After reading Jason and Patrick's best and worst lists I thought I'd use this space as a chance to brag about the best year of driving I've ever had. A Bugatti. A Bentley. Two Lamborghinis. It's good to be the boss.
Did I mention I drove a brand new Audi R8 Spyder cross-country from our nation's capital of plastic surgery to our nation's actual capital?
Here was the conversation between Jalopnik and Audi:
Audi: Travis, would you like to take this Audi R8 we have in LA to the East Coast for us?
Me: Yes, I, Matt Hardigree, will do that.
Thus I visited CA, NV, AZ, UT, ID, WY, SD, NE, IA, IL, IN, OH, WV, MD, VA, DC in that order. All in an R8. It was the trip of a lifetime and the fact that I was in a Samoa convertible with a burbling V8 right behind me meant it couldn't possibly go wrong.
Even better, the car was a delight. When pushed hard it accelerated like a supercar, gripping to the road like this peeved cat to this terrified woman's face. All other times you'd have thought you were in something mundane. Well, something as mundane as a Porsche 911.
While I did look for every opportunity to drive the SRT Viper GTS on our SXSW Road Trip, the SRT Jeep Cherokee we brought along ended up a surprising favorite on the trip.
We bitch and moan extensively about G-Wagens and our desire to use them in despicable ways only legal in Albania, but is the best four-wheeled Mercedes hot rod SUV actually the SRT Cherokee?
Take a not-quite-Mercedes platform, make it look a storm trooper, squeeze a HEMI V8 into it, and run all this through eight gears and you get the SRT. Why does an SUV need a "TRACK" mode? Because this is an SUV that Jeep claims pulls 0.9 gs on the skidpad.
After a few hours in the Viper there was nothing like climbing into the suede-lined rear bench, flipping on the truck's 3G wireless network, and taking in the smell of fuel and horsepower.
I'm a sucker for a big van. I'm a sucker for diesels. This is a big van with a diesel that I also had the pleasure of sleeping in the back of with Patrick and Travis at a race track.
Because I think I know better than the global positioning system I ended up driving nowhere near Virginia International Raceway, which was the intended destination. To reconnect with the road we were supposed to be driving on I had to pull our large red Clifford Dog of a van onto the kind of twisty strip of concrete that makes Virginia a lovely place to visit.
Would I have rather been driving the Lamborghini Gallardo we took on the same trip a few weeks before? Of course. Not having that choice I walked away pleased that I was able to keep it upright.
Where this car really earns a place on my list, though, is when you consider it has seating for five thanks to a bench seat in the back (and two buckets up front) and can still carry more stuff than can fit in my tiny New York apartment. Or enough space to sleep three grown adults. All while returning surprisingly not awful fuel mileage.
My Merkur XR4ti might have been used on Top Gear USA, but everything good about it was ruined by Tanner Foust. He may have an All American smile and a bunch of trophies for his expert driving, but he couldn't drift a Merkur without welding the gears in the differential together. Pansy.
And if that wasn't enough, no one told me when I bought it (and by "no one" I mean Rutledge Wood, who used the lame excuse that he "couldn't possibly know") that they didn't bother to put oil into the differential. Essentially, I drove a few hundred miles sitting on a ticking time bomb.
While the XR4Ti was a delight in a straight line and fun on wide open turns, it was Friday the 13th every time I had to stop and get gasoline. There are only two ways to get a car with a welded diff to turn: 1. Drift it or 2. Drag one wheel like a dog with a broken leg.
While the former sounds like fun, try drifting into a random gas station on the side of an Interstate. People freak out. It would be fun without all the pillars of explosive fluid everywhere.
I should point out the first and only major repair to the car was replacing the diff and it's now a delight, although I sold it so it's no longer my delight.
The moral of this story: Don't buy cars that Tanner Foust once owned.
For all the love we give Audi around here — and deserved because they make fucking great cars — I'm disappointed in the new Audi Allroad Quattro, which I gave a Haiku Review to a few months back.
The more I think about this car and the more I think about how great the old Audi Allroad was, with its air suspension that could raise the car eight inches up off the road, the more disappointing the new Allroad is.
There's nothing particularly bad about it and it's as close as you'll get to an A4 Avant in this country since, well, it is an A4 Avant. Just one that's been given predictable body cladding and a slightly wider and taller stance.
You shouldn't be allowed to sell a new car that's worse than an old car and that's what this is. If someone would start a company that converts A4 Allroads back into A4 Avants I'd support that.
GM has committed itself to no longer building crap cars, but Chrysler still sells a few. Most notably, people are still buying Chrysler 200s personal use and not just for rental fleets. How is this possible?
There are so many segments where the difference between the best and the worst car is slight, and all of the cars are worth owning. Is there a bad mid-size SUV? Not really. Is there a bad mid-size car? Yes. That car is the Chrysler 200.
You've heard of lipstick on a pig? Imagine trying to stretch the Dick Nixon mask used in Point Break around a pig and you've roughly got the Chrysler 200. Even with the new Pentastar engine it's just such a sad reminder of how bad Chrysler got that for the sake of their own pride, Chrysler should just have discontinued it.
The 2015 Chrysler 200 will be better because it couldn't possibly be worse.