I

It's that time again—time for year-end "best of" lists that will be forgotten as soon as the New Year's Day hangover dissipates. Since we're not immune to these kinds of things (lists, not hangovers), here is our list of the five best cars we drove in 2012.

The criteria is simple—we're looking at the best cars we tested during the calendar year. Price, size, and class don't matter. All that matters is how excellent the vehicle is.


2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion

5) 2013 Ford Fusion/Fusion Hybrid (base price: $21,700): Ford's stunning Fusion and its hybrid model are redefining what a mid-size sedan should be, thanks to their gorgeous looks and engaging driving dynamics. The Fusion isn't the first mid-size family sedan to offer head-turning styling, but it takes things to a whole new level, due to its Aston Martin inspired grille and other luxury styling cues. It looks like a car that costs two or three times as much as it does. It also offers ride and handling reminiscent of a German luxury sports-sedan, instead of an American family car.

2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE
2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE

4) 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE (base price: $37,035): The SS version of Chevy's pony car is powerful but not particularly known for handling. Adding the 1LE package fixes that, thanks to its importation of the top-dog Camaro ZL1's excellent suspension bits. Our drive in this car was limited to hot laps at southwest Michigan's Gingerman Raceway, but that was fine with us--we never wanted to leave. The 1LE was so damn engaging on the track that we couldn't believe we were driving a Camaro. Cars like this are what help us keep our passion for automobiles.

2013 Scion FR-S
2013 Scion FR-S

3) 2013 Scion FR-S (base price: $24,200): Scion has been criticized for making cars that looked sporty but didn't deliver on the promise. The no-frills FR-S changed all that. Razor-sharp steering, precision handling, and a no-nonsense interior reminded us of the back to basics sportsters of yore. A light-weight, rear-drive sports car from a Toyota brand that actually is as good as advertised? Pinch us, we're dreaming. Not only is the FR-S a blast to drive, it's also affordable.

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

2) 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 (base price: $54,350 for 2013 model year): We were tempted to put this in the number one spot, but a couple of flaws kept the ZL1 from taking top honors. The ZL1 is everything an over-the-top American muscle car should be, and more. Not only does it look like pure evil, it goes like hell and can handle, too. There's no practical reason someone should buy this car, and driving it makes you feel guilty (mainly because it just feels plain irresponsible to drive something that sucks down fuel so fast). Some of life's best pleasures are sinful, and this wicked Camaro fits the bill. We did keep it out of the top spot in part because the ZL1 has all of the same flaws as lesser Camaros (such as extremely limited outward visibility) and partly because our champ out ZL1-ed the ZL1.

2013 Shelby GT500 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

1) 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (base price: $54,200): This may be the most brutal production car we've ever driven, and we mean that in a good way. There's nothing subtle about this car. Want to indulge all of your juvenile teenage automotive fantasies? If you have the money to bring one of these 662-horsepower bad boys home, you should do so. Power slides, burnouts, illicit quarter-mile runs--these temptations all beckon when behind the wheel of the Shelby. The muscle car era may be over, but this remnant of the long-gone past made us thankful to be alive. Oh, and unlike the ZL1, you can actually see out the windows.