We drove more than 100 new cars, trucks, hybrids, SUVs, and crossovers over the past year. Many of them were good, some not so great, and a couple were downright miserable. But when it comes time to picking what we’d want in our own garages, we all have our own pick, one that stands out, and maxes out our “WANT” meter.
So, if it’s not to late Santa, please consider this humble list from us here at Automotive.com. We’ve been really good this year, we promise. And if we get our Christmas wishes, we promise to keep it clean, do all our chores, and meet all our deadlines.
Keith Buglewicz: 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8
Any car I drive has to meet one critical acid test: It must sit five people, minimum. With a wife and three kids, it’s a necessity, unless I want to leave someone behind, a move that rarely goes over well. However, as an enthusiast, I do want a car with some horsepower. No, scratch that, lots of horsepower. I want it to look good, and I’m happy to buy America, although it’s hardly a requirement. I have an affinity for two doors, and what the heck, why not throw in a good, solid manual transmission too.
And that’s the 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8. For me, it hits all the high points. It rides comfortably, but press the Sport button on the dash, and suddenly it’s stiffly sprung enough for a mountain road. You can loaf around all day in sixth gear, but drop it down and mash the throttle, and you suddenly have 470 horsepower at your disposal. And lastly, look at it. I mean, just soak it in. Pretty, huh? So, yes, if the keys to this were in my stocking this year, I’d be one happy little boy.
Matthew Askari: Volkswagen Golf R
We’ve driven all manner of cars here at Automotive.com in the past year, but after all the off-road Jeeps, six-figure German luxury sedans, family sedans, and economy cars, a 2012 Volkswagen Golf R is what I’d want under my tree. Okay so here’s the disclaimer: when I’m not driving a test car, my personal car is a Volkswagen Golf. It has 11 years and a lot of miles under its belt, but I love it. And the enthusiast, performance-inspired Golf R is the Golf coming to fruition, fully realized, and a very splendid thing.
We’ve driven cars with far more horsepower, ones that were several times the price, but there’s a modest charm to the R. The exhaust note is sonorous yet clean, the second gear will get you up to speed quickly, and the design is classic and sporty without being gaudy or tacky. The 256-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, six-speed manual transmission, and the exceptional, confidence-inspiring all-wheel-drive that provides exceptional grip, all combine to hit a sweet spot of driving excellence. The only thing missing, of course, is the bottle-opener situated as a divider in the center cupholder, offered in the European Version. Keys under the tree, please.
Jacob Brown: 2012 Scion FR-S
While my favorite new car I drove this year was the 2013 Porsche 911, and perhaps the most thrilling was driving the 560-horsepower 2013 BMW M5 on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca–I’m fully aware I was spoiled in 2012–I wouldn’t want either of them under my Christmas tree yet. I’d go for the 2013 Scion FR-S. While not necessarily as visceral as the two aforementioned cars, the FR-S represents the notion that a thrilling car can also be a realistically affordable and practical one. It’s loud and not incredibly refined, but that’s part of its appeal. It’s a car that you wouldn’t feel bad about taking to a track, and you wouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage to get its oil changed. Yet, it also gets 30 mpg on the highway and is essentially a reliable Subaru under the sheetmetal. It’s going to be the next do-it-all wundercar, like the Mazda Miata and Ford Mustang, if it isn’t already.
Jason Davis: Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
Barring the sudden availability of a vintage Acura NSX, and the economic means to pull that trigger, the only keys under the tree I’d want this year belong to the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Wagon Concept. It’s the wife’s dream car, you see, and well, I’m perfectly happy with the keys I already have. Which is to say that happy, healthy, lasting marriages require money, commitment, and compromise. So, if I had the money, I’d commit to replacing her older wagon with this new wagon. And that’s compromise I can live with.
Trevor Dorchies: 2013 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman
I had the chance to drive an obscene amount of cars, trucks, and SUVs this year but if Santa could bring me anything to keep, I’d have to pick a 2013 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman. With the combination of Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 or Hemi V-8 engine mated to an all-new ZF-sourced eight-speed transmission, the heavily refreshed Ram 1500 is a giant leap forward for the light-duty pickup truck segment. For 2013, Ram included a bunch of new or refreshed technologies including an 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system along with other truck-centric features like an integrated trailer brake. There are nine different trim levels ranging from the utilitarian Tradesman all the way up to the plush Laramie Longhorn. The 2013 Ram 1500 is rugged, versatile, and sounds damn good when you need to open the throttle up wide. So Mr. Kringle, just leave the keys in my stocking, I’ve been good (enough) this year.