2012 was a banner year for cars here at Gear Patrol. We tested our mettle in the driver’s seats of some great automobiles: Lamborghinis, Porsches, Bentleys, Jaguars, BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and Land Rovers, just to name a few. From the streets of Chicago and L.A., to the tracks of Las Vegas, the mountains of Colorado, the roadways of New England and the historied town of Le Mans — we took it all in Behind The Wheel of some of the best. 2013 should prove to be even better, as a slew of new cars beckon us to be experienced. So, as we gird our automotive loins, check out our wish list — whose tires we’d like to burn in 2013.
1. Ferrari F12 Berlinetta
We can dream, right? Ferrari’s replacement for the monstrous 599 is this FF-inspired grand tourer that, by all accounts, should prove to be one of the finest cars on the road. The front-mounted V12 with a ridiculously awesome 730 horsepower and that famous Ferrari handling have us chomping at the bit to get behind this snorting cavallino.
2. Mercedes Benz A-Class
We were never fans of the previous Europe-only A-Class, largely for its less-than-thrilling tiny minivan looks. All that’s changed with the new stateside-bound A-Class. It comes in 5-door and CLC sedan format; both versions are positively stunning. Let’s hope their nimble platform makes them as good to drive as they are to look at.
3. Acura RLX
Acura hasn’t gotten their flagship right since the fantastic Legend. Sure, the RL was a great car, but it was about as noticeable as sheet of paper in a snowstorm. The RLX’s 10-jewel LED headlamps steal the exterior show, while the twin dash screens dominate on the inside. No groundbreaking body design here, but it certainly takes the big Acura to new heights.
4. Dodge Dart SXT Rallye
Yes, a Dodge is in the lineup and it’s not an SRT model. The new Dart actually looks like a small sedan we can get behind in terms of packaging and styling. The only thing the now thankfully dead Caliber gave us was the strong desire to push it down a rocky hillside. Let’s just see how the Dart actually drives.
5. Nissan GTR
Godzilla lives on in the form of a car, and this second time around, it’s with 15 more horses, a tweaked exterior and enough speed to worry Ferrari. Some harp that the handling is a bit on the clinical side, others say it’s like knocking boots with Athena. For the price, there’s nothing faster. And, yes, this Japanese monster eats cars that stand in its way.
6. Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 Roadster
We’ve driven the scintillating and ferociously quick hardtop — removing the roof just means everyone will hear us screaming. The recipe is simple. 700 Italian horses, a stowable targa-style roof and all-wheel-drive composure. The 2013 Giro Lamborghini beckons. Sign us up.
7. Ford Focus ST
Volkswagen GTI, meet your match from the west. The Ford Focus ST’s got a monstrous 252 horses and handling that rivals the best pocket rockets out there. This American recipe for front-wheel drive burnouts should scare the reigning hot hatch from Germany out of its lederhosen.
8. Jaguar F-Type
Finally, a true Jag roadster makes its way back into our hearts. Okay, so we don’t expect that it’ll thrill the world like the original E-Type, but who cares? It’s a Jag roadster with a proper six-speed manual transmission. Three words. About. Damn. Time.
9. Aston Martin Vanquish
How do you follow up the Bond-tastic DBS? You make it lighter by 120 pounds, give it 55 more horsepower, add more muscular lines and then bring back a name that people will remember. If Daniel Craig isn’t going to do another Bond film, he’ll be woefully disappointed to have missed this MI6 ride.
10. BMW M3
The new version of the M3 loses the V8 and opts for a twin-turbo V6 with upwards of 450 horsepower, plus the M5’s torque vectoring system, which splits torque to the wheels without needing to sense slippage. Look for the 2-door M4 in 2014, which will certainly be in our crosshairs. The only thing you’ll need is a fat wallet and better driving skills.
11. Ram Trucks 1500
Dodge’s newly redesigned rock hauler is as rugged as mountain goat and has enough refinement to keep the rodeo clowns out. Getting behind the wheel of this more fuel-efficient beast won’t give us the desire to set mileage records, but it will probably make us want to visit some of the fancier truck stops around. As for the Jaguar-like shift knob, the jury’s still out.
12. Audi R8 V10 Plus
The first generation R8 V10 was baller, ballsy and ballistic — and still remained the gentleman’s supercar. It’s still just as composed, but now comes in Plus guise, with an astounding 550 horsepower (25 more than its standard V10 brother) and 110 fewer pounds. Audi’s new tube LED headlights are also a welcomed revision to the Plus’s fascia. As a whole package, it’s truly one of the most capable and drivable supercars the world has ever seen.
13. Ford C-Max
Goodbye Escape Hybrid, hello C-Max. Finally, we get the C-Max’s attractive design stateside after success in Europe since 2003. Designed as both a hybrid and a plug-in electric vehicle (Energi), the C-Max is a
stunning good looking 5-door crossover that boasts serious fuel savings coupled with serious practicality. Watch out Toyota Prius. Ford’s knocking at your door, and he’s wearing pants.
14. Mini John Cooper Works GP
The JCW GP is the swan song for Mini’s latest design — and what a way to go. Subtlety is not its forté, with a racy grey, black, white and red paint job and look-at-me wheels. They even ripped out the back seats to save weight, so you know they’re serious about your pleasure but don’t give a damn about your friends. The 211 horsepower turbo 4-cylinder engine and beefed-up suspension should put its money where Mini’s mouth is and deliver boy racer pleasures galore.
15. Cadillac ATS
America’s first serious challenger to the BMW 3-Series shows up prepared. Nearly identical in dimension to the car it attempts to hunt down, the ATS is the real deal. Excellently balanced, well-appointed and better looking than the straight-edge CTS, the ATS is just the kind of car GM needs in its lineup. Now, about that transmission.
16. BMW X1
BMW’s least expensive model is an SUV that comes in both all-wheel drive and, wait for it… rear-wheel drive. Who’s swapping executives with engineers? Whatever the case, we think it’s brilliant and pretty good to look at, too. What’s more, the X1 shockingly weighs less than its coupe brother, the 135i, with a lot more utilitarianism built in. Sure, it’s made for us fatties in the U.S., but at least it’ll drive like a BMW should. X1 M, anyone? Yes, please.
17. McLaren MP4-12C Spider
The MP4-12C ramped up the supercar wars this past year against the phenomenal Ferrari 458 Italia with some British chutzpah and a near-unflappable chassis. Now, McLaren’s given it a brilliant retractable hardtop and kept the crazy dihedral doors. Who cares if you can’t park it at the mall? We’ll be too busy ripping up newly laid asphalt while our wispy hairdos get
The sporty British family sedan goes bonkers, which is what we asked for this Christmas. Jaguar delivered: 550 screaming supercharged horses and one crazy blue paint job. As the fastest Jaguar saloon (British for sedan) ever, only 100 of them will make it to the states. Our hope is to nab one, for at least a day, and hopefully it doesn’t come with the optional $3,500 carbon fiber spoiler, which looks like it was Shanghai’d from a Subaru WRX STi.
19. Ford SVT Raptor
Practically nothing you need and everything you want: a 411 horsepower 6.1-liter V8, four-wheel drive, a suspension that could take you to the Baja 1000 and a face that makes lesser trucks move to the right. Now, you can go all yuppie on the trails with available HID lighting, but it’s still just country vicious. Two of these suckers flank you, and you’re dead meat.
20. Bentley Continental GTC V8
If you haven’t heard a Bentley V8 in full roar, you haven’t lived. It’s as sonorous as a baritone Bengal tiger. Driving with the top down should improve that testosterone-releasing sound some more. Who needs the thirsty V12, when the slightly less thirsty V8 can still rocket you through the British countryside like an etiquette-ignorant celebrity?
21. Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Hybrid
We love the current beautiful-ugly Panamera, in spite of its Quasimodo leanings. But that doesn’t mean we won’t go for some under-the-knife improvements. The recently released Panamera Sport Turismo Hybrid Concept shows us what the Panamera could be, and that vision is in the form of a missile-like wagon. What’s more, it could see the light of day — in powerful hybrid form. Bring it.
22. Maserati Quattroporte
Love or hate the new headlights, you have to admit the new Maserati sedan is a looker. Taking some hints from the GranTurismo, the big Italian four door gets an all new look that should still please the affluent gentleman who needs rapid transit without a German label. The supercharged V8 engine should get you to 190 mph. That’s quick enough to make your passengers stop texting stock quotes while they worry about keeping their finger sandwiches down.
23. SRT Viper
Rumors of the Viper’s death were greatly exaggerated. Delivering its own version of a zombie apocalypse, the brand new SRT Viper aims to wreak havoc upon the earth. Gone is the the Dodge nameplate, as is the previous Viper’s Fisher-Price-like interior. Don’t worry; the huge displacement V10 still rumbles under the hood like a subterranean beast. The beautifully brutish exterior, sophisticated interior and 540 horses should cause other $100K sports cars to quake in their brake calipers.
24. Ford Fusion
Though Ford moved quickly to jettison their British brethren, Jaguar and Land Rover, they whole heartedly adopted design language from another maker across the pond: Aston Martin. The result? Easily the best looking family sedan from the states. Though its five (count’ em) 4-cylinder engine choices don’t exactly make the Fusion a rubber-roaster, everything about it says “World Car”, from its sexy exterior to the well-executed cabin. Just because you’re a dad now doesn’t mean you have to be invisible.
25. Porsche 918 Spyder
Porsche’s new flagship ushers in the era of the 21st century supercar. Starting out as a dream-build concept car, the 918 Spyder is almost here, and it is magnificent. Taking over the throne from the blunt instrument Carrera GT, the 918 boasts a 580 horsepower V8 engine, boosted by two electric motors for another 243 horses. Yes, math majors, that’s 823. Asking price for this limited-edition supercar? Just shy of a million dollars.
26. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Take one re-tweaked American muscle car with the visibility of a mail slot and an interior that’s refined only in comparison to a C6 Corvette; add state-of-the art magnetorheological suspension and a 580 horsepower supercharged V8. You’ve got one of the quickest and best handling cars that sells for under $100K. No joke. Sadly, acid wash jeans still won’t look out of place while driving it.
27. BMW i3
A urban concept car made reality, the i3 is BMW’s first release from their new brand, BMW i. Nope — it’s not a friendly robots made to keep you company. The i3 is the Bavarian automaker’s first pure electric production vehicle and makes use of lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastics. The 125kW/170 hp engine powers the rear wheels and means a healthy 100-mile range. Planned in both four-door and two-door versions, the i3 shows us what’s on the eco-horizon for BMW, and it may even be fun to drive.
28. Land Rover Range Rover
The Land Rover Range Rover has always been the rich man’s SUV. Posh, British, and starving for some off-road time, the new Rover is even more impressive this time around, with the world’s first all-aluminum unibody, resulting in a hefty weight drop of 700 pounds (that’s you and your three Thanksgiving dinners). The result is a quicker Range Rover with better handling and an exterior that’s both slimmer and sexier.
29. Aston Martin Rapide
The long awaited four-door luxe sedan from Aston Martin is just about here. Designed to compete with the likes of the Porsche Panamera, the Rapide is both slick and quick. Sporting classic Aston Martin lines and a 5.9 liter V12 with 470 horsepower, the Rapide should prove to be a winner for the brand. From its looks, it just might earn the title of best looking luxury sedan on the planet.
30. Tesla Model S
Elon Musk is making electric waves in the automotive industry, and his gorgeous and wickedly fast Tesla S is proof in the pudding. Perhaps the ultimate eco-family sedan, the Tesla S doesn’t make you look like a tree hugger and certainly doesn’t put you to sleep at the wheel. The heavy batteries are ingeniously stored below the floor, so the Tesla S handles more like a sports car and less like a giant can of beans.