This has been a banner year. Four Lamborghinis. Four Porsches. Three Corvettes. Two Aston Martins. Two Ferraris. A Viper. And the most spectacular Miata you can imagine. I never want to wake up from this coma that I'm clearly in.
One of my main duties here at Jalopnik is to lead most of our road testing. Last year was just the start, but this year we really hit our stride with some of the most incredible cars on the road. Paring down my Google Calendar of test cars to just three bests and three worsts was tougher than making sure Chernobyl was safe for people without radiation suits.
I narrowed it down to cars I had a connection to, that I could see myself owning and driving. A home on wheels, whether on the street or track. A lot of cars I've driven this year have been astoundingly capable and are truly excellent (ahem 2014 Corvette ahem), but they don't strike that secret chord that instantly makes me want one.
These are the cars that struck that chord. And the cars that missed the mark by a mile.
Best: Mazda Miata Super20
This is my favorite car I've driven this year by a vast country mile. If I owned a new Miata, this is exactly how it would be modified. Aggressive suspension work, supercharger, race clutch, roll bar, and all the other goodies come together to make the most fun and capable expression of the Miata you can imagine.
It's also one of the most capable cars in the world.
I'd choose to own the Super20 over living indoors. I'd rather have it than have a girlfriend (well, in most cases). I'd give up whatever I could to own this car. It's that good.
Best: Aston Martin V12 Vantage
This was the last car that has a V12 engine and a manual gearbox, and it's gone extinct since the time I've driven it.
The V12 Vantage is more than a tailored suit worn by a bodybuilder. It's a hot rod in the truest sense of the word. Biggest possible engine into the smallest car the company builds (and don't say the Cygnet is an Aston, it just isn't). It's a car that's a perfect storm of engineers saying "let's do this" and ignoring the bean counters' plea to remember the bottom line. It's a giant middle finger to the rest of the auto industry, and a car I'd choose over its racing counterpart.
"Oh, you're downsizing and turbocharging your engines? That's cute. Now excuse us as we squeeze a melodic V12 into a place where it shouldn't fit. Good day."
Now the Vantage S has taken its place. Sure, it has more power, but it has less third pedal. Hopefully that makes a comeback soon.
Best: Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo Race Car
Lamborghini isn't a brand with a true motorsports history. Sure, they pop up from time to time in GT1 or as an F1 engine supplier, but there's no clear lineage from company founding to today.
That's what makes the Super Trofeo car such a monumental shock. This thing is proper. From the eye popping brakes to the simply mind bending thrust on corner exit, it's one of the most impressive cars I've ever driven. It's also a car that finally makes the garbage e-gear transmission feel like it has a use. In a race car, shifts are supposed to be hardcore and fast, and at full throttle, it works seamlessly. Suddenly, something that breaks your neck on the road makes more than a modicum of sense on track. Bravo.
The Super Trofeo narrowly beat out the Gallardo LP560-2 with the manual transmission to make this list... Because racecar.
Worst: Volvo C30 Polestar
I wanted to love this car so badly. So badly. A turbocharged crazy blue hatchback from Sweden. I thought this would be it. I thought that I had found my soulmate.
I was let down by nearly every element of the C30. There was glass all over the cabin, yet I couldn't see out of it. The clutch was easily the worst of any car I've ever driven. No feel in the steering. Controls for infotainment are on the back of the wheel. I should say that it was safe, since I did get lightly t-boned at an intersection in it without any injury at all.
This was going to be quirky, but I didn't think it'd be this quirky. Though I like Zooey Deschanel, this was just too out there for me. Manic pixie crap hatch.
Worst: Buick Regal GS
Here's a case of a car that is far worse with a manual transmission than an automatic. I drove an automatic one before, and I thought it was pretty ok. I didn't really know who would buy it, but it wasn't offensive.
The manual version is a different story.
The gearbox is utter crap. Vague and lame. Worse, the shift lever is covered in some sort of hard plastic crap that isn't pleasing to the touch at all. It torque steers like a bitch, too. The chrome 20-inch wheels are just too much. This wasn't the revised 2014 version either, it was the 2013. But from what I've heard, the 2014 isn't much different.
One thing I will say is that it has some amazing brakes. Other than that, I just don't get it.
Worst: Mini Paceman John Cooper Works
I'm a fan of Minis. This car, as far as I'm concerned, is not a Mini.
It's heavy and bloated, ugly, and makes no sense. It doesn't drive with the verve or passion you'd expect from a Mini. I wanted to like this car. I just couldn't do it. It's like Mini is playing an April Fool's joke on us that's lasted through May and will never sadly end.
This Medium Cooper is probably my least favorite car I've ever been in. And I took my driver's test in a periwinkle Plymouth Neon. I'd buy that Neon over the Paceman every time. Just writing about it is pissing me off.