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Monday, January 5, 2009

MT's 2008 Cars We Loved

Chismillionaire loves these picks particularly the Maserati Quattroporte and Audi R8. It shows that a great car might not be the greatest performing car. With nobody picking the Nissan GT-R or Corvette ZR1, it's great to see people looking at these vehicles from an ownership/love perspective.

Applaud someone for picking the Honda FCX Clarity for the technology it represents and how far ahead of the curve it is.
Also love the tidbit on the forever third place finishing in comparos Lexus IS-F. It is really probably the best Hot Rod Sedan to own and easiest to live with. After all it is a Lexus.

"So, what was the best car you drove this year?" It's one of those questions that routinely crops up during holiday party conversations once folks find out what we do for a living here at Motor Trend. And it's a fiendishly difficult one to answer: The definition of "best" usually involves a highly personal compromise between need and desire. One man's Ferrari is another man's total waste of money.

This compromise is at the core of every test we do. To get around it, we approach every new car, truck, or SUV we test with a key philosophical question in mind -- how well does the vehicle do the job its maker designed it to do? Understand what a vehicle's intended function is, what market segment it's aimed at, and what price point it's meant to hit, and you have the foundation for a first drive, full test, or multi-car comparison.

We drove or tested hundreds vehicles this past year; everything from low-buck econoboxes to 200-mph supercars. We picked the good, the bad, and the ugly, and told it like it was. But out of all those vehicles, which are the ones that hit our personal sweet spot between need and desire; the ones that may not have been the fastest, the most stylish, the most economical, or even the best value for money, but simply were the cars we loved? Read on, and find out... -Angus MacKenzie


Angus MacKenzie: BMW M3 DCT

There were faster, more exotic, more expensive cars. But nothing touched me like the BMW M3 DCT. The M3's chassis balance is sublime; the steering surgically precise; the brakes bulletproof; that yowling V-8 utterly intoxicating. And now the lightning fast, seven speed, dual clutch, paddle-shift tranny ties it all together. On one mad, early morning dash across a heaving, twisting, deserted central California two lane, this car made me feel like Kubica on a qualifying lap.

Honda FCX Clarity

Kim Reynolds: Honda FCX Clarity

Every now and then you drive a car that seems more like a worm hole into the future than yet another rearrangement of four wheels, and the Honda FCX Clarity was mine for 2008. While it didn't completely make me a hydrogen believer, for a few hundred miles at least, I felt like Kubrick had cast me into an automotive remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Better buckle up, HAL.

2008 Mini Cooper Clubman

Edward Loh: Mini Clubman S

Reynolds and St. Antoine expect me to say, "Duh, GT-R", but my love for 2008 wasn't the world's fastest, most attractive (believe it, Kim), all-wheel-drive coupe. It was the lust driven tryst I had with the Mini Clubman S. As I profiled in the Feb. 2008 issue, it was a breathless affair for the ages -- a rush of smashed inhibitions and highly irresponsible behavior that came from driving the right car on the right road.

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Spyder California

Matt Stone: 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Spyder California

Like Audrey Hepburn in a Halston gown, you don't need anyone to tell you that a Cal Spyder is elegant. And this was special among the special, as it was owned by actor James Coburn for more than two decades. I trembled as I settled into this triple black beauty. Driving Coburn's Spyder around Ferrari's Fiorano test track in Italy was the highlight of my automotive 2008. Glad I brought it home in one piece too; the next day, it sold for at auction for $10.9 million.

2008 Ferrari California

Gavin Green: Ferrari California

There has never been a Ferrari with such a broad and breathtaking range of abilities. It can play the easy riding comfy cruiser, a Bentley-by-Ferrari, coupe one moment convertible the next. Or be a Schumacher-at-Spa racer, helped by that brilliant seven-speed paddle gearshift and a handling balance that takes Ferrari to a whole new plane of excellence.

2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged

Arthur St Antoine: Jaguar XF Supercharged

Yes, the Alfa-Romeo 8C roared like a lion that'd swallowed Pavarotti, and, yes, driving the ZR1 was a 10-meter platform dive into a pool of adrenaline, but in 2008 I loved the Jaguar XF Supercharged most. Why? Because I'd own one. Superb comfort? Check. Rakish good looks? Check. Performance and handling worthy of a purpose-built two-seater? Check mate.

Audi R8 side view

Scott Mortara: Audi R8

We first played with this car last year, but we had it back this year for our Best Handling test, and it won, that's right, the Audi R8 was my favorite car of 2008. There is nothing I don't like about this car, the look, sound, feel, everything is fantastic. It might not be the fastest in a straight line, or turn the quickest lap time but it will hang with almost anything out there, and I love it.

2008 Ferrari Scuderia

Paul Horrell: Ferrari Scuderia

No question. Many supercars intimidate me by demanding Fangio-like skills, but this one seemed to bestow them on me. Its electronic wizardry augmented my own meagre abilities, while communicating its intentions in an animate, organic manner. Oh yes, the GT-R did that too, but the GT-R didn't have that engine, those looks, this heritage.

2008 Maserati Quattroporte S

Frank Markus: Maserati Quattroporte S

Maybe it was the Austrian Alpine scenery or the hip tunes my co-driver Steve brought along for the ride, but I doubt it. The Maserati Quattroporte S's supermodel-svelte sheetmetal, Armani interior, Ferrariesque chassis and eight-tenors engine-note could probably seduce anybody reading this even on a North Dakota freeway with the radio off.

2008 Lexus IS-F

Ron Kiino: Lexus IS F

The M3 is nimbler and the C63 quicker, but give me the Lexus IS F. Its V-8 warble above 4000 rpm is titillating. Its hunkered-down stance is menacing. Its green factor (no gas-guzzler tax, 18-mpg combined fuel econ) is forests beyond the Teutons'. And its uniqueness (only one to hail from Japan, offer eight cogs, and get standard 19-inch forged alloys) is eminent.

BMW 1 Series

Mike Floyd: BMW 1 Series

It's not the greatest-looking coupe in the world, nor is it the fastest or most technically gifted vehicle in the BMW stable (see M3 DCT above), but the 1 Series is hands down one of the most engaging and entertaining vehicles I've ever driven, and that goes for both the 128 and 135 -- with either six speed tranny on board. Tight, light, and amazingly quick and agile, to me, the 1 Series is the Ultimate Ultimate Driving Machine.

Audi R8 in the mountains

Todd Lassa: Audi R8

Not because of its mid-engine balance. Not because with a clutch as light as an A4’s; it’s the next-generation NSX that Acura would love to build. It’s because Audi put Blizzaks on one last January and let us have fun in the cold and snow. And it worked.