5 Strangest New Car Names for 2011

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If 2011's all-new models are any indication, cars are getting smarter but some of their names are as dumb as ever.

In 2001, Toyota debuted the Sequoia. Averaging 14 mpg and seating eight, the SUV was designed to conquer the environment rather than spare it.

“As the largest SUV in the Toyota lineup, the full-size Sequoia is designed to accommodate families who need three real rows of seating, a fair amount of off-road capability and the ability to tow a boat or other trailer,” Edmunds.com says. “In reality, we suspect that only a small percentage of Toyota Sequoia owners are especially outdoorsy.”

But that didn’t stop its manufacturer from naming this gas-guzzler after an endangered tree and the namesake of a beloved national forest.

Ten years later, cars are a lot smaller and more eco-friendly, but many car names still make us scratch our heads. Here’s our top five picks for the strangest new car names of 2011:

1. Hyundai Equus

Starting at $58,000, the all-new Equus (pictured) is now Hyundai’s most expensive car – by a long shot. Of course, you get what you pay for, according to Edmunds: The “supremely quiet” luxury sedan’s pros include a “long list of standard features,” a “high-quality cabin,” and a “presidential-size backseat.” It’s price is also “insanely low” for its market segment – that is, if you don’t mind the con of “constantly having to explain why you bought a $60,000 Hyundai.”

Hyundai’s slogan for the car is “It’s not that we broke the mold, we just didn’t use one,” but perhaps not using a mold wasn’t so smart when it came to naming the car. The word “Equus” is Latin for “horse.” An odd enough name by itself, and more so because it’s also the title of a 1973 play and 1977 movie – about a psychiatrist who treats a boy suffering from a religious and sexual obsession with horses.  Are they trying to suggest this is a car we could potentially love – literally?

2. Mini Countryman

The point of the Cooper Countryman is clear. It’s the tiny-car manufacturer’s first and only vehicle with four doors and the option of four-wheel drive. The point of its name, however, isn’t so clear. The noun “countryman” means “an inhabitant or native of a specified country” or “one living in the country or marked by country ways.”

American countrymen will appreciate The Countryman Cram Challenge, though. The five people who can cram the most friends into a virtual Countryman by inviting them via Facebook or e-mail (whatever that means) will win a pair of tickets to the 2011 Super Bowl, along with airfare and accommodations. The contest is free to enter.

3. Nissan Juke

Although it only has two doors, Nissan’s cute Juke beat the Countryman in Motor Trend’s comparison. “As impractical as it looks, [it’s] freakishly fun on the streets,” they found. “The Juke is no joke, but it will still leave you giggling.”

So may its name, unfortunately.  The verb “juke” means to fake someone out of their position, like in football. But as a noun, it means “a roadside cafe or bar, especially one with dancing and sometimes prostitution.”  Either way, sounds like an interesting ride.

4. Nissan Leaf

The “green” Leaf is Nissan’s first electric car. In other words, it needs no gas and therefore produces no tailpipe emissions. In fact, it doesn’t even have a tailpipe. The four-door is Nissan’s attempt to compete with Chevy’s electric Volt, released in 2010, and hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, according to Bloomberg.com.

So, why such an insignificant name for a car that represents such a significant step for its manufacturer? Apparently, they had you in mind. “Nissan is staking its future on the Leaf,” Tatsuya Mizuno, director of Mizuno Credit Advisory in Tokyo, told Bloomberg. “Its name must match up with consumers’ needs and their subconscious.”

So, apparently the Leaf is supposed to make us think of green: certainly appropriate for an electric car. And if it catches on, we assume they’ll follow up with the Nissan “Branch,” the “Twig,” and perhaps even the “Dirt.”

5. Scion iQ

Scion describes its iQ as a “premium micro-subcompact.” What exactly does that mean? Well, it features “functional ‘3+1’ seating,” according to the manufacturer, but what that really means is that the car is so tiny it can only hold 3 1/2 people: Only “a child, small package, or pet” can fit behind the driver.

By choosing the name “iQ,” Scion is  apparently saying this car is like the two-passenger Smart car, but smarter.  Only time will tell if that’s true, since Scion has yet to release how many mpg or how much money the car will fetch when it debuts in the spring.  If it outsells Smart cars, can the “Wise,” “Einstein,” or “Genius” be far behind?

Do you know of a new car with a strange name that we didn’t mention? Leave it in the comments below!

Stacy Johnson

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