Hit the road: Five luxury, hybrid, and performance cars we won’t miss in 2013

Maybach LandauletYou know what they say about the best laid plans. The car world wouldn’t be very interesting if some new models didn’t come along to replace the old, but that doesn’t mean the people who made these now-discontinued products didn’t have something glorious in mind. Or maybe not: these five cars all promised something more than just basic transportation, but not all of those promises were sincere, or anything buyers really wanted.

Acura ZDXAcura ZDX: Trying to turn an SUV into a sport coupe seems a bit odd, but BMW sells plenty of X6s. Why wasn’t Acura able to copy BMW’s success? The MDX-based ZDX looked like a solid effort: it featured Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive and was arguably better looking than the X6. However, the SUV-coupe may be a niche that’s too small for more than one vehicle to exploit. People buy SUV’s for their utility, not their looks, and the ZDX had the added disadvantage of being an Acura, not a BMW.

2012 Aston martin Virage front three-quarter viewAston Martin Virage: The Virage was a luxurious grand tourer with a 6.0-liter V12, yet it had so few takers that it was discontinued after less than a year. That’s probably because Aston Martin already has a stable of V12-powered grand tourers, both of which are based on the same chassis as the Virage.

It takes a car expert to tell the difference between the DB9, DBS, and Virage; not a good thing if you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a unique ride. In terms of performance, the Virage was deliberately positioned as the middle child between the DB9 and DBS; its horsepower and acceleration times split the difference between the two. However, there  just wasn’t a big enough gap to justify a third model.

Lexus HS250h overhead front three-quarter viewLexus HS 250h: With the HS 250h, Lexus hoped to create a luxury hybrid companion to parent company Toyota’s Prius. The HS and Prius shared little (the Lexus was actually based on the European Toyota Avensis), but its lozenge-like shape led many to believe it was a Prius in an ill-fitting rented tux.

The humble Toyota chassis and luxury pretentiousness combined to form a car that made little sense. The HS only returned 35 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, according to the EPA, and started at $37,905. A 2013 Prius is rated at 51 city, 48 highway, and starts at $24,760.

maybach-62-sMaybach: In its heyday, Maybach was one of the best marques in the business, so when Mercedes-Benz resurrected it for the 2004 model year, big things were expected. Instead, Benz’s Rolls-Royce rival turned out to be a stretched S-Class with generic styling. When Mercedes launched a new S-Class in 2007, the Maybach became all but irrelevant.

A new Maybach in 2012 was essentially a car from 2004; it even had recirculating ball steering (even the Lincoln Town Car had switched to a more modern setup) and a five-speed automatic transmission. Modern infotainment was nowhere to be found and, while Rolls-Royce and Bentley updated their interiors, Maybach was stuck with one that looked dated when it was new.

A 6.0-liter V12 produced 603 hp in the “sporty” 57S, which was the car’s most impressive feature, besides the price. For all that early-2000s goodness, Maybach charged north of $300,000.

Mercedes-Benz R-ClassMercedes-Benz R-Class: Like the ZDX, the R-Class was a segment buster. It was designed for people who felt they were too affluent, and thus too cool, to drive a minivan. The result was a car that looked like a minivan but had no sliding doors, an identity crisis that may have doomed the R-Class.

While it’s hard to blame people for thinking the Mercedes GL is too butch, it does pretty much the same job as the R-Class, without looking like a Chrysler Pacifica. For a retro touch, there’s also the E-Class wagon, which has a smaller footprint than either the R or GL, along with rear-facing third row seats.

With its car-like styling and SUV size, the R-Class was an amalgam of the E-Class wagon and GL, which was apparently something most people didn’t want. It even confused Mercedes, which alternately marketed the R-Class as a “Sports Tourer” or a “Family Tourer.”

Maybe Mercedes should have kept the R63 AMG which, at least, had a 6.3-liter, 500 hp V8.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Psychedelic Volkswagen Microbus from Woodstock returns for an encore

With its trippy paint scheme, the Volkswagen "Light" bus became a symbol of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. VW teamed up with the artist who created this rolling mural to stage a comeback in time for Woodstock's 50th anniversary.
Cars

Amazon plugs in with $700 million investment in electric pickup company Rivian

Amazon invested $700 million for a minority stake in U.S. all-electric truck maker Rivian, according to a joint release. The announcement follows a Reuters report that GM and Amazon might invest $1 billion to $2 billion in the company.
Cars

2019 RAM 1500 Classic Warlock special edition: Badass style without the whoop

If you like the looks of blacked-out badass trucks without the cost of a desert racer, FCA announced the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock, a special edition pickup that focuses on appearance with only a touch of additional off-road capability.
Product Review

Mercedes-Benz updates the timeless G-wagen for the modern world

For decades, the G-Class has been an outlier in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, a body-on-frame brute with the soul – and driving manners – of an off-road pickup. With the all-new G550, Mercedes seeks to smooth out some of the rough edges.
Cars

2020 GMC Acadia toughens up on the outside, gets smarter on the inside

The 2020 GMC Acadia crossover gets styling updates and a more rugged AT4 trim level. Under the skin, the Acadia sports a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a wider array of tech features.
Cars

Nissan is using old Leaf batteries to power and connect off-the-grid campers

Nissan has teamed up with trailer manufacturer Opus to design a mobile, weatherproof power pack built with battery cells sourced from the first-generation Leaf. Called Roam, the pack stores enough electricity to power a camper for up to a…
Cars

Alfa Romeo’s latest Ferrari-powered F1 race car is ready to hit the track

Alfa Romeo is doubling down on Formula One racing after a decades-long hiatus. Now essentially a support team for Ferrari, its 2019 driver lineup includes a former world champion and a potential future star.
Cars

Researchers teach self-driving cars to predict pedestrians’ next moves

University of Michigan researchers are developing a system that teaches self-driving cars to predict pedestrian movement. Humans don't always act in their own best self-interest, so autonomous cars will need to practice protective driving.
Cars

Subaru’s latest VIZIV concept car is pumped full of adrenaline

The Subaru VIZIV Adrenaline is the seventh member of the Japanese automaker's family of VIZIV concept cars. It debuts at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, but for now, all we're getting is a shadowy teaser image.
Cars

Audi is advancing the tech that teaches cars to talk to traffic lights

Audi is teaching its cars the language of traffic lights. The company developed technology that tells motorists what speed they should drive at in order to catch as many green lights as possible.
Cars

Waymo rules and Apple trails in California self-driving car benchmarks

California's DMV releases annual reports of self-driving car disengagements on public roads. In the most recent reports. Waymo had the best performance, GM Cruise came in second, and Apple's self-driving program was in last place.
Cars

Watch a modified Audi e-tron electric SUV drive straight up a ski slope

A modified Audi e-tron climbed up an 85-percent gradient on an Austrian ski slope in a tribute to a classic Audi commercial. The vehicle used for the stunt sported an extra electric motor and spiked tires.
Cars

Mamma mia! Alfa Romeo will unveil a new model at the Geneva Auto Show

Alfa Romeo told Digital Trends it will unveil a new model at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. It stopped short of revealing what it has in store, but rumors claim it will be a crossover positioned below the Stelvio.