All cars are good, just because they are cars. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but how many Pontiac Azteks can you think of off the top of your head? Once you weed out the obvious ho-hummers, there are still way too many great cars to sort through to get to our eleven All-Stars award winners. (See for yourselves; go to automobilemag.com and fill out your own All-Stars ballot.)
I’m going to spill a few of the beans and tell you that there was a lot of contention in the ranks this year. Once the hot air had cleared, thirty-three different cars racked up votes from our prestigious international panel of experts. In my world, every vote cast signified a car to be reckoned with, a car that lit the fire of one of us. Impressing anyone on this staff is no mean feat. And after one of the better All-Stars shakeout runs in the past three years, every vote won was definitely hard-earned.
So I see my job here as letting you know about the also-rans but still-wonderfuls that made our hearts beat fast. But first, a deep round of applause for the magnificent Mazda 6, the only All-Star to receive the vote of every single one of us. Mazda has found its stride with the 6, injecting a welcome dose of heat and light into a category known for quality, refinement, resale value, value for dollarevery fine family sedan value but heat and light. Mazda’s hotshot was, if you will, the MVP of this year’s team.
This is probably the right time to note that Mazda’s perennial All-Starthe Miatahas become an asteroid, blasted to smithereens by the Porsche Boxster, which just nipped BMW’s new Z4 for sports car honors. “You drank the Kool-Aid!” shouted one overwrought editor as several others waxed poetic over the Z4, which won last month’s Design of the Year. In addition to one stalwart’s vote for the Miata, the Chevy Corvette was the sports car category’s only other vote-getter.
It was disappointing and a little scary that the Vette and Ford’s often-recalled Focus were the only two American cars in the finals. There are plenty of cars in the finals that are made in America by Americans, but they just don’t have those good old names like Chevy and Cadillac and Dodge and, well, you know what we mean. The hometown teams are still getting waxed by the competition, though in many cases they’re getting waxed by a much slimmer margin than in past years. While we’re waiting, the Focus took home an All-Star for America, winning by dint of a thrilling performance delivered by the new SVT five-door (until we plugged it upside-down in a water-logged Tennessee ditch, that is). That and the fact that it comes in every iteration you could want seemed to overcome its truly abysmal quality record. If you think we’re tough on American cars, ponder that little soft moment from the hard-noses at 120 East Liberty Street.
Not that the Focus was a shoo-in. The rowdy MINI Cooper S lost by one tiny little Mazda-speed Protege vote, which I swear would have made a stronger showing if it hadn’t thrown some three-dollar part that put it out of commission on the second day of our three-day test. We’re anxiously awaiting a long Ann Arbor visit from that metallic orange Japanese scream-sicle.
It’s no surprise to us that the Infiniti G35 won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year competition. (We went with the Nissan 350Z, reasoning that there wouldn’t have been a G35 if there hadn’t been a 350Z.) Both the coupe and sedan have taken our staff by storm, causing some serious upheaval in competition with the mighty BMW 3-Series. We called the G35 coupe a BMW beater on a recent cover that BMW would prefer to forget about altogether. Fair enough. But Tiger Woods got beaten a couple of times this year, too. As the vote flip-flopped, the G35 coupe walloped the 3-series, but the justifiably venerated BMW sedan came back with a decisive victory in the entry-luxury class. Calling the 3-series long in the tooth is ludicrous, but it’s true that this is the absolute toughest pedestal upon which a seasoned veteran must teeter. Duking it out in the streets is a fleet of fabulous carssome new, some freshenedas evidenced by the photos on the previous page. BMW has not only pulled off a tricky win with the 3-series, we can thank them for inspiring so many companies to take their own shots at greatness.
Here’s another bit of greatness: Supercars, supercars, everywhere. Sure, the Porsche 911 Turbo and the frighteningly competent GT2 won best supercar. But lined up directly behind them with a vote apiece were:
Isn’t life wonderful for all of us?