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Our Favorite Automotive Super Bowl Ads From Years Past

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2015

The Super Bowl is almost here, and that means the traditional array of clever, exciting or downright hilarious Super Bowl ads are almost here, too. But before we enjoy all the latest automotive Super Bowl commercials on Sunday, we decided to round up some of the best car commercials from prior Super Bowls. Here our laugh-out-loud funny and moving, poignant favorites.

Audi R8: Godfather

Audi's hilarious Godfather commercial heralded the arrival of the automaker's R8 sports car, along with a reinvented Audi brand, when it was shown during the 2008 Super Bowl. In the ad, a man wakes up in a mansion to discover his hands covered in oil and the grille from an old luxury car in his bed, mimicking a famous scene from Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather." The ad ends with an R8 speeding away from the house as Audi announces that old luxury has been put on notice.

Chrysler: Halftime in America

Although Chrysler's Halftime in America commercial generated major hype when it aired in 2012, not all of which was positive. Few can suggest that the ad didn't have a huge impact, even in the memorable world of Super Bowl ads. Featuring Clint Eastwood and running for an impressive two minutes during halftime, the ad inspired drivers to reconsider Chrysler's products and American products in general, noting that the brand's second half was about to start. Whether you love the Halftime in America ad or hate it, virtually all Americans remember it well.

Dodge Neon: Hi

When Dodge showed off the Neon to car shoppers during the 1994 Super Bowl, it was the beginning of a new era for the brand: a small, front-wheel-drive car that could compete with popular Japanese models such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. While the Neon is little more than a distant memory today, it was a radical departure for an American automaker at the time, as shown by the Hi commercial. The ad involves scientists, emergency crews, photographers, reporters and ordinary citizens preparing for the arrival of something no one has ever seen, which, at the end of the ad, turns out to be the all-new Neon.

Hyundai Santa Fe: Team

The Hyundai Santa Fe Team ad, which aired during the 2013 Super Bowl, marked the arrival of an all-new, larger version of Hyundai's popular Santa Fe crossover. The ad heralded the new Santa Fe in an especially hilarious fashion, with a young boy who's told he can't play football unless he comes back with a team. So he does just that, driving around with his mom to round up grade-schooler friends who are undertaking various macho endeavors, including weightlifting, welding and wrestling a bear.

Maserati Ghibli: Strike

Maserati's memorable Strike ad ran for an impressive 90 seconds during the 2014 Super Bowl, and for the first 70, viewers had no idea what they were watching. The controversial ad features Quvenzhane Wallis, the star of "Beasts of the Southern Wild," who delivers a long monologue while bold imagery plays on the screen. Near the end of the ad, Wallis delivers the line, "We walk out of the shadows, quietly walk out of the dark... and strike," just as a new Maserati Ghibli screams across the screen.

Nissan 300ZX: Toys

Although Nissan's well-known Toys commercial might now be considered old hat in the wake of movies such as "Toy Story" and "The Lego Movie," it made huge waves when it was released, so much so that toy manufacturer Mattel sued Nissan for using toys that closely resembled Barbie and G.I. Joe. In the spot, which aired during a Super Bowl in the mid-1990s, a male doll uses a remote-control Nissan 300ZX to woo a female doll while "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks sets the mood.

Volkswagen Passat: The Force

With more than 85 million views on YouTube, Volkswagen's clever Force commercial is the most-watched Super Bowl ad of all time. Aired during the 2011 Super Bowl, it shows a young boy in a Darth Vader costume attempting to use "the Force" to carry out mundane tasks. He's unsuccessful until he approaches his father's Volkswagen Passat, which seems to magically start as he approaches it. Unbeknownst to the boy, however, his father has pressed the remote starter button while watching from the kitchen.

Volkswagen Jetta VR6: Big Day

Volkswagen's famous Big Day wedding commercial, which aired during the 2001 Super Bowl, is entirely music and just one spoken line, despite being a minute long. Yet it still manages to perfectly convey its point that the sporty, powerful Volkswagen Jetta VR6 is exactly the car you'll want to drive if you're trying to stop a wedding in time. Add in J. Ralph's powerful music and the amazing emotion conveyed by the actors' facial expressions, and you have one of our favorite Super Bowl commercials of all time.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Our Favorite Automotive Super Bowl Ads From Years Past - Autotrader