I’m a car addict; I admit it, happily at that. As a car addict, one of my favorite things every year is to see which car the countless motoring “authorities” name as either “The Most Important Car of the Year” or “The Best Car of the Year.” Well, I thought to myself, how can anyone determine that a single car is the best of the year? Exactly, I’m right, you can’t. In today’s world, car’s are not unlike appliances: you have one to fulfill every little thing you might need, toaster for toast, coffee maker for coffee, air fresheners to hide your farts, the list goes on and on. You can have a car for everything now too. Cars that are built for off-roading, hauling kids to school and soccer practice, balls-out F1 car equivalents, pure people carriers and then the cars that try to do everything in-between.
So, because we live in a world of such lush automotive variety, I made my own list of the most important cars/ best cars of the year/moment. These are in no particular order and are all equally wonderful for the time we’re living in:
1. Caparo T1 – This is it. This is the newest hyper car to bring F1 cars that much closer to being a regular sight on the road. This is the car that will cause 8 year-old kids to sit in their school desk and hold onto an imaginary steering wheel all while spouting engine noises. Grown men do it too, just at the office. It looks like a hybrid between a car and airplane, goes like stink, and it’s built by some of those magnificent ex-McLaren engineers so it looks the part and has the pedigree to back it up.
2. The Fiat 500 – at first glance, this thing seems to be like the Mini Cooper, Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro. Just another “retro” model where designers got lazy and just pulled a design out its scrapbook and spruced it up. But that’s where you’re wrong. It’s not just a remake of Fiat of old, it’s a new econo-box that’s functional, has a four wheels pushed to the far corners for handling and reminds me of an iPod, inside and out. Last time I checked, my iPod is the best little gadget I own, so you’re telling me it comes in white, black, red, blue, etc and it has four wheels? Sold.
3. Mercedes CLK AMG Black Series – Thank you, AMG division, thank you. You’ve redeemed my long flagging faith that Mercedes has it within themselves to built an out-and-out, hard-nosed sports car that’s fun and has the equipment, not just the big engine, to keep you from ending up a Teutonic stain on the tire wall at your local track. You’ve done it, taken a 6.2-liter engine, a 7-speed transmission, and wonderful bits of carbon fiber in the body; composite brakes and built the wet dream of Merc fans. This car moves me in ways BMW hasn’t been able to do since the M3 CSL 4 years ago and it gives the AMG the true hardcore racer clout it’s been missing. Now, Mercedes, since you’ve built such a terrific auto and dropped your ugly, fat stepbrother, Chrysler, can we please renegotiate the $140,000 price tag?
4. Koenigsegg CCX – Well, it’s Swedish…as you might have guessed from the ridiculous name, but how can you go from IKEA, a comfortable trendy furniture company or Volvo, the pinnacle of automotive safety, to a car that weighs less than my cell phone and attempts to compensation it’s anorexia with over 850 horsepower, assuming you run it ONLY on 110 Octane – race fuel to the layman. Which then means if you fill this sucker up with biofuel, which is basically just taking pop corn and a bag of Doritos and shoving it into the fuel tank, you’ll be churning out over 1,000 horsepower and as a result, going toe-to-toe with the $1.2 million Bugatti Veyron. This car’s value is that it shows the automotive world that alternative fuel sources are a reality for the discerning, sporting driver and, in cases such as the CCX, provide a better alternative than it’s petrol brethren. The downside? It’s Swedish, and it’ll take you 3 checks from your checkbook to spell out the name and write out the number of zeroes behind the price.
5. Jaguar XF – radical as the C-XF we saw earlier in the year, this is the toned down production-ready result. Jaguar, lets have a serious discussion for a minute. Jaguar, I like you, you’re fun, you come from a good family, you’re well mannered, but you’re unreliable and sometimes you can be kinda boring. I don’t want us to split, but you’re forcing my hand on this unless you promise to get better soon. Yep, this car is the make-or-break for Jag. Jag’s had a bad rep, of pretentious owners, poor reliability and under the umbrella of Ford, it’s had a reputation for bland, rebadged Fords. However, we’re on the cusp of a new, sexy, tech-savvy line up. If Jag can make this mid-size luxo work, then maybe Jag will finally earn back the street cred it once had with the E-Types and your revolutionary XJ220. I really want Jag to succeed and the XF is going to be the key if the car lives up to what Jaguar says it will be.
6. Nissan GT-R: This is the car that Nissan decided to “test” at the tremendous Goodwood Festival of Speed. Apparently, the Nismo boys are a bunch of show-offs. Speaking of showing off, spy shots recently revealed this car going head-to-head with a Porsche 911 Turbo. You know, the new 997 model that can hit 60 in under 4 seconds with virtually zero turbo lag. Anyway, why is the GT-R important? Well, for one it’s the next generation of the R34 Skyline GT-R, a car so intense it came with a lateral G meter built into the dash and all-wheel drive before all-wheel drive was the hip driveline to have. If I were a German carmaker, I’d be afraid as this car will be just as fast, as a $140K Porsche Turbo or $200K Ferrari for half the price and likely twice the amenities. Could the Japanese begin encroaching on the exotics market held so long by flashy Italians and calculating Germans? The GT-R is a resounding yes.
7. BMW 1 Series. I’m still very much on the fence about this little guy. While two things are very true: 1. The North American market is beginning to give serious consideration to smaller autos and 2. The new E9X 3-Series are complete pigs in terms of weight, size and price, does the world want a modern take on the 1970’s small, light but nevertheless fast BMWs such as the 2002? I know I do. 300+ horsies, twin turbos , and a 6-speed all crammed into a tiny, M division-equipped package? Sounds like the bimmers of yester-year. But can the modern iteration of BMW deliver that? Slowly, the things that make BMW’s fun are being dialed out via a trillion little computers installed to make it the “ultimate driving machine” but it’s really just removing the driver from the road more and more. I really want this thing to drive like my E46 3er, but with more power and better handling with the same level of fun. Let’s just hope BMW doesn’t try to ride the “retro/heritage” crap into the ground in marketing the 1 Series and then make a soft, limp-wristed car like they have the upcoming M3.
8. The Aston Martin DBS: The Aston DBS = sex on wheels. Period. This is without a doubt in my mind, the most gorgeous, sporty, classy, fast whatever -superlative-you-want in years. Especially out of Aston! Under it’s new owners of David Richards and his uber auto consultants/ race team management company, Prodrive, I’d expect nothing less. Looking at this car makes me drool as I know in 30 years when I’m old and fat I’ll be cashing in my IRA and re-mortgaging my house to buy one because I love it so much. This defines what a GT car is and should be: luxurious and comfortable but when you bury your right foot, the sound from the back makes you want to record it on your iPod. This is a continent crusher in ever fashion of the word. I just want to climb into it and do laps around the globe stopping only for gas and maybe bathroom breaks. Maybe. Did I mention James Bond was the first owner of this car? Yeah, two billion cool points right there.
9. The Chevy Volt: Yes, it’s a Chevy so, yes, it’s American. But wait! Don’t turn away yet! This Chevy maybe the tip of a golden iceberg for GM (and the rest of the US manufacturers) need to get out of the financial red. It’s an entirely electric car and it looks fantastic to boot. I’m really proud of GM on this. They built a car that does what a Prius does, but better, and it looks 15 million times better. So, it can rival the Japanese in terms of technology and proves that alternative-energy source cars can look hot? Maybe the powers that be in Detroit aren’t completely out of touch after all.
10. Audi Q7 V12 TDI – SUV? I’m as surprised as you. But I love the idea of an Audi luxo-SUV that’s affordable ($100K or less-ish) and running a Le Mans-winning DIESEL engine. So it’s fast, turbo-charged and economical..kinda! This thing also looks like it’ll kill you for looking at it so that gives it all sorts of street cred. This seems to be a good hybrid for what Audi does best: all-wheel traction and Le Mans-winning engine technology. I’d drive one and I hate SUVs.
So, there you have it. It looks like 2007 is a good year for cars, especially us petrol heads. As the horsepower wars continue to steam forward with no signs of letting up, the petrol heads are thankful for the over abundance horsepower in small vehicles and even the heavy ones like the Audi. However, will we ever get to a point in the world where people can't drive their kids to school without having to use a 7.0-liter engine pumping out 600 HP? Disagree with my choices? I wanna hear what everyone else thinks!