If I had to make an assessment of 2013, I'd say that it was an "oh-kay" year.
Things could have been better but they could have been a lot worse. You know, it must be the curse of the number 13.
But when it comes to cars, I think it was one to remember. We saw the debut of plenty of stunning production vehicles and even got surprised with a handful of concepts. The good news is that the automotive business is getting back on its feet and is more aware of the "new economy."
At least some companies are. Others are still lost in the mix.
As we've done for several years, we like to name our top rides we drove in the previous year. I am only including vehicles I actually had the chance to get seat time in from January 1 to December 31. What can I say, I am a stickler.
Anyway, here we go:
1) Porsche Cayman S: After naming the Porsche 911 as my top pick last year, you probably think that I am a through and through Porschephile. I am not, however, when I do get behind the wheel of the latest products they continue to make me smile ear-to-ear and deliver on every front. The technology is great, they look great, they sound great, they drive great and I have yet to have an issue with one. I can't think of anything better. The all-new Cayman S though is a properly remarkable vehicle. That's because it did something I didn't think would be possible: it surpassed the 911 in terms of being a better car on-track and off. Yup, I said it. Every single time I drive a Cayman I find myself trolling the classifieds for one. Last time I had a press loan in one I went out and bought a car. This time I nearly went and snatched up a used Cayman at a local dealer — I can't get over the last-gen interior and it's a bit cramped compared to the all-new Cayman, which has a couple more inches I desperately need being 6'8.
2) Jaguar F-Type: I have to admit, after wheeling and dealing the all-new Jaguar F-Type, the Porsche 911 has something to worry about. While the F isn't nearly as precise and well trimmed, it has a ton of power for less dough. AND, you can't count out the fun factor. All you have to do is drive a V8 S on an autocross circuit like I did and you'll quickly find yourself laughing like a maniac as you burn rubber and the car drifts from one corner to the next. And, my God, when you turn on the Sport Exhaust and rev it up. It sounds like a 21 gun salute on the overrun. Kudos to Jaguar for building the F and nailing it. After blowing it with the XKR-S in 2012, this was a welcome sign that Jaguar can build a proper sports car — when it wants to.
3) BMW M6 Gran Coupe: This one is short and sweet. I'll be very straightforward. It drives exactly like the M6 Coupe, looks exactly the same as the coupe — from the front/back — and has the practicality of the four-door M5. So, why bother with the annoying two doors of the M6 — and torture chamber rear seat — and why look frumpy in the M5? In my opinion, the M6 Gran Coupe nulled both of the legacies and IS worth the premium.
4) Land Rove Range Rover: If I weighted luxury, practicality and off-road capability higher, this would be number one. But, I don't. Simply put, this vehicle is a complete animal when you want it to be OR it can cruise around the worst pothole-infested city — New York — in understated luxury. Essentially the all-new Range Rover is a Jaguar XJ on stilts. There's a lot of leather, it eats potholes without jarring the passengers and has ample power. There's just one issue Jaguar Land Rover really needs to address. For the love of God, please(!) give your vehicles new infotainment software. For a long time I didn't "get" why people adored Range Rovers. Now, I do. When you're surrounded by such luxury and you're seated in such a high position — to see all four corners when off-road — you really do feel like the king of the castle.
5) Ford Fusion Hybrid: Looking to spend $30,000 on a midsize sedan that gets GREAT gas mileage? Look no further. Toyota, Honda, Chrysler, GM, Hyundai, Kia can't swing a stick at the Fusion Hybrid. Now that we've finally received essentially what Ford Europe has been putting out, we can now enjoy what the Mondeo...er...Fusion has to offer: Great exterior styling, a killer interior, 40 mpg, the SYNC system — while it's not the BEST anymore, it's still quite good. This is undoubtedly the BEST Ford the Blue Oval is making today. I am telling everyone I know that is looking to spend under $30,000 to scope this car out.
6) Mercedes-Benz SL550: Although this isn't exactly an original choice, it is the BEST $100,000 you can spend on a convertible if you're looking for a boulevard cruiser that is solid in all departments. It's like the BMW 3-Series in its respective class. Not original but so much better than the other guys that if you don't buy it, you're an idiot. I am thoroughly convinced this is the best convertible on the market because it is SO solid. The doors close perfectly every time and there are NO squeaks or rattles with the top up or down. Performance is sensational thanks to the bi-turbo V8 powerplant. It really makes the SL63 AMG seem excessive, which is a good thing. Bonus: it looks A LOT like an SLS AMG on the road with its low and wide proportions.
7) BMW 428i: Oh-kay, so BMW decided to name the coupes even and the sedans odd. How hard is it for folks to understand? Jeez. Anyhow, the all-new 4-Series, in my opinion, looks a MILLION times better than the E92. I hated the E92. An awful interior with an even worse exterior. The all-new 4 blows it away though with it's aggressively designed facade and 6-Series inspired side profile. If you really want to fall in love just look at this vehicle with the M Sport package from the rear 3/4. While I dislike the sound of any four-cylinder, I have to admit that the 3/4-Series cars are VERY quick and are paired up with fantastic automatic transmissions. It rides comfortably and can be tossed around a corner if you want to. Sure the steering has become less communicative over the years but when compared to the competition there's no way I'd rather be riding in something else at the moment. Bonus: on a trip from Seattle to San Francisco I averaged 36 mpg. And, no, I was NOT doing 65.