Ferrari may never build a Honda Civic competitor, but weird things have happened before.
One of the great joys about the car industry comes when a manufacturer goes completely off-script and does something we didn’t see coming. Sure, we love seeing automakers doing what they do best when they stay on brand. Subaru, for example, delivering a practical all-wheel-drive family vehicle or Volvo building a comfortable, practical, and safety conscious wagon, or Honda putting together a quick and nimble front-wheel-drive hatchback. However, when Subaru got together with Toyota to build an affordable rear-wheel-drive sports car, the world became an even better place.
When a company reiterates what they do best, it consistently gets better or they become Mitsubishi, or even worse, Pontiac. Staying on point and on brand is what keeps automakers going, so we don’t typically expect Ferrari to drop a front-wheel-drive econobox in the future as much as we don’t expect Jeep to suddenly reveal a rear-wheel-drive sports car. Neither of those will actually happen, but let's remember Lamborghini once built a military off-road vehicle and with AMG's help, Mercedes built a 500-horsepower people carrier. And then, there are these...
Perhaps the most illustrative car on this list is Ford’s middle finger to Enzo Ferrari. At the time, endurance racing was dominated by the European brands and the snobbish assumption that American cars were only good for racing short distances in a straight line. When Ferrari annoyed Henry Ford II by pulling out of a deal that would have had Ford owning Ferrari, it wasn’t many years before all of that changed and, out of spite, Ford beat Ferrari at their own game.
When buzzwords like "mobility concept” get rammed together, it’s inevitably going to result in a non-functioning car with a long list of other buzzwords to go with it at the auto shows. Usually, those concepts disappear into the ether but BMW, known for its performance underpinnings, brought out a small and practical electric vehicle concept and made it. Not only did they make it, but it became a success and could turn out to be BMW’s most important car since the 2002.
When Cadillac stepped up to go toe-to-toe with BMW and Mercedes in the premium segment, it had no choice to but to make a statement with a fast sedan that could also perform at the track. What they didn’t have to do though is build a crazy fast wagon. Cadillac gave us one, and a stunner at that, winning the hearts of car enthusiasts everywhere.
Not many would have bet that Rolls-Royce would capitulate to a trend as common as the SUV. But it did, and built the Rolls-Royce of SUVs so hack journalists could no longer use that phrase again to describe something else. That’s what we choose to believe, anyway.
In the late 1980s, Honda was mixing it up with economical front-wheel-drive hatches and sedans while also building Formula 1 engines for teams that included Williams, Lotus, and McLaren. Nobody actually expected Honda to venture into Ferrari territory with a road car, but the aim was to exceed the capabilities of Ferrari’s V8 powered models at the time. Whether it really did is debatable, but a legend was built from the ground up. The end result was a more affordable and extremely capable supercar with Ayrton Senna’s name attached at the final development phase.
We debated Kia's performance sedan, the Stinger, for this list, but we believe its a logical progression for Kia as it moves further upmarket and into the mainstream to compete with Honda and Toyota head to head. What isn’t a logical progression though is Kia’s full-sized luxury sedan, and when it came on the market in 2012 it was even less logical for the bargain brand. The K900 is a more than competent and good looking luxury sedan heavily related to the Hyundai Equus and Genesis and, by extension, the Genesis G90.
While the FF may not be a front-wheel-drive econobox, a shooting brake is as off-brand for modern Ferrari as the crazy all-wheel-drive system designed and fitted for the kind of weather Maranello never experiences. What is definitely on brand for Ferrari is the 6.3-liter V12 punching out 650 horsepower and the FF's pin-sharp handling.
Audi building a supercar, let alone basing it on an Italian supercar's underpinnings and engine, was quite a surprise in the first place. But dropping Audi’s own sublimely effective Quattro system to build a rear-wheel-drive version, albeit in limited numbers, was even more of a surprise.
For the longest time, there were two basic perceptions of Lexus from the public. They were either well-engineered Toyotas for old people that know it’s going to outlive them, or flashy little alternatives to a BMW 3 Series for people that don’t care so much about handling. As if to shut people up, Lexus shoved the snarling piece of V10 powered performance insanity on wheels called the LFA into the world, then dropped the mic.
The thing to remember about the Dodge Viper is that it came in the early 1990s sandwiched between the end of the Omni and the birth of the Intrepid. The decade change from the 1980s to the 1990s was not a great time for Dodge or Chrysler, but then the Viper happened. In true Dodge style at the time, it was built on the cheap and quick. Contrary to that though, it had a very special V10 and the ability to push your eyeballs into the side of your head as well as the back.
Porsche building an SUV? To the snobs and purists, it made no sense for one of the world's greatest sports cars manufacturers to dilute the brand with a money grab. To Porsche though, it meant saving the company from becoming a design house for other companies. Ultimately, it bought Porsche the opportunity to keep developing the 911 and invest in Le Mans racing building something crazy like the Carrera GT.
The A110 name is an old legend, but as much as we love to see an old legend resurrected there’s rarely an actual business case. Let alone along with the company that made the original. Yet, somehow the French race and sports car manufacturer Alpine was resurrected in 2017 and so was the Alpine in a more modern take of the Berlinette form.
Granted, it was designed in partnership with Toyota but what we have is a rear-wheel-drive naturally aspirated sports car on dealer lots surrounded by Subaru’s all-wheel-drive family cars. Not only that, but its great fun to drive and not particularly expensive.