2012 will be a year to remember for a lot of reasons.
But in the world of autos, I can think of seven memorable experiences that will make sure 2012 stays in my mind for at least a little while longer.
This is my list of the cars I enjoyed the MOST during 2012. Not all of them are all-new models but 2012 did mark the first year I piloted them for the first time.
So, let's get down to brass tacks.
1) Porsche 911 (991)
What an awesome product, end-to-end. Not only is it a SIGNIFICANT step forward from the 997 but the all-new 991 is literally perfect in every way. Remember how the only downside to owning a 911 was it "having no soul?" Not the case anymore. Equip a 991 with the Sport Exhaust option and it's very tough to think of a better car to drive, overall. My favorite product for 2012.
2) Aston Martin V8 Vantage S
You know what they say about your first time. It's something you'll never forget. The same can be said of my very first Aston Martin experience in the V8 Vantage S. Though SO many outlets dog the vehicle's Graziano transmission, I don't understand why. Just feather the throttle and get your timing down and this is a very capable gearbox. It has the most timeless design, its V8 sounds brutal and has interior quality nearing that of a Bentley. A+ in my book. You can have faster cars for the price but I can't imagine why you would even bother if you've driven the V8 Vantage S.
3) Lexus GS350 AWD F Sport
In the midsize luxury sedan kingdom, the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class have fallen to this warrior from the Far East. In my opinion, there's only TWO cars worthy of a test drive in this competitive set. The GS350 AWD F Sport and the Audi A6. It has the best Lexus interior, ever, and it does exactly what a Lexus is suppose to do -- deliver a refined driving experience. I just wish its six-cylinder motor didn't sound like a sewing machine at idle.
4) Range Rover Evoque
A four-cylinder Range Rover? Yup, it made the cut. Undoubtedly it is the MOST exciting Land Rover product in some time. With its gorgeous design, it's not a wonder that the Evoque blew past sales expectations. Most impressive aspect: When in "D," the four-cylinder's buzziness goes away and it makes a pleasant, bassy rumble. There is one chink in its armor though: Put it into "S" and use the paddles and you'll know it's a four-cylinder when the revs start approaching the redline.
5) Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
While I am not a fan of the standard Camaro, I have to say that the ZL1 is essentially a completely different vehicle. The motor has power for days, it looks absolutely sinister in stock form -- my tester was sporting an orange paint job that looks magnificent -- it's steering is MUCH improved over the SS and it wins the award for the heaviest clutch in 2012. It's an unapologetic muscle car, that does the unthinkable -- turn. If you don't care about the interior accoutrements, this is a better drive than the impressive Cadillac CTS-V.
6) Jaguar XJ
A lot of folks discount Jaguar in the large luxury sedan class. They shouldn't. After piloting the stunningly fast Supersport -- 510 horsepower, anyone? -- I wasn't sure if I'd miss the power while being behind the wheel of the V6. Well, much like the Porsche Panamera, the six-cylinder is where this car actually shines. Now available with all-wheel drive, this is definitely a sedan worth cross shopping with the Porsche Panamera and Maserati Quattroporte. Unlike other large luxo barges, this sedan feels agile an lithe.
7) BMW X3
Being that this is a large volume product for BMW, it couldn't afford to mess this one up. And it didn't, not by a mile. Having driven a 2006 X3 for a couple of years it's remarkable how much better this X3 is over the first-gen vehicle. Its interior is substantially better, the transmission and motor are sync'd up perfectly, and the suspension rides as a proper BMW should -- I can't say the same for the first-gen X3, which was far too stiff and bouncy. BMW knocked this one out of the park.