A Look At Some Of 2011's Best Cars
Our Senior Writer looks back on the best cars he tested in 2011.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: December 8th, 2011
As an automotive journalist, I’m very lucky to get to drive a new car just about every week. And one of the first questions people ask me when they find out what I do for a living is to ask about the best cars I’ve driven.
So, in the reflective spirit of the season, I’m going to look back on the best of what I’ve driven. There are no set rules here, other than a) I drove the car in calendar 2011 and b) I spent significant time in it, meaning either I had an example for a loan or I attended the press launch, and c) I drove it, not merely rode in it. This means I’ll have to exclude a few great cars that I only had a few minutes with, as well as a couple of excellent machines in which I rode shotgun but did not take the wheel. Also, some excellent cars I drove in 2010 won’t make the cut under this criteria, even if they remain unchanged. That may seem unfair, but we’re only going back a year here.
Since this list will be pretty diverse, each car will be judged only on its merits and how it stacks up against its competition. Price and fuel economy matter, and will matter more in some cases than others, but the basic criteria is this: did I like the car or not?
Here we go, in no particular order, keeping in mind that I am just one journalist of many.
2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302: A few mags have called it the best Mustang ever, and it’s hard to disagree. I know I’d choose this over a Shelby GT500, despite the latter’s more powerful engine. The Boss is a track car for the street, or a street car for the track. It doesn’t matter which. It behaves itself in traffic, turns into a beast when pushed, and has a glorious soundtrack. It’s not without flaws—distant steering, poor fuel economy, plus all the flaws of more plebian Mustangs—and its limited availability is sure to boost the otherwise reasonable sticker price. Those negatives fade once you turn the key, and being seen in this car is an event. Also, let the heavens praise any car in which you can change the suspension setup with a flathead screwdriver.
2012 Volkswagen Passat: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s bland. Motor Trend took some heat for anointing it their Car of the Year for just that reason. To which I say, so what? It’s plain, sure, but unlike the Jetta, it doesn’t look or feel cheap, and it’s not quite as boring. Plus it’s spacious and upscale. It doesn’t set hearts afire, but for the family guy or gal with a little extra $$ to spend, it’s a solid mid-size choice.
2011 Chevrolet Volt: While the Volt leaves something to be desired in terms of dynamic performance, it succeeds in its mission exceedingly well. I loved the ability to cruise on battery power for 35-40 miles and then switch to gas power relatively seamlessly. The lack of range anxiety kept me from being nervous on longer trips, and the iPod-influenced interior layout was fun to play with. I give GM a lot of credit for having the guts to make this car—and the ability to succeed with the execution.
2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport GTS: Ok, ok, this is an odd choice. But it’s my list. This car doesn’t stand out like some of the others—it doesn’t break new ground, it’s not the best in its class in any objective or subjective categories, and it’s not significantly changed for this year. Yet I love it for its styling, for its sportiness, and for its available manual transmission—which is a gearbox that feels right at home in this car. Maybe this is just an issue of (questionable) personal taste, but I enjoyed driving the Kizashi.
2012 Dodge Charger SRT8: Adding the SRT8 label to a Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep product usually means adding joy, and this bad-ass sedan delivers that in spades. Even more so than the Boss, the Charger SRT8 encouraged me to drive like I was in high school again. In fact, I’m pretty certain (I’d need to double-check) that the Charger set the low bar for non-truck fuel economy in my time testing cars, at 12.8 mpg. All because it encourages juvenile behavior. Shame on you (and thank you), Dodge, for making such an awesomely ridiculous car.
2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible: The Camaro gets the nod because Chevy managed to drop the top on a great coupe without screwing it up. It also managed to address one of the biggest problems with the coupe: visibility. The drop-top Camaro is more structurally rigid than its Mustang rival, and it gets even more attention. Not a bad effort, I’d say.
2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon: I don’t like this steroidal station wagon as much as many auto journalists do. I find it ridiculous, and I much prefer the CTS-V Coupe and CTS-V Sedan. But that ridiculousness is why it makes the list—well, that, and the fact that concept is executed with very few flaws. No one needs this car, but it’s hard to argue with 556 horsepower in a vehicle that can still haul a week’s worth of groceries.
2011 Infiniti G37X Sedan: This Infiniti is the epitome of a luxury sports sedan. Maybe it trails its Bavarian rivals some in the sports department, but not by much, and it’s a tad more affordable. Spending a week in this car left me spoiled.
2011 Hyundai Elantra: Makes the list due to its attractive styling and typical Hyundai value. Maybe not the most fun to drive compact out there, but it’s damn attractive.
2011 Dodge Durango: Dodge did a great job when the redesigned the Durango. The old and unloved truck-based SUV morphed into a seven-seat crossover with excellent steering and exterior and interior styling that buyers shouldn't be ashamed of. The Durango is still big, but it's no longer bulky.
A few cars didn’t make the list but came close. The Jeep Wrangler missed the cut despite a new V-6 and updated interior, because it’s still a niche vehicle. The excellent 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco missed because the list was already getting too long. Same for the solid 2011 Fiat 500 C. And the 2011 Ford Explorer and 2012 Ford Focus were sunk by issues with Ford’s Sync multimedia suite.
Again, the auto journalist’s life is a lucky one, and there were no truly bad cars that I came across this year. These are just the best of the bunch.
Here’s looking forward to an even more exciting 2012.Related Vehicles: 2011 hyundai elantra | 2011 infiniti g37x | 2011 cadillac cts-v | 2011 chevrolet camaro | 2012 dodge charger | 2012 suzuki kizashi | 2011 chevrolet volt | 2012 volkswagen passat | 2012 ford mustang | 2011 dodge durango