Everything I drove In 2015 (Ranked!)

Porsche-Canada-Camp4-lineup2 My work with Hooniverse and other outlets affords me seat time in some pretty awesome machines, usually well more than I can afford, and often more capable than I should be allowed. I’m a writer, usually a mediocre one, who takes pictures, usually mediocre ones, and drives cars. It’s a pretty awesome gig, and at the end of the year, I like to sit back and look at what I drove throughout the year, and this year, to spice things up, I decided to rank them. The closing of the year also allows me to thank to thank the owners of the cars for their generosity in letting me behind the wheel. I am 100% thankful that the great readers of this site still read what I have to say, and that there are those out there willing to let me flog their beautiful cars in order to facilitate me writing about it. Thanks for helping make 2015 a great year, each and every one of you! Now, here’s the definitive list of all of the cars I got to drive this year. Yes, a lot of them were Porsche and Audi. Cayman GT4 – IMG_97121 This isn’t just the best car I’ve driven this year, it’s the best car I’ve driven ever. I was invited by Porsche on assignment for FlatSixes.com to Road Atlanta to test drive this car on track with the legendary Hurley Haywood leading the way. It drives like I’ve always dreamed a sports car would drive. It’s so poised. It’s not too heavily powered. It has that sense of neutrality that everyone seems to be craving, but very few manufacturers can do right. Even in heavy rain on a race track, the Cayman was always fighting in my corner, and never seemed to get out of sorts. This car proves that you don’t need a million horsepower to have a superb driving experience. I can only hope that this is the car that signals the end of the horsepower arms race. Car of the year. Car of the century. Car of All Time. Sharkwerks Tuned 997 GT2 – IMG_3083 Okay, I know I just said that you didn’t need a million horsepower to have fun, but dammit if this car isn’t the exception to the rule. The Magnus Walker-designed livery hints at the kind of insanity a car like this delivers, but only just. The car is so far beyond the crazy paint and tartan seats. It is just subdued enough to avoid the straight jacket treatment, though it’s not far away from it. According to Master of all things Sharkwerks, Mr. Alex Ross, the car was absolutely transformed by the new generation of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, as the old Cup didn’t provide enough grip or usability to make the car fun. With the new tires fitted, the car was a joy. It was exactly like a 997 GT3, but so much faster, which is exactly the idea. With 700ish horsepower, the car was a handful, but never felt out of sorts. Whatever formula they used, it worked. Really well. Boxster Spyder – IMG_9931 The Boxster Spyder takes everything that is great about the Cayman GT4 (the 981 generation chassis, the Carrera S derived 3.8 liter engine, and the best manual gearbox in the business) and makes it just a little softer for street use (normal Boxster Sport Suspension instead of the GT4’s GT3-derived kit, nicer interior appointments, and an opening top). Because of these changes, the car is made into possibly the nicest street car I’ve ever driven. The Boxster is a bit softer, but not really all that much slower. It still handles like a dream, it still has all of the grunt, and it doesn’t feel like you’ve been kidney punched when you get out. Where the GT4 was a bully, the Spyder is your best friend. This is a car that I’d legitimately spend my own money on if I had it to spare. Renegade Hybrids 987 Cayman LS7 – cayman (6) Like the Sharkwerks car, this thing is a special level of fun. It’s not for mere mortals to experience, and I’m not sure how I wormed my way into the driver’s seat. Renegade built a 7-liter Chevrolet LS7 engine (They claimed something over 700 to the rear wheels, and it felt like it) to stuff into the middle engine compartment of one of Porsche’s best chassis, and somehow it didn’t completely upset the balance. The car still handled with all of the engineered-in goodness that Porsche designed it to, but it had so much more shit with which to ‘git. There were no wide fender flares or big wings to give away the power figures, it just looked like Porsche intended. For a shop-built car, it’s really hard to get better than that thing. They also had a 400 horsepower 986 Boxster that was pretty damn good as well. Torque lives well in that platform. Porsche Boxster GTS – Topanga Canyon Porsche This car is artificially higher than it might otherwise be, mainly for sentimental reasons. I asked for this press car on behalf of FlatSixes.com while I was in Los Angeles for my honeymoon. It served very well for around-town drivng, but when we got up into the canyons north of the city was where it shined. The GTS is at once both a comfortable cruiser and a performance maniac. While it doesn’t have the power levels of the Spyder, it provides mostly the same driving experience with a slightly altered look and a smaller engine displacement. If I hadn’t driven some truly amazing cars this year, this one might well be at the top. Porsche 911 GT3 RS – IMG_97471 The GT3 RS I drove in conjunction with the GT4, but in this car the leader was David Donohue. I was honored to meet David as I’ve watched his career for many years. He’s a really amazing person, and a joy to talk to. The GT3 RS, however, lacked something for my taste. It was an excellent car, and it was amazingly ludicrously stupidly incredibly quick around the race track, but it just didn’t have that special-ness that I was looking for. I’ve driven a few of Porsche’s other “GT” division cars, and they all had a certain something about them that I didn’t see in the 991 GT3 RS. I hope this doesn’t come of as too negative, as I really loved the car, but it felt more artificial than any previous GT car I’ve driven. Too much GT-R, not enought Carrera GT. Audi S3 – IMG_29391 Audi’s S3 is the best Audi I’ve driven in a long time, and the best Sedan I’ve driven perhaps ever. It has the B5 S4 feel to it that Audi people have been wanting since it was discontinued. It’s the perfect size. It’s got just enough power to be properly quick. It has one of the best AWD systems on the market right now. It sounds great. It looks great. Hell, it’s even comfortable for a big dude like me. Like the Boxster Spyder, this Audi is one that I’d seriously consider adding to my stable if I hadn’t just signed a 30 year note with the bank on a house. The Porsches of Camp4 – Porsche-Canada-Camp4-lineup2 The Mecaglisse ice course in Canada is pretty awesome. I actually drove a number of Porsches while there, including a Cayman, a Carrera, and a Carrera 4S, but as I only got a few hours in each car, I didn’t figure it was fair to rank them individually, and grouped them together here. The Camp4 program that Porsche hosts is an amazing activity if you want to learn winter weather driving skills and drive some awesome German sports cars. I learned a lot. I loved it. I would recommend it to all of my friends, and probably even a few of my enemies. Porsche 911 GTS Coupe – 11951907_897284846973447_4814146001640287492_n I didn’t really get much seat time in this car, though I’ve driven a number of GTS models in the past, but that’s mostly because this car was my mode of transport back and forth between the hotel and Porsche Rennsport Reunion V at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. That minimal time with the car was still enough over four days to make a major impression. Beautiful wide-body curves and a nice powerful engine. It doesn’t get much better than this for street cars. Project Boxster Clubsport – Project-Boxster-Clubsport I’ve made a good bit of progress on this project car this year. Not everything has been excellent with this car, as it did leave me stranded in the middle of the Nevada desert for a night. Aside from that one minor instance, the car has been pretty much flawless otherwise. I put wider wheels and tires on the car, did some more weight shedding, and made a few personal preference choices on aesthetics. It’s slowly morphing into what I envision it will be one day. The road for this project car is still a long one, but we’re making progress. Check out continued progress over at FlatSixes.com. Project Rowdy The Audi – 941039_10100351447610079_8519837404095634109_n Rowdy has been neglected for far too long in 2015, and 2016 will hopefully correct that. I’ve ordered all of the parts for a complete brake overhaul, a timing belt and waterpump job, and a few other minor items. I’ll be navigating this project over on to QuattroWorld.com, so check over there occasionally for semi-regular updates. Datsun 200SX Roadster – 922895_10100348344488759_7055250654181778920_n This is a strange car that fell into my lap. I don’t own it, but I’ve been nominated to be the temporary custodian of the car until I can road-trip it back to its owner in the spring. The story around this car is a long and convoluted one, but I’ll make the time to tell it when it’s appropriate. For now, I’m just driving it occasionally on my daily commute, say once every two weeks, just to keep everything tip top. There are only three known examples still in runnable shape, so I want to take as good of care as I can. This is a strange and special car. I love it more every time I drive it. Nissan Rogue – Rogue-6 Nissan was nice enough to lend me a Rogue for my bachelor party weekend and for shuttling things and people to the wedding venue back in June. It was an excellent car for car purposes. It would be a great car for someone like my mother who enjoys the benefits of a small SUV, but personally I didn’t exactly enjoy the driving experience. It was too big, it was a little ungainly, and it was far from dynamic. That isn’t really what the car was built for, but that’s what I look for in a car. Ho hum. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid/PHEV – Hyundai-1 Hyundai was nice enough to invite me (Dear Hooniverse Representative) to Southern California for a lovely couple of days driving their new Sonata. The weather was fantastic, the car drove exactly like you’d expect a mid-sized front drive sedan to drive. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t exactly inspiring, but it certainly was comfortable. Hyundai has made a lot of progress in the last decade, and this is an excellent example of that. Volkswagen Passat – IMG_9676 Volkswagen flew me to Vermont on behalf of Hooniverse to try out their “new” Passat. The car made use of essentially the same engine and same drivetrain, but the sheetmetal and interiors were revised a bit. It was a good trip, and I enjoyed the drive route that Volkswagen had laid out for us, but I couldn’t help but think that the US-market Passat is a bit old-hat these days, and deserves to be replaced by the European version with a better chassis. Maybe if Volkswagen had allowed me to drive the VR6 model, or the R-line trim model, I’d be less salty about it. Audi A5, Scion FRS, and Mustang V6 – BFG-4 I only got a handful of minutes in each of these three cars at an event to test a new BF Goodrich sporty all-season tire. The A5 seemed nice, I enjoyed driving the FRS on a small autocross course, and the Mustang seemed well adapted to street-car life. Sadly all three were automatic transmission models with almost no options, and my time with each was limited, so it’s not exactly fair to judge them.   Volkswagen Jetta Rental – 11846730_10100301413723389_1665779672487093916_n I had a Jetta rental when I visited my mother for her birthday. I didn’t hate it. Mazda 3 – I own this car. I really hate driving it, but I’ve grown to love the fact that it asks for nothing in return. We’re now over 100,000 miles logged on this little hatchback, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll probably own it until at least half-a-million miles. James’ Toyota Pickup – 11990428_1092286670783607_4686337734582824677_n My friend James had a bare bones no-nonsense Toyota pickup from the early 1990s. Single cab, short bed, stick shift, 114 horsepower 22R-E, maroon paint. That’s about it. It was hot, uncomfortable, and too small. Unfortunately James ran out of fuel while riding his motorcycle about 50 miles from home, so he had me take his truck out to pick him up. It wasn’t the worst car/truck I’ve ever driven, but it was close. Toyota Yaris Rental – Absolutely abysmal. I had to drive this pig from Los Angeles to Reno, NV with no cruise control. It was awful. Worse than a Versa rental I had once.

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