The Best Super Bowl Car Ads of All Time

PassatVader

Get yer chicken wings, get yer beer…it’s Super Bowl time!

It’s the time of year when millions worldwide crowd around basements and bars, drink to their hearts’ content, and watch as Tom Brady hits yet another receiver, and Bill Belichick wears yet another hoodie (or is it the same hoodie?).

All those eyeballs means the potential for a lot of ad money, which is why the year’s best commercials – especially in North America – often hit right around now. When spots can fetch almost $170,000 per second, you know the companies are going to put their best foot forward. Companies hire Hollywood directors, special effects crews and famous faces to get the message across. They’re sometimes funny, often “rah, rah, rah!” and even genuinely emotional – I challenge you to not feel your heart strings tugged with some of these.

Of course, this isn’t lost on the car industry, as you’ll see from the following list. The most impressive part? Canadians will actually be able to watch all the new Super Bowl commercials on TV for the first time this year, unless there’s a successful last-minute injunction or Canadian government order.

Nissan Altima, 2015

While the rest of this list isn’t aligned in a 1-10 kind of way, this here is our favourite of the bunch, bar none. There are cool cars, great effects and some genuine emotion; Nissan’s marketing team has managed to cram a coming-of-age story surrounding racing in about a minute and a half. Fantastic.

Chrysler 200, 2011

While rapper Eminem has mostly stayed away from talking cars in his rhymes (though he mentioned “Dodge” long before this ad ever came out), the manufacturer decided to go to Detroit’s favourite son to get the message across. Too bad the Chrysler 200 hasn’t lasted as long as this ad’s appeal.

Nissan 300ZX, 1995

We rewind 20 years for our next Nissan spot. The characters have been changed from real life to stop-motion animation (for the most part; wait ‘till the very end), the cars from real things to an R/C model, the hero car from a family sedan to a two-seat sportster, and the tone from somewhat forlorn to downright funny.

Budweiser and Paul Newman, 1980

The timing was more than right; Paul Newman’s Can-Am team had won the Championship a year prior, but Newman’s long relationship with the Datsun/Nissan racing effort was really just getting going. Ad’s kind of corny, but it still forms a nice tribute to one of the most multi-faceted names in Hollywood and motor racing.

Ford GT, 2004

Looking more like an intro to a racing video game than an ad, this has to be one of the most performance-oriented ads we’ve ever seen. And now it’s all-new 2017 Ford GT successor is built right here in Canada. Thing is, with as storied an ancestry as the GT has, did they really need to advertise it? Whatever; we’re glad they did.

Audi A6, 2009

Ahh, yes; the beauty of the Hollywood tie-in. Watch as Jason Statham steps into his Transporter shoes and takes us through a short visual history of the car chase. What’s really interesting is how Audi was so confident in its A6, that it had no problem featuring a number of easily-identifiable – and much better-looking – cars in its short, before the feature car even appears.

Volkswagen Passat, 2015

We return to the VW empire for this ditty, which features a Darth Vader that even makes Rick Moranis’ Dark Helmet character look tall. How bored is that dog, and how happy is that kid?

Pontiac GTO, 1970

Long before manufacturers started electronically piping exhaust noises into the cabin of their performance cars, and long before adjustable exhaust baffles, there was this: Pontiac’s available-for-an-extremely-limited-time vacuum-operated exhaust option. Yes, in the practical sense, it was meant to increase performance, but what people really remember is the noise that accompanied it. This ad, featuring what appears to be a bit of a lovable loser/loner trying to impress the in-crowd, is so transparent in its smugness that you really have to respect it. You do wish they could have given us at least a modicum of a burnout at the end, though…

Cadillac V-Series, 2005

The sound of spent shell casings dropping and only one word: “Bang.” Perhaps a little morbid given recent events, but effective back then.

Kia K900, 2014

Our love for this one kind of goes out of the box, a little. Just after this ad featuring Lawrence Fishburne in his Morpheus role aired, a (probably former) entertainment reporter for an LA radio station made the egregious error of asking Samuel L. Jackson how he liked doing said commercial, prompting a tirade from the actor that rivals Jules Winnfield’s famous speech in Pulp Fiction. Having said that, the ad itself is pretty great, too, with Morpheus assuming the role of a valet (and back seat driver slash opera singer) that really, really likes the K900.

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Dan Heyman

Dan Heyman

Dan Heyman is a car guy through-and-through, ever since his first word was “Toyota”. Dan has worked as a full-time automotive journalist since 2010, having driven and written about everything from Abarths to Sierras and tackled race tracks from Texas to Toronto during that time.
  • Robert J Bedford

    Fantastic