The Best Cars for This Holiday Season

Yes, this is a holiday tradition for me. I love picking out cars that are perfect for this holiday season. I know that none of you will run out to the dealer and order one as soon as you’ve finished reading this post, but I can keep wishing, right?

  • Ford Focus RS: If you want a hot ticket into the performance car world, this is it. It’s got AWD sending somewhere around 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through a six speed manual transmission, this car is definitely going to be eating Corvettes and Honda sportbikes all day long in the canyons and some race tracks. It’s going to be one fun ride. Car & Driver was lucky enough to take a ride in one, and I’ll be a tad bit jealous at them for a while. They said it’s an experience few cars can replicate.

    It looks like a legitimate rally car without all of the stickers, doesn’t it? The fans will be right behind you, don’t worry about that!
  • Chevrolet Colorado: Any version of the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado is going to be one of the best trucks on the market. It won the 2016 Motor Trend Truck of the Year award. I should also mention it won the 2015 Truck of the Year award as well. The engine that I would recommend is the 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine. It gets 26 mpg combined, according to Motor Trend’s “Real MPG” testing procedures. That’s almost as good as my Mazda 3! According to the Real MPG program, a Colorado with any of the available engines (a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a fantastic 3.6-liter V6) will have class-leading mpg. That’s really saying something. If you go for the Duramax, it will tow 7,600 pounds, and will get better mileage than any other Colorado engine. Oh, and it will be much smoother and rewarding to drive. The Colorado, and it’s GMC twin, the Canyon, both received a “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Chevrolet designed the Colorado to be a daily driver for any kind of driver, so it should come as no surprise that it drives like a fullsize sedan with a light rear end. If I was going to recommend any one truck, this would be it.

    It looks really sharp, doesn’t it? This is the Trail Boss model, which adds knobby tires, a lightbar, and skid plates.
  • Volvo XC90: Some of my older readers will remember and love the Volvos of the 1970s and 1980s. They were big tanks of cars, designed with utility rather than sexiness, yet they were so exquisitely built that people bought them over a Mercedes-Benz. Something as simple as the XC90’s key shouldn’t be worth mentioning, yet this one is wonderful. It is made of the same Nappa leather that covers it’s three comfortable rows of seats. Volvo is a really small player in the U.S. Toyota made nearly three times as many Priuses as Volvo sold cars. BMW sells seven cars for each one that Volvo sells in the U.S. You might be surprised to hear that the only engine that you can get with the 2016 XC90 is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Before you get up in arms about that, just know that it cranks out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. How does it do that? A gigantic turbocharger and a small supercharger that steps in when the turbo is spooling up. It gets 22 mpg combined, according to the EPA. It’s far quieter than the also-new Honda Pilot, which has a screaming V6 that will scare the deer off the road. AWD is standard. Right now, the only powertrain upgrade is to the T8 model, which Volvo claims to be the first seven-seat plug-in hybrid. It makes 313 horsepower from the same engine, but has an electric motor powering the rear wheels, bringing total power output to 400 horsepower. It has some seriously long gearing (80 mph in 3rd gear). Yeah, Volvo is still going after hauling families over hauling some butt. The XC90 has a gigantic touchscreen that Motor Trend called “almost Tesla-like.” A Volvo wouldn’t be a Volvo if it didn’t have more safety features than a crash cart in a hospital. All seven seat belts have pyrotechnic pretensioners, and the front seat frames have energy absorbers to cushion vertical forces during impact. It has a bunch of really great features, but I’m going to skip over most of them. One final safety feature worth mentioning is that the XC90 will automatically activate the brakes if the driver attempts to make a left turn into oncoming traffic. You’re on your own if you somehow make a right turn into oncoming traffic, though. Just like the Tesla Model S was a pivotal car for electric cars in 2013, the Volvo XC90 is a game changer, a moonshot for SUVs.

    I don’t care what people say about it – I think it looks really nice for something it’s size.
  • Subaru WRX: This list wouldn’t be complete without a Subaru on it. Of course I chose the WRX. While Subaru doesn’t make it as a hatchback anymore, which is a true shame, it doesn’t make the WRX any less spectacular. It’s got that wonderful Subaru boxer engine growling howl, and is probably the perfect all-weather car. It can handle it’s own on just about any surface. Good luck keeping up with one with summer tires on a racetrack, or one with winter tires in inclement weather. It’s a stylish jack-of-all-trades.

    It doesn’t look like much, but I can tell you it looks mighty intimidating with that gaping hood scoop and wailing four-cylinder.
  • Audi A3: It starts off at nearly $31,000, so the opening bid itself is a good proposition to buy one. It’s a good-looking car by all means, but it doesn’t advance Audi’s design at all. The car gets more fun to drive as you add on the speed. It just gets really expensive, so keep that in mind when you pile on the options.

    See what I mean? It looks nice, but it’s no huge design advancement for Audi.

That’s it for this list. I know it’s shorter than ones in years past, but I think these are all solid choices. You can’t go wrong with any of them. I wish you all a wonderful, safe and happy holiday season. As always, I will be taking a week off about next week, but I’ll update you on Friday about that, don’t worry!

The Best Cars for the End of the Holiday Season!

I think that this is a bit of a tradition for me.  Last year, I wrote a post about the same time as this one.  It was also about the best cars for the end of the holiday season.  I have fond memories of picking through cars that I thought deserved to be on this list.  While my list may not be as prestigious as Car & Driver’s 10Best, I would like to think of it as my personal version.  Except, I will be doing a list like this for every season!  That’s right:  Winter, spring, summer, and fall!  After much thought, I have finally decided what cars deserve to be on my list.  The criteria for the cars:  The cars on the list must all be new or substantially updated, they must be able to be entertaining in a snowy climate, and they must be able to seat at least four people comfortably (that way you can go on a road trip with the kids or friends!).  Enjoy my list!

  1. Bentley Flying Spur:  The Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed was on my list last year.  However, the Flying Spur is no longer burdened with the Continental name.  It does still share a platform with the Continental, though.  It’s a brute of a car, weighing in at 5644 pounds.  It’s definitely as large as an elephant – it is 17.4 feet long, and it it weighs as much as a male elephant bull.  Don’t despair – this car rockets to 60 mph in an equally stunning 4.3 seconds.  This car will keep pace with a sprightly Lotus Evora S all day, without much drama or effort.  This car has 616 horsepower mated to a superb ZF 8-speed automatic transmission.  The powerful W12 engine is more efficient – it gets 12/20 MPG city/highway, according to the EPA.  However, snowy hoonage will likely lower that number…  It has every option one can imagine, including private multimedia screens for the kids.  Bang & Olufsen sound-deadening wireless headphones will keep the people in front sane.
  2. Ford F-150 FX2/FX4 Sport Tremor:  The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Crew Cab rumbled and burbled its way onto my list last year because of its substantial updates, most notably the 6.2 liter V8.  This year, it’s more efficient, yet just-as-fun sister joins the party.  The Sport Tremor comes in 2WD or 4WD, regular cab only.  It comes with Ford’s powerful, efficient 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6.  Power gets there through a 4.10:1 rear end, so these trucks will be fast.  I know that it doesn’t seat four, but don’t despair – you can always get the Raptor!  The performance figures for the Sport Tremor aren’t out yet, but a 2012 Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 Crew Cab got to 60 in a quite-respectable 6.2 seconds.  Expect the Sport Tremor to get there in about 5.8-5.9 seconds.  While it won’t keep up with the Bentley in a straight line, it CAN haul a whole lot more, and get better gas mileage!
  3. SRT Viper/GTS/TA:  The Viper has a ground-shaking 8.4-liter V10 that pumps out 640 horsepower.  It comes with a 6-speed manual transmission and RWD only.  This will play with the boys.  I know that it doesn’t seat four, but hey, it’s a Viper.  It’s not a Bentley!  The RWD, 640 horse Viper should be a hoot to hoon around in the snow.  Stability control and traction control will help.
  4. Porsche 911 Turbo/Turbo S:  The Porsche 911 Turbo is a great car to own.  Not only will the 991-generation Turbo remain a collectible for a long time, but the 991 911 Turbo/Turbo S has a bunch of new technology designed to help the driver get around a track faster.  It has AWD, 560 horsepower in the Turbo S, and seats for four.  While the rear seats may only be fit for presents, the kids will have to suck it up and squeeze in there for a bit.  But, the drive there will be worth it.  The 911 Turbo/Turbo S is turbocharged, which makes it a cinch to drive fast, especially in wet or low-traction environments.  This car was designed to make the worst of drivers look good, and the best of drivers look legendary.  Have fun with this car.
  5. Porsche 918 Spyder:  If you own this car, I want to go for a spin in it!  Porsche has had the 918 Spyder in testing for years – prototypes were running around Germany as far back as 2007.  The 918 Spyder has a hybrid-electric system that distributes the gobs of 874 horsepower and an astounding 944 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels.  The 918 Spyder Weissach Package loses 88 pounds by using ceramic wheel bearings and film wrap instead of conventional aluminum and paint.  It won’t seat any more than two, but that’s okay.  This car will blow your mind at the speeds it reaches without effort, as well as the confidence it gives the driver at any speed.
  6. Subaru WRX:  Subie is legendary in the rally world for building fast, reliable cars that don’t look like much.  The 2015 WRX lives up to these statements.  It loses the massive rear wing found on the previous generation of WRXs, but it has power and fun.  It is bigger, but it makes 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.  It’s suspension has been firmed up 39% in the front, and 62% in the rear.  This car will play all day with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, and be as flat as a Porsche Cayman S while cornering.  The torque vectoring system uses the rear differential instead of the brakes to vector the torque.  It doesn’t look pretty, but then again, no Subie in recent memory has looked mesmerizing.  Subaru invests money in engineering, not in styling.  That’s fine with me.
  7. Jeep Cherokee:  For those of you who remember the Jeep Cherokees of yore, close this tab, shut off your computer, grab your wallet, and go get a Jeep Wrangler.  This Cherokee is NOTHING like the harsh-riding Cherokees of the 1980s and 1990s.  This Cherokee comes standard with FWD, but 4WD is optional.  The Cherokee Trailhawk will keep pace with a stock Wrangler or SVT Raptor all day long without breaking a sweat.  The Cherokee is packed with lots of useful, cool tech.  I won’t bore you all of that technology, but I will say that for those in need of something affordable with 4WD, the Cherokee deserves a second look.
  8. Chevrolet SS:  The Chevy SS is the thunder from down under.  It’s based off of the Holden Commodore, and it’s got a high-performance 6.2-liter V8 with 415 horsepower.  The SS is the first RWD Chevy sedan since 1996 for civilian use – the Caprice PPV is available for lucky cops, and it’s truly spectacular.  It is capable of making those who owned a muscle car as a teenager feel young again, while allowing Mom and the kids to experience the fun.  It’s not all about burnouts – the SS can hold its own in the twisties.  The 415-horse V8 and six-speed automatic mated to RWD will make it entertaining for anybody to drive, any season, at any time.  I want one, if you haven’t noticed!
  9. 2014 Chevrolet Silverado:  Chevy is good at this game!  Two cars on my list is kinda hard.  Yet, Chevy introduced two cars capable of being on this list, which both of them are.  The 2014 Silverado truly gives the buyer everything that is needed or wanted, and then some.  There are literally 50 different cab/bed combinations, let alone the plethora of engine/transmission/2WD/4WD combinations.  The 2014 Silverado was designed to be one of the best in the game, and it doesn’t disappoint.  It’s got clever tech for all of the engines to make the engines more competitive in an ever-evolving segment.  The Silverado doesn’t come with the option of an extended cab anymore – safety regulations and loss of demand killed it for Chevy, but it comes with a “Quad Cab” option that offers more space than an extended cab, as well as the look of a crew cab.  It starts off as a perfectly nice base model, before climbing the ladder of expensive and unneeded options to become a pure luxury truck.
  10. Ram 1500:  The Ram 1500 has long been one of my favorite 1/2 ton trucks.  Ever since it’s massive – and popular redesign in 1993, the Ram 1500 has always had a brutish Hemi V8 underhood.  Recently, Ram introduced an EcoDiesel V6 shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee.  It’s the first diesel in a 1/2 ton pickup since the 1980s.  I know the deal about diesels.  My dad owns a 2003 GMC 2500 4X4 with the Duramax diesel.  But, the Ram 1500 offers the same noise levels as the Ram equipped with the Hemi V8.  If you don’t want a diesel, you can always opt for the refreshed Hemi V8, which has more cool tech to aid in towing and hauling.

Have a fun, happiness-filled end of the holiday season!  In these final days of 2013, I urge you to take a walk in the park with friends, your kids, and/or the family dog (if you have one), and do whatever fills your heart with enjoyment.  Have a wonderful Winter Break!

Enjoy the pictures of the cars (and trucks!) on my list: