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Staff Picks: The Best and Worst Cars We Drove in 2012

Staff Picks: The Best and Worst Cars We Drove in 2012

And just like that, we’re closing the book on 2012 and preparing to start 2013. Motor Trend staffers were lucky enough to drive a wide assortment of fantastic cars, with everything from the 74-hp Volkswagen Up! to the 691-hp Lamborghini Aventador passing through our garage. Of the hundreds of cars we’ve driven this year, these are the cars that stood out most to our editors in 2012, for better and for worse.

Erick Ayapana, Associate Online Editor:

2013 Porsche Boxster S PDK front end in motion 3 300x187 imageBest: 2013 Porsche Boxster S

I only needed a few minutes in the 2013 Porsche Boxster S before feeling completely comfortable driving the car at its limits. No other car I’ve driven this year has felt as perfect or as fun to drive as the Boxster. And how about that back side? The Boxster’s spoiler (and how it blends into the taillight units) is hands down the sexiest automotive design feature I’ve seen all year.

2012 Volkswagen Routan front three quarter 300x187 imageWorst: 2012 Volkswagen Routan

The VW logo on the steering wheels said I was driving a Volkswagen, but it sure didn’t feel like it. Again, this is nothing more than a rebadged Chrysler Town & Country and nothing about the minivan feels remotely German. Case in point: we all know that German carmakers treat cup holders like the plague, yet the Routan’s Getränkehalter (cup holder) count totals 15.

Mike Febbo, Associate Editor:

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S side turn in motion1 300x187 imageBest: Porsche 911 Carrera S

I proclaimed the beginning of the end when the 996 replaced the air-cooled 993, but became a believer again after first driving the 997. As for the 991, the car has restored my faith in Porsche as the best sports car builder on the planet. From driving position, to steering, to the new PDK gearbox, everything about the 991 is exceptional.

BMW M5 E39 front 300x219 imageWorst: BMW e39 M5 at the Nurburgring

While the e39 M5 is one of the best sedans ever built, this particular car was on its factory tires — the tires fitted when it was built. After a few years of hard use and then being put into storage, these near slick chunks of carbon offered just slightly more grip than the wheels they were mounted on. On a rain-soaked track in just over freezing temperatures, this was one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve had as a journalist.

Mike Floyd, Senior Digital Content Director:

2013 Cadillac ATS Turbo front three quarter in motion 300x187 imageBest: Cadillac ATS

Other than our esteemed 2013 Car of the Year — the out-of-this-world Tesla Model S — the car I was most impressed with in 2012 was the Cadillac ATS. Anyone who thinks General Motors can’t build world-class cars needs to beat feet down to a Cadillac dealer and get behind the wheel of the ATS. Both the turbo-four and V-6 powertrains are impressive, and while we had some issues with the manual (they assure us it’s being adjusted), the fact that they offer one at all was a huge bonus point in any enthusiast’s book — and mine as well. It looks good, handles great, moves out with authority and while a little fussy at times, its CUE telematics system is among the most impressive of its type out there. Bravo Cadillac, a sport sedan that truly has what it takes to compete with all comers.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ front three quarters in motion 300x187 imageWorst: Chevrolet Malibu

Conversely, the Chevrolet Malibu also shows how far GM has to go in some segments. At this year’s Car of the Year event, we had some of the heaviest hitters in the midsize sedan category out for evaluation, and the Malibu was literally crushed by the weight of new Accord, Fusion, and Altima. Its engine/transmission was underpowered and lazy, its steering was vague and suspension unsettled and its interior (at least the car we had at the event) was no match for its competitors. To put it bluntly, it simply cannot compete with the best the segment has to offer. We hear now that Chevrolet is rushing changes to the Malibu much as Honda did with the Civic. Let’s hope it helps, because the present Malibu is going to need all the massaging it can get to stay off the rental car lots.

Zach Gale, Online News Director:

2013 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT front three quarters static 300x187 imageBest: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe

The Aston Martin DBS is more attractive than the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, but at least the German car doesn’t have a small, folding Garmin navigation screen at the top of its otherwise pleasing cabin. What excites me about the SLS AMG is its engine note. No modern supercar can be fully exploited safely on open-to-the-public winding roads, so I especially appreciate the SLS AMG’s engine sound and the wild appeal provided by the long hood and gullwing doors. My honorable mention might go to the Lexus GS 350, with its surprisingly good interior and decent driving dynamics.

2012 Coda front three quarters 300x187 imageWorst: Coda EV sedan

It must be a tough time to be a small electric-automaker, competing with well-funded entries from companies like Nissan and Chevrolet, but that doesn’t mean we can overlook the Coda EV sedan’s shortcomings. Though I love an underdog, this electric sedan has too many impossible-to-ignore shortcomings. Despite the bold five-spoke wheels, there’s the dated exterior styling and the interior’s center stack that’s simply not up to the class standard, with an ultra-low-mounted central screen and a general feeling that’s more “economy car” than “special electric sedan.” We want to like the Coda but, at least for me, I found it difficult to get past the packaging that helps keep costs down.

Jonny Lieberman, Senior Features Editor:

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S side in motion1 300x187 imageBest: Porsche 911 Carrera S

Yeah, the car that won the 2012 Best Drivers Car also won my heart. Other cars are faster, flashier, more practical, etc., but no car is as fun to throw around on your favorite mountain road. A huge improvement over what I thought was already nearly perfect (the old 997), the new 991 is a revelation. I can’t even imagine what the follow-up versions (Turbo, GT3, 50th Anniversary edition, etc.) will be like, but I can imagine how much I’ll like them. Runners up this year include the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CL65, Tesla Model S, Cadillac ATS 3.6, Toyota Avalon, and Morgan 3-Wheeler.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ front end in motion 300x187 imageWorst: Chevrolet Malibu

Really GM? You knock one out of the park with the Caddy ATS and then revert back to your bad old ways with this… well, you can’t call it a car so much as a collection of bad things people associate with rental cars. Slow, bad brakes, clueless transmission, an engine that sounds like a vacuum cleaner sucking up a T-shirt, poor suspension, tight back seat, poor NVH, etc. I refer to the new Malibu around the office as “Dumpster Fire.” It’s that bad. Don’t believe me? GM is rushing the refresh. Runners up: Dodge Dart, Toyota Prius C, Lexus ES 350.

Ed Loh, Editor-in-Chief:

Ed Loh in Tesla Model S 300x187 imageBest: Tesla Model S

Obviously our COTY! Everyone who has driven it comes away impressed; I have yet to find anyone who has not been “converted.” It also ranks as the most surprising for me. I remember flying to Las Vegas for the third long-distance test we did and feeling the weight of expectation as I approached it in the parking garage of the Aria casino. I remember feeling somewhat confused and lost when the valet handed me the key, because I had been so busy up until that moment of truth, I hadn’t paid much attention to the testing we had done, the feedback from colleagues Kim, Frank, Jessi, and Benson — in fact, I had no idea about how to open the car door or start it up, save the verbal instructions I had received the day before. And to my surprise – everything worked as promised. The door handle popped out when I pushed on it, the car magically came to life when I got it inside, and a minute later, as I pulled out of the darkness of the garage and into the bright daylight of Las Vegas, I forgot I was in an electric car. It was that seamless and smooth. Shocking really.

2013 BMW M5 front left view 2 300x187 imageWorst/Most Disappointing: BMW M5

I was probably most disappointed by the BMW M5. Fast yes, but so much of the purity, of what made that car special, seems to have disappeared. It’s still fast, but its feels artificially enhanced and unnatural. On an industry level, I’m really sad to see Suzuki exit the U.S. market; they have a great sedan here (Kizashi) but that clearly wasn’t enough. Would have loved to see Swift and Jimny here, but those are fringe products; Suzuki went after mainstream volume and failed. Hyundai’s 40 MPG debacle is also incredibly disappointing, but only stands to highlight how important fuel economy is right now and will continue to be in the future.

Frank Markus, Technical Director:

Lamborghini Aventador LP700 4 front three quarter in motion 300x187 imageMost Memorable: Lamborghini Aventador

To be clear, the best car I drove this year was Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Model S, which conveyed myself and Jessi Lang from L.A. to Vegas with no extension cord. But my most memorable drive of 2012 was a 2107-kilometer (1310 mile) trek from Sant’Agata Bolonese, Italy to Zaragoza Spain in Lamborghini’s new Aventador for a visit to the very bullring where its namesake, an 1118-pound toro bravo fought so bravely in 1993. Scaling the spectacularly scenic Col de la Bonnette in the Maritime Alps, and the Col d’Aspin in the Pyrenees was almost as memorable as threading the seemingly 9-foot wide spaceship through tourist-choked medieval cart-paths of Monte Carlo, Nice, and Arles. Watching the descendants of the Gallardo line of fighting bulls charge this orange missile and then using the Aventador to charge matador Tomas Luna on the very same Albero sand where the brave bull perished are permanently etched in my automotive memory banks.

2012 Coda front three quarter in motion turn 300x187 imageWorst: Coda EV sedan

This is really a case of inopportune time-shifting. The Coda is a 1990s car trying to compete in 2012, and as such it doesn’t stand a chance. The Chinese, bless their hearts, cannot design a new car to save their lives. (Yet.) So they engage in their own brand of R & D (receive and duplicate) or, as in the case of Hafei, start with ancient hand-me-down Mitsubishi architecture and pass the design-cost savings along. Getting the car itself for super-cheap was understandably important to Coda, which planned to stuff it full of 20 or 30 grand’s worth of batteries. The result is a stiff riding, tinny sounding, poorly appointed, noisy, mean conveyance that does—on the upside—offer plenty of get-up-n-go and reasonable range. Just try super hard to avoid the sort of wrecks that NHTSA and others subject cars to, as the Coda performs like an ancient Mitsubishi in such tests.

Alex Nishimoto, Associate Online Editor:

McLaren MP4 12C front three quarter in motion 300x187 imageBest: McLaren 12C

During our 2012 Best Driver’s Car competition, I had the good fortune to take home the McLaren for a night. Needless to say, it was a good night. The racy exterior design, low-H-point seating position, and 592-hp twin-turbo V-8 all contributed to a VIP-like driving experience. Though it sometimes took multiple finger swipes of the touch sensors to open the handle-less scissor doors, there are few things I can think of that impart swagger better than getting in or out of a $200,000-plus supercar.

2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT rear three quarters 300x187 imageMost Disappointing: Mitsubishi Lancer GT

Going into my test of the Lancer GT, I was actually excited to see what the sporty-looking compact had to offer. On paper, the GT trim level looks like a decent sport compact for budget-minded enthusiasts. But a poorly appointed cabin (especially for our $25,000 as-tested price), nasal-sounding engine note, and un-engaging paddle-shifted CVT held the car back from being anything other than basic transportation.

Kirill Ougarov, Production Manager:

2012 Mercedes Benz G550 front three quarters 300x187 imageBest: Mercedes-Benz G550

We had one hell of a year when it comes to Benzes, what with getting every AMG extant and every S-Class, but my favorite was easy the red G550 for the simple reason it was a G-Wagen, and thus awesome. There’s also that whole thing about us Russians loving G-Wagens. Honorary mention to the matte-white E63 AMG. Now to combine the two and get my hands on a G63…

2013 Ford Taurus Limited AWD front three quarters 300x187 imageWorst: Ford Taurus

There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the car itself, but I’m putting it down here because MyFord Touch froze up on me while I was trying to switch audio sources and wouldn’t reset until the car power-cycled once I parked it at my destination, which happened to be some 45 miles away. Merely turning it off then back on, on the side of the freeway didn’t do the trick. As a result, I had limited controls over the audio, no ability to control the climate control, and no navigation during the whole drive.

Kim Reynolds, Testing Director:

2012 Tesla Model S front motion on PCH 300x187 imageBest: Tesla Model S

This pick sounds a bit obvious now, but before anyone had a chance to drive the Tesla there were lots of reasons to be apprehensive. It was their first from-the-ground-up design. They had zero experience in building a complete car. And after the Volt battery-fire incident, also good reason to worry about its enormous lithium-ion battery. So the Model S’ subsequent competence is just short of miraculous. By comparison, we still see cars from very established, highly experienced car companies that contain absolutely remarkable mistakes. Such as my Worst pick of the year.

2013 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT front three quarter turn 300x187 imageWorst: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

Understand, this isn’t my worst car of the year, but rather the one that most surprised me (in a negative way) compared to my expectations. The SLS AMG’s limit handling is very difficult for me to comprehend from a company with this experience. Defeat its stability nannies and its rear can slip away like a squeezed pumpkin seed and is about as easy to wrangle back behind you as a frightened rabbit. Driven with abandon, the SLS AMG can quickly make you look like a complete idiot.

Christian Seabaugh, Associate Online Editor:

2013 Subaru BRZ side in motion 300x187 imageBest: Subaru BRZ

I drove a lot of fantastic (and expensive) cars and trucks this year including the Tesla Model S and the Porsche Boxster S, but the car I keep coming back to is the Subaru BRZ. I can’t get enough of this car. Every time I get out of it I want nothing more than to go back out and have another go. It’s just such a rewarding car to drive, with so much personality; the engine is rev-happy, the gearbox is a delight, the pedals are perfectly spaced, and the handling is some of the best I’ve experienced this side of a Ferrari 458 Italia. I simply adore this thing. Honorable mentions: Chevrolet Spark, Ford Raptor, Mazda Miata Super 20, Porsche 911 Carrera, Tesla Model S.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ rear three quarters 300x187 imageWorst: Chevrolet Malibu

I never thought I’d more miserable driving than I was earlier this year trying to get 40 mpg out of our old long-term Hyundai Elantra. Then I drove the Chevrolet Malibu. The Malibu is just such a disappointing car to drive, especially compared to the new Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. From the transmission constantly hunting for gears, to the underpowered, drone-y engine, to the complete disconnect between the wheels and the road – the Malibu just disappointed on all fronts. I can honestly say that I’ve never been so eager to stop driving than I was in the Malibu. Here’s hoping GM can step its game up with the next one. Dishonorable mentions: BMW 528i, Cadillac Escalade, Dodge Dart, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius C

Melissa Spiering, Online Editor, Truck Trend:

XPLORE 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon front three quarters 300x187 imageBest: XPLORE Adventure Series’ 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

I got to take XPLORE‘s custom built Adventure Series’ 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon off-roading in Johnson Valley, California, to watch the Sixth Annual Griffin King of the Hammers off-road race. It had the right modifications mechanically and visually to stand out in the crowd without looking over done. The all-new 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar was a blast to drive on the trails and hillsides to get to the best viewpoints for the race.

2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4 front view15 300x187 imageWorst: 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4

Is it dead yet? Two weeks in the 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude and I couldn’t get one staffer to trade me vehicles. The noisy CVT was nerve wrecking and the 2.4-liter engine was gutless. The most heartbreaking thing about the Compass is that it poses itself to be a real Jeep but sadly lacks the true heart and soul of what the Jeep brand is. My dog enjoyed the ride though – she was able to hold her balance in the back seat due to the lack of torque.

Jason Udy, Associate Online Editor:

2013 Nissan GT R Black Edition front end1 300x187 imageBest: Nissan GT-R Black Edition

After putting more than 1700 miles on our long-term Nissan GT-R Black Edition in four days, including onramp blasts for the enjoyment of 30 friends and family members, I came away impressed by Godzilla’s ride quality, fuel mileage, and sheer acceleration. In fact, my 60-year-old aunt who traveled with me commented that it was the most enjoyable road trip she had ever made. Points for the Recaro seats and suspension’s comfort mode. Overall the GT-R returned 19.1 mpg (19.9 mpg not including the tank of fuel used for onramp runs) at an average of 10 mph above posted speeds. Let’s not forget the as-tested 2.8-second 0-60 mph time.

2012 Coda front three quarter in motion 300x187 imageWorst: Coda EV sedan

While the Coda may not be the most disappointing car I drove in 2012 (my expectations were too low for disappointment), it was by far the worst car I drove all year. The interior is cheap and handling is downright scary. Part of what makes the Coda feel cheap are its Chinese economy car roots – basically a modified and rebadged Hafei Saibao that has been on the market for years.

What were the best and worst cars you’ve driven in 2012?

By Motor Trend Staff

‘Real world’ electric vehicle test easily beats EPA ratings

Toyota RAV4 EV



Some Republicans decry what they say are the liberal leanings of the federal government, but when it comes to rating the single-charge range of electric vehicles, the feds’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is decidedly conservative.



At least, this is what Edmunds found in a recent EV road test of nine models, including the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf and a prototype version of the Volkswagen e-Golf. In fact, all eight non-prototype vehicles beat their EPA ratings in a 105.5 mile course through Orange County, CA, that Edmunds says “includes exactly zero freeway miles, more than a few hills and dozens of signals and stop signs along the way.” Edmunds says the cars, which were driven during rush-hour morning traffic, didn’t hit speeds of more than 50 miles per hour and didn’t use any air conditioning.



The proverbial superstar of the group was the Toyota RAV4 EV, which lasted 144.5 miles (i.e. it had 40 miles left at the end of its lap), or about 40 percent more than its stated range. The Ford Focus EV reached about 100 miles, compared to its 76-mile single-charge range rating, while the BMW ActiveE, Coda Sedan and Honda Fit EV all cleared 100 miles and beat their EPA ratings by 15 percent to 20 percent. The Leaf surpassed its 73-mile rating by 20 miles, while the Tesla exceeded its 265-mile rating by about four miles. The VW came in just short of 100 miles, while the Mitsubishi i beat its 62-mile-range by an impressive 14 miles.



Of course, Edmunds couldn’t resist getting some performance numbers from the EVs, and those held up as well. It’s no surprise that the Model S went from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a tidy 4.3 seconds, but the RAV4 also turned out to be pretty quick, going from 0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds. The Bimmer, Coda, Honda and Ford all went from 0 to 60 in just under 10 seconds, while the VW and Nissan came in at about 10-seconds flat. Only the Mitsubishi turned in a golf-cartish 0-60 time of 14.9 seconds. Check out all of Edmunds‘ summary here.

Related Gallery2012 Toyota RAV4 EV: First Drive

2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV2013 Toyota RAV4 EV

By Danny King

Top 10 New Car Future Classics

Top 10 New Car Future Classics

We’ve all seen televised classic car auctions where a one-owner piece of vintage iron fetches six-digit sums, and we’ve all wondered the same thing, “How did that guy know his car was going to be a classic one day?” Not long after, you probably looked at what’s in your driveway, and wondered, “Will my car ever become a classic?” Being car guys (and girls), we often wonder the same thing – what modern cars might become future classics? We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 new cars that we think might one day be collectible.

So what in our minds makes a car a future classic? Three things: Significance to either the automaker or industry, rarity (which very well may leave a few significant cars off this list), and styling with staying power – because who wants to own an ugly classic car? Also (with one exception) the vehicles in question have to currently be on sale. With that in mind, here are our Top 10 New Car Future Classics:

BMW M3: We believe the E90-series M3 might become a future collectible for a few reasons. For starters, this generation of M3 represents the end of an era for the storied M Car. BMW’s M cars have always been known for their high-revving naturally aspirated engines. Unfortunately, the future of the M car lies with the turbocharger, which means the M3′s rev-happy 414-hp, 295-lb-ft 4.0-liter V-8 could be the last naturally aspirated M motor to ever be built. Because of that, the M3 will likely become a prize for future BMW collectors.

2011 Cadillac CTS V in Germany side in motion 300x187 imageCadillac CTS-V Wagon: This is the car that many thought GM didn’t have the cojones to build: a Nürburgring-slaying station wagon packing a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 producing 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque, driving the rear wheels through a proper six-speed manual transmission. The CTS-V Wagon has a couple things going for it on the collectible front: it’s a niche product so not many exist (relatively speaking), it’s expensive, which keeps it out of the hands of its mostly young fans, and it’s truly stunning to look at. The CTS-V Wagon very well may be a blockbuster at Barrett-Jackson auctions in the distant future.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: Like the C4 Corvette ZR-1 before it, the C6 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 is bound to become a collectible  This Corvette represents the best of the C6 ‘Vettes, and is easily among the best Corvettes ever made. The ZR1 is guaranteed collectible status thanks to the stories behind it: this is the first Corvette to crack 200 mph and the first to cost over $100,000. It’s also a world beater, having gone up against the best Europe and Asia has to offer, like the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and Nissan GT-R. So why will the Corvette ZR1 be a future classic? Because America.

2012 Fisker Karma pre production front three quarter drift11 300x187 imageFisker Karma: Likely to be a controversial choice, the Fisker Karma nonetheless easily meets the criteria to be a future collectible.  The Karma is significant to Fisker and the automotive industry because the Karma is not only the first vehicle Fisker has ever built, but it’s also the first luxury extended-range electric vehicle. The Karma’s got rarity too, especially considering all of the production delays that were necessary for Fisker to recall all of its vehicles. Lastly, the Karma is a striking automobile to look at, and it’ll likely look just as good as it does today 20 or 30 years from now.

Ford Shelby GT500: What could be more significant than being both the most powerful factory Mustang ever and the first Mustang with a 200-mph top speed? Simple: Carroll Shelby. The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 is the last factory Shelby Mustang that the dearly departed Shelby ever worked on. Because of that connection, the car’s big 5.8-liter 662-hp supercharged V-8, and the ridiculous top speed, the Shelby GT500 is most certainly on its way to becoming a collectible.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X: Like the BMW M3, the current-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X will likely be remembered as the end of an era. While its Subaru rival will continue on into its next generation, the Evo X marks the end of the Evo as we know it. Mitsubishi reportedly wants to go in another direction with the Evo XI – a direction that ditches the all-wheel-drive rally rocket’s turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 in favor of a plug-in hybrid setup. Will it be able to live up to the Evo name? Only time will tell, but if Mitsubishi does go that route, the current Evo X may very well become a prized collectible.

2013 Nissan GT R Black Edition front three quarter 300x187 imageNissan GT-R: What can we say about Godzilla that hasn’t already been said? Not only is the Nissan GT-R highly desirable, but it’s an incredibly important car for Nissan. The R35 GT-R is significant because it’s the first GT-R to ever be legally sold in the U.S., and it’s taken the segment by storm, frequently finishing on the podium in our Best Driver’s Car competitions. Despite its relatively low price, Godzilla remains a rarity on the streets, and though it has love-it-or-hate-it styling, the GT-R will without a doubt remain desirable in the future.

Saab 9-5: As mentioned above, the Saab 9-5 is the sole exception to the on-sale now rule, because while you can’t buy one new now, you could still buy a brand new 9-5 up until the Swedish automaker declared bankruptcy in January of this year. The 9-5 earns its spot on the future collectible list because it was the last new Saab car introduced. It may have had quite a few components from the GM parts bin, but the 9-5 was still the last true Saab. It was great to look at, full of quirky Swedish charm, and actually fun to drive. The 9-5 was the last Saab, and perhaps one of the best, which makes it a future collectible in our book.

2013 SRT Viper GTS Launch Edition Left Front 300x187 imageSRT Viper GTS Launch Edition: The 2013 SRT Viper GTS Launch Edition marks the return of the other American sports car icon. To celebrate the Viper’s rebirth, SRT created the limited-edition Viper GTS Launch Edition (Rarity? Check). Powered by a reworked 8.4-liter V-10 cranking out 640 hp, the Launch Edition comes wearing the stunning blue and white stripe paint job that helped make the original Viper GTS famous (Styling? Check). Finally, checking off the significance box is the fact that the new Viper is the first SRT-branded vehicle ever, giving it that special something that collectors will most certainly love decades from now.

Tesla Model S Signature Performance: The Tesla Model S is not only significant to Tesla as its first mass-market vehicle, but it’s significant to the industry as a whole as the first all-electric car that actually works for most Americans’ needs. The Model S Signature Performance is being built in a limited run of just 1000 examples. Making the Model S Signature Performance even more enticing is its world-beating performance, which allows the EV to smoke its gas-powered European rivals on the drag strip. The stunningly handsome Model S is a technological marvel that’s sure to be just as impressive sitting pretty on the auction block in the coming decades.

Do you agree with our list? Which cars would you have added and/or left off? Sound off in the comments below. 

By Christian Seabaugh

2nd annual National Plug In Day will feature EVs, free iPads

national plug in day 2011 santa monica



…and then there were 60.



That’s how many cities will be celebrating the Second Annual National Plug In Day later this month.



The celebration of all things EV, which is being put on by Plug In America, Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association, will take place Sunday, September 23, in cities ranging from the usual suspects – Boston, San Francisco and Austin – to the less-than-usual (for EV enthusiasm) locales like Dallas, Baltimore and Salt Lake City.



Additionally, organizers are looking to drum up further enthusiasm with free “ride and drive” opportunities as well as iPad giveaways at 10 of the events. For instance, the Los Angeles-area ride and drive will take place at the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, near Los Angeles International Airport. That event will give people a chance to cruise in a Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Tesla Roadster or Mitsubishi i as well as check out cars like a 1947 Chrysler Windsor and a 1957 427 Chevrolet Project X.



Last year’s first-annual National Plug In Day, which took place in October, was held in 29 locations across the country, including one in Santa Monica, CA (pictured), that featured a parade of about 200 plug-in vehicles. We’ve got press releases on both the National Plug In Day events and the Los Angeles-area EV “ride and drive” festivities below.

By Danny King

Weekend Roundup: 2012 Chicago Auto Show, Tesla Model X, Chevrolet Cruze Wagon – Rumor Central

Weekend Roundup: 2012 Chicago Auto Show, Tesla Model X, Chevrolet Cruze Wagon

Been away from your computer this week and missed all the automotive news? We’ve gathered a few of the top stories of the past week for your convenience.

2012 Chicago Auto Show

Check out our coverage of this week’s Chicago auto show, with news and photos from all the new product debuts. New cars on display at this year’s show range from practical rides like the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT and 2012 Nissan NV200 van, to performance offerings like the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 convertible and 2013 Nissan 370Z.

Tesla Model X Prototype Crossover Revealed with Falcon Door Fixation

Tesla this week revealed the Model X, an all-electric SUV from the maker of electric sports cars. The most notable design touch is what Tesla CEO Elon Musk calls “falcon doors”, which rise up above the SUV’s body when opened. Power will come from lithium-ion batteries in two different sizes, allowing anywhere from 200 to 300 miles per charge. The Model X rides on air suspension and is expected to weigh about 4700 pounds. The car should go into production next year before reaching customers in 2014.

Chevrolet Cruze Wagon Debuting at Geneva Motor Show

Chevrolet will use the Geneva Motor Show to introduce a wagon version of the Cruze. The new variant will be 3.2 inches longer than the Cruze sedan, and will offer between 17.7 and 53.0 cubic feet of cargo capacity, easily trouncing the 15.4 cubes on offer in the sedan version. This is actually the third body style for Chevrolet’s strong-selling compact — although the Cruze is offered only as a sedan, European buyers can also choose from a five-door hatchback. Sadly, chances of the Cruze wagon making it to the U.S. market are close to nil.

Buick Makes eAssist Standard on 2013 Regal, Adds Automatic Option to 2012 Regal GS

Buick announced a mild powertrain shuffle for its Regal sedan. The 2012 Regal GS sports sedan will henceforth offer an optional automatic transmission, expanding the appeal of the formerly manual-only car. Buick says acceleration times and fuel-economy for the automatic Regal GS will be equivalent to the manual-transmission version. Buick also announced that for 2013, the Regal sedan will drop its base inline-four powertrain and make the car’s eAssist mild hybrid system standard. The eAssist drivetrain combines a 2.4-liter inline-four gas engine with an electric motor-generator, returning lofty EPA ratings of 25/36 mpg (city/highway).

New Mitsubishi Outlander Making Debut at Geneva Motor Show

Mitsubishi will show the next-generation of its Outlander crossover in Geneva. The three-row model adopts a new exterior design and is said to have higher-quality interior components than the current Outlander. Additional equipment includes a power liftgate, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and a collision-avoidance braking system. Mitsubishi also will offer a plug-in hybrid version of the new Outlander, with an eco-friendly powertrain derived from the company’s PX-MiEV II concept car. The Outlander goes on sale here toward the end of 2012.

Spied: 2013 Nissan Altima Prototype in Michigan

Though the midsize sedan won’t be revealed publicly for a few more months, we managed to snap photos of the 2013 Nissan Altima testing on a Michigan highway. The sedan appears to have grown a bit compared to the current Altima, with new taillights and a redesigned front grille. Nissan plans for the 2013 car to be a “very strong contender” in a crowded segment that is dominated by the Toyota Camry. There will almost certainly be a hybrid version, with regular powertrain options likely comprising a small inline-four and a 3.5-liter V-6.

Ford Personnel Shifts: Kuzak and Booth to Retire, Huntsman Joins Board

Two senior executives at Ford Motor Company announced their retirement this week, and the Blue Oval announced that a former presidential candidate would join Ford’s board of directors. Ford chief financial officer Lewis Booth, who has been with the company since 1978, will retire April 1. Derrick Kuzack, vice president for global product development, has worked for Ford since 1978 and also will retire April 1. At the same time, Ford says former GOP presidential hopefuly Jon Huntsman, Jr., will join the company’s board of directors. Huntsman previously served as United States Ambassador to China under President Obama, and was governor of Utah.

Spied! 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL in Los Angeles

Mercedes-Benz will soon update its GL-Class SUV, and our colleagues at Motor Trend managed to snap some photos of the next GL driving around Los Angeles. We spy only minor changes to the exterior of this three-row prototype, including restyled taillights and new LED running lights. Instead, expect major changes under the hood. The GL550 will probably stop using a 5.5-liter V-8 in favor of the newer, more efficient twin-turbo 4.6-liter V-8. We can safely expect the next version of the Mercedes GL to debut next year.

Nissan Previews Invitation Concept Ahead of Geneva Debut

Nissan also previewed a car that will be unveiled in Geneva, the Invitation concept. It foreshadows a European-market hatchback that will fit between the Micra and Juke in Nissan’s lineup. The Invitation is based on the company’s B/V platform, which underpins the new Versa sedan. However, it’s unknown whether this car will ever be sold in America. When it goes on sale in Europe in 2013, the car will be badged as the Nissan Note.

First Drives: 2012 BMW 335i, 2012 Toyota Prius C

This week we drove a powerful German sports sedan and a small, thrifty Japanese hybrid. The former was the 2012 BMW 335i, the gutsiest version of the new F30-generation 3 Series currently on sale. The 300-hp 335i is plenty fast and rewards drivers with excellent handling, but we wish the BMW had more steering feel. At the other end of the automotive spectrum is the 2012 Toyota Prius C, which packs the company’s famous Hybrid Synergy Drive into a small hatchback body. The Prius C is an excellent hybrid car that feels even more refined than prior versions of the Prius, but the subcompact’s interior doesn’t feel as upscale or attractive as in non-hybrid competitors like the Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio.







By Jake Holmes

Rest in Pieces – Cars that Bit the Dust in 2011

Rest in Pieces – Cars that Bit the Dust in 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, we take a break from our New Year’s celebrations to pour a little Colt .45 (or Champagne, your call) out for our dead homies. As good of a year as 2011 was with vehicles like the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Chrysler 300 SRT8, and Ferrari FF making their debut, a lot of great cars like the Ford Crown Victoria and Ranger (and a few others we could probably live without) ended their production runs for good this year. Let’s take a moment of silence and remember our lost comrades, both loved, and unloved.

2011 buick lucerne front view 300x187 imageBuick Lucerne/Cadillac DTS – Like the Panther platform Fords, the Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS were two dinosaurs of days past. The Lucerne and DTS were both relics of the days when GM was ditching its rear-drive flagships for big front-drive sedans. While these cars will never be as iconic as other cars from the era that lasted just as long, we’d be remiss forgetting about these two luxo-barges.

Cadillac STS 300x187 imageCadillac STS – Unlike the Cadillac DTS, the STS started off on a good foot when it debuted in 2005, being a true rear-wheel drive luxury sedan. Sadly for the STS, it was neglected and by the time it went out of production this year, it had received no real significant updates, leading it to its ultimate replacement by the new, front-drive XTS.

2011 chevrolet aveo 5 rear view 300x187 imageChevrolet Aveo – There are very few cars that we wish didn’t exist and sadly, the Aveo is one of them. The definition of a penalty box on wheels, the Aveo was full of hard plastics, marginal workmanship, and a lethargic engine; the Aveo just plainly wasn’t good. While its replacement, the Sonic, is called the Aveo overseas, in the U.S. we’re much better off with the car, and the nameplate six feet under.

2011 chevrolet HHR front three quarter 300x187 imageChevrolet HHR – With the Chevy Cruze replacing the Cobalt last year, it was only a matter of time before the Cobalt-based HHR went out of production as well. Not as derided as the Cobalt, the HHR was essentially the hatchback version of the Cobalt. With a retro design inspired by early Suburbans and an available panel wagon and hot-hatch SS version, the HHR was actually a neat little car. Will it be greatly missed? Probably not; the Cruze is twice the car the HHR ever was. Now if only Chevy would bring the Cruze hatch to our shores…

2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4 front three quarter motion 300x187 imageDodge Caliber – The Dodge Caliber is another car that couldn’t leave us soon enough. On paper, the Caliber seemed like a great idea: it was packed with unique features like its “Cool Zone” storage and its tailgate-mounted swing-down speakers, and it looked like a mini-SUV, which was great for pre-recession America. Unfortunately for Dodge, that’s not the America we live in anymore. Even more unfortunate is that the Caliber just wasn’t a good car. It was woefully slow, wildly inefficient (the 2012 Dodge Charger gets better highway mpg than the CVT-equipped Caliber, 31 mpg versus 27 mpg), and filled to the brim with cheap, hard plastics. Dodge is a different company than it was in 2007 when the Caliber arrived, and the Caliber is no longer representative of what the company can do. Goodbye Caliber, your replacement, the 2013 Dart, can’t come soon enough.

2011 dodge nitro front view 300x187 imageDodge Nitro – The Dodge Nitro left us with very little fanfare. The rebadged and less-capable Dodge version of the Jeep Liberty is probably most famously known as the vehicle Fiat head Sergio Marchionne described as “the most significant hole in our product portfolio.” With it gone, Chrysler was able to increase production of the hot-selling Wrangler. We’d say that’s a fair trade.

ferrari 612 scaglietti 300x187 imageFerrari 612 Scaglietti – Sometimes good things must come to an end, so better things can be. The Ferrari 612 Scaglietti was one such car. While a fantastic sports car and an even better grand tourer, its replacement, the all-wheel drive Ferrari FF is a much better car in just about every way. While we’ll fondly remember the 612 Scaglietti, the FF will more than make up for the 612’s loss.

Ford Crown Victoria/Lincoln Town Car/Mercury Grand Marquis – The last Panther-platformFord Crown Victoria front three quarters 300x187 image Ford rolled off the line this year, leaving behind cops and cabbies who no-longer have a go-to choice for a workhorse sedan. The Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis became American icons, and we hold a special place in our hearts for these antiquated beasts of burden.

Final Ford Ranger front three quarter1 300x187 imageFord Ranger – A recent addition to this list, the very last Ford Ranger rolled off the production line just this month – a white Ranger Sport destined for bug killing duties at Orkin. The Ford Ranger was the last true compact pickup for sale in the United States, and while the nameplate may live on overseas, here the Ranger will be greatly missed.

Honda Element front three quarter 300x187 imageHonda Element – The Element was Honda’s take on rival Toyota’s Scion xB. By all accounts, the Element was a much more versatile beast, and proved popular with the outdoorsy crowd. Honda did its best to increase its appeal to all, introducing a sporty version and even a dog-friendly version, but ultimately the Element’s sales compared to Honda’s other SUVs didn’t justify its continued production.

2012 lotus elise front  300x187 imageLotus Elise/Exige – The Lotus Elise and Exige left our market not because they were bad cars, but because their federal smart airbag exemption sadly ran up this year, banishing two of the most visceral and back-to-basics driver’s cars from our shores. All’s not lost however, as the next-generation Elise and Exige will meet federal regulations, and if you can’t wait that long, there’s always the track-only Exige S to hold you over for the next couple years.

2012 maybach 57 300x187 imageMaybach 57/62 – Mercedes-Benz brought the Maybach brand back in 2002 and hoped the name would rise from the ashes and regain its pre-war prestige. While 57 and stretched 62 were essentially no more than tarted-up S-Classes, the car proved popular with the hip-hop crowd, and was arguably featured in just as many songs and music videos as the Cadillac Escalade. Sadly, poor sales didn’t justify Mercedes’ continued support of the brand, and so it quietly discontinued the luxury marquee early this month.

2011 mazda rx 8 grand touring left side 300x200 imageMazda RX-8 – With the death of the Mazda RX-8 comes the death of the Wankel rotary engine in Mazda’s lineup. While much loved by enthusiasts, many found the rotary-powered RX-8’s appetite for fuel and oil hard to stomach, and consequently, the four-door coupe’s sales didn’t meet Mazda’s expectations. Gone in the U.S., the RX-8 will soldier on in Japan for another year or two before being discontinued. Here’s hoping for the rotary’s return in the future.

2010 mercury mariner hybrid 300x187 imageMazda Tribute/Mercury Mariner – The Mazda Tribute and Mercury Mariner were two badge-engineered versions of the Escape that were often forgotten. The Mariner died with Mercury back in January, while the Tribute gets replaced by the (very good) Mazda-engineered CX-5.

Mercury – Mercury was the first of three brands to disappear this year, way back in January. Ford could no longer justify the brand which at that point had only three models: the Mariner (rebadged Ford Escape), the Milan (rebadged Fusion) and the Grand Marquis (a rebadged Crown Victoria).  With Mercury out of the way, Ford only has to worry about reviving Lincoln from the dead. Fittingly, the last Mercury to roll off the line was the iconic Grand Marquis back in January.

2012 mitsubishi eclipse front three quarters 300x187 imageMitsubishi Eclipse – The Eclipse that went away this year is but a shadow of its former self. The Eclipse was the equivalent of a star high school athlete who comes back for his twenty year reunion fat, balding and ugly. Early Eclipses were turbocharged all-wheel drive scamps that were true performance machines. The current Eclipse is no more than a secretary special. While there are rumors that the Eclipse may make a return in the future, unless it regains the performance pedigree of its past, we can probably live without it.

2011 mitsubishi endeavor front view 300x187 imageMitsubishi Endeavor – File this one under, “They still made this?” The Endeavor was all-new for 2003 and mostly unchanged since then. Rumor has it Mitsubishi will have a replacement for it in a few years, but by all accounts the death knell for the Endeavor sounded long ago.

2011 dodge dakota 4x4 front view 300x187 imageRam Dakota – Sadly, with the death of the Ram Dakota another small pickup leaves our marketplace, leaving just the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon to fly the American flag in the midsize pickup arena. The Ram Dakota started life as a Dodge in the late 1980s and was fairly successful up until the middle of the last decade. Since then, it languished mostly unchanged, save for it leaving the Dodge brand for Ram. Not all is loss though; Ram is reportedly readying a Fiat-based Dakota replacement in the coming years.

2012 Saab 9 4x front three quarters 300x187 imageSaab – If any brand on this list had a long, painful death it was Saab. The events leading up to Saab’s long and drawn out demise have been covered extensively on these pages, so we won’t bore you with the details. We will however, miss the plucky Swedes and the 9-3, 9-4X, and 9-5 which were great examples of Saab making do with the poor cards it was dealt.

2010 tesla roadster sport on flatbed 300x187 imageTesla Roadster – The Tesla Roadster took the world by storm when the electric car from the California-based startup first hit the scene in 2008. Here was one of the first modern electric cars that you could buy, and it happened to be a Lotus Elise-based sports car. Sadly Tesla’s federal smart airbag exemption expired at the close of 2011, leaving Tesla without a car to sell until the Model S hits in the summer of 2012.

2012 volvo S40 front three quarters 300x187 imageVolvo S40/V50 – The Volvo S40 and V50 were unceremoniously dropped from Volvo’s U.S. lineup this year due to lagging sales. The real shame is the loss of the V50, which was the last true station wagon that Volvo sold on our shores. For a brand that cut its teeth in the U.S. selling “turbo brick” wagons, the death of the V50 and its S40 sibling mark the end of an era.

By Christian Seabaugh