Our team has had the privilege of driving some great cars this past year, and it's job we relish from week to week (except when we have cars like these). The sheer amount of ingenuity, technology, and design talent that emerges from nearly all manufacturers is staggering, and the quality of the cars today are a direct reflection of some seriously hard work. But not all cars can be great to drive in spite of the fact that most cars today boast great interiors, handsome sheet metal, and robust technological wonders that we couldn't dream of ten years ago.
So, we've picked a handful of the review cars we've driven over the past twelve months that we were excited to get into time and time again. Each car here delivers driving delights that make us ignore any shortcomings, and they represent why we got into this business in the first place.
Ford Mustang GT
Okay, so we didn't like the four-banger turbo version of the venerable Ford Mustang, but we absolutely loved the proper muscle car V8 mill in the eye-searing yellow GT ($33,195 base MSRP) we had. Of course, roping our own gears with the manual transmission sure helped. This big beast had balletic tendencies as we watched the car rotate around that long, sculpted hood.
This is one Caddy that doesn't cater to retirees because it's pretty much balls out. But, unlike the nearly overpowered CTS-V, the ATS-V Coupe ($62,895 base MSRP) is actually quite civilized for urban travel. Comfy, beautiful and potent (with its twin-turbo V6 for 464 hp), the ATS-V's steering and handling are marvels and worth looking at over the BMW M4. Yes, it's that good.
BMW 330e iPerformance
When you add high-efficiency to a BMW 3-Series, what do you get? Well, practically none of the driving thrills are changed, but in the 330e ($44,100 base MSRP) you do get 25 all-electric miles from the plug-in hybrid that make the weekly commute a breeze. The taut handling and off-the-line chutzpah are actually quite surprising, and it still remains a 3-Series through and through.
Lexus IS 200t F Sport
The Lexus IS is a car that dethroned the BMW 3-Series in terms of driving panache, and that's a remarkable achievement. As good as the current 3 is, the IS is more planted, lighter and has a more organic feel in the turns. The steering and chassis are peerless in the sports sedan category, and it finally looks the part, too. The IS 200t ($37,825 base MSRP) might not be the fastest trim level, but it's fantastic to drive hard thanks to a willing 241 hp turbo four and virtually unflappable chassis.
Count on Mazda to make what we call "a driver's SUV". The CX-9 ($31,520 base MSRP) is exactly that. The totally redesigned three-row SUV is light, potent, luxurious and dazzling to look at, as well as drive. The Dynamic Pressure Turbo is just right for threading the urban needle, and the chassis and steering are peerless in this segment. It also possesses one of the finest interiors we've experienced.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
If there was one car this year that embodied driving thrills it was the 4C Spider ($65,900 base MSRP). Like a tiny Ferrari that's powered by 20 million angry killer bees, the 4C Spider delivers excitement at every corner. The 237 hp turbo four cylinder is a monster for a car this light (less than 2,500 lbs), and with the roof removed, it's an aural delight.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
You just can't have a list of the best driving cars without the new Miata ($24,915 base MSRP). It's the purest automobile on the road today, and it's more fun than cars with four times more horsepower because you can drive it at 10/10ths and still stay within the confines of the law. Toss the 155 hp 4-cylinder roadster around a corner, and know what it is to grin ear-to-ear. Combine that with excellent steering, an improved interior and one of the best stick shifts in existence, and you have a recipe for true automotive happiness.