all got an upgrade in both of these cars. However, one thing got detracted: size.

The Ford Five Hundred was introduced in 2005, at a time when Ford’s Taurus was in a free-fall – sold mostly to rental companies, it was no longer a vehicle that people wanted to buy. Ford decided to split the Taurus line into two successors, the Fusion (smaller) and the Five Hundred (larger). The Five Hundred was huge – smaller footprint than a Crown Victoria, but much roomier (and with a slightly larger trunk even). It was woefully underpowered, but was otherwise a decent car.

In 2008, one of Ford’s higher-ups (Alan Mullally) said Ford had made a mistake in throwing away name equity – that Taurus was worth millions. So, when Ford redesigned the Ford Five Hundred (oddly, making “over 500 changes”), they renamed it the Taurus. Mercury had a Montego, and it was renamed Sable (which my wife drives). The car got a new engine, but otherwise just got better, and kept its same dimensions…which means huge.

Then in 2010, Ford redesigns the Taurus again – the same platform, but new sheet metal and a new interior. Front seat room was plentiful, fuel tank size was commendable, truck size was huge…the rear seat got ripped. Now, it’s barely better than a Fusion for comfort. Whereas the backseat was so commodious before, now it shrank so much that it would fit in a midsize car. Really, I’m happy about the improvements that were made, but would have liked to see the rear seat room stay the way it was.

(For future reference: I am 6’1”…and I have my seat all the way back in any car I drive. I want as much room as possible for the rear seat passengers – to the point that I don’t have to move my seat. In my wife’s Sable, I don’t have to move my seat at all…there is plenty of room for the backseat passengers)

So, since I’ve given a little background on the Taurus, let me give you a little bit of background about what Buick has done to their Lacrosse. Clue: it’s the opposite of what Ford did.

The 2009 Buick Lacrosse had a huge trunk, but a tiny rear seat. This wasn’t it’s fault – the platform it was built on (dating from 1988) was designed with a certain size rear seat in mind. It was fine during the late 80’s, early 90’s…but even in the 1997 Regal redesign, the backseat wasn’t huge. That was left for the Park Avenue…but Buick got rid of that car in 2005. The Regal was replaced with the Lacrosse – also in 2005.

The Lucerne replaced the Park Avenue and the LeSabre, and it definitely provided enough rear legroom. Why even bring up Lucerne? Because for 2011, Buick is replacing the Lucerne with the Lacrosse. There may be an actual full size car in Buick’s future (based on the next-gen Zeta platform), but for now, Buick is starting to rely on Lacrosse as their large car. When Buick redesigned the Lacrosse, they gave it a huge rear seat – almost as big as the Lucerne’s. And that’s great – more rear legroom is always welcome. But, and this may not matter to many, but it’s odd to me. Buick shrunk the trunk from 18 cubic feet…to 12. Not only that, they have these hinges that hang down into the trunk, smashing anything in their way as you close the trunk lid. Smart? Not very.

The whole point to this blog is this: why redesign a car, and make it better in almost every way, but ruin a good thing? Oh yeah, Buick, you fixed almost every single thing that was wrong with the old Lacrosse…but got rid of a good point of the old one.

Same way, Ford: you redesigned a good car, and made it great. But, did you really need to shrink the backseat so much?

From MSNBC:

“Ford, Subaru and Volkswagen sit atop the U.S. insurance industry’s annual list of the safest new vehicles, according to a closely watched assessment used by car companies to lure safety-conscious consumers to showrooms.”

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