Feature Cars

Short Shrift: Cars I Should Be Talking About

This is not a guilty pleasures list. That one’s easy. I really like the BMW X6 M and the Nissan Murano CrossCab. Sue me. Nor is this some sort of Dream Driveway article. Again, all too easy. Fresh in my head, too, as a friend of mine asked me the other day to select my five favorite cars. This week those five are the Morgan 3 Wheeler, Cadillac CTS-V Wagon with manual, G63 AMG, Citroën DS (say a 1971 with Citromatic), and a Pagani Huayra. See? Easy. No, this list is about cars I’ve driven for Motor Trend that for whatever reason I haven’t been able to adequately talk and write about. Maybe the article got canceled or the video got scrapped. Or maybe I drove it, someone else wrote the article, and what I wanted to say didn’t get mentioned. Or, and this is the worst, I just never got around to it. I often tell people that what my actual job consists of is driving every new car every year and having an opinion about them. But that’s a lot of cars. Plus, time management is my Achilles’ heel. However, since my job is to drive cars and write about them, the following is a list of cars I love but that I am guilty of not saying enough about. Ready? Here goes.

Ford Fiesta ST

An extreme case, no doubt. I’ll explain why in a moment, but last December our WOT team had us write up a few paragraphs about the best cars we drove in 2013. My list consisted of the Pagani Huayra, the AMG 6×6, and the little Ford. So maybe I have said enough about the Fiesta ST. Thing is, it’s so good that I don’t think I can say enough good things about it. For the past 12 months I’ve basically told everyone in earshot that the Fiesta ST is the best handling car and they should get one. I finally followed my own advice and bought one. Molten Orange, no sunroof, with Recaros. More people should, as the Fiesta ST is one of the better performance cars on the market, regardless of price. The list of cars I’d take it over is long and embarrassing — for other manufacturers. The BMW M5 jumps to mind. As does the new Corvette. I have two friends who have also bought Fiesta STs. Funny part is they’re both automotive journalists. Let’s call the Fiesta ST the new “it” car. A little slow, you say? I reflashed mine with the Cobb Stage 1 kit that increases torque by about 20 percent from 500 to 3500 rpm. The car rocks even harder now. When I talk to my friends at Subaru, I tell them that I didn’t purchase a third WRX because they stopped making the wagon. But the truth is, I like the Fiesta ST more.


Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG

Yes, it’s ugly. I know. In fact, I was in the room in San Diego when Mercedes pulled the cover off the new SL for the first time. The most painful 45 seconds of stunned silence I’ve ever had to stand through. The SL63 AMG also had the bad fortune to go up against the Porsche 911 CS Cabriolet (along with an Audi R8 V-8 Spyder) in a comparison test. The Porsche‘s the better driver’s car, and its rear “seat” makes it the easiest-to-live-with sports car in the world. However, now that I’ve had nearly a year to sit and stew about, I’d rather have the totally obnoxious SL63, or Torque Vader, as we took to calling it. Does it drive as well as the Porsche? Oh Lord, no. But it does make 664 lb-ft of torque, and I was able to hit 155 mph with the top down and the car didn’t even break a sweat. I, for one, am a big fan of impractical. And evil. The SL63 AMG serves up heaping bucketfuls of both. While the Porsche is the better car on a winding road, the AMG’s better at burnouts, scaring people, and eating gasoline. What a beast.


Range Rover Sport

We cut the Range Rover Sport early on in last year’s SUV of the Year because the 3.0-liter V-6 was a bit coarse and the ride was on the rough side of firm. Some might call it sporty. Was that really fair? I don’t think so. Especially because the 510-hp, supercharged 5.0-liter version is simply righteous! First of all, the Range Rover Sport is one of the better-looking SUVs in the world. Depends on my mood, but sometimes I fancy it more than the actual Range Rover. Obviously the two are related and roll off the same assembly line. Unlike the previous RRS, which weighed more than 5000 pounds and looked like a second-gen Range Rover (which it kind of was), the new one actually lives up to the moniker Sport (unlike, say, the use of the appellation Gran Turismo for that hunchback, non-sportive BMW). I recently took a RRS HSE (that’s the 340-hp, supercharged V-6 version with many options) from L.A. to Phoenix and back. Not a single complaint (the Range Rover Sport SVR is shown below). The power was good enough, the radar cruise was flawless, the ride was very good at 80-85 mph, and my wife, the dogs and I were very comfortable. Until we stepped into the 109-degree heat of Arizona. Luckily, the RRS has chilly AC and cooled seats. I’d happily own one.


Nissan Juke

Yeah, yeah — you probably don’t like the way it looks. I don’t care, because it drives great. Nissan is insane for not sticking the Juke’s 188-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo I-4 into its other offerings, namely the disappointingly dull Sentra and the moribund Versa. Back to the Juke. I so dig this thing. It feels, rides, and drives like a slightly lifted WRX. That makes it small and sporty and those two attributes equal a big thumbs-up in my book. I’ll go a step farther. I actually really like the way the Juke looks. Hey, if the old Infiniti FX was a bionic cheetah, why not a bionic frog? I’m fortunate enough to have driven the Juke-R, the we’re-off-our-meds version with the GT-R innards crammed inside. Totally bonkers, totally halo. But the thing is, when you have a car that looks as wild as the Juke, why not go totally nuts? Or even a little nuts, as is the case with the 197-hp Juke Nismo and the 215-hp Nismo RS. Actually, I haven’t touched either of those two. Hey, Nissan, if you’re listening, I’m eager to become a bigger Juke fan. You should be, too.


Chevrolet SS

I love the Cadillac CTS Vsport. Light, great handling, turbo power, sexy sedan shape — all that. But for $15,000 less, there’s another four-door family schlepper made by GM that I like better. Despite the name (can we get past the juvenile concept of Super Sport already?), the reworked Holden Commodore is simply badass. There are all sorts of engines I like, but naturally aspirated, large displacement V-8s are at the top of the list. True, as the SS’s mill is detuned compared to other iterations of GM’s 6.2-liter V-8. But 415 hp was a number worth writing home about a decade ago. That amount of power is still excellent when it’s mated to a sweet driving chassis. The transmission’s pretty good, too. Though, of course, there will be a manual transmission version of the SS soon, along with magnetic shocks. If they could swing a way to make a wagon version, it might get up on my mind’s top shelf next to ye olde Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. Bottom line, I’d take the Chevy SS over any other midsize, RWD sedan on the market — and that’s including the Jaguar XF, a car I also love. Go buy one before GM takes Holden out behind the barn.