It's a great time to be a car enthusiast. Cars have never been eco-friendlier, sleeker, or cheaper. You can damn near hit a brick wall doing 120KPH and get out unscathed - that's how safe they are these days. But who cares about all that? All I care about is how fast & stable - at high speeds that is - they are. I like cars that make no apologies for their rawness, kinda like an older Prelude with hand-cranked windows, cloth seats and busted rear speakers. Not to say I prefer older cars to newer - hell to the naw.
Below is a list of the cars I'd want in my garage if money was no object. More importantly, they're cars that are great bang for buck. Not to say they're inexpensive, no. Just that they're a lot more value for money than, say, a $350,000 Lambo that you couldn't get over a speed bump.
First off is Godzilla, the latest iteration of the Nissan Skyline, dubbed the Nissan GT-R. At $70,000, it's not exactly cheap. [No kidding] But for that you get a world-class supercar that rivals, and beats, cars that cost 4-5 times more. Its spec-sheet reads like an enthusiast's wet dream, a state-of-the-art piece of engineering. It even has 2 driveshafts! And how about a 3.5 sec. 0-60 time? Insane.
As if the GT-R for the masses wasn't wicked enough, Nissan made the one below for Super GT. Can't wait to see it gobble up the competition once it starts racing.
Even more technologically advanced is the 2008 BMW M3. Its heart is a high-revving 414 horsepower V8, redlining at a Honda-like 8400 rpm, not to mention the double-VANOS technology. Don't know how they pulled that off. It's not exactly cheap either but it more than pays for itself in sheer exhilaration. I never liked Benzes and neither am I crazy about BMWs, but this one earns - no, DEMANDS - respect.
Ah, this right here is real close to my heart, the Nissan 350Z. It's not exactly the most practical, being a 2-seater and all; it's more a toy than anything. And what a toy it is - sub-300 horsepower with the classic front engine, rear wheel drive configuration. The howl that emanates from its VQ35 engine will raise the hairs on the nape of your neck. Trust.
And speaking of engine sounds, nothing sounds better than the Subaru WRX STi's pissed-off roar from its 2.0 or 2.5L [U.S.-spec] boxer engine. This is the ultimate boy-racer. If raw exhibitions of power are your thing, as well as all-wheel powerslides on any terrain, this is the car for you. It's such a bully - love it. Not to mention its smashing good looks.
This one right here tho is my all time fave, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. If the Subaru is an Apache helicopter, the Evo is an F-22 Raptor. All you gotta do is point it where you want to go and mash that right pedal in and it will sort itself out. Like some car magazine editor put it, it's almost impossible to crash the thing. I'm all about handling, what with grazing bumpers and stuff, so I gotta love a car that makes mincemeat of corners. And how about that shark-like scowl? You'd think you were in the movie Jaws if you saw that in your rearview! Gotta love it.
Last year I'd rented a Mazda 3 for a few days and fallen in love with the little bugger. It's very easy to drive fast in, very sporty. It's got excellent gas mileage, even when driving like an ass like I sometimes do. This here, though, is the MazdaSpeed 3, possibly the baddest front-driven hatch ever. Thanks to its DISI technology, it pushes a [very conservative] 263 HP. A host of techno-wizardry helps minimize torque-steer and understeer. A few add-ons can get it in the 300 HP range without it breaking a sweat. It's definitely a top contender.
The VW Golf GTI is arguably the hottest of the hot-hatches. This German-built 3-door will do things a conventional front-driven car can only dream about. Thanks to my boy V^6 and his i-n-s-a-n-e GTI, I've become a hardcore fan of this little bugger. Plus, it doesn't sacrifice any creature comforts - has heated leather seats, sunroof, climate control.... the whole nine. Great little car.
The only other hot-hatch that threatens to knock the GTI off its precarious perch is the UK-spec Honda Civic Type-R. Too bad this car may never come stateside, because I'd live off bread and water to get one. It's the only Civic I've ever completely liked. [Maybe because it's impossible to get here?] From its stratospheric redline, sport-tuned suspension and i-VTEC technology, it's the ultimate car to flog; it's just so damn tough.
It may be difficult to justify its $50,000 price tag, but a couple of hot laps around the track in the Lotus Exige just might convince you it's worth it. Often hailed as the best handling car in the world, it'll burn permanent laugh lines in your face from grinning all the time while driving it. This is a car you can take to the track, win a race, drive back home, shower and run to Walmart in, then do the same thing over the following day. Engineering at its best.
Lately, Audi seems to be making, and I quote, sex machines. Few cars are as beautiful as Audis, if any. And it's not all about aesthetics either. Their engines are among the best in the world, as is their permanent all-wheel-drive Quattro system. They don't hold back when it comes to gizmos either. The Audi A4, below, is my favorite one. I like them small and quick and the other Audis are behemoths, as good as they might be.
I can't justify spending mega-dollars on a car and seeing how the Mitsu Evo is a little out of my price range at 35-large, this yet-to-be-released Lancer Ralliart, a.k.a. Evo Lite, will have to do, below. It's only slightly less powerful than the Evo and has most of its all-wheel-drive technology. Hey, eight-tenths of a loaf is better than none, right?