Sunday, June 22, 2014

Auto Countdown: Top 10 Cars I drove in 2013

In 2012, I did sixteen test drives. In 2013, I test drove over 100 vehicles, including 70 during the 2013 Houston Auto Show. I have already covered the worst and the pleasant surprises. Now it is time to cover the best. To prevent this list by a particular brand, the one vehicle per brand rule is in effect.

10. Toyota Avalon

I have not been impressed with Toyota lately, especially with the new Toyota RAV4. The Toyota Camry maybe one of the best selling car in America, but it is so boring. I was not impressed with the Tundra.  But there is one Toyota I was impressed with, the Avalon. I just love the styling of the Avalon. Plus it has a smooth, comfortable ride. The Avalon is easily the best Toyota I drove in 2013 and earns a spot on this list.

9. Hyundai Equus

The Hyundai Equus makes this list for one reason, its very comfortable ride. It is so soft. It is like driving a cloud it is so soft. It ends up at the 9 spot because the very soft ride takes you out of the driving experience. The very luxury quality of the Equus puts it on the list. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe was in contention, but there were better sports cars I drove in 2013.

8. Nissan 370Z

The Nissan 370Z continues the Nissan lineage of affordable sports car. The 370Z has a stiff ride, but handles nicely. It is a two-door sports car, so it is not that practical compared to other sport coupes. But it does handle nicely plus it gets good power from its 3.7L V6. But it is too uncomfortable to be any higher than the eighth spot on this list. It has better driver interactive than the Avalon and the Equus.

7. Chevrolet Camaro SS

Nothing says American muscle like the Chevrolet Camaro SS. Powering this brute is a 6.2L V8 that produces 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, topping the Mustang 5.0 and Challenger R/T is power. This is a fun car to drive, but it does have a few issues. The design of the windshield makes it hard to see, plus it is plagued with blind spots. It is hard to enjoy driving this car with the visibility issues.

6. Ford Mustang 5.0

The Camaro may have more power, but the Ford Mustang 5.0 provides a better driving experience. The Mustang has a great sporty styling to it. While it does have some blind spots, it has better visibility than the Camaro. Plus the interior of the Mustang is nicer than the Camaro. The Mustang is an American icon and the modern Mustangs hold true to the Mustang lineage. While the live axle setup is very outdated, it adds to the experience of driving a Mustang. This is a fun car to drive. Since it is a sports coupe, it is not that practical, so it misses the top five.

5. Dodge Charger R/T Max

I could have easily put the Dodge Challenger SRT or the Dodge Charger SRT, but both of those vehicles cost over $50,000 when nicely equipped. The Charger R/T Max may not get the performance, but it has great features to it. To start off, heated and cooled front seats plus heated and cooled front cup holders. Not to mention available blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning to aid in safety. Powering the Charger R/T Max is a 5.7L Hemi V8 that gets 375 hp. Plus it has a good ride quality. All this for around $40,000. For the price and the features, the Charger R/T Max makes its way into the top five.

4. Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

With all the sports cars I drove this year, none of them do what the Subaru Legacy can do. Subaru greatly improved the styling of the Legacy compared to previous generations. Plus, it has Subaru's AWD system. Add in a 3.6L H6 engine and you got a vehicle that has very good handling. It also have a very comfortable ride. Add in leather seats, reverse camera, safety features like lane departure warning and Subaru's Eyesight system, navigation, and a moonroof for around $30,000, and it is hard to beat that value. The Legacy is the best mid-size vehicle I drove in 2013. And for its value alone, it ends up at the four spot on this list.

3. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Right of the bat, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is the best SUV I drove in 2013. Helping with the drive quality is an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Uconnect system is very user-friendly. Now to take the Grand Cherokee to the extreme, the SRT version. Powering this SUV is a 6.4L Hemi V8 that produces 470 hp. Add in launch control and you get a one of a kind experience with the Grand Cherokee SRT. This may look like an SUV, but it is a muscle car.

2. Chrysler 300 SRT

If there is any company that has greatly improved its quality lately, it is Chrysler. The Chrysler 300 has a very smooth ride and luxury feel to it. Plus it uses Chrysler's Uconnect system, which is very easy to use. Now add a 6.4L Hemi V8 engine that produces 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, and you got something special. This was a very fun car to drive. This was so close to topping to list, but there is one car that outperforms the 300 SRT. 

1. Cadillac CTS-V Family

This should come to no surprise. The Cadillac CTS-V line is the best line of cars I have drive in 2013. The CTS-Vs are the fastest, most powerful cars I drove in 2013. Powering these cars is a supercharged 6.2L V8 engine that produces 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque. Plus, these will go from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.0 seconds. On top of the power and performance, the CTS-Vs have an exceptional drive/ride quality. I was very comfortable sitting in the Recaro racing seats that adjust 14 ways. Cadillac and General Motors did an excellent job making a quiet interior. I could not hear the engine when inside the CTS-Vs. Driving a Cadillac CTS-V is an experience everyone should do. If you can afford to spend between $65,000 and $75,000, here is a great line of cars.

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