Fun to drive can be defined an infinite number of ways. The sports car driver will say power and acceleration, braking and handling are the main contributors to fun to drive. There is also the element of sexy head-turning styling ringing the sports car driver’s bell. The sport utility driver will add functionality to that equation. A smart fortwo driver may think its quirky styling, minuscule size (even with its funky transmission) add to the fun to drive experience.
The most fun to drive vehicles in AutoPacific’s New Vehicle Satisfaction Research – those with 85 % or more of their drivers totally satisfied with its fun to drive characteristics include:
1. Chevrolet SS: We can certainly understand this one. Fully loaded 4-door sedan with a Corvette V8, the SS is a great value and adds sedan functionality to a high performance platform. Not a big seller, the SS buyer certainly understands the special car they are driving. One hundred percent of the respondents were totally satisfied with its fun to drive characteristics.
2. Chevrolet Corvette: Corvette is the quintessential American sports car. Big with dramatic styling and powered by a large displacement push-rod V8, the Corvette not only has the dynamics for a fun to drive winner, but also the looks.
3. Porsche Cayman: Curvaceous styling with Porsche DNA, German precision and sprightly dynamics have 94% of Cayman drivers totally satisfied with the fun to drive of their car.
4. Porsche Panamera: The most expensive of the fun to drive vehicles is the Porsche Panamera 4-door sedan with 93% of its owners totally satisfied. Sometimes criticized for its ungainly looks, it checks the boxes for fun to drive. Panamera is in the top ten in power and acceleration. Panamera is top ranked for braking. Panamera is in the top five for handling. Not bad for such a large car.
5. smart fortwo: There are fifteen cars that score 85% or higher in fun to drive. Surprising is one of them is the smart fortwo with 92% of its drivers totally satisfied with its fun to drive. Acceleration and powertrain performance clearly are not strong suits for the fortwo. Only 28% of fortwo owners are totally satisfied with power and acceleration, so there are other things contributing to its fun to drive. Maybe it is handling? – 72% are totally satisfied with its handling. Maybe getting good fuel economy is a contributor? – 76% are totally satisfied with fuel economy. Maybe just fortwo’s quirky styling just puts a smile on their face?
6. Porsche Boxster: The first of the “baby” Porsche entries has sometimes been called a chick’s car, and maybe it is if you watched the episode of Two and a Half Men where Alan buys one, but its owners 91% of its owners are totally satisfied with how fun to drive it is. Owners rate the Boxster in the top ten of totally satisfied with power and acceleration, braking, and handling – all strong contributors to fun to drive.
7. Nissan 370Z: A “classic” sports car, 90% of Z-Car owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes. It is in the top ten in power and acceleration, but comes up shy in handling ranking 12th and poorly in braking where it ranks 53rd.
8. Jaguar F-Type: Jag’s new sports car entry has 90% of its owners totally satisfied with its fun to drive. F-Type is in the top ten in power and acceleration, 11th in braking and 25th in handling. Clearly, F-Types powertrain strongly contributes to its fun to drive and combined with its classic styling owners score the car very strongly.
9. Subaru BRZ: The BRZ may be a new category of sporty coupe. It is built to be extremely maneuverable and fun for a young person. Small, rear wheel drive, and with the ability to drift around corners, 89% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive. In the case of the BRZ, its power and acceleration does not deliver on its looks or fun to drive image. Only 30% of BRZ owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration ranking it 225th. About 56% BRZ owners are totally satisfied with its braking. Where BRZ shines is in handling with 84% of its owners totally satisfying. It appears that Subaru could improve the standing of the BRZ if engine power was increased substantially.
10. Chevrolet Camaro: A classic American muscle car, 89% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes. Camaro ranks 17th in power and acceleration with 73% totally satisfied. It ranks 18th in braking with 77% of its owners totally satisfied. Camaro ranks 10th in handling. These are solid results for a sporty coupe showing Camaro succeeds not only on the basis of its iconic image and styling, but also on dynamics.
11. Ford Mustang: The outgoing Mustang still has a lot going it with 88% of its owners totally satisfied with its fun to drive. Mustang owners rank its power and acceleration 28th with 68% totally satisfied. Mustang falls to 95th in braking with 65% totally satisfied. It is 55th in handling with 71% totally satisfied. Clearly, style, image and reputation have gone a long way in contributing to Mustang’s position among fun to drive cars.
12. MINI Paceman: The wierdly styled MINI Paceman is totally fun to drive for about 88% of its owners. 46% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration ranking 156th, other MINI entries rank substantially higher. About 67% of its owners are totally satisfied with its braking ranking 52nd. About 75% of owners are totally satisfied with its handling – 27th. Head-turning styling and image strongly contribute to the fun to drive aura of the MINI Paceman.
13. Mazda Miata: Miatas, or MX-5s, are famous for how fun to drive they are. About 86% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes. Miata is not supposed to be blindingly fast it is supposed to be fun and most owners recognize that. Still, ranking 109th, 53% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration. About 68% are totally satisfied with its braking – 48th. About 64% are totally satisfied with its handling – 29th.
14. Mitsubishi Lancer EVO: The last Lancer EVO ranks 14th in fun to drive with 85% of its owners totally satisfied. Generally, a car sold for its performance never lives up to the expectations of its owners in power and acceleration, but the EVO seems to be an exception. About 71% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration – ranking 22nd. About 78% are totally satisfied with braking – 13th. About 78% are totally satisfied with handling – 15th. This is a pretty good all-around performance for dynamic attributes. Sayonara EVO, you will be missed.
15. Scion FR-S: The FR-S is the Scion version of the Subaru BRZ. About 85% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive. Like the BRZ, FR-S owners want more power and acceleration – only 33% are totally satisfied – ranked 222nd. About 52% are totally satisfied with its braking – ranking 178th. About 73% of FR-S owners are totally satisfied with its handling – that is what the car is designed for after all – ranking 37th.
Top Ten Fun to Drive Brands: The ranking of brands includes the fun to drive results for all their entries. The top ten brands are: 1) Porsche, 2) MINI, 3) BMW, 4) Audi, 5) Jaguar, 6) Fiat, 7) Scion, 8) Cadillac, 9) Lincoln, 10) Mercedes-Benz.
Perhaps it’s mildly poetic that the new Camaro’s stunning design is associated to some degree with the Transformers movies. Three years before the new Camaro hit the streets after an eight year hiatus, Bumblebee, the heroic robotic Camaro, was whetting the public’s appetites for a revitalized Chevrolet. After all, if a Camaro could look this good, how about the rest of the Chevrolet lineup? That is, if Chevrolet build this new Camaro at all?
Fortunately for everyone, Chevrolet most certainly did build this new Camaro, helping to set the stage for Chevrolet’s (and General Motors’) own transformation. Yup, Camaro is quite the transformer, both in the movies and in real life!
The Camaro is back, and its long awaited return comes with great satisfaction from its owners. As might be expected, the Camaro scored particularly well with respect to exterior and interior appearance, power/acceleration, braking, handling and just being fun to drive. Image and overall quality were also rated best in class.
Despite the more frugal sensibilities these days, Camaro makes a strong case for itself perhaps because it provides a just-right combination of emotion and rationality. Who can argue with its rakish looks, 304HP, and 29 mpg?
For a complete list of winners and description of the Awards, click here.
Limited Edition SRT8 Arrives First
Ford launched the latest Mustang to a resounding critical and sales success, and its retro theme got GM and Chrysler thinking fast about a new-century take on the pony car wars. At the 2006 Detroit auto show, the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro concepts tested the waters for a full pony-car revival. Both companies were inspired by both pride and the success of the latest Mustang, and both the Challenger and Camaro will arrive on market. Eventually. Really. Both companies hope that the initial enthusiasm for these projects survives the gestation period. In Chicago, Dodge launched the Challenger, jumping the generation gap between by enlisting the help of the father-son Orange County Choppers team. And while the HEMI Orange paint scheme was front and center, the SRT8 Challenger looks mean and sinister in black, a look that matches the 425HP engine’s burble better.
‘s Challenger arrives this spring as a late 2008MY product, while the Camaro doesn’t arrive for another year or so. The catch is that the first Challengers are in limited edition $37,995 SRT8 form, introduced at the 2008 Chicago auto show
, assisted by the father-son team at Orange County Choppers and Jim Press. The first units are specially numbers and available in Hemi Orange, black, or silver. By fall, for the typical 2009MY start, a more substantial range including V6 and 5.7L HEMI options will be available. Contributing to the hype and (hopefully) fueling demand, the first Challenger SRT8 was auctioned at the 2008 Barrett-Jackson auction. The winning $400,000 bid, of which all proceeds go to a charity called notMYkid
, was posted by Craig Jackson, Chairman/CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company.
For an image car, launching with the hottest version first can contribute to the hype. Following that strategy, the news from Chicago is the first production reveal of the Challenger SRT8. As promised, the Challenger looks pretty much like the historic pony car, updated for a modern context. The SRT8 sports the same 425HP 6.1L HEMI that helps make Charger, Magnum, and Chrysler 300 SRT8s so much fun to drive. Because of the SRT team, the power is backed up by refinements to the brakes, chassis, and looks, compared with the standard Challenger, as well as some specific interior and exterior cues.
VehicleVoice being invited to Willow Springs International Motorsports Park by GM’s Performance Parts Division is almost like Cold War Soviets being invited to Area 51 by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect… but I made sure I brought my camera!
Willow Springs is a historic track with the first race being held 54 years ago and now recognized by the State of California as an official Point of Historical Interest. The main track is a challenging 2.5-mile long road course with other adjacent facilities like the one rented for our GM event: The Horse Thief Mile.
The Horse Thief Mile is a tight, bare-knuckle course tucked up against the side of a mountain. Most of the track is either burning up the side of the mountain at a steep incline or snapping back on the descent. It offers hairpin turns, a short front straight away and a chance for GM to show us what they’re made of.
Sign me up. This vehicle has what it takes to woo more than one customer to the brand. Imagine … a Chevrolet Car (other than the Corvette) that doesn’t require you to create an excuse for your friends and neighbors.
Originally introduced in September 1966 as a competitor to the Ford Mustang, the original Camaro soldiered successfully through four generations before it’s timely demise in 2002. By that time it have evolved into everything that was wrong with General Motors. While some decried its death, pointing to the continuation of the Ford Mustang, the vehicle had become a dinosaur. In retrospect, its complete disappearance may have been necessary to clear the decks for the creation of the modern Camaro.
Every year automotive industry guru’s and product specialists converge on the Las Vegas Convention Center to promote their products, meet the competition, and network. This year an estimated 145,000 people gathered to celebrate American Muscle and flaunt their piece of the automotive puzzle. From guys named Joe who craft cosmetic interior bolts to the major auto manufacturers like Ford, GM, and Toyota the Specialty Equipment Market Association has created a forum for almost anything in the automotive aftermarket. Bring your walking shoes, but leave your wallets at home because it’s time to visit the 40th annual SEMA show.
As died-in-the-wool car guys, AutoPacific
correspondents covered the show. Ah, the aching feet!
The irony behind SEMA is that there are miles of exhibits, thousands of vehicles, and millions of amazing products, but you can’t purchase anything but a t-shirt or hat. What makes SEMA so special is the passion. Everyone at the show is passionate about his or her part in the automotive aftermarket and that excitement can be seen in their sculptures. The experience could be likened to that of an art aficionado visiting the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, only you’re actually able to meet the artisans along with their work. There were superchargers, suspension kits, pistons, drivelines, radiators, batteries, wheels, tires, and of course vehicles with parts that fused form and function while screaming capability.
Steve Harris, General Motors’ Vice President of Communications, is known for aggressively getting the company’s message out. Last week the General Motors corporate jet was hopping around Southern California. Rick Wagoner, GM’s Chairman was aboard with an entourage of varying size depending on where they were going. As near as we can judge, he was in Los Angeles on Monday having an seance with the Los Angeles Times and other media types.
On Tuesday morning he jetted up to Bakersfield to open a new $10 million facility for a top Chevrolet dealer there. On Tuesday afternoon he was talking to a bunch of researchers and analysts in a LAX airport hotel. Heck, even ol’ Dave Power, scion of J.D. Power & Associates, was there. Jim Hossack and George Peterson represented AutoPacific.
Wouldn’t Want Wagoner’s Schedule on a Bet
Following the analysts’ discussion and an afternoon of more activities, they hopped back on their jet and were to land in Detroit the following morning at 430AM. And, lo and belold, Wagoner was next seen on the following day in Traverse City announcing the new Camaro. Man, wouldn’t want his schedule.
Wagoner began with a short download on how GM is doing today. He readily admits that they have a lot of work to do in their publicly announced restructuring, but contends that they have made good progress. They are “well ahead” of their objective to reduce hourly head count that is “expensive, but necessary”. A fifty-minute Question and Answer session followed. Wagoner seemed honest and forthright, not spinning the usual transparent BS that comes so often from company heads.
Kerkorian and Renault/Nissan Nicely… Ummmmm, Avoided
Wouldn’t talk about the potential relationship with Renault and Nissan but admitted that there may be some synergies on the product and purchasing side of the business. While you know this is really on the top of his mind, “Can’t talk about it”. Wagoner did say that the teams working on the issue would be reporting in about 60 days. That puts it in early October.
Saturn Repositioning on the Horizon
One of the more interesting discussions was on the repositioning of Saturn. After being neglected and starved ever since its launch, Saturn is about to become a very important part of the General Motors portfolio. Appealing to lowest common denominator buyers who generally thought of a car as a necessary evil and bought through Saturn because it was easy, Saturn became a cipher in the market. In the coming months, Saturn adds the mid-size and more upscale Aura, the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid, the high performance Vue Red Line (Vue is Saturn’s SUV). In addition to the Aura, perhaps the most important addition to the Saturn lineup is the Lambda crossover vehicle – the Outlook. The Outlook is a large crossover with distinctive styling – even though it shares its platform with the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.
Wagoner cautions Saturn dealers, however, not to expect bargain basement pricing anymore. Saturn evolves into a General Motors’ premium brand along with Cadillac, HUMMER and Saab. This will be an interesting one to watch.
As had been widely anticipated, today at a series of annual management briefings in Traverse City, Michigan, GM head Rick Wagoner announced that the Camaro returns to Chevrolet dealerships in late 2008. He also promised that it will look nearly identical to the concept, which wowed Camaro enthusiasts at its reveal at the 2006 Detroit auto show this past January. Of course the Camaro enthusiasts were strategically planted by Chevrolet at the auto show stand… but that’s alright. It was a hoot!
Camaro sales will start the first quarter of 2009, with production in late 2008. That should give plenty of time for all you Camaro enthusiasts to start saving and preparing for your next car.
The Camaro will retain its rear-wheel-drive traditional configuration and be offered with V6 and V8 engines, with both manual and automatic transmissions on hand. The “fuel economy” engine will be the V6 – with 275-horsepower no less.
Dodge Challenger – Low Investment Coupe from Chrysler’s RWD Platform
The other pony car concept from this year’s Detroit show, the Dodge Challenger, was confirmed forproduction in June. (Click here
for our story.) Dodge will beat Chevy to market by a few months, having promised sales in late 2008.
Market May Be Thinner Than Expected if Mustang Can Keep on the Pressure
Timing of Challenger and Camaro give the latest version of the Mustang four to five years’ head start. Given the freshening of the Mustang at about the same time as the Challenger and Camaro introductions, plus the plethora of Mustang special models over the years, Ford may have done a pretty good job siphoning off prospective buyers for the General Motors and Chrysler pony cars.
DETROIT’S MUSCLE-CAR REVIVAL: ALL ABOUT STREET CRED
The latest Mustang is a success in the image ranks and in the buff books. Its sales success has surprised even Ford and production capacity has been increased so they can sell even more. The other historic Detroit brands will revisit the rear-wheel-drive coupe idea at the 2006 North American International Motor Show in Detroit. The first announced concept is the Dodge Challenger shown below. Still under wraps is a new generation Chevrolet Camaro.
Though Ford has consistently offered a Mustang since 1964 and kept it alive (even if some iterations were less memorable than others), both GM and Chrysler Group abandoned the product formula. Mustang has the edge and success at GM, Chrysler Group, or for any other contenders requires that they establish modern-day credibility with the consumer.
In the heart of most car product planners at American car companies beats a rear-wheel-drive V8-powered coupe or convertible, going much further back than the muscle-car era that gets so much attention these days. As a result, whether timing is by design or by reaction, Dodge and Chevrolet are expected to show concepts on the muscle-car theme at the 2006 Detroit show this January.