Editor's note: My co-pilot and I were so excited about…
September is officially here, which means Summertime is coming to a close. As schools fill up with children and America’s asphalt arteries clear out, we couldn’t help but reflect nostalgically on a few of our favorite cars this Summer.
As automotive writers, we receive dozens of vehicles to test each year. It’s not an easy job to pick our favorites, as today’s cars are far more reliable and desirable than ever before. But sometimes there’s just a connection with a car — an awesomeness about it, a feeling that you get when you’re behind the wheel — that makes you wish for more than the standard seven-day bonding time.
The Be Car Chic team — Melanie Batenchuk, Bob Gritzinger, Whitney Ramirez and Ron Sessions — shares our top 10 cars we didn’t want to give back:
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata | Picked by Ron Sessions
RS: The Mazda MX-5 isn’t so much a car as it is a driving suit with four wheels. Slipping into it is transformative. Previously boring commutes become interesting again. You become an active participant in the simple act of forward locomotion, your senses heightened as you are intimately drawn into nuanced liaisons with the throttle, clutch, steering, brakes and shifter. The car is supremely balanced and responsive—your wish is its command.
The Miata has always been this kind of car, an engaging small, lightweight two-seat roadster, but the 2016 model, first of the fourth-generation cars, elevates driving enjoyment to new heights. Mazda’s KODO design, with a low, wide shield grille, elegant long nose and muscular chiseled flanks, draws the eye. And SkyActiv technology, applied in measured doses, finesses greater performance while also boosting fuel economy. It’s a tight fit in the cockpit—all the better to avoid baggy driving!
2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali | Picked by Melanie Batenchuk
MB: The General has a lock on ginormous utility vehicles, and the GMC Yukon XL Denali once again showcases why. Step up to the driver’s door and enter a spacious cabin ready for you to chart the course comfortably and confidently above your neighbors on the road. Carrying the family/friends/pets and their gear could neither be easier nor more pleasant. Refined both in looks and driving feel for the 2015 model year, GMC gives us everything we want in its mega-hauler: elbow and leg room to the heart’s content, thoughtful storage space, a working infotainment system with easy tactile controls, 7,900 pounds of towing capability, beautiful design and layout, plus decent fuel economy. What more could you ask for?
Hyundai Genesis 3.8 AWD | Picked by Bob Gritzinger
BG: If there’s a better car on the planet, we’d like to hear about it. But for now, this stylish, no-excuses Korean ranks as the best luxury performance sedan value out there.
Want luxury? We love the heated leather front AND rear seats, and the parlor-trick puddle lamps that project the car’s signature winged “Genesis” logo on the ground outside the driver and passenger doors. Want technology? Standard navigation, automatic wipers and self-dimming headlights are the starters, but a full-zoot model includes functional lane keeping assist, excellent active cruise control, a massive 9.2-inch high-definition display screen, and audiophile-pleasing Lexicon 17-speaker audio system.
The topper, however, is the performance of the silky 3.8-liter, 311-hp, 293-lb-ft V6, providing ample, on-demand power channeled through a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic to the HTRAC all-wheel-drive system. You can buy a V8 in the Genesis, but you can only get AWD with the V6. Need we say more?
2015 Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio | Picked by Whitney Ramirez
The Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio marries ultra-compact and super-speedy. Drivers of the miniature cabrio need not worry about being bullied on the road, as the minicompact car packs a punch with 160 HP and 170 lb.-ft. of torque, which I found pretty impressive for a 1.4-Liter engine. Its Italian roots show through in its aesthetics, responsive handling and beastly-sounding dual exhaust.
Although small, the interior of the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio does not feel cramped. The drop-top ride has more legroom than expected, gorgeous available red leather trimmed bucket seats and premium Beats audio system. Sure, you could opt for a more spacious car than the 500 Abarth Cabrio, but once you experience its sporty offerings (performance brakes, sport suspension, etc.), you will be more than willing to compromise cabin space.
2015 Volkswagen Touareg Lux TDI | Picked by Melanie Batenchuk
MB: A coveted, luxurious driving experience doesn’t have to come in the shape of a V8 or a drop-top (although you’ll see plenty of that on this list). We found the VW Touareg Lux with 3.0L TDI diesel engine gave us the best of several worlds–the worlds of practical functionality, fuel efficiency, convenience and luxury. Priced in the mid-50’s, the Touareg TDI is a compelling argument in the five-seater SUV lineup. Volkswagen has aged its first utility vehicle well by providing updates and upgrades as needed without totally overhauling the car.
With 20 city / 29 highway fuel economy ratings and a 26.4 gallon tank, there are few places you can’t–and in our opinion, that you would want to–take the Touareg TDI.
2015 Dodge Charger RT Scat Pack | Picked by Ron Sessions
RS: Yeah, it’s got a Hemi—the big 6.4-liter one with 485 horsepower. And while it doesn’t quite have the supercharged star power of the $25,000 more expensive 707-hp Charger Hellcat, the $41,000 2015 Dodge Charger RT Scat Pack has more than enough beans under the hood to make billowing clouds of tire smoke on command. Consider the Scat Pack the adult- equivalent attention-getter of a well-executed cannonball into the pool.
Nothing cuts through a dull summer’s haze like a burnout.
And once the show is over, this is a nice car to drive, quick on its feet, and fun on a back road with accurate steering and ample brakes—plus it’s easy on the eyes. Best of all, the RT Scat Pack is a musclecar for the whole family with four doors and a roomy back seat and trunk. So, don’t drain the pool until you take one of these for a test burnout. Geronimo!
Mercedes-Maybach S600 | Picked by Bob Gritzinger
BG: As much as driving this V12-powered Mercedes-Benz rocket ship is a 523-hp bi-turbocharged joy to behold, the real action is all in back where this over-the-top $205,430 flagship carries on its namesake’s tradition of maximum pampering. Active cruise control to ease driving is one thing; active massaging and reclining rear seats with power foot rests to ease life’s suffering are something else altogether.
Besides those amenities, the Maybach’s cocooned rear-seat passengers are treated to sheepskin carpeting, power shades on all windows (including the tiny quarter windows—wouldn’t want anyone invading one’s privacy!), individual video screens and audio systems, dual folding tables, a refrigerator and twin champagne flutes that fit into special stem holders in the cooled (and heated) center cupholders.
Up front, Jeeves and his able assistant are equally comforted by massaging seats while commanding what is essentially a loaded S-Class Benz, complete with Night Vision, Distronic Plus active cruise control, and adaptive suspension to make the drive as plush or performance-oriented as necessary.
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spyder | Picked by Whitney Ramirez
WR: The 4C is more than strikingly beautiful, it’s an impressively affordable supercar. Don’t have enough dough to shell out for the Ferrari of your dreams right now? You’ll be delighted to learn that the mid-engine 4C starts at $53,900, and it will make you feel on top of the world.
This Italian beauty will likely be the liveliest and most thrilling car you’ve ever driven.
Alfa Romeo kept it simple when building the 4C’s interior. Power windows, stereo and air conditioning is as fancy as the track car’s interior gets but is still a lot to offer in terms of comfort. Onto performance, how can you resist 237-HP turbo and a 4.2-second 0-60 MPH? How about 24 city MPG and 34 highway MPG? The 4C has a way of gripping your heart as well as it grips the road. It is at the top of my “Cars to Buy” list.
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited | Picked by Melanie Batenchuk
MB: Good looks, a combined 42 miles to the gallon, and a $35k price tag. What more could you want? We loved scooting around town in the fuel-sipping Sonata Hybrid–a reinvigorated offering for the 2016 model year based on the newest gas-powered Hyundai Sonata. This spacious four-door has a sporty, yet luxe, aesthetic that, unlike many other hybrid offerings, doesn’t scream “I’m green!” The Sonata Hybrid decked out in the Limited trim is the way to go, too. Get it in this gorgeous Seaport Mist paint and coordinating Blue Pearl interior and you won’t be sorry. Hyundai has majorly impressed us with this car. The convenient 60/40 split rear seats (rare for a hybrid due to the placement of the battery pack), the expansive panoramic sunroof, and the max interior space for its class made us sorry to see the Sonata Hybrid go.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible | Picked by Bob Gritzinger
BG: That this car was a convertible was almost an afterthought. Our Velocity Yellow tester was a top-gun Z06 model, packing a 640-hp, 640-lb-ft supercharged 6.2-liter V8, latched to a paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic gearbox. Taking it one step further, this one was equipped with the Z07 Ultimate Performance Package, including PS Cup tires (read: racing slicks), Brembo ceramic brakes and track-ready Z07 suspension bits. Performance bucket seats and visible carbon fiber accents inside and out completed the package.
We loved everything: The 0-60-mph blasts, the echoing exhaust roar, the glued-to-the-pavement cornering—all made better by the built-in performance data and video recorder that allowed us to review our spirited drives at each stop.
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