It’s December – actually the first December for CarEnvy, and that gives us a unique opportunity: we can be more detached and objective than any other site or magazine because we haven’t driven any of the contenders here. While you might think it odd that we’re giving awards to cars we haven’t driven, you probably haven’t driven them either, and following the industry is beyond an obsession for us so we do have a good idea of what’s good, what’s bad, and what we want. We here at CarEnvy don’t have the luxury of manufacturer invites to press days, but that hasn’t stopped us yet. When the day comes for us to attend such press events, we’ll give you the perspective of the youngest, most Canadian, and most honest individuals around. Until we’re in the shoes of Jeremy, James, and Richard, you’re going to have to make do with our opinions as armchair analysts. Besides, you don’t have to drive a car to want it more than anything.
CarEnvy is about just that, lusting after gorgeous sheetmetal and intoxicating engine sounds. So we’ve decided to find you the most desirable and important cars to hit the streets in 2008 – the Cars Of The Year (COTY). This is not from the perspective of which car is the best to drive or which one handles the best, because we have little first-hand experience. This is a list of winners (and contenders) from eight separate categories based on which one we want the most. Beers were consumed and hours were spent discussing which car would make us the envy of our neighbours and which would have us nursing a semi just by sitting in the drivers seat.
The criteria are simple. The winning car in each category must
- Be desirable
- Be very desirable
- Be more desirable than its competitors without regard for practicality or price (unless needed to break a tie)
- Be sold in Canada in 2008 (but not if #1 and #2 are overwhelming)
- Be cars. We aren’t called TruckEnvy or SUVEnvy.
Madames et Monsieurs, put your hands together for the inaugural CarEnvy COTY Awards.
Beating out the VW Rabbit for small car honours, the Fit brings to the table a revvy little 4 cylinder engine, a silky smooth shifter, decent looks, and a segment-busting and altogether brilliant interior. The Fit is also lighter and more lithe than the robust Rabbit. Despite being down over 50 hp to the Rabbit, the small Honda gets the nod. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more competitors here, but there just aren’t that many small cars we actually want. The 2010 Ford Fiesta should change that, but until then, it’s hard to beat the Fit.
Family Car: Mercedes C63 AMG
This was our first, but certainly not our last, toughly contested category. Other contestants included the BMW M3, Audi RS4, and Honda Accord, all of which can haul 5 people around in comfort, but that’s not the point. The Accord was right out because although it’s a solid car, no one ever said “Oh man! I saw a Honda Accord today and it was off the hook!”. Therefore, auto-DQ. The other three were much closer. All German V8 uber-sedans, but which is best? While the RS4 is very desirable, it’s almost too understated to win here and it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. Also, it has the smallest back seat ever for a four-door. The new M3 gave the C63 a run for its money, but in the end the M3 wasn’t set up for the tail-happy hoonage we dream of because it didn’t have enough torque. For a family car, we don’t want to have to rev the snot out of it. The C63 has 50% more torque than the M3 which, as you can see, makes for some mean tire smoke and it looks seriously bad-ass doing it. We want one. Anyone disputing the C63’s eligibility in the category need only count the number of seats. Is it more than two? Then it’s a family car.
Green Car: Tesla Roadster
You know you want one, and so do we. Zero-100 kph in 3.9s and no emissions. The Tesla uses electricity from 6831 lithium-ion batteries to power the rear wheels on a chassis that was designed by Lotus. Enough said. The competitors of the Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda FCX Clarity are nowhere near as performance-oriented so they don’t get our blood pumping the way the Tesla does. The Civic is a good hyrbid, but dreary, and the FCX is probably the single most important car since old Mr. Benz drove out of his shed towards the end of the 19th century. Still, the problem both of the Hondas have is that they are less exciting than C-SPAN (if you’ve been watching any of the Detroit automaker bailout hearings, you know the channel). Not a tough decision here.
Convertible: Pagani Zonda Roadster F
For desirability, the Roadster F is off the charts. Not that the RR Drophead Coupe, Ferrari California, and Mazda MX-5 aren’t, it’s just that none of them have a howling 7.3L twin-turbo Mercedes V12 mounted mid-ship. The Zonda does. It also has rarity (a production run of only 25) and is probably the only convertible to ever weigh the same as the coupe version. Using high-tech construction methods that I’d need an engineer to explain to me, Pagani kept the weight down on the Roadster F and that alone should earn it an award. The MX-5 is good but too normal, the California was designed by focus groups, and the DHC would make you look like a knob. Leaving one Pagani Zonda Roadster F as the Covertible COTY.
Sports Car: Mercedes CLK 63 AMG Black Series
Tough competition this. It took us longer than any other category to determine a winner, but I think you’ll agree that Black Series is German for bad-ass world-beater. Beating out heavyweights like the Caterham R500, Audi R8, Corvette ZR1, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, KTM X-Bow, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Maserati GranTurismoS, and Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione wasn’t easy for the hottest CLK. The Black won by being snarling, and aggressive in a way we never saw coming from the normal CLK, even the 63 AMG. Our hats are off the the black ops Mercedes division that came up with this engine and this bodykit. And how this division managed to make the Black Series weigh slightly more than the “standard” 63 AMG despite shedding the back seats, adding carbon fibre everywhere, and taking out the electric seats has left us wondering if magic really is that heavy. It was this mystery, intrigue, and amazement that won the award.
Supercar: Ferrari 430 Scuderia aka The Scud Missile
Beating out the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, Gumbert Apollo, Ascari A10, Bugatti Veyron, Koenigsegg CCX, Mercedes SL65 Black Series wasn’t easy. I pretty much just listed the fastest, most exclusive, and most desirable vehicles in the world, so how did a Prancing Horse beat them? I mean, we’ve all seen Ferraris on the street, but have you ever seen a Koenigsegg? Can a Ferrari be that special. When it’s as fast as the Enzo hypercar around the Ferrari’s Fiorano test track in Italy but costs significantly less, looks better, is lighter, and sounds better…er, si Signore. Shifts in the Scuderia’s F1 SuperFast2 gearbox happen in a scarcely believable 60 milliseconds, less than half the time it takes the already snappy Enzo. It’s not as bad-ass as the Lambo, not as fast as most of the others but it is still the best because it is automotive perfection. You want perfect balance – you want the Scud missile. This truly is the best Ferrari of the modern era and that is saying something. We would have one in our stable any day.
Luxury: Rolls Royce Phantom
Worthy competitors like the Lexus LS600h, Mercedes S65 AMG, Bentley Conti GT, Jaguar XF, and Hyundai Genesis were no match for the sheer sense of occassion enstilled by seeing a Phantom. The Roller is pure luxury and the definition of conspicuous consumption due in no small part to excessive attention to detail and the sheer presence of it. The S65, while the top-of-the-line S, is too sporty for the category, the LS is green and comfy but completely invisible, the XF and Genesis aren’t good looking enough, and the Conti just barely lost out on account of its Phaeton underpinnings. The Phantom certainly isn’t the cheapest here, you could have 10 Genesises for the same price, but where else can you get a “starry night” fibre optic headliner and suicide doors from a company that made engines for fighter planes in WWII. Nowhere but here.
COTY: Honda FCX Clarity. Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4
While it may not look like much, or be available outside of leases in California yet, the FCX Clarity is a milestone car that we will look back upon the same way we look at the Ford Model R today (the predecessor to the game-changing Model S). A hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric car that drives just like a normal car is nothing short of amazing. It has a range of about 400km on a tank and is refueled in just minutes, just like your normal gas-powered car. This is in stark contrast to electric cars like the Tesla that need to be charged for hours and have much shorter ranges. Although not the sexiest of cars, it’s a real feat of engineering to make such a normal while still using alternative fuels. As your overall Car Of The Year, we give you nothing less than the future.
I was going to make the Honda FCX Clarity the overall COTY, but then I remembered that I quite like pistons. And gas. And that I’m a Canadian man with hot blood pumping through my veins, and in the case of the Gallardo LP560, through my loins. The newest Gallardo variant isn’t for people particularly considerate of the future (despite reductions in fuel consumption and C02 by more than 20% each compared to the previous generation Gallardo). The LP560 is for people who love driving, who love Italian/jet fighter styling, and who love the sound of 10 cylinders roaring at 8,500 rpm just behind their right ears. People like you and me, in other words. While we are young and need to be considerate of the future and the environment, this is a car that brings out the bad ass in all of us. If I had this car, I think I might have to join a rock band even though I don’t play any musical instrument other than the piano. This car is stunning and raw but since Audi had its hand in there, it should hold up well to the test of time. It isn’t the best supercar or the best sports car or the best family car, but it is the car we want the most from 2008, and that’s more important than anything else.
Special thanks to Howie Edgecombe for his knowledgeable advice and the donation of his time in helping to determine the COTY.