By David Thomas on February 3, 2013
Every year it's easy to say that the Super Bowl commercials aired between plays often get more attention than the action on the field. As in previous years, we grade the commercials that automakers have spent millions of dollars on to woo car shoppers. Check out our scores and the full videos below, and if you haven't seen it already, Cars.com had a spot in the big game, too.
It's a pretty simple premise: Nerd goes to prom in cool car, does something wild, gets beat up and is still happy. That's the outcome well-heeled parents looking for a luxury sedan can expect, I guess. It's hard not to like the teen in this ad, despite the unprovoked kiss.
Hyundai Santa Fe: Team
Hyundai could have easily won the Super Bowl with this classic if it hadn't aired so early. The looks on the face of the elementary-school-aged protagonist, his mom and all his friends are a perfect mix of anger and determination. The little snippets of the buddies' hobbies as they're picked up in the new three-row Santa Fe are also humorous, and there's a "Star Wars" reference thrown in for good measure. However, I'm not sure why they changed what was a perfect final line from their extended online version to the one that aired during the game. The grade would be an A+ had they done that.
Hyundai Santa Fe: Epic Playdate
While not as inventive as the other Santa Fe commercial, this one featuring the Flaming Lips taking part in a family's unreal day off is cute if not overly clever. As a parent I can tell you figuring out what to do on the weekend isn't easy and the result never looks like this. So, for escapism Hyundai gets extra bonus points.
Hyundai Sonata Turbo: Stuck
This is a good example of getting a point across with humor. Hyundai wants to show how powerful its turbocharged version of the Sonata is, and the commercial's creative on-road scenarios are truly bizarre. However, I doubt this ad will be water-cooler fodder.
Hyundai Genesis: Excited
The idea isn't horrible; sportscasters yelling in-game catchphrases while a car races around the track. The big problem — besides how flat it feels against the other ads of the night — is the voices used don't sound like those of authentic game announcers.
Jeep : Whole Again
Here Jeep tried to pull at heartstrings. How hard did it try? It was able to land Oprah to narrate. And even though Jeep is supporting a worthy charity, the commercial itself didn’t resonate with authenticity. But letting millions of people know a brand that is so identified with the military is giving back is worth something.
Kia Forte: Hotbots
I have absolutely no idea what this ad was trying to do. The tagline is "Respect the Tech" but none of the tech found in the new Forte was highlighted. The entire premise of the female robots standing guard at what seemed to be a press event probably doesn’t resonate with most of the general public, either.
Kia Sorento: Space BabiesGrade: B
Lincoln MKZ: Steering the Script
Lincoln is struggling to recreate an identity as a brand. The MKZ is a sexy luxury sedan that can help. This exceptionally forced hodgepodge of a commercial has you focusing so much on the poor concept behind the ad that you don't pay attention to the sharp car on the screen.
Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: Soul
Mix a Rolling Stones soundtrack with appearances by singer Usher, model Kate Upton and actor Willem Defoe, playing the devil, and how can you go wrong? The story is well-paced with a clear, decisive kicker at the end. There are also plenty of scenes that showcase the actual car, which was a problem for some commercials last night ...
Ram Trucks: Farmer
Toyota RAV4: I Wish
I understand the premise of this commercial and think it's clever enough, but unlike the Hyundai Santa Fe and Mercedes ads, you don't see much of the RAV4 in this one. The genie — played by actress Kaley Cuoco of "The Big Bang Theory" — is well-cast, but the only thing I learned about the new RAV4 is that the spare tire is no longer on the liftgate. To be fair, that was a huge complaint from car shoppers.
Volkswagen Beetle: Get Happy
I thought the commercial itself was well-executed, if not the most original concept ever devised. However, this was one of the few commercials I heard coworkers and friends say they thought bombed completely. It's amazing how quickly VW went from Super Bowl perfection with 2011's kiddie Darth Vader to the bottom of the barrel with the Rastafarian from Minnesota.
Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David