Steer Clear, Guys

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There are manly cars and there are not-so-manly cars. And then there are cars that Liberace would have loved. Back in the ’80s, such cars included the VW Rabbit cabriolet – in all white, ideally. But what about more recently? Check out these testosterone-deficient examples of estrogen engineering:

Acura CL 1997-2003

If Chaz Bono has an opposite number in a parallel universe, he’d be driving the parking brake 180 opposite of this unit. From its tight little rear end to its kissy-faced front end, the CL is arguably the most female car built since the snow-white VW Rabbit cabriolet of the Reagan Years. Acura, belatedly conscious that half the potential buyer pool was steering clear of the CL, tried to butch the car up some in 2003 by offering a Type-S variant that had some real power under its hood, but the effort failed for the same reason that putting an evening gown on Chaz Bono isn’t going to get her onto the cover of the next Sport Illustrated swimsuit edition. Acura bowed to the inevitable and quietly retired the CL in 2003.

Volvo C70, 1998-present

If the Acura CL’s a cute young thing, the Volvo C70?s that cute young thing about 30 years later. “Matronly” comes to mind. As in, Mrs. Doubtfire. This one’s husky and a bit deep-voiced; turbo versions even have an Adam’s apple – so to speak. But this one’s as much a guy’s car as meat snacks are your typical female’s favorite munchie. Still, she’s solid through the hips – roomy – and does a great job taking care of the family. Think of her as a good earner. Only don’t let your buds catch you behind the wheel.

Geo Storm, 1990-1993

There are chick cars – and there a dude repellents. The Geo Storm being a classic example of the latter. It’s the perfect car… for your girlfriend. She is also probably light, small and kind of cute, too. The Storm is all of these things plus it has an angry-sexy sounding name on top of all that. You can almost imagine your high school GF angrily peeling out of your driveway in one after an argument. If, of course, the Storm’s 95 hp engine had enough scoot to angrily peel out of your driveway.

Toyota Avalon, 1995-present

Does any car say “mom” more? Is there a male anywhere on the planet who willingly bought one of these poufters? In beige or off-white, it is the perfect car for Maybelline deliveries. And grocery runs. And afterschool soccer klatches. In brief, it is the resurrected reincarnation of a 1970s-era Volvo 240, only devoid of the Volvo’s old man lingering remnants of fast-fading masculinity. It is safe, stolid, reliable and dependable. Buy one and get in touch with your feminine side. And wave bye-bye to your masculine side

Chrysler Sebring, 1996-2010

The Sebring has many virtues – including adult-usable rear seats, a feature that’s hard to find in any convertible and impossible to find in an affordable convertible. It is also an easy driver, a pleasant companion – the ideal car for a nice summer afternoon cruise. But it is about as un-manly as Tom Cruise is not-tall. Hence, the buyer demographic: middle-aged women, over-the-hill men and airport rental fleets. You’ll never see this car being driven by a male under 35 unless he’s borrowing his mom’s car, or he’s in town on business and that’s what Hertz gave him for the week.

And, finally…

VW New Beetle, 1998-2010

The original Beetle crossed all lines of sex, age, income and social class. Many men are onetime old Beetle owners. It wasn’t quick, but it was manly because it encouraged tinkering and rewarded the owner who was a do-it-yourselfer kind of dude. But the New Beetle was just another modern FWD compact with the same computerized over-complexity you’d find in any other late-model car and just as do-it-yourselfer unfriendly. The rugged individualism was gone. In its place? Cuteness. It was the pretty cheerleader of cars – or the car a pretty cheerleader would be likely to own. Few men were interested, for all the obvious reasons. VW discovered that something along the lines of two-thirds of New Beetle owners were female. Res ipsa loquitur. It speaks for itself. In 2012, VW pumped some testosterone into the (now just) Beetle. But real men would rather have the real deal.

Reprinted with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.

Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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