Only one of these cars has had a follow-up model, but it’s not as great.
We’re quite certain that, given the opportunity to go back in time, some of these cars would never have been killed off by the brand.
I stupidly stopped keeping track of all the cars I was driving only about two years after I started in the business. Had I kept up my log, I believe that it would today contain roughly 2,200 models, new ones only mind you, and would have served to better show how many cars/SUVs/trucks have come and gone over the last 24 years.
To make my job here a little easier, I focused on the vehicles that were discontinued at some point in the last 15 years. The list could have included three times as many entries (Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, Subaru Baja, Honda Crosstour, and so on) but for the sake of sanity, I selected 10 cars and SUVs that I was able to drive one or more times during the years they were available.
What I do like about this list is that most of these models, with an exception or two, could be reborn in the new EV era. It’s easy to imagine an electric FJ Cruiser TRD Pro, a four-motor 2,000+hp electric Viper, or a 500hp RWD Genesis coupe.
As such, here are the top 10 discontinued cars from the last 15 years that we miss. Speaking of years, the ones in brackets are the car’s final model year of production. Also, they are listed in alphabetical order.
Dodge Magnum (2008)
Can you imagine a manual-transmission-equipped 2022 RWD 392 SRT version of the Magnum? We certainly can and Stellantis could have easily slapped a $90,000 starting price on one and people would have lined up around the block to get one. No matter how cool the Challenger is, a new Magnum SRT’s chill factor would be unmatched.
Dodge Viper (2017)
The Dodge Viper was one of the last supercars with two missions: Go really fast and try and kill its occupants. Seriously though, everything about the Viper was meant to thrill the senses. From the noises, sleek curves, and rubber and gasoline that could be smelled and tasted as they burned, the only off-putting element was the cheap plastic used throughout the cabin. This is an appreciating asset.
Genesis Coupe (2016)
The Genesis Coupe may have come out of left field, but it rapidly grew a following. The ingredients were all there: RWD, manual transmission, 4-cylinder turbo or V6 power, and serious handling capabilities – this sports car had so much going for it. Genesis fans must wonder if Hyundai plans to return to this space in the future to compete with the Ford Mustang and Nissan Z.
Honda Element (2011)
The last new Honda Element was a 2011 so it’s been a little more than a decade since the last ones rolled off an assembly line. But even so, searching for a used example today reveals that it’s never been a hotter item. I personally shopped for one in 2020 and into 2021 only to see average prices double from $5k to $10k. A quirky and utilitarian design, AWD, a manual transmission, and Honda reliability make it highly desirable.
Mazda RX-8 (2012)
The RX-8 was so Mazda, it hurt. But, in a good way. Everything about this car screamed Mazda as it did what it does best which is building a driver-focused car hellbent on providing a driving experience unlike anything else. Few if any other four-door cars handled as well, and truly no other sounded like it. As we know, it was the last truly rotary-powered car Mazda will ever make.
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (2015)
I’ve not driven that many supercars in my career but the one that sits near or at the top, above Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren, is the SLS. Beautiful, exotic, delicate, and brutal, the gullwing-ed AMG was fast and achingly desirable. The follow-up AMG GT is nowhere near as special and though it might be faster and handle better, it’ll never be as tantalizing as the SLS.
Nissan Xterra (2015)
Nissan would probably like to go back to the early 2010s when the decision was made to kill the Xterra and reverse it. The cool off-roader was about to hit its stride and a third generation, possibly lighter and more efficient, would have generated big sales numbers and hoisted Nissan’s brand appreciation. In hindsight, I bet Nissan would have preferred to invest in a new Xterra over the Titan.
Toyota FJ Cruiser (2014)
This is another mistake that an automaker would like to rectify. Like the Xterra, the FJ Cruiser would surely be a massive hit, say with a hybrid powertrain, in 2022-23 as overlanding-adventure-off-roading vehicles are all the rage. Heck! Toyota offers a lifted version of the Sienna in the US!
Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen (2019)
This one’s somewhat obvious: I own one and Volkswagen has nothing available to replace it with in North America. Sure, the Taos is nice but it’s not a station wagon and it’s not available with a manual transmission, it doesn’t look as good, does not drive as well, and most importantly, it’s an SUV!