After a year full of rigorous Challenges and comparisons, there is one clear conclusion: Some of the cars out there are just ... not great. While winning one of our Challenges is a great achievement, losing one arguably takes little effort beyond making a running car.
Related: Multi-Car Comparisons
We have compiled all the cars and trucks that took part in our 2017 Challenges but weren't up to snuff. In some cases, the results were close, while in others, it was a bit of a landslide. We'll also look at examples where the results weren't necessarily the fault of the vehicles and we need to take the blame ... maybe. (No one is infallible, after all: We thought we were wrong once, but we were mistaken.)
Here are eight cars that can do better:
1. 2017 Toyota Highlander, Three-Row SUV Challenge
The 2017 Toyota Highlander we tested finished more than 100 points behind its next-closest competitor and more than 200 points behind the winning 2018 Volkswagen Atlas. It had the lowest judges' scoring for both second- and third-row comfort as well as for cargo room. Even the multimedia system was found lacking — specifically, lacking smartphone-friendly features like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The only potential saving grace for Toyota is that the Highlander might not have finished last if Ford had accepted our invitation for the Explorer. Small consolation, that.
2. 2017 Jeep Compass, Compact SUV Challenge
The fully redesigned 2017 Jeep Compass — not the previous generation and not-at-all-confusingly-designated 2017 Jeep Compass — came into the Compact SUV Challenge with a lot of promise. The Compass promptly squandered that promise with an anemic powertrain and questionable interior quality, not to mention a noticeable shortage of interior room. It did manage to win one category, however: The Compass had the best multimedia system. In bad news for the Compass, that system is available in other vehicles.
3. 2017 GMC Sierra 3500, One-Ton Heavy-Duty Pickup Challenge
The 2017 GMC Sierra 3500 Denali we tested against the all-new Ford F-350 Lariat didn't come up short for lack of effort. In fact, in most of the measured tests, the Sierra won. Unfortunately, an aging design meant a lack of technical and convenience features the newer Ford had in spades. The less-than-luxurious interior of the luxury Denali trim also hurt its chances.
4. 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, Mid-Size Off-Road Pickup Head-to-Head
Here is another case of the "anything you can do, I can do better" world of trucks hurting the established competitor. Up against the all-new Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, the Tacoma managed to win quite a few categories. Unfortunately, like boxing, it barely came out ahead when it won and lost much more heavily, ending in a judge's decision for the Chevrolet. If Toyota adds some light tweaks, the Tacoma should be right back in the fight.
5. 2017 Lexus IS 200t, Luxury Sports Sedan Challenge
It should be inexcusable for a sports sedan with summer performance tires to perform worse than one with winter tires, especially in the summer. Outside of Atlanta. And yet! While the IS 200t impressed in our autocross testing, its powertrain let it down in our other measured tests. The disappointing Lexus Remote Touch system sealed the car's last-place fate.
6. 2017 Chevrolet Cruze, Compact Sedan Challenge
Lacking standard safety features doomed the Cruze. We were actually impressed with its performance, passenger room and multimedia system, but when tallying up safety scores, the lack of any crash avoidance features other cars came with as standard or optional equipment for the same price earned the Cruze a score of zero out of a possible 100 points. A full 100 would have bumped the Cruze up to third place in our seven-car field.
7. 2017 Nissan Titan XD S, Pro-4X and Platinum Reserve
In three truck Challenges, we invited along a version of the Titan XD "tweener" pickup truck. Too big to be a half-ton full-size truck but too small to be a three-quarter-ton heavy-duty truck, the XD came in last or next to last in all three (we'll get to that last-place finisher in a moment). We never provided any handicapping, either. At least it got to win "least expensive" in our Three-Quarter Ton Premium and Work Truck Challenges? During the Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge, the Titan XD Pro-4X finished in the penultimate place, but was outshone on- and off-road by the rest of the field, squeaking past last place thanks to its payload capacity and fuel economy. (This one is really our bad. Sorry, Nissan.)
8. 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon, Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge
Subjectively the second favorite of our judges, the Power Wagon was let down by its low (for a heavy-duty truck) payload capacity, slow track times and abysmal fuel economy. But in an off-road Challenge, the Power Wagon was especially impressive, well, off-road, and deserved better than dead last. Even one of our judges thought that way. The Power Wagon's finish is the result of the standard, unweighted scoring method used by PickupTrucks.com. This allows readers to determine which categories matter most to them, but it can occasionally let down one of the competing vehicles. (Again, that's on us. Still friends, Ram?)
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