Al’s Favorite Drives of 2013

We, here at Mind over Motor, are about to wave goodbye to 2013.  I, however, don’t want to wave goodbye to some of my favorite reviews of 2013.  I didn’t put up as many reviews as I would have liked this year–and there are plenty of reviews on the way for 2014, I assure everyone.  However, of the cars that I took out for a drive this year, here are my four favorites.

4. Porsche Panamera GTS

The Panamera, for me, is a hard car to really categorize.  I gave it a near-perfect score on my scale for its innate ability to morph from a four-seat executive car into a bona-fide sports car.  It is, despite what Porsche purists might want one to think, very much a good representation of the company line.  It’s a sports car first, with any practical aspirations held as a second priority.  I have to respect a philosophy like that, and I still got the distinct impression that this car would be happy ferrying VIPs around as much as it was setting my pants on fire in California.  For that, I love it.

3. Aston Martin V8 Vantage S

The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is a car that most know exists, but few know just, in my opinion, how much fun it really can be.  I took this car out at Exotics Racing after I drove the bullish Mercedes SLS and came away surprised in a good way.  I didn’t know how much I would enjoy it.  I ended up having more fun in the little Aston than I did piloting the SLS.  I was slower in the Aston, but I felt like I was more in control behind the wheel.  For a few fleeting moments, I felt like a master.  It’s a surprisingly flattering car, and the only reason I couldn’t justify it more was that it’s not a very good value and it might be showing its age now.  I didn’t care at the time about that, though–all I cared about was how it made me feel as a driver.

2. Buick Verano Turbo

Buick is not at all a company to make jokes about anymore.  General Motors, in the past few years, has put a lot of effort into this brand and the payoff hasn’t been immediate.  In fact, the payoff isn’t even here yet.  HOwever, the Verano Turbo is finally a sign in the right direction.  I took one out for a spin, back-to-back, with the more expensive and more powerful (on paper) Regal GS.  Despite the fact that it isn’t the flagship (and therefore shouldn’t be better than the GS by the reasoning of the establishment), it’s the premier car that Buick should be advertising.  It’s got enough luxury to please most, and it can excite the enthusiast behind the wheel for a reasonable price.  I can’t find a lot that I dislike about this car–it’s a FWD, turbocharged four-cylinder compact luxury car that is fun to drive.  As far as I’m concerned, enough said.

1. Jaguar XJR

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the XJR.  I’ve driven XJs before, and I hadn’t yet had any experience with the new model.  I’d had some experience two years ago in the XKR-S with the monster 550hp supercharged V8 that sits beneath the hood of the XJR, but when I took the wheel of Jaguar’s headliner sedan, I was struggling to find bad things to say.  The only negative I had was the fact that the instrument panel used LCDs instead of real gauges.  That’s it.  Despite its six figure price tag, I find this car to be a value buy in its segment.  It’s a blast to drive, it’s jaw-droppingly pretty, and I couldn’t find a way  to unseat it behind the wheel.  For a car to do that and be reasonably priced for what it offers, there’s no reason I can’t say that this car is the best one I drove all year.  The Germans should be on notice: Jaguar’s back and they have the joker in the deck.

More reviews will be up in the New Year–but for the cars I reviewed in time for 2013, these four were the ones that I found to be the most memorable.

-Albert S. Davis

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