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.
The 2011 Ford Mustang has all new engines: a new 3.7L V6 and an all-new unique-to-Mustang 5.0L V8. Ford has been rolling out the powertrain news, and the media, buff books, and blogosphere dutifully reporting it for the past couple of months. But after being exposed to the 2011 iteration of the Mustang, we can tell you there is much more than meets the eye. We had the chance for some brief drivetime the 2011 Mustang in most every configuration. Short form: Yeah!
The 2011 Mustang looks like the 2010 but under the skin it is a very different animal. Ford’s strategy here is similar to that used for the 2008 – 2009 Escape. The 2008 Escape model got a major styling freshening and interior upgrade and the 2009 saw the major powertrain upgrades. While many scoffed that the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro had Mustang beat in the powertrain department, Ford engineers continued to develop and prepare these engines. Camaro put a bogey in place, to be sure, but neither engine is truly a response to Chevrolet’s terrific powertrain lineup.
A New Coupe, A Year Away
Hyundai spent their New York auto show time introducing their new rear-drive sporty coupe, the Genesis Coupe. Related to the Genesis sedan on sale this summer, the coupe arrives in spring 2009.
Genesis sits on Hyundai’s first in-house rear-drive car platform. The stylish coupe tames down its looks from the concept introduced in Los Angeles in November 2007, but mostly in losing hood scoops and refining lights, front grille, and spoiler shapes. What Hyundai held back for introduction was that the powertrain lineup includes a turbocharged and intercooled 212HP 2.0L I4 as the base engine. The 3.8L V6 arrives as expected, but most figured the second powertrain would be the sedan’s V8.
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.
The all-new Volkswagen Eos ties as Most Ideal Sporty Car for 2007. The retractable hardtop Eos is a competitive all-rounder with its usefulness enhanced by its retractable hardtop – convertible, sporty coupe all in one package without the compromises required by a pure soft-top convertible.
No wonder Ford sells so many Mustangs! Most Ideal Sporty Car, and segment leader in 14 out of 15 categories the Mustang blows today’s competition into the weeds. New competition is coming in the next couple of years, but it looks like Ford’s designers and engineers know best what Sporty Car buyers require and deliver it in spades.
The King of the Road Returns
Though not actually arriving in dealers until spring 2008, Ford used the 2007 New York auto show to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500KR, which was introduced at the 1967 New York auto show. And how best to commemorate the fabled first King of the Road? Build another, of course.
The 2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR will be the third high-performance result of the current relationship between Mustang
and Shelby Automobiles
, after the 2007 Shelby GT500 and the GT-H Hertz rental Mustangs, with the example on display in New York a near-production show-car version. Ford is going forward with offering a special edition each year, as 2007 saw the Shelby GT500 and 2008 will see the GT500KR and the Mustang Bullitt. This is easily the best-looking of the Mustang editions shown so far.
Back forty years ago, the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500KR was the most powerful Mustang yet built, and the 2008 model carries the same distinction, with a 540HP 5.4L supercharged V8. Ford will only offer 1000 examples of the 2008 model, ensuring all will be accounted for before being built and making it more rare than the 1968 model, of which 1053 fastbacks and 517 convertibles were built. The 2008 example will only be offered as a coupe.
More below the fold.
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.
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.
Welcome to “Let’s Talk Cars”
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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, we get all nostalgic on you, and talk wistfully of those cars we loved from our past. VehicleVoice contributor Jim Hall found his 1958 Toyopet Crown the most engaging Toyota ever. George Peterson tells the sad story of trading in a Boss 302 for a Ford Pinto. Idiot!
And because we like to mix oil and water, we’ve also got an OpEd piece on how technology in new luxury automobiles has gone over the top from AutoPacific founder and president George Peterson.
01:55 First Cars – VehicleVoice contributor Jim Hall and AutoPacific president and founder, George Peterson
13:13 Technology in New Luxury Cars – George Peterson, AutoPacific president and founder
Check out an earlier article on AutoPacific’s take on the “rental car test” mentioned in George Peterson’s comments on technology run amok.