We hear it all the time: Keep politics out of MotorTrend. Well, you’re in luck, because despite the political nature of this article’s title, there are no political undertones to the text. Did you support Bill Clinton while Newt Gingrich and Ken Starr tried to take him down? Whatever. Were you hooting and hollering as George W. Bush spoke on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln under a “Mission Accomplished” banner? It’s irrelevant.
Neither of these presidents’ accomplishments, failures, or policies matter. We’re simply using their presidencies as a measure of time. After all, it’s one thing to say an automaker’s been selling the same basic car for a dozen years; it’s another to realize an automaker first introduced a specific car it still sells while William Jefferson Clinton or George Walker Bush helmed the Executive Branch of the United States government.
1996 Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana
This van represented the first redesign of General Motors full-size cargo and passenger vans since the early 1970s. The 1996 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana received modern styling and safety features, as well as stiff new underpinnings. Almost 25 years later, the vans soldier on. Minor facelifts and powertrain improvements helped the vans maintain some semblance of modernity over the years. That said, GM’s full-size vans look and feel comparatively ancient next to more contemporary competitors such as the Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and Ram ProMaster.
2005 Nissan Frontier
Unlike consumer interest in mid-size pickups, which ebbs and flows like the Colorado River, the Nissan Frontier persists—a living fossil, like a horseshoe crab or a coelacanth. The Japanese automaker took the wraps off the truck at the 2004 Detroit auto show and announced its arrival for the 2005 model year. Using a variant of the frame that underpins the full-size Nissan Titan pickup, the Frontier impressed us on its debut with its “well-controlled and decently compliant ride” and available 265 horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 engine. Nissan rested on its laurels, though, and changed little about the model in the ensuing years. The brand finally made a noteworthy change to the Frontier for the 2020 model year with the introduction of a new 3.8-liter V-6 engine, which makes 310 horses and replaces the truck’s prior 4.0-liter V-6 and previously standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Powertrain aside, little else separates the 2005 and 2020 Nissan Frontiers.
2007 Toyota Tundra
The Toyota Tundra finally went toe-to-toe with the domestic full-size pickup trucks for the 2007 model year. Bold and brash, the second-generation Tundra carried over its predecessor’s 4.0-liter V-6 and 4.7-liter V-8 engines, but also offered buyers a new 381-hp 5.7-liter V-8 option. Despite the thrust of its big bent-eight, the Tundra failed to take down the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado in a comparison test. Small improvements included the arrival of a more modern 4.6-liter V-8 engine to replace the aging 4.7-liter unit, as well as revisions to the exterior and interior for 2014. In spite of this, the Tundra that Toyota sells today remains largely the same as the truck it introduced during Bush’s second term in office.
2008 Dodge Challenger
Following the success of its Challenger concept car at the 2006 Detroit auto show, Dodge greenlit the rear-drive coupe for production. The 2008 Dodge Challenger arrived in high-horsepower SRT8 form boasting a 425-hp 6.1-liter V-8 that pushed the 197.7-inch long muscle car to 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds. Dodge added less powerful six- and eight-cylinder engine options for 2009, and an even rowdier 470-hp 6.4-liter V-8 for the 2011 model year. The real party arrived for 2015, though, with an exterior and interior refresh and a new Hellcat trim, which included a 707-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. The rip-snorting powertrain allowed the 4,449-pound coupe to hit the mile-a-minute mark in 3.7 seconds and cross the quarter-mile after 11.7 seconds at 125.4 mph. Dodge then took things a couple of steps further with the 840-hp 2018 Challenger SRT Demon and the 797-hp 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. Although Dodge continues to develop the Challenger, the big coupe remains—at its core—fundamentally the same vehicle it was more than a decade ago.
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan
The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan ditched its predecessor’s jelly bean-like looks for square wares that loosely resemble the styling of the original 1984 Caravan. Unfortunately, the model’s plastic-heavy interior failed to impress. Dodge quickly reworked the Grand Caravan with a 2011 model year refresh that gave the minivan slightly less blocky styling details, a reworked interior, and a 3.6-liter V-6 underhood. After that, crickets. While the Grand Caravan’s sibling, the Chrysler Town & Country, retired after the 2016 model year to make way for the arrival of the new Pacifica minivan, the Dodge keeps on chugging. Although the geriatric Grand Caravan remains a part of the 2020 Dodge lineup, it’s due to disappear from the American brand’s 2021 model line.
2008 Lexus LX/Toyota Land Cruiser
Lexus and Toyota revealed new iterations of the LX and Land Cruiser for the 2008 model year, the former of which dons the name LX 570, an homage to the 5.7-liter V-8 engine that rests underhood. Despite its name’s lack of digits, the same engine motivates the Land Cruiser. Like prior iterations of these pricey SUVs, the latest LX 570 and Land Cruiser are big and boxy. Lexus made some minor improvements to the 2013 LX, which received the brand’s “spindle” grille design. The hulking luxury SUV benefitted from a more thorough reskin for 2016—coinciding with a facelift for the more utilitarian Land Cruiser. A dozen years on, though, these two Japanese SUVs still maintain much of the same mechanical pieces as the day Lexus and Toyota tore each models’ wraps off.
2008 Toyota Sequoia
As goes the Tundra, so goes the Sequoia. One model year after Toyota revealed the redesigned Tundra, its SUV sibling received a full makeover. The body-on-frame people mover received a front end and dashboard like that of the Tundra, as well as new mechanical bits—such as an independent rear suspension and an optionally available 381-hp 5.7-liter V-8. While the Tundra received a thorough mid-cycle update for the 2014 model year, the Sequoia soldiers on largely unchanged from the day it broke cover at the 2007 Los Angeles auto show.
2009 Dodge Journey
When it was introduced, the 2009 Dodge Journey brought crossover sensibilities to the American brand’s largely car and SUV dominant model line. Although it offered handsome looks when new, the Journey’s low-quality interior materials and middling powertrains (a standard 173-hp 2.4-liter I-4 and four-speed automatic transmission, and an optional 235-hp 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic) failed to impress. Dodge updated the model with a higher-quality interior, revised styling, and a new V-6 engine for 2011. While the 283-hp unit brought more liveliness to the Journey and allowed the 4,350-pound, all-wheel-drive crossover to hit 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, the standard, pokey I-4 remained a sore spot. The addition of a butcher looking Crossroad package added somewhat to the Journey’s appeal, however, the loss of the V-6 engine for the 2020 model year ultimately makes this aging crossover an even harder sell in today’s competitive marketplace.
2009 Dodge Ram 1500
Dodge’s last pickup entered the market for the 2009 model year with evolutionary styling and a revolutionary (by truck standard’s) coil spring rear suspension setup. In the early 2010s, Ram formally broke away from Dodge and the former Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck received the simpler Ram 1500 nomenclature. The Ram-badged truck became the 1500 Classic for 2019 in order to separate it from the redesigned Ram 1500. Despite the two Rams filling the same essential role in the truck brand’s model line, the 1500 Classic continues on as an entry-level alternative to the dynamically superior, MotorTrend Truck of the Year winning, new 1500.
2009 Nissan 370Z
Approximately six years after the arrival of the reborn Nissan 350Z sports car, the Japanese brand let loose the thoroughly reworked 370Z. As its name implies, the new car traded its predecessor’s 306-hp 3.5-liter V-6 for a 332-hp 3.7-liter unit. With nearly four inches cut from its wheelbase, more than two inches added to its rear track, and a few pounds slashed from its curb weight, the new Z car promised noteworthy performance improvements. Unfortunately, the engine’s extra displacement results in additional coarseness. Although initially available in both coupe and roadster form, Nissan culled the drop-top from the lineup for the 2020 model year, leaving the hard-topped model as the sole Z option. Fortunately, the long-lived 370Z is due to go out to pasture in order to make room for a completely redesigned Nissan Z car.
2009 Nissan GT-R
After years of begging, North American consumers finally got the chance to own Nissan’s legendary GT-R for the 2009 model year. The redesigned super-coupe no longer served as a variant of the Skyline (sold here—at the time—as the Infiniti G37), and instead becomes its own dedicated model. With all-wheel-drive, a slick six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, a 480-hp twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 engine, and a starting price just north of $70,000, the GT-R offered six-figure performance in a five-figure package. The car’s dynamic capabilities and inherent value earned it our Car of the Year award. Nissan continued to improve the model throughout the next decade, with the current, entry-level GT-R making a full 565-hp from its twin-turbo six-cylinder engine. The car also costs a good deal more these days, with the least expensive 2020 GT-R ringing in at $115,335—more than $40,000 higher than the 2009 GT-R’s cost of entry.
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