In the beginning of January, I made sure to take some time and really THINK about the vehicles I had the fantastic opportunity to drive and experience.
I love what I do, even when it comes down to the bullsh!t this industry is rampant with.
Even better, I love being able to share my findings with you, the automotive elite. Thank you for the opportunity.
BUT if I just told you about all the positive experiences, that wouldn't exactly be valuable. You also have to know what vehicles to avoid or were simply let downs.
Please keep in mind these are vehicles I have driven in 2012. That said, let's get right to it.
1) VW Golf R: Being that I am a Volkswagen Golf owner, you probably didn't expect this. Well, now this is happening. Here's the problem with the Golf R. The MKIV that preceeded it had that unreal VR6 motor, as did the MKV. For the MKVI they equipped it with a forced induction four-cylinder that is no more special than the GTI's unit. It sounds terrible and lags. In addition, remember the MKIV had that sweet and unique interior? In the MKV and MKVI now you get a pretty generic GTI interior. So, essentially you're paying $34,000 for an all-wheel drive GTI with an aero kit and wheels. I'd take my modded Golf over the R variant any day of the week.
2) Fiat 500 Abarth: I had HUGE expectations for this little guy, I am not going to lie. Plenty of folks talk about how it is so much fun but for me, it wasn't all that and a bag of chips. The only good elements of the Fiat 500 Abarth is it pretty amazing exhaust note and the fact it gets the most attention from women I've ever experienced behind the wheel. When ladies are blowing you kisses and stopping to talk to you, you know you've hit the motherlode. The problems start with its driving position, which makes you feel like you're driving a truck rather than a tiny two seater. Oh, yeah, it's backseats are completely useless but not as useless as its cargo space. Its cheap interior is just the icing on the cake. Long story short, it makes a great fashion accessory and babe magnet but that's about it. I'd opt for a dog as it will likely be more reliable and get you the same results, results may differ.
3) MINI Cooper Coupe: So, MINI took the practicality of the Cooper and created a stylized, two-seat version that looks like it's wearing a backwards hat. While I could just end there, I'll add one more thing. It doesn't drive any different than the standard Cooper AND you pay more! Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche can get away with paying more for less in the 430 Scuderia, Superleggera and GT3RS. MINI, not so much.
4) Jaguar XKR-S Convertible: I remember the first time I saw the XKR-S in the flesh. It was a white coupe at the 2012 New York Auto Show and it looked like automotive pornography. Given that it is one of the most powerful Jags ever built and a performance enhancement on top of the already performance-tweaked XKR, I was ready for the most hardcore Jaguar ever. Unfortunately, it fell short because it felt exactly like an XKR with a touch more power.
5) Porsche Panamera GTS: Being that the Panamera is an incredibly versatile vehicle for the Porschephile with a family to haul, I was intrigued by what another model could do the Panamera lineup. I loved the Alcantara-laden interior and burly V8 sound, but at the end of the day it seems to be another variant to fill in a meaningless gap for Porsche. Stick to the six-cylinder Panamera and remember if you pick up a Panamera you're NOT going to go to the track.
6) Buick Verano: In the General Motors world, Buick isn't always the beneficiary of a totally unique product, like the LaCrosse, which is actually based on an Opel's chassis. While one of my favorite PR reps in the biz is a HUGE fan of the Verano, I couldn't get over why ANYONE would pay a premium of nearly $6,000 bucks when the Chevrolet Cruze is a really good car to start with! While the quieter interior and slightly improved ride quality was enjoyed, the Verano's biggest problem is that the Cruze exists.
7) Toyota Prius C: One of this year's most intriguing stories was how the Toyota Prius C became the cheap alternative energy vehicle to buy. When it was released, it sold in droves thereby cremating the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. Starting at $18,950 it is one of the least expensive hybrids on the market. Its biggest problem though is it feels cheap inside and out. And it's underpowered. To keep this brief, I despised driving it every minute I had it during its week-long stay; however, I did net 44 mpg during my time with it, which is the same mpg I achieved with its big brother, the standard Prius.