Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New car reviews to get us ready for the auto show

The Greater Kansas City Auto Show is taking place in going on in Bartle Hall this weekend.  Naturally, I plan to be there to check out all the latest and greatest.  But to get ready, I thought we’d take a look back at my top ten favorite new cars that I had the opportunity to test drive over the past year or two. I’ve been very fortunate with this blog, because without it, I never would have had the chance to drive a new Cadillac for a week, for example.  As someone who really loves cars, I cannot understate how awesome I think this has been for me.  Just rereading the stories makes me happy.  I hope they make you happy too.

1.  2013 Chevrolet Corvette GS.  Corvettes are my favorite cars, and I got to drive a Corvette.  So by default, this is my favorite test car.  I borrowed it to take to the 2012 Vettes on the Plains Show, but enjoyed my time behind the wheel more than sitting with it in a parking lot.  This was a 60th-Anniversary model with the blue leather interior and various emblems.  It was obviously the end of the line for the last-generation Corvette, but it was just fine with me.  Everybody knows the 2014 Corvette Stingray is an automotive tour-de-force, but if you never experienced the outgoing model, you might not realize how good these cars actually are.

2.  2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible.  I like the current-generation Camaro so much that I actually own a 2012 RS coupe.  But mine is pretty tame compared to this 2014 SS convertible test car.  With a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 that cranks out 426-hp and 420-lb/ft. of torque, this car was an animal.  I also loved routing all that power through a proper six-speed manual transmission.  This car was a looker, too.  The new grille and taillight treatment really drew a lot of attention.  I can’t think of one thing about the looks of this car that I didn’t like.  Is it hard to see out of with the top up?  A little.  Does it have a ridiculously tiny back seat?  Sure.  Is $46,000 a steep price for a Chevy pony car?  Could be.  But it doesn’t matter, because I’m willing to make some compromises on something this cool. 

3.  2014 Chevrolet SS.  Yes, my favorite three cars are hot rod Chevys.  They’re what I like.  You can probably rank the Mustang higher on your own blog.  The Chevy SS is a milquetoast looking sedan with a secret. Because under the very unassuming hood, you’ll find a 415-hp, 6.2-liter V8.  And it’s all connected to a very worthy chassis and suspension.  This car is just flat-out fun to drive.  Plus, the fit-and-finish is so nice that you might mistake it for a Mercedes or BMW.  Most people are probably never going to know this car even exists.  But for the few that do know, this car will have a cult following for years to come. 

4.  2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302.  OK, so I’m more of a GM guy.  But even I can’t deny that this Mustang is very satisfying to drive.  The chassis is just so sweet.  You can tell this car means business, but it doesn’t punish you.  Ford’s excellent 5.0-liter V8 produces 440-hp in this application, and the quad-exhaust with electric cutouts plays beautiful music.  The Boss 302 is a thoroughly modern interpretation of a very retro vehicle.  For actually invited me to go to Detroit to drive this car.  What a great opportunity!  On the track or on the street, this car really delivers. 

5.  2013 Buick Regal GS.  This might seem like just another little front-wheel-drive Buick, but make no mistake, the Regal GS is a real enthusiasts car.  With 270-hp and 295-lb/ft. of torque from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four, the GS packs plenty of muscle.  But that’s not all.  The sport-tuned suspension on this thing with make you completely forget about your great-granddad’s Electra.  The test car had beautiful 20-inch aluminum wheels, and believe it or not, there was even a six-speed manual transmission.  We took the Regal GS on a little family trip from Kansas City to Branson, and let me tell you, it was a heck of a lot of fun. 

6.  2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit.  I never really gave Jeeps a lot of thought, but that all changed after I drove this new Grand Cherokee.  I can sure see why people like these. It was unbelievably luxurious, had every possible gadget known to man, and oozed quality from every pore.  Oh, and it had a 360-hp Hemi V8 under the hood.  So not only did it have the luxury and utility, but it ran like a freakin’ muscle car.  You’d really have to be a car hater to not enjoy driving this thing. 

7.  2014 Cadillac CTS.  This is the future of Cadillac.  The quality is gorgeous.  The technology is mind-boggling.  And the styling is cutting-edge.  The turbocharged 2.0-liter four in this particular car was good for 272-hp and 295-lb/ft. of torque.  This car is so nice that I can’t believe they actually trusted me with it.  Did I feel like a big shot driving around in this car?  You better believe it.  Will I ever be able to afford the $65,000 price tag?  Probably not.  But it was fun to pretend while it lasted. 

8.  2014 GMC Sierra 1500.  In some ways, this is an all-around perfect vehicle.  It can tow, haul, and work like the big truck that it is.  But it’s as luxurious as a Cadillac, and is packed with pure comfort and style.  Trucks are so much better than they were just a few years ago, and they don’t get much better than this.  You could easily fit in at the jobsite, at the country club, or in the church parking lot.  There’s just no limit to the all-around versatility of a fine truck like this.  This bright red SLT 4X4 was a real knockout, too.  I would love to own a rig like this. 

9.  2012 Chevrolet Volt.  This is probably the last car on the list that I would actually purchase for myself, but it was the most interesting.  The Volt always runs on electricity.  You can charge up the batteries in a wall socket.  But when your batteries run dead, a gasoline engine can take over and charge the batteries for the electric motor.  It’s a lot like an old diesel locomotive.  You can get anywhere from 37-mpg to 94-MPGe.  However you look at it, that’s some pretty amazing mileage, and you don’t have to worry about range.  The Volt is expensive and complicated, and they don’t sell many around here, but it is still an amazing car when you really think about it. 

10.  2014 Chrysler 300S.  Hey, what do you know—another V8, rear-wheel-drive car made my list.  The 300 is like a big, old-fashioned brick—but I like it.  Throw a 363-hp Hemi V8 between the front fenders, and I like it even more.  We took this one on a family trip to Wichita, and it was an excellent ride.  There was tons of room, it just eats up the highway, and as expected, it runs like a champ.  Yes, it is a little thirsty.  It is a little outdated.  But none of that bothered me.  I love the way this car drives and runs.  They don’t make many like this anymore. 

So what will the future bring?  Tune in to my upcoming 2014 Kansas City International Auto Show coverage to find out!