I love cars. I don’t know nearly as much about them as I’d like and I would certainly benefit from some advanced driver training but I really do love them. And, being a guy, the question has come up many times between me and another guy, “If you could have any car in the world, which would you choose?”
Maybe you are living in a country populated exclusively by females so let me clue you in on a little secret… when guys hang out and ask each other a question like this, it is not an invitation for you to give an opinion that the other dude will consider and possibly accept on its merits — it is usually posed as a segue to express one’s own opinion, to show off one’s own knowledge, and to draw the other person into a heated debate.
Because we are of Greek extraction, which sounds like a painful medical procedure that requires a lengthy no-sitting convalescence (but it isn’t), my brothers and I tend to take such discussions to an entirely different level. We will argue our point, stand our ground, defend our opinions, and latch onto any and all flaws or weaknesses in the reasoning of whoever is foolish enough to express a different opinion. We will use any rhetorical device known to Man, up to and including “I know you are but what am I?”. We will ridicule our opponent into submission. The discussion is not over until the other person is a quivering, whimpering mass curled up in the foetal position in a dark corner, preferably in a puddle of his own bodily fluids. And that’s letting him off easy… a debate is not really over until the loser suffers thanatohumiliotis, or “death by humiliation”.
A typical such discussion sounds something like this…
Guy #1: If you could have any car in the world, which would you choose?
Guy #2: No question… a Zipmatic XTD!
Guy #1: You’ve got to be kidding! You’d crash the thing the first time it snowed.
Guy #2: What? I can’t have a backup winter-beater car? How about if I sell the Zipmatic as soon as I get it? Then I could get a new house, a condo in the tropics, and a couple of nice new cars.
Guy #1: Nope, you can’t sell it. You have to keep whatever car you choose forever and use it as your sole personal car.
Guy #2: OK, a Highway Hippo 487.
Guy #1: Are you nuts? You could never afford the insurance on a car like that. Do you know that the tires are special order and cost $1000 each and, being a 12-cylinder, it takes a dozen platinum spark plugs at $50 a pop. A simple tune-up will run you another grand, minimum!
Guy #2: What? I’ve got to pay insurance and maintenance fees myself? I thought this was a hypothetical fantasy question.
Guy #1: Look, you’re getting any car you want. Isn’t that fantasy enough for you?
Guy #2: A Spontaneous Incontinence Mach III.
Guy#1: Just been recalled. Next?
Guy #2: OK, OK! A CopBait R-Type.
Guy #1: You’re nuts…. no trunk space. You’ll never go to Costco again.
Guy #2: How about a RoadRage 9000 with the audio package and the infrared night vision heads-up display option?
Guy #1: Are you asking me or telling me?
Guy #2: Telling.
Guy #1: Think again… your wife doesn’t drive stick!
Guy #2: What? I’ve got to trade in our two cars to get this one “free” car? You wouldn’t happen to have Dr. Kevorkian’s phone number handy, would you?
Guy #1: Sure, I’ve got it here somewhere. Can I offer you a hemlock shooter to sip on while I look for the number?
Guy #2: Make it a double.
Preparing for the inevitable Fantasy Car Discussion is no simple matter, so you better start thinking now. If you start off by saying you want something practical that you can presently afford, you’ll be laughed at for your lack of taste and imagination. The only way to survive such an exchange is to be fully prepared to meet all qualifications as they are imposed.
Here are a bunch of cars I’d love to get my hands on (and some I’d even let my wife drive).
This post is over 5,000 words long and contains just under 1 hour 47 minutes of embedded car-oriented video clips.
Bugatti Veyron: This is first on the list because it is so over-the-top unaffordable, the only way I could ever own one would be if everything (gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, speeding tickets, bail, demerit points, tires, and the car itself) were paid for forever by the Fantasy Car Trust Fund. Either that or if Scotty and Cap’n Kirk paid me a visit and gave me the formula for transparent aluminum.
Even though it’s a “fast” car (8.0 L W16 quad-turbocharged engine generating 1,001 HP and a top speed of 431 km/h or 268 mph — the fastest production street vehicle available to the public) — it’s well-mannered enough to drive around town. It’s a tad pricey to maintain, though — the tires cost about $25,000 per set and just having them removed from the rims will run you $70,000 at the only place in the world that can do the job. So a tire change will probably run you somewhere north of $100,000, depending on how good a deal you can get shipping four giant rims to France. A replacement transmission will run you $120,000 (labour not included), an amount I wish I had to blow on a whole car.
The car’s sticker price? Somewhere in the $2 million range… the “If you have to ask, you cannot afford it” rule applies to this car. Frankly, I’m not really sure if I’d want to own a Veyron… I’d never be able to shake the fear that someone would steal, vandalize, or bump into it. I’d settle for a DVD box set of the BBC’s Top Gear series that did the following test drive of the Veyron. Check this car out!
Let’s change things up and go from warp speed to opulent comfort.
Here in Canada, Honda has a luxury division… it’s called Acura. Toyota’s luxury division is Lexus and Nissan’s is Infiniti. Did you know Mercedes-Benz has a luxury division? It’s called Maybach and makes my brother-in-law’s 500 Series Benz look frugal and common in comparison.
I’d want the Maybach 62 S because, as the comedian Redd Foxx once said, “If you’re going to have something, you may as well have a big one.” Those of you familiar with Mr. Foxx’s body of work probably suspect that he was not talking about cars when he said that, and you would be correct in your assumption, but the wisdom of Foxx’s words holds when applied to the Maybach.
The 62 S has everything as an option you could possibly desire in a living room on wheels… refrigerator, wine glass holders, TVs, DVD, automatically closing doors, electronically controlled window curtains, and comes standard with two seats in the back that recline fully. If you’re planning to use your 62 as a shuttle for your kid’s soccer team, you can opt to replace the two standard seats with a three-seat bench. Or you could keep the twin seats for your child and his/her BFF, and fit about a dozen ten-year-olds into the trunk that has about as much storage space as my garden shed.
This would be the perfect vehicle for me to take my three brothers on that Route 66 road trip (including a side trip to Area 51) that we’ve been talking about for years. My lotto numbers better hit pretty soon because, as I understand it, the Maybach brand will cease to be in 2013.
Here’s a long but not too exciting tour of a parked brand-new 62 S.
So while the Bugatti is psychotically fast and stupendously expensive and the Maybach is much more sedate but phenomenally luxurious and hard to park, I’d kind of like something fun to drive, nice to sit in, and a bit of a head-turner even when parked. An Aston Martin DB9 would fit the bill nicely without having to spend even a fraction of the money I’d have to spend on either of the first two cars for initial purchase, insurance, gas, or repairs. Plus it comes with a paddle-shift automatic transmission so even the wife could take it for a spin if she was really, really nice to me.
An extra bonus that comes with DB9 ownership is that if a cop were to pull me over and ask me to identify myself, I am legally permitted under The Highway Code of Canada to respond, “My name is Phai, HoaiPhai.”
Here’s Jeremy Clarkson backing me up in my great taste in this classy yet fun vehicle.
One of my all-time favourite cars is the Jaguar E-Type. A friend of my older sister had one in the ’70s so this is one of the few cars in this post I’ve actually seen up close. While I was never offered a ride in the thing, the sheer exhilaration of viewing its lines and hearing its note as it pulled away added to the satisfaction of knowing that Sis would be away from home for a good long time and, therefore, wouldn’t be bullying me for a while.
I’m conflicted as to whether I’d prefer one of these as a rag-top or as a 2+2 coupe or whether the in-line six or the V-12 would be better. All I know is I’d love any one of the various permutations.
The Eagle Speedster, an homage to the E-Type built by a company other than Jaguar and looks really good but for the £500,000 price tag, I could almost buy both the Pléthore and the Knight XV (continue reading to find out more about these two vehicles).
Here is another Top Gear video that shows both the E-Type and the Eagle Speedster.
Coming back home to Canada from my tour of European car showrooms, I would probably stop off in Montreal for a quick smoked meat sandwich (a medium old-fashioned, of course) before taking a short trip off the island to St. Eustache where the HTT Pléthores are born.
Canada doesn’t have much in the way of a domestic auto industry but we do manufacture American and Japanese cars. HTT is a small, struggling niche Canadian car company — the only model they make is the Pléthore.
The Pléthore is not your ordinary grocery-getter. It’s a three-seater, driver-sits-in-the-middle, mid-engined 750 HP super-car. Some people are not crazy about its styling but being a Quebec native, I really like it — maybe it’s a cultural thing. The Pléthore is what I would consider a summer car up here in Canada unless I wanted to try employing it’s highway hugging front air dam to plow my driveway after a snowfall.
At about $500,000 for the whole car (and not just for the air dam), the only way I’d ever be able to own one is to somehow get on Bill Gates’ Christmas List.
Price aside, one of the things that I really like about this car is that it’s from a truly Canadian car company that’s right outside my hometown. It would also be wonderful to have a vehicle that I could drive to the annual General Motors Factory Days sale and be able to refute their claims that Chevys are Canadian domestics. Because I am a Canadian patriot, I’m embedding not one but two videos of it. Unfortunately, the Pléthore has not yet been featured on Top Gear but I’ve e-mailed them suggesting they do so.
While I prefer driving something that is low to the ground and handles crisply and I usually object to people driving hobby trucks (vans, pickups, SUVs, etc) as personal conveyances, the Knight XV is already on my lottery shopping list should my numbers ever hit.
The Conquest website doesn’t mention anything about the Knight XV being equipped as a 4 x 4 but I suspect that at 13,000 lbs. and with those giant tires it would still be pretty decent in the snow. It’s also got scads of ballistic armour, 2″ thick bulletproof glass, run-flat tires, and a bunch of cameras (both regular and infrared) to give you a 360° view of your surroundings so you know you’ll be safe before opening your window to place an order at a Tim Horton’s drive-through in one of Toronto’s more rambunctious neighbourhoods.
Like the Pléthore, the sticker price on this baby is over $½Million. What’s with the price of Canadian cars? Can’t anyone come up with a nice domestic economy car for, say, $200,000?
I’ve spent more time in South Korea than any other country, except Canada (for those of you who didn’t get the memo, I’m a Canuck) — it’s like a second home to me. The people are friendly, Korean BBQ restaurants are everywhere, and 30% (not 30 proof) alcohol soju is available for about $5 for four litres (~1 gallon)!
They also have some really nice cars that you don’t see here in North America. They have everything from tiny Bongo Trucks to very luxurious sedans and SUVs. It’s only been a few years since Korean auto makers began selling some of their better models here in North America, like Hyundai’s Genesis line. My last time in Korea I saw a really spacious sedan called the SsangYong Chairman but I found out that it’s what you’d call overpowered but decent for a heavy junior limo.
One of SsangYong’s designers went out on his own and started Oullim Motors, the home of the Spirra EX. It’s a feisty little RWD mid-engined devil-for-two that is turning out to be quite the asphalt melter. Here are some numbers for you…
- Engine: Hyundai twin turbo charged 2.7 L DOHC V6
- 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 3.5 seconds
- Top speed: 315 km/h (193 mph)
- Curb weight (dry): 1320 kg (2460 lbs)
- Maximum power: 500 hp
- Maximum torque: 55 kg/m (395 lb-ft)
But why listen to me? Here’s a video that not only takes you on a tour of the Spirra EX, but also pits it against the Porsche Cayman S and the Lotus Exige Cup 260 (I really want one of these Lotuses but I decided against telling you about it because, 1.) It’s obvious any guy who likes fast cars would want one, and, 2.) This post is beginning to get very, very long.
I know I’ve been relying heavily on the BBC’s show Top Gear so I figured I’d change things up a bit and include a clip from the Korea’s XTM network’s show, Top Gear Korea.
At around $60,000, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X is the lowest-priced vehicle on this list but is arguably the one that best combines maximum fun and practicality for the kind of roads and conditions I come across daily. While its external styling doesn’t deviate much from the boxy look of other Japanese four-door compacts, it has an unmistakable air-hungry aggressive look when seen from the front (as one suddenly appears in your rear view mirror, for example), especially when the aerodynamics-improving options are chosen.
The Evo X is an all wheel drive, rally proven powerhouse that handles like a dream. It’s so good at taming corners, it leaves track-proven supercars many times its price a tiny speck in its rearview mirrors on a twisty course. You can select from tarmac, gravel, and snow from the traction control interface on the touchscreen in the dash, three conditions I sometimes have to contend with on a single trip to work.
For a light car it has gobs of power, enough so that you can sustain all four wheels spinning while doing donuts — perfect for staking claim to a parking spot at Costco on a busy Saturday afternoon. It’s also the least expensive car I know of that has “Launch Control”. Launch Control is a feature whereby one presses a bunch of buttons in a certain order and your car prepares itself to spring from a standing start and achieve maximum acceleration. While it would be impractical to use this feature at every stop sign, it is something that would be fun to be able to brag that one’s car does have this feature, and it might occasionally come in handy in the real world. See why in the Nissan GT-R review further down the page.
So, once again, let’s let the boys at Top Gear tell us what they think about the Evo in this clip where they compare it to its market competitor, the Subaru Impreza WRX.
I bought my 1996 Integra many years ago when she had just 40,000 km on her (and what looked like a bullet hole in the back) and today “Yoko” has racked up more than 360,000 km and still enthusiastically participates in some spirited driving without ever having burdened me with any major repairs (but Yoko’s body is rotting out and the air conditioner could use a recharge). Hondas are built to last and their owners tend to either…
- Love, baby, and take meticulous care of them, or…
- Love, baby, and drive them to the limits of the car’s performance envelope. Sometimes such owners find that their own skills define the frontier of a vehicle’s performance as the trunk of a large and unyielding tree.
So if you’re in the market for a used Honda and it looks pretty good, chances are that it’s owner falls into the first category (but always take a prospective car to a mechanic for a thorough check-up before you lay any money down). On the other hand, if the car’s owner falls into the second category, finding an imprint of a tree in the front bumper is a dead give-away. Never buy a seriously bent car.
Getting back to the NSX, it is a two-door, two-seater, mid-engined rear-wheel drive coupé. There’s not much in the way of cargo room but, as a driver’s car, it really is superb. It’s docile at “normal” speeds but, like any Honda I’ve ever driven, the NSX shows a very different side when you wind up the engine. It’s not like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde multiple personality disorder type of situation, but more like an Olympic runner who knows which fork to use at a formal dinner. This “Everyday Supercar” was much more than just Honda’s offering to customers looking for something exotic in appearance — the NSX was no poser.
My Acura TSX (codename: “Mitsumi”) has a new-fangled iVTEC multi-profile cam while the NSX has the old-school VTEC multi-profile cam. The difference is that with iVTEC the car’s computer gradually adjusts the ignition timing so that by the time the computer decides that more power is needed by changing the cam profile, the transition is smooth and unnoticeable. The NSX’s VTEC has no such smooth transition — when 6,000 RPM hits, you hear the solenoid’s click and the exhaust note becomes more assertive. You’ll also notice a rush of power to the wheels.
The NSX figured in the development of the McLaren F1. In case you don’t know about the F1, it was the world’s greatest hypercar throughout its production from 1992 to 1998. Unlike the Bugatti Veyron, the F1 was so raw and untamable that it was practically homicidal — we just did not have the technology to build leashes strong enough to control beasts such as the F1. Frankly, I’d be scared to drive one but for those who really know how to drive, the F1 was a powerful yet sweet-handling car due in part to the NSX. According to Wikipedia…
“Honda’s breakthrough engineering in the NSX was a major contributor to the design of the McLaren F1 as mentioned in an interview with McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray (translated from original Japanese into English). ‘The moment I drove the NSX, all the benchmark cars—Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini—I had been using as references in the development of my car vanished from my mind. Of course the car we would create, the McLaren F1, needed to be faster than the NSX, but the NSX’s ride quality and handling would become our new design target.’ The NSX was marketed as the first ‘Everyday Supercar’ thanks in part to its ease of use, quality and reliability. Murray himself remained an NSX owner for 7 years.”
So if the “If You Could Have Any Car…” discussion parameters included that the price had to be five figures, the car had to be used, and that the vehicle could no longer be in production, the NSX would be my choice. In fact, it’s one of my all-time favourite vehicles. It’s got to be one of the most economical to drive and problem-free mid-engined “exotics” ever made.
Here’s yet another Top Gear clip. Skip to the 1:00 minute mark to get to where Jeremy Clarkson introduces the NSX.
Here’s a video pitting the NSX against a Ferrari Testarossa. If you want to skip the babble, to see them racing over the ¼ mile and then to 3:20 to where they go around the Tsukuba track. By the way, you haven’t had a stroke and lost function in your brain’s language lobe… they’re speaking Japanese in this one.
So far most of the cars in my list were conceived with performance as the primary objective of their designers. Some are quite impractical for day-to-day use for a guy like me who parks on the street, drives in snow, and occasionally has to ferry around four passengers.
My driving habits have changed over the years and now I find that I no longer feel the need to show up anyone who challenges my being the fastest driver on the road. The Acura RL, Acura’s flagship sedan, would fit my actual needs nicely as well as satisfy my desire for comfort, power, and gadgetry.
The RL is a 300 horsepower all-wheel-drive five-seater with all kinds of amenities like a surround sound audio system, active noise cancellation, and a climate control system that blows air through the front seats.
The RL is hugely unpopular, sales-wise, with a lot of prospective buyers opting for the less expensive but very gutsy and fairly roomy TL. I feet sorry for the RL because it really is a sweet handling and well thought out machine.
The bright side of the RL’s disfavour with consumers is that Acura has targeted it in the company’s current revamping of their product line… in 2013 they’re coming out with a 370 HP model, the RLX.
This new incarnation will have even more room in the passenger compartment due, in part, to widening the whole car by about 2 inches. But the really exciting news is that all that extra power will be supplied by a hybrid power-train! Incidentally, the hybrid RLX is the performance variant of this model with lower-powered non-hybrid trim levels available.
Now I’ve always considered the word “hybrid” to be little more than a polite way to say “mutant” and not something I’d want as part of any of my vehicle’s badging, but with the RLX I’d make an exception! With all the extra room, comfort, performance, handling, Honda dependability, and gadgetry, I’d run out and pre-order one if I had the money. It really looks like a winner that will put Honda/Acura back into the game.
Here’s a quick video with a bit more on the RLX.
As we wind down our examination of various cars we come to the legendary Nissan GT-R. While it doesn’t have the lines of a mid-engined exotic, it combines whiplash-inducing power, handling, and build quality. It’s fairly nondescript appearance might not turn heads like a Ferrari would, but it might just fly under the radar of vandals and traffic cops.
The Australian car magazine Wheels nicknamed the GT-R’s predecessor, the Nissan Skyline, “Godzilla” and this was carried over to the GT-R. Why would a 2-door 4-seat coupé be named after a radiation-breathing monster you ask? Here’s why in point form…
- 3.8L twin-turbo V6
- ~550 HP
- Amazingly sticky in the corners
- 6-speed automatic dual clutch transmission
- Top speed: ~321 km/h (~200 mph)
- 0-60 mph time: ~2.5 seconds… that’s 10% faster than gravity!
Not only does the GT-R have Launch Control, which Nissan calls “Launch Mode”, but tremendous lengths have been gone to make sure this is a great handling rocket sled. Nissan has put the engine in the front, which is not usually considered the best location for optimal handling, but has put the transmission in the rear to make for a better balanced weight distribution. They’ve even added a special knurling to the rims to help ensure that the tires stay on during heavy cornering.
So what Nissan has managed to do is make a blisteringly hot vehicle that is disciplined enough to behave in traffic.
Do yourself a favour and check out the following clip from (you guessed it) Top Gear.
So, what’s the verdict? Which of these cars would I really want?
I’d love to get my hands on the Veyron but, frankly, I’ve been poor too long and would worry constantly about losing it or having to spend close to six figures just to change the tires. Ownership sounds like one big headache but I’d love the chance to drive someone else’s.
The Maybach would also be absolutely fabulous as long as its GPS has a special function directing you to parking spots large enough to accommodate it. It certainly is a passenger’s vehicle but given my bias toward responsive and nimble Hondas, I don’t know how much pleasure I’d get driving it off the highway. Great car for picking up people at the airport, driving to your high school reunion, or showing up at the office on the day you resign.
Now an Aston Martin would be super cool to have and drive, but I’d be concerned about two things… how mechanically finicky it may be and its ability to attract thieves. So unless the DB9 comes with perpetual theft insurance and unlimited maintenance is paid for by the Fantasy Free Car Fund, I’d probably have to pass, unless I was “transparent aluminum rich”.
The Pléthore is a super-nice car… on paper. I’ve never seen one with my own personal eyeballs, never driven one (or anything from this manufacturer), and the guys at Top Gear haven’t either. But even ignoring all that, The Pléthore is too powerful and low to the ground to be driven in winter. As long as I could keep the two cars I already have for day-to-day transportation and the sticker price, astronomical insurance premiums, and maybe a gasoline discount card were included in the Freebie Car Plan, I’d have to pass. Also, I don’t have a garage in which The Pléthore could hibernate.
Since most of the Knight XV‘s major parts are Ford, general repairs would probably not be fraught with part availability issues but there are a couple of things that would make this behemoth a bad choice. First of all, I’m sure it handles like a 13,000 lb. watermelon on stilts and all that climbing in and out of it would anger the chondromacia in my knees. Then the fact that I’s so big it makes the H3 Hummer look like an El Camino leads me to believe that I’d end up bumping into something. And then there’s the law enforcement aspect — I have a funny feeling the cops would be constantly pulling me over just so they could add stopping a privately owned armoured personnel carrier to their résumés. So unless I could keep it as an emergency winter storm/zombie apocalypse third vehicle and not as a primary commuter ride, I’d have to pass.
Adding a Spirra EX to my stable would certainly gain me major points with my Korean in-laws and give Mrs. HoaiPhai the chance to give a non-Japanese name to one of our vehicles. It would also be a real head-turner since they are not sold here. I’m sure the Hyundai power plant would be reliable and easy for my mechanic to service but I’d worry that some of the Oullim Motors parts would be tricky to get hold of on short notice. Another thing is that the Spirra is rear wheel drive and I’ve kind of like to try driving something AWD. Were I to go the Korean route, I’d probably opt for a juicy Hyundai Genesis that has parts available locally.
Moving from genesis to evolution, Mitsubishi Evo X would be a fine vehicle for my day-to-day purposes and if keeping the budget down was a primary concern. The Evo X is definitely on my short list.
I’ve loved the old Acura NSX from afar for so long, I just cannot imagine that given a limited budget for a used summer-only car I would not google the location of the nearest one. Still, as a primary daily use all-weather vehicle it would suck, or at least get stuck in the snow or have a fight with a guard rail. So unless I could have this as a third car, I’d have to pass. Same thing goes for the upcoming hybrid reincarnation of the NSX, except that it looks like it would not be a low-budget expenditure. I always considered “hybrid” to be just the polite way of saying “mutant” and not something I’d like to see printed on the spec sheet of one of my cars, but with the upcoming NSX I’d be willing to make an exception!
The Acura RLs sold incredibly poorly here in Canada but I would have bought one. The luxury, AWD, gadgets, and decent power would have made it a great primary vehicle in my fleet of two. The soon-to-be-released Acura RLX is even more so, especially the
mutant hybrid edition — I’ll get one if I possibly can. Maybe the boys from the USS Enterprise will beam down and give me the formula fro transparent carbon fibre.
The Nissan GT-R wouldn’t make not much sense for me to drive as a primary car — even with AWD it might not be such a great idea to drive one in the snow. Also, it would probably be an incredibly powerful cop and thief magnet. But you know what? If a load of money earmarked for a vehicle purchase fell into my lap I’d have to take a fistful or responsibility and discipline pills not to run out and buy my own Godzilla. By the way, my son HoaiPhai Jr., who drives a Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V, and I entered into a pact in which if one of us comes into copious amounts of wealth, the wealthy one will buy two GT-R “Black” editions… one for himself and one for the other.
So, that’s a partial list of cars I drool over. What’s your dream car?
- Banker writes off rare roadster (confused.com)
- The World’s First Bugatti Veyron Art Car (complex.com)
- Mighty Mini! Banger bought for £500 outstrips a Bugatti Veyron (thesun.co.uk)
- The Biggest Gas Guzzlers on the Road (247wallst.com)
- The Ten Quickest Street Legal Cars In America [Video] (jalopnik.com)
- Bugatti’s Galibier 4-Door Sedan Does 235mph, Should Arrive 2015 (pics) (gadgetreview.com)