Let me start by saying that I really appreciate most cars. With each car I drive, I try to put all prejudices aside and enjoy it for what it is. I am not the Dalai Lama of cars, but you get the idea.
And now, like a complete hypocrite to the above, I say this:
I don’t care what anyone says, we’re all biased toward one brand, or style, or type, properties, or even geographical origin of cars. Below is a much abbreviated list of car stuff that I love, like, and appreciate. Keep in mind that this is a living document that I will update how and when I feel like it.
Specific models: Pick one, any one. I like the styling of the 996 the least (those headlights, WTF Germans?). My favorites are the early 1990′s RS America and the 997 GT3.
Why? Engineering over passion. Engineering over physics. Bad idea perfected. Whatever. Do I really need to explain why I love the quintessential P-car? I like the Cayman quite a lot too.
Specific models: I prefer the late model Toyota or better yet, Honda, powered versions. They just seem to be the most evolved and polished; then again, I have never driven the earlier versions.
Why? Much like the 911, it is a function over form design, except this bitch is turned up to eleven. Whatever you don’t need for driving on the track is not there. Small, lightweight, everything a true sports car should be and nothing it shouldn’t be.
Specific models: There has not been a significant change over the years, but I prefer the 2-liter motors; something about a 9000-rpm redline.
Why? Same principle as the above. The car was designed by engineers with a purpose in mind. So it doesn’t have the low-end power of a Corvette. Whaaa! That does not mean it’s not a proper sports car. The S2000 begs to be driven hard and it was designed to do just that. It’s sort of like a Miata, except better in every way. The engine is amazing, the chassis is well balanced, inside, the steering wheel is thick, the seats are supportive, the shifter is close to perfect. There is nothing in there that is not needed. Crappy radio with two speakers, hardly any storage space, nothing to distract the driver from doing what he or she is suppose to do. Compare the S2000 to other similar cars, such as the Z3s and Z4s, SLKs, Boxsters and TTs – which would you rather own? Oh, and add the reliability of an Accord, something the other cars definitely do not possess.
Specific models: The third generation,’94 to ’01 model years.
Why? The ’97-’01 Type R is one of the best handling FWD cars ever. When it came out in 1994, the controversially styled G3, was like nothing else on the market. Competition scrambled to come up with equivalents, only to come up way short, think Celica GTS, Eclipse (not the AWD turbo one). Its strong and well-sorted chassis, strong and efficient engine (and transmission) that proved worthy of a lot more power made the Integra a king of its segment.
Why not? Unfortunately, the Integra became a victim of its own success; a poster child of rice and an incredible victim to theft as its parts swap so nicely into the lighter and cheaper Civic. A shame, really.
Specific models: Any of the E30, E36, E46 and E9x with an in-line six cylinder engine, manual transmission and rear wheel drive. I prefer sport package equipped cars, if for nothing more than the supportive sport seats and thicker steering wheel.
Why: The idea is simple – a rear wheel drive sedan, balanced chassis, good brakes, awesome steering feel and a torque-rich engine with a smoothly shifting transmission… you get the [simple] idea. And so does BMW, however no one else seems to be able to. Most of the 3-series competitors do not do everything as well as the little bimmer. Yes, they can be faster, have more gadgets, more room, but none of them sum up all those quite as well as the BMW.
Why not? They develop fleas as they age (full article coming soon). With each new model, heck with each new model year (continuing engineering is evident in very subtle details), they seem to get better and better… and bigger and heavier. The current E90 is similar in all dimensions to the E34 5-series. And where the eff is the LSD on the non-M cars!?
Specific models: Early 1.6L models as they’re the lightest and simplest.
Why? Because it is a lot more fun to drive slow cars fast than it is to drive fast cars slow.
Why not? Can’t deal with the stereotypes that are associated with it. Sorry.
Specific models: TJs with the good old in-line six and manual transmission. The current JK looks like fun too, haven’t driven it yet but heard mixed reviews.
Why? It’s just cool. It is the ultimate convertible; can you name another vehicle with removable door and windshield that lowers? It gives you the freedom (or the idea thereof) to go anywhere, and at one point in their life everyone wanted one.
Why not? It drives like a Wrangler, highway ride can be painful. I also think that it’s under-engineered. There is a version of the Wrangler called the J8 made for foreign military; it comes with a diesel engine, beefier frame and driveline, and a snorkel. How cool would the Unlimited be if it had all that as well as the conveniences (ha!) of a Wrangler as we know it? A vehicle like the Wrangler should have a 6000lbs towing capacity, as opposed to the car-like 2000lbs.
UPDATE: Looks like someone out there is listening.
Toyota Land Cruiser and similar vehicles.
Specific models: The 80-series, and the older 40-series, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Tacoma (a.k.a. HiLux).
Why? Take everything I’ve said about the Land Rover, and subtract the reliability/engineering issues, and add lower ownership costs. Remove some personality too, but not much. These vehicles have pretty much over taken Land Rover in certain parts of the world because of how long they last and how much abuse they can take while not giving up any off-road ability or utility. Eventually, there will be a Toyota SUV/track section on this website. I have also spent a few weeks in Africa driving a Land Cruiser and a Land Rover back-to-back, and this story will be up too, one day.
Mercedes Benz G-Class. (UPDATE)
Specific models: 2- or 4-door, older stripped down gray-market imports, any models with turbo-diesel engine, current USDM non-AMG models.
Why? They fall into the same class of vehicles as Land Rovers and some Toyotas. Originally developed for the military and then brought to the public market as true all terrain vehicles. Simple function-over-form design, square boxy love-it-or-hate-it looks.
Why not? C’mon, do we really need an AMG version of the G-class? No, I don’t think so. Some other MB vehilces of early to mid 2000′s have developed fleas as they aged (tranmissions, for instance), but I don’t know if they tricked down to the G-Class.
Constantly evolving, great racing heritage and participation, great R&D. A ton of original ideas that seem to be copied in one way or another industry wide. While they’ve started making some basic, but driver orientated cars have lately developed into… well… almost everything. People question their design choices and new vehicles (X6), but at the end of the day they’re profitable and can afford to take some calculated risks.
In my opinion, BMW is leading in technological and stylistic design, examples:
- Idrive, the so-hated-that-it-is-trendy-to-hate-it device is now a standard feature across most so-called luxury vehicles: Infiniti, Audi, Mercedes, they all have a version of it, and of course every journalist will tell you that they’re all better than the idrive. Lexus at the present time still insists on a multitude of buttons and old 7-segment character digital clock AND tape decks!!!- WTF Lexus?
- Bangle-butt, which came on the least attractive 7-series ever, can now be seen on so many cars that’s it’s pointless to list there.
- X5 and X3 have essentially started the “cross-over” movement, where an SUV showed that it can actually perform on a road as good as big sports sedan.
- Silly things like angel-eyes, mirror shapes, side vents, Hofmeister kink, and numerous others; again, copied all the time.
- Continuing engineering. Honda comes out with a model, and in most cases it pretty much remains unchanged for the entire model life. BMW constantly upgrades and updates their models – example: E46, introduced in ’99, came with tape deck and AM/FM radio, optional were CD player and primitive by today’s standards navigation system. By the end of the life, you could have Sirius radio, integrated iPod controller, Bluetooth, auxiliary input, all in the very similar looking, and retrofit-able headunit. That’s amazing, in the mid 90s when the car was designed, there was no iPod, and there was no satellite radio.
They always seem to stand by their mantra of making affordable, efficient and high quality, well made cars. And it works. Much like the 3-series, it’s a simple formula that not many others seem to get just right. With good profits, Honda can risk controversial (for the lack of better terms) vehicle designs such as the Ridgeline, which by the way, I find to be very underrated. The Element is another such vehicle; AWD, fuel efficient, ton of room inside and very affordable. Too bad I can’t get over its looks.
I used to love the Acura brand as they were nicer Hondas. However, I find the recent newly styled models not very attractive at first. Sit inside and drive however and you’ll quickly change your mind. Their target market appears to be an educated adult that insists on good value and quality product, but someone younger than, say, a Lexus ES driver type. Acura designs have a way of growing on me no matter how controversial they seem at first.
Like any self-respecting car (motor?) company, Honda is heavy into motorsports and R&D, which always go hand-in-hand and yield a better product for the customer. Unlike many others that compare themselves to Honda and would have you believe that they are the same, the true colors of Honda come out after many miles driven and years of ownership; these cars just last. They’re not so much over-engineered as they are designed with great attention to detail.
Cost reduction – all car companies look to reduce costs, but cost reduction should not interfere with the design of, say a wire connector; the cost difference to manufacture and install a poorly designed versus a well designed wire connector is negligible. But there is more. Many cars last, GM makes some very long lasting cars, however, you can age and you can age well. Hondas definitely age well; rattles, squeaks, weak bushings, poor ride and just overall deterioration will be less evident on a Honda than just about any other brand of cars out there.
Simplicity – remote entry remotes. On most cars if you lose them, you need to go to the dealer, buy a new one, and then pay that dealer to use a super special top secret machine to program that remote for you. On a Honda? You program the car to recognize the remote by turning the ignition on and off a few times while holding the lock button.
Low ownership cost – heated seat button on your BMW stops illuminating when you put the lights on. You can live with, or if you’re like me and you go and buy a new switch, only to find out that you need a whole new module which then needs to be programmed to work with your car. On a Honda? You buy a $2 bulb and you replace it.
Hi! Have you been paying attention? Ford has sold Aston Martin to Prodrive and a bunch of private investors. So what, you ask? Well, since its takeover I’ve observed Aston Martin do some very important things:
- Greater involvement in racing, which definitely a good thing. It yields great R&D as well as brand exposure.
- Increased R&D has resulted in better vehicles. Though AM the line has remained rather unchanged, each car has received subtle chassis upgrades and the drivelines seem to getting some polishing too. Slowly but surely, the interior trim pieces are less Ford and more proper work of art that is expected from Aston Martin.
- In recent years reliability has gone up, or so I’ve heard; they almost always start now.
I foresee great things for AM in the future and I would love to spend some time behind the wheel of the DBS. Why the DBS? It is their latest addition, and therefore the one that was least influenced by Ford. It also appears to be the more track orientated as opposed to the other more GT cars, but I’d love to find out for myself. Hello, Aston Martin PR, are you reading this?
All that shit aside, they’re just so damn pretty.
I am trying hard not to like Land Rovers, but I can’t. There are so many reasons not to like them; they’re pieces of crap. Stupid shit brakes all the time. They leak all kinds of crap. They drive horribly. Gas mileage doesn’t get any worse. Parts and service costs are atrocious. Hell, the previous generation Discovery… there is NOTHING good about that vehicle. But I love them, and so do many other people.
The fact is, they are awesome, but only under the certain conditions. Do you live in the sticks? Do you venture off-road? Do you have the desire to drive across Africa? Maybe spending a month in the Amazon is your idea of fun? Do you prefer driving up a mountain rather than hiking it? Are you looking for a high-end luxury, cost-no-object vehicle that was designed to withstand all kinds of treacherous conditions? Then the Land Rover maybe a vehicle for you.
Unlike most SUVs, Land Rovers (except that little POS one) were really designed to perform off-road. The approach to their design is similar to the approach Ferrari takes to speed and handling – the best performance, cost no object. They are designed with a purpose; full-time AWD, short overhangs (think approach and departure angles), locking differentials, fantastic (for a stock vehicle) axle articulation, ground clearance, driveline, chassis, frame and everything about it is designed such that obstacles are overcome and you’re not stuck in the middle of nowhere.
I am biased however. My father, who is geography professor and a big 4WD guy, used to tell me all the time how great the Land Rovers are, however he travels to places where there is ton of dirt roads (or no roads) and winters are really harsh. I also happen to love how Land Rovers look and I like the overall feel. That’s it. I don’t need to justify it anymore. Much like super-fast, super-powerful vehicles, they offer you an idea of their abilities, even if you never take advantage of it. And that works for me, and for millions other people who have purchased similar vehicles without any honest intension of driving them the way there were designed to.
Look for the Defender and Discovery reviews on this site for further info.
There is more, and I will update this as I feel like it.
Yes, I realize that some (most) of these vehicles are not what one would consider a proper family vehicle, but a man can dream.