Cars and Trucks

Our Favorite Car Commercials: Window Shop with Car and Driver

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Automakers spend fortunes making car commercials to run on the 364 days of the year that the Super Bowl does not. This week, the Window Shop crew answered the challenge of choosing the best commercial and finding a car for sale to match.

Road & Track staffer John Pearley Huffman channeled both Joey Capparella’s normcore energy and Tony Quiroga’s love of cream of mushroom soup (gray-on-gray) cars. Starting with Honda’s 2005 “Cog” commercial, he sourced a 2005 Acura TSX. Yes, Honda used its award-winning two-minute spot to advertise the European Accord wagon that never came to the U.S. But Pearley’s TSX, the sedan version of that Euro offering, remains a Window Shop favorite even though it’s an automatic. The 10Best winner with the 2.4-liter four cylinder even earns thoroughly questionable associations with Porsche and Alfa Romeo.

Deputy testing director K.C. Colwell drove back to the 20th century for Lincoln’s 1994 “Raising the Bar” commercial that hawked the Lincoln Mark VIII. The ad probably should have been named “Lowering the Car,” but Colwell found a surprisingly creamy 1995 example—literally—with just 11,500 miles that hadn’t fallen either on hard times or on its air suspension. What the commercial failed to note is that the car that raised the bar helped prematurely end the Lincoln Continental lineup.

Senior editor Joey Capparella brought Fargo and The Big Lebowski to Window Shop with his Volkswagen GTI “Unpimp Your Auto” advert from 2006, the ad fronted by a Swedish actor, Peter Stormare, who portrays anything but Swedish characters. Capparella’s four-door 2008 GTI—a slightly racy option for him—has just 15,000 miles, asks $15,000, and begs questions about reliability, German engineering, engine codes, and Window Shop fairness.

Contributor Jonathon Ramsey, as usual, took a meandering and international trip before settling on a 2005 Mercedes-Benz E-class commercial about a woman ordering a burger in a library. Because this challenge had no budget, he took the opportunity to indulge in another high-dollar option, this time a 2016 Mercedes-AMG E63 wagon with all its badges in the right places for $69,000 in cash or crypto. The commercial predates the “This is an Arby’s” and “This is a Wendy’s” memes by more than six years, which did nothing to help him sell his pick.

Deputy editor Tony Quiroga went back to an ad that time forgot from the Decade of Greed to create the most aggressively American combination of commercial. GM’s “Mine’s Bigger” spot for the 1987 Cadillac Brougham sees two gentlemen arguing over size, one of them taking victory with an extra two inches. Quiroga, who found that very year and model, had a long list of arguments to support his pick. Alas, two inches were worth a lot more in 1987 than they are today, but it seems not everyone got that memo when it came time to vote.

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