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What Is Every Automaker’s Best Vehicle?

Aa Best Cars Ts2
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Some days I choose violence. Other days I choose chaos. Today is a chaos day because today’s Autopian Asks wants to know: What do you think is the best vehicle made by each and every automaker (or, least the ones that come to mind). I’m serious. I have a list. A list!

“Best” is extremely subjective, and it would be great if you could explain all of your reasons. It’s also completely fine not to explain at all. The goal here isn’t to just think of your favorite cars from each automaker, the question is: what’s the best car that company has ever produced? It will be contentious. I want contentious. I want us to have fun.

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Here’s a list to start with, but feel free to add and subtract:

  • Tesla:
  • Toyota:
  • Porsche:
  • Mercedes-Benz:
  • BMW
  • Chrysler
  • Dodge
  • Jeep
  • VW
  • Ferrari
  • Honda
  • Ford
  • Chevy
  • GMC
  • Buick
  • Pontiac
  • Cadillac
  • Hyundai
  • Kia
  • Nissan
  • Rivian
  • Subaru
  • Renault
  • Volvo
  • Peugeot
  • Mazda
  • Mitsubishi
  • Aston Martin
  • Audi

And here are my answers, which are nonsense because I’m a nonsense person:

  • Tesla: Model Y, the most important EV to date
  • Toyota: Toyota MR-2 Turbo (SW20), fun Toyota but also good Toyota
  • Porsche: W124 Mercedes-Benz 500 E, fast sedans are so much fun [Ed Note: Apparently this was developed by Porsche, but the real correct answer is the modern 911. It is objectively the best version of the best model Porsche has ever made. Or maybe the Cayenne is the answer based on sales figures… -DT]. 
  • Mercedes-Benz: W124 Mercedes-Benz 500 E, fast sedans are so much fun
  • BMW: E39, the best fast sedan
  • Chrysler: Town & Country, it’s a legend and saved the company
  • Alfa Romeo: Original Giulia, the best of Alfa
  • Dodge: 1st Gen Viper, just look at it
  • Jeep: CJ-7, maybe I’m trolling David [Ed Note: It’s clearly either the WWII Jeep, the XJ Cherokee, or the JK Wrangler; there are no other answers. -DT]. 
  • VW: Rabbit GTI, the company stopped being just cheap cars
  • Ferrari: 400i, maybe this is personal
  • Honda: Honda Integra Type R DC2, so good
  • Ford: Escort Cosworth RS, also so good
  • Chevy: 1992 Chevy Silverado, an all-time best treak
  • GMC: 1992 GMC Sierra, same
  • Buick: GNX, remember when Buicks were cool?
  • Pontiac: G8 ST, though no one has ever driven one
  • Cadillac: CTS-V Wagon, the only thing better than a fast sedan is a world-beating wagon
  • Hyundai: 1st gen, manual Veloster N
  • Kia: Carnival, I will not explain further
  • Nissan: R33 GT-R, technology and style
  • Rivian: R1T, they only make two cars so…
  • Subaru: Original Outback, important and kinda fun
  • Renault: R5, it got the country on its feet and people still like the them today
  • Volvo: 240 Wagon, I mean c’mon
  • Peugeot: 505 Dangel 4×4, I mean c’mon
  • Mazda: Mazda MP3, look it up
  • Mitsubishi: Pajero Evo, Dakar cars are great
  • Aston Martin: Virage Shooting Brake, I’m a weirdo
  • Audi: QSW, the blueprint (when it works)

Ok, your turn.

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Myk El
Myk El
7 months ago

I’d be curious what everyone thought was each brands most important vehicle. Is it one that defined the brand? Is it one that kept the cashflow going?

Ford: Model T.
VW: Beetle
Work forward from there.

Vee
Vee
7 months ago

Really? The GNX for the Buick? Dude, c’mon. The 1961 Buick Special with the Buick 215 is the best Buick. It barely beats out the first generation Riviera with it’s trick hidden headlights where the blades of the front fenders slide down to reveal them. And if we include concept cars like the G8 ST, then there’s the 1985 Buick Wildcat.

For Toyota it’s the X100 Chaser. Almost the perfect sedan. Simple but luxurious interior, unassuming exterior that gives it a large presence but hides how small the car actually is, very suited for being modified to do everything from drifting to drag racing to rallying, and it comes with the 1JZ-GTE.

Mazda’s got the Cosmo. No, not the original L10 Cosmo, as brilliant as that is. The JC Cosmo. Twin or even triple rotor spinny triangle, tech for the time that was actually useful instead of just being the marketing equivalent of greebles, and a beautiful shape and interior that no Japanese manufacturer has been able to match since 1990. Seriously, that wraparound dash where there’s a continuous line that goes aaaaaaall the way around the cabin, the gauges hidden behind the smoked glass that runs the entire width of the dashboard, and the steering wheel that gives off the same comforting appearance as a pair of well made leather loafers.

Mitsubishi has to be the EC5 Galant VR-4. You know the Lancer Evolution that everybody loses their shit about? How about all of the stuff that makes one of those great, but in a station wagon. Yes. Seriously. A manual AWD twin turbocharged station wagon with a real world rated horsepower of 290 that with just a few bits from the aftermarket tuning scene can make 400. And it has six way adjustable leather seats with power memory control.

I disagree with the first generation Viper. The SR-II is better because it uh… Well, it actually has a roof instead of a strip of vinyl that you have to tack into place like on an aftermarket K-10 Blazer soft top conversion. Also you won’t die of heat stroke or second degree burns on your legs while driving one because they actually properly routed the exhausts.

For Subaru it’s the Justy. Why? It’s the only somewhat normal car Subaru has ever made, which makes it an anomaly in their lineup. It’s the Subaru equivalent of the Chevrolet Cavalier. It also saved the company when they were about to die and were rushing to complete the Impreza. Many of the mechanical achievements that went into the Justy are what Subaru built on in the following decades, like electronically controlled 4WD instead of mechanically controlled, CVT transmissions, and single piece firewall construction.

LilRedFinesse
LilRedFinesse
7 months ago

Alfa Romeo:
AMC: Eagle Wagon
Aston Martin: V12 Vantage
Audi: Quattro
Buick: GNX
BMW: E39 M5
Cadillac: ’62 Coupe De Ville
Chevy: ’63 Corvette GS
Chrysler: ’68 New Yorker 2-door Hardtop
Datsun: 240Z
Dodge: ’69 Charger
Ford: ’32 Tudor
Ferrari: 288 GTO
GMC: Syclone
Honda: CRF300L
Hyundai: Santa Cruz
Isuzu: Vehicross
Jaaag: XE SV Project 8Jeep: XJ 2-door
Kia: Stinger GT
Lotus: Evora GT
Mazda: FD RX7
Mitsubishi: Pajero EVO
Mercedes-Benz: 560SEC AMG
Mercury: ‘49 Mercury Eight
Nissan: 300ZX Z32
Peugeot: 205 T16
Plymouth: ’70 AAR ‘Cuda
Pontiac: ’69 GTO Judge
Porsche: 930 Turbo Slantnose
Renault: R5 Turbo
Rivian: R1S
Saab: 9-3 SportCombi
Subaru: 22B
Suzuki: Samurai
Tesla: Roadster
Toyota: 1st gen 4runner
Volvo: V60 Polestar
VW: R32

Derek Miller
Derek Miller
7 months ago

Alot of comments dogging on GMC (for decent reason) as just being a copy of whatever Chevy throws out, but I’d argue their most important was the first/second gen Denali trims that came out. If memory recalls, they were some of the first vehicles (at least from the US), that introduced trucks and SUVs as being everyday family/city vehicles rather than being rough/plasticky/rough riding workhorses. The escalade got it’s start as being a rebadged Denali, I believe.

LilRedFinesse
LilRedFinesse
7 months ago
Reply to  Derek Miller

Everybody is forgetting about the Syclone, legendary in its own right

Derek Miller
Derek Miller
7 months ago
Reply to  LilRedFinesse

Shit. You’re right. You win.

TDI_FTW
TDI_FTW
7 months ago

I’m really only commenting because I wanted to say Nissan: Stagea (swapped to GT-R running components, see Benny and MightyCarMods)
Oh, and for Subaru either the Super Levorg or SuperGramps. Basically, any of MCM long-term keeper builds.

VanGuy
VanGuy
7 months ago

The Rivian delivery van: am I a joke to you?

Toyota: Corolla, for being the “an car” for so long

…I’m still learning and don’t necessarily gravitate toward enthusiast cars, so I’ll leave this at that while people with strong opinions duke it out

N M
N M
7 months ago

RE: Willys-XJ-JK

Can we get a DT article talking through this and explaining how the JK(U) was the spiritual successor to the XJ? The 4dr model was notably more popular and the JKU refilled the void in Jeep’s rugged lineup left from 02-06 as the Liberty went IFS and the WJ remained up-market and the even-larger Commander launched leaving the same gap open.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
7 months ago

Or maybe the Cayenne is the answer based on sales figures…

YEEEEAH BOOOOOI CAYENNE IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER

Except here. 2.7 RS, anyone??? Paris-Dakar 959???? 917!!!!?!!?!???? 919 HYBRID EVO???????????

Delorean859
Delorean859
7 months ago

Since there’s going to be a lot of overlap between people by asking for the best, I’m going with my favorites by manufacturer

Aston Martin: 1st-gen V12 Vanquish
Audi: Quattro S1 (the poster child of Group B)
Austin: FL2 (civilian FX4)
Buick: GNX
BMW: E38 7-series
Cadillac: Allante
Checker: Marathon Wagon
Chevy: Corvette C1
Chrysler: Airflow
Daihatsu: 2nd-gen Copen
Dodge: 1st-gen Charger (still prefer it to the 2nd-gen)
Ford: 1st-gen Mustang
Ferrari: 250 GT Lusso
GMC: 1st-gen Topkick
Honda: Civic ES1 (my first car)
Hyundai: FL2 Tiburon
Isuzu: 117 Coupe
Jeep: SJ Gladiator
Kia: Stinger
Lotus: Series 3 Elise SC
Mazda: Eunos Cosmo (all the rotory goodness without the boy racer look)
Mitsubishi: FTO (yes, not an Evo. Still one of my favorite cars from GT4)
Mercedes-Benz: W211 E55 AMG Wagon
Nissan: R32 GTS 4-dr
Peugeot: 505 Break
Pontiac: 1970 Firebird
Porsche: 959
Renault: Caravelle S
Rivian: R1S
Skoda: Octavia Mk1 RS
Subaru: Legacy STi S401
Suzuki: Alto Works Sport RS
Tesla: Original Roadster
Toyota: G40 Century
Volvo: C30 T5
VW: Type 1 Beetle

Ford Friday
Ford Friday
7 months ago

Tesla: Model S, it made Tesla what it is today and it’s the only good looking one still
Toyota: Corolla, basically defines the compact car (also the AE86)
Porsche: Carrera GT, one of the last and best manual supercars ever made
Mercedes-Benz: 300SL Gullwing, kind of the opposite of above, the first supercar
BMW: E30, just iconic and beautiful. I wanted to say E36 because I have one, but thinking about it, I’d trade my E36 for an E30 in good enough condition in a heartbeat.
Chrysler: I’m stealing from the answer key here and saying Town and Country because it was the first minivan
Dodge: Second Gen Ram trucks, basically redefined what trucks were… also Twister
Jeep: XJ because of David Tracy
VW: Golf GTI was one of the first cars that was fun and practical
Ferrari: 288 GTO because it was going to be a rally car before group B went away
Honda: NSX, the first one, it seems crazy to think Honda made a supercar.
Ford: F-series seems like the obvious one here since it’s the best selling vehicle in the world. I’m also biased since I have a Superduty and it’s surprisingly good at almost everything except parking and being cheap to run.
Chevy: Corvette, America’s sports car
Buick: Grand National, one of the first really fast turbocharged cars
Pontiac: GTO, beginning of the muscle car
Cadillac: CTSV, supercharged V8, manual transmission, need I say more?
Hyundai: Ioniq 5, hands down the best looking electric car and arguably the best electric car you can buy.
Kia: Stinger GT, really showed everybody that Kia is capable of making a nice car
Nissan: R32 GTR, the original Godzilla, and it kind of started the JDM craze in America
Rivian: there are so many options but I’m going to have to say R1T
Subaru: 1st Gen Legacy, introduced the EJ engine and the modern AWD system Subaru uses, also this was the first car Colin McRae raced in because the Impreza wasn’t out yet
Volvo: 850 Turbo Wagon because of that one picture of the touring car wagon on 2 wheels
Mazda: 1st generation Miata, the answer, and as much as I want to say RX7, it’s hard to say the “best car” is such an unreliable one
Mitsubishi: Eclipse GSX (2nd Gen), they’re just so damn cool
Aston Martin: DB5, James Bond
Audi: Quattro, I love rally cars and this is one of the best

VanGuy
VanGuy
7 months ago
Reply to  Ford Friday

No love for Rivian’s delivery vans or the R1S?

Ford Friday
Ford Friday
7 months ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Crap, I forgot about the vans!

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

A few notable trends.

* Mazda means miata. They may as well not make anything else.
* Ditto for Kia and the Stinger.
* Mercedes is W123.
* Nobody thinks GMC has a “greatest” anything.
* Hyundai gets a few “not yet”s.
* Strong showing for Cadillac’s CTS-V wagon, over the Escalade and classics.
* Mitsubishi may as well not exist.

Last edited 7 months ago by Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
7 months ago

Surprising: as of this writing, nobody has mentioned any of VW’s buses/vans. The VW Thing has 2-3+ votes, but the microbus/westfalia/buzz or whatever the new one is called don’t have a single mention.

Unexpected.

LilRedFinesse
LilRedFinesse
7 months ago

GMC: Syclone. And its greater than half the vehicles on any of these lists

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