Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2012 Car Awards: 2012 Car Of The Year

In 2012, we saw several cars make a splash in the industry. But to be named my car of the year, the manufacturer has come out with a car that one would not think that manufacturer would make. Last year, my Car Of The Year went to the Ferrari FF. This is not your typical Ferrari. All Ferraris have been rear-wheel drive supercars and grand tourers until the FF, which is a four-wheel drive. Also, the FF is a hatchback, which is also a first for Ferrari. So what manufacturer took their game to the next level? What car stood out as the best of the best in 2012? The best car to come out in 2012 is...

Toyota FT 86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ

Toyota FT 86

Subaru BRZ

Scion FR-S
Just like the Ferrari FF, the Toyota FT-86 is like no other current Toyota. Likewise, the Subaru BRZ is like no other Subaru. The Scion FR-S is truly unique to the Scion brand. I drove the FR-S in 2012 and just had so much fun in the car, and this is from the car manufacturer that is responsible for the Scion/Toyota iQ and the Prius line. The interior is very sporty. The 200 hp 2.0L flat-4 engine is more than capable of pulling the car along. These three cars go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and it felt quick on the test drive. The styling is like nothing I have seen from either Subaru or Toyota. All their cars are generic boxy cars, but the FT-86, FR-S, and BRZ look like sporty coupes and even have better styling than the Nissan 370Z. The kicker is that these three cars are rear-wheel drive. All modern Subarus are four-wheel drive. Most current Toyotas are front-wheel drive with an optional four-wheel drive system. The FR-S is the rear-wheel drive car for Scion. All other Scions are front-engine drive. I test drove the FR-S and found the car to be very responsive and smooth on bumpy roads. If there is one issue that could turn people away from the FR-S is the racing style seats. It took a few minutes for me to get familiar with the seats. After that, I had no problems with the FR-S. Prices for these cars are around $26,000, which is a great value for what you get from these three cars. With that said, the Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, and Toyota FT-86 my 2012 Car of the Year. Great work Toyota and Subaru.

Honorable Mentions

Buick Verano

The Buick Verano is the biggest surprise of 2012. While the exterior is nothing to write home about, the interior and driving experience makes up for it. Powering the Verano is a 2.5L I4 engine that produces 178 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds. There is also a turbocharged 2.0L I4 engine available for the Verano that produces 247 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. GM estimates that the Verano Turbo can go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. The selling point for the Verano is the head and leg room available for adult passengers sitting in the rear. I test drove this car at the 2012 Houston Auto Show and my dad was riding in the back. He says he had plenty of leg room and head room and was more comfortable sitting in the back of the Verano than he did sitting in the back of a BMW 3-Series. As far as comfort behind the wheel, the Verano delivers. I had plenty of head room behind the wheel. My seat was very comfortable. The Verano felt luxurious. The car was smooth and responded very well when I turned the wheel. Prices for the Verano start around $24,000 and the car I test drove cost around $26,000. That is great value for a comfortable luxury compact car. If it was slightly quicker without the addition of the turbocharger and had a more aggressive styling, then the Buick Verano would have been my 2012 Car Of The Year. But it is a close second to the FT-86/BRZ/FR-S. Still, great job General Motors and Buick.

Cadillac ATS

The ATS continues the new trend set by Cadillac. Cadillac had a reputation for being cars for the seniors. But not anymore. The ATS has the sportiness as the CTS. The ATS can compete with the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Lexus IS, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Like its rival, it comes with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The ATS is available with three different engines. The 2.5L I4 engine produces 202 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. The turbocharged 2.0L I4 engine produces 272 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The 3.6L V6 produces 321 hp and 274 lb-ft of torque. ATS has style, luxury and sportiness. But Cadillac has done that in the past with the CTS. Even thought it is not my car of the year, it is still a great car and I cannot wait for the ATS-V.

Tesla Model S

Tesla continues to raise the bar for electric vehicles, but that is expected from Tesla. The Tesla Model S is just beautiful. It looks like a luxury sedan. I named the Tesla Model my 2011 Best Electric Car since it was in production in 2011 and I saw at at the Tesla store in the Galleria. Except that it was released during 2012, so as a shock to no one, the Tesla Model S is the best electric car to come out in 2012. It is even Motortrend's 2013 Car of the Year. Last two years, Motortrend's Car of the Year award went to the Chevrolet Volt in 2011 and the Volkswagen Passat in 2012. Back to the Model S, this car is available with a three-phase AC induction motor and three different lithium-ion batteries. The 40 kWh battery option pack produces 235 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque and has a range of 160 mile. The 60 kWh battery option pack produces 302 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque and has a range between 208 miles and 230 miles. The 85 kWh battery option pack produces 360 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque and has a range between 265 miles and 300 miles. There is also a high performance 85 kWh battery pack option that produces 420 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. The base price for the Model S is $59,900 and can reach up to $94,900 for the high performance Model S. Still, this is the best electric car you can own, but it is just too expensive to be my 2012 car of the year. 

If you agree with my choice or think that another car that came out in 2012 deserves this award, please let me know in the comments below.

Photos were taken by a digital camera.
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