Home » Which Car Blew Away Your Expectations?

Which Car Blew Away Your Expectations?

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Years of playing Gran Turismo instilled in me the concept that the R32 GT-R was a good car, but I sensed that the vehicle’s reputation was a little overblown. This often happens with early generations of vehicles that go on to be extremely famous. It’s hard to compare the performance of an original, Blue Flame Six-powered Corvette with a modern Z06, for example.

One of the fun aspects of making the show “Proving Grounds” for NBC Sports was that I, as the showrunner, was able to pick a lot of the cars I wanted to run around the desert race track we’d rent for a week at a time. One season we decided to do a “Rad” episode and so I reached out to friends to see what might be available in the form of ’80s and ’90s cars.

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If you’ve never seen the show, you’re in good company, as many people have not. The basic premise was that we’d take four extremely different cars and run them around a “Proving Grounds” we built at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in a town so far away from anything else it’s called Desert Center. The course we built had an off-road section, a wet corner (complete with sprinklers), fake deer, and a chicane we built out of boxes that were constantly being blown around by sandstorms.

For the “Rad” episode we ended up with a Mazda 787B that raced at Le Mans, a cocaine white Formula Firebird, a DeLorean DMC-12 from the DeLorean Motor Company, and a Skyline GT-R (R32) from Toprank Importers. I was excited about those cars roughly in that order, from most excited to least excited.

You can see the episode here (or below) because, during the pandemic, NBC Sports quietly uploaded some of them to YouTube, which was a fun surprise:

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Also, side note: The day we shot was so incredibly windy that we had to basically dub all the lines outside the car (this is called ADRing and it’s a fun sort of ass-pain). I’m guessing you wouldn’t see it if I didn’t point it out, but I can’t not see it.

Since Parker Kligerman, our co-host, got to drive the Mazda 787B, it was up to Sam Smith to review the GT-R. He loved it. He wouldn’t stop talking about it. Leh Keen, our hot shoe, also was in love with it.

In spite of all of this, I assumed the car would feel just merely fine when Sean, who runs Toprank, asked if I wanted to drive the GT-R for a quick couple of laps around the full Chuckwalla track.

Proving Grounds R32 Gt R 3
Photo: NBC Sports/TangentVector

Nope. They were right. I was wrong. This wasn’t my car and we weren’t filming so I wasn’t able to push it as hard as Leh (nor, frankly, am I anywhere close to being able to push even a lawnmower as hard as Leh).

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At this point, I’d done countless laps around the track, mostly in minivans and Miatas (and an off-road fire truck), so I had a decent sense of where my limits were and where it was safe to push a car. With each turn my instinct was to push harder and harder and by the time I reached the back-straight I was driving way faster than I’d planned.

A little voice in my head started to ask me if I wanted to pay for the repairs to a JDM R32, but the car was so well-balanced, the power delivery so smooth, and the all-wheel-drive system so perfectly calibrated that it was impossible not to drive it faster as the lap went on.

So I did. I kept it safe and somewhat reasonable. I didn’t beat on it the way I beat on those poor rented Grand Caravans. I just went as fast as I was sure I could handle and probably would have kept driving if it wasn’t getting so dark I was afraid I’d hit one of the coyotes or snakes that would sometimes wander out after the sun went down.

The R32 has never left me. It is absolutely as good as you heard. Probably better.

What about you? Which vehicle exceeded your expectations for it? Did it do so because those expectations were low or high?

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Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
9 months ago

981 Boxster S. I’d driven plenty of Porsches previously, but it wasn’t until I bought one (6MT, Sport Chrono, Sports Exhaust, Sport Suspension, “Torque Vectoring” LSD) that I realized how good these cars are at being daily driveable sports cars. The quality is overall excellent, they are very engaging to drive, handle great, and are comfortable and practical to boot!

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
9 months ago

I have 2. First was an NA Miata, similar to you, I expected it to underwhelm, and I had driven several, but never owned one. I found one dirt cheap one day while I was car shopping, and immediately sent him a deposit until I could make the 70 mile trek up to see it, bought it on the spot and never looked back. That thing was so fun! When I got it the suspension was worn and it would bottom out on the bump stops over every bump, so I took the time to rebuild the suspension and it was so amazing. I drove it cross country, covering up to 700 miles a day with the top down and the only issue was the sunburn, the very next day I took it on tail of the dragon and managed to keep a GT3 in sight, he was far faster than me but I held my own. That car has never been matched. I replaced it with a Lotus Elise, and was honestly very disappointed in the Elise because the Miata was 90% as good for 10% of the price. I had high expectations for the Miata, and it still exceeded them.

Second one I bought on a whim, I wanted a JDM car, and wanted a luxury oriented ride. Found a broker, and imported a Toyota Crown Majesta. That thing was so ridiculously fun, and insanely reliable, and just amazing. The rear seats reclined, were heated, and had a “massage” feature that was just a back vibrator, but man the kids loved it. It was the first automatic car I had owned in over a decade and I really fretted thinking I would hate it because of that, but it’s my second favorite car on the list of 26 I have owned. I had relatively low expectations for it, bug even with high expectations I think I would have been impressed. I would still be driving it had some moron not decided to make a lane change into my back door and send me skidding down the freeway. Couldn’t get parts, so I let it go to a guy who was able to do the body work himself, and has since slapped TTs on it.

Of the 26 cars I have owned, I have loved many, but have no intention to ever own any again except these 2. I like new things, so I am changing cars often because I get bored, but those two never bored me, and I look frequently at picking up both again. Someday.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 months ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

The NA really is a spectacular driving experience. I learned to drive stick on my aunt’s and she still lets me come out for lunch/throwing the Miata around on a Sunday every now and then. It’s not fast (in fact it’s downright slow) but that doesn’t even matter. It’s so tight, precise, and communicative.

The phrase “handles like a go kart” is a bit cliched at this point but it absolutely applies to Miatas. Once you whip one around a few turns you won’t even care about how fast you’re going. Hell I’ve been honked at by aggressive drivers when out in hers a few times.

And you know what? I didn’t care, because it didn’t matter. Why would you be in a hurry to get anywhere when you’re in a Miata? The destination isn’t the point…turning the task of getting there into the most memorable part of the experience is.

Last edited 9 months ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
9 months ago

Oh yeah they are slow. It is probably the third slowest car I have owned, beating only the 1.6 equipped Mazda Protege I had, and the Chevy Cruze with a blown turbo, but mine would happily cruise all day at 90 crossing the entire state of Oklahoma. I learned how true the whole “slow car fast” idea is with that car, and I like it better. I went objectively fast with the Elise, and then to a Celica GT-Four with 320 at the wheels, but neither were as fun. I have since gone back to slower cars that handle better and they are just more fun. I have lost most if not all interest in anything over 300 hp (which is the perfect amount, or so I’m told) beause I just know I wouldn’t be able to use it daily, whereas the 116 I could use every last one just commuting to work and it would be fun. Nothing else has captured that magic for me.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 months ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

300 is the magic number for me to be honest. I’d consider buying something with more because I’m a doofus/like track days and backroad blasts, but as far as power you can use every day without getting yourself locked up? 300 is a damn good number.

My Kona N makes about 286 to the wheels (factory ratings seem to be at the wheels rather than crank) at 3300 pounds and for me it’s perfect. I can have fun every day without driving in an antisocial manner. 500 horsepower is fun and all but do I trust myself to be responsible with it? Noooooope

Vb9594
Vb9594
9 months ago

I’ve got a ’91 Miata. I dismissed them until I drove my buddys’…then I bought his from him 19 years ago.

Nothing like the experience if taking it to redline in 1st, banging in to 2nd, then looking down and seeing you’re doing 40 mph when it feels like 80! Car is absolutely hilarious fun.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
9 months ago

My Mom’s 1961 VW Bug always exceeded my expectations.

Actually rented a 1990 Mitsubishi Colt 2 door for a week in Breckenridge. With automatic trans. Drove it all over the state, 2K miles. Beat it like a rented mule.
It was so good that I rented another one when I returned 3 years later.

Last edited 9 months ago by Col Lingus
05Mil Machine
05Mil Machine
9 months ago

A 1990 Plymouth Laser. I got one for 175 bucks that needed a transmission. I had never driven the Eclipse, Talon or any of the DSM cars, so I thought it would just be a jazzed up economy car. Putting aside that it was an automatic and involved swapping 2 transmissions before I got one that worked…. The Laser was so much more fun than I thought it would be.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
9 months ago
Reply to  05Mil Machine

I know I’m in the minority, but I love the look of the first gen DSM coupes. So sleek and futuristic/not yet the muscle-y look of the later ones, popups!, and the dash is one of my all-time favorites. Looked like racecar meets gritty scifi movie.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
9 months ago

Chevy Camaro SS. I had one as a rental during my honeymoon in Hawaii. I’d driven a V6 coupe before, which was also a treat, but the SS really exceeded my expectations. Except when it came to practicality…dear god is the 6th gen Camaro hard to live with. The doors are massive and heavy, the trunk opening is the smallest in human history, and if you don’t have the rear view mirror camera add on good luck seeing jack shit behind you.

I had some fun with it by returning to monke on some straight roads. Id slow down periodically then gun it during most of our daytime activities. It was fun! The LT1 sounds fantastic and has plenty of low end torque. You don’t need to wind it out to party. It’s plenty entertaining just going from 5-70 or so.

But my opinion shifted when we took it to Weimea Canyon and back. If you’re not familiar getting up to the state park there involves a solid 45 minutes on switchback mountain roads. There are almost no places to safely open a car up, but if you want to throw one around you’re in luck. Much to my wife’s chagrin I drove it at like 8/10ths through all the corners.

It was absolutely unreal. I know this gets thrown around a lot but I’m a Miata Lover so feel qualified to use it…it literally stuck to the road like a big Miata, even at 40,000 hard rental car miles with shitty tires on it. I could not break the rear end free and the steering feel was otherworldly. Heavy but not obnoxiously so and it communicated what was going on with the road and tires perfectly.

I legitimately couldn’t wait to finish up with our hike so I could do it all again. On my second go around the wife asked me to stop because she was starting to get sick. You might assume a chunky Murican car with a V8 wouldn’t do great on tight, twisty roads, but the gen 6 Camaro is an extremely capable dance partner. Hell even the V6 is a hoot. It’ll still roast the rear tires, sounds great, and makes the car a tiny bit more tossable.

Anyway, all the complaints about how compromised the final Camaro is are valid….but my god are we losing a brilliant drivers car. If you haven’t been behind the wheel of one before I encourage you to rent one on your next vacation or go for a test drive in one that’s already been broken in. It’s unbelievable how capable it is…and one of the instructors at the track I go to has an SS 1LE and there is nothing that keeps up with it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
Chev07
Chev07
9 months ago

The New EV Hummer.

I got this drive this behemoth for a week last year. I got into this glutton thinking, “Man, this thing is so big. I’m not going to enjoy this”. So I drove this titanic truck over the next week…. and I have never wanted a Hummer more in my live.

The hummer just takes everything, everything to 11. Between the crab walking, the insane way it pitches back when you accelerate, the supercruise, the 4-wheel steering, and utility of it all had me giggling like a kid again. And I was the only one on the road that looked like it, which had me feeling pretty special.

The hummer gets a lot of hate online, but I guarantee almost none of those people have driven it, and it’s appalling that auto enthusiasts would be upset that an OEM made such a ridiculous vehicle when they could be sticking to their bread and butter crossovers.

Last edited 9 months ago by Chev07
Andrew Bugenis
Andrew Bugenis
9 months ago

I haven’t driven a ton of cars so I don’t really get the chance to get surprised by them. Still, there’s a difference between *knowing* that a proper EV has plenty of on-demand torque (nothing against my Volt but up past 30MPH or so it’s… good, but not superlative), and mashing the accelerator in an IONIQ 5 while driving between stores and suddenly going from 50 MPH to passing someone at 70. “Oh, boy – hold on tight to that wheel because this car’s *going for it*.” (I didn’t even floor it, just pushed it kinda hard.)

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago

1980 Comuta Car 72V conversion with a 21HP motor. I fell in love with it and got a good deal for it. Driving around on pavement was fun, in the snow it is by far the most fun automobile I’ve ever driven.

Tiny little tires and a ton of torque = instant snow drifting. The lack of power steering and power brakes isn’t noticeable at all, it handles great with almost a telepathic handling!

It needs new batteries (relatively cheap and easy to replace), new cables (relatively cheap and easy to replace), new tires (rarer but available from coker, no snow tires sadly), and I gotta seriously look at the brakes (no clue how bad that would be) but I love it so damn much!

Last edited 9 months ago by MrLM002
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
9 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Needs new batteries? I know a guy with a chainsaw…

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

COTD

Livinglavidadidas
Livinglavidadidas
9 months ago

Had a Peugeot 208 (GT I think) as a rental in Spanish wine country. Can only imagine how much fun a manual would have been but I loved that little car. Surprisingly roomy, good pickup at least it felt good on the smaller European roads, handled great. All around fantastic little car.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
9 months ago

Any economy car with good, new, performance tires.

Seriously, it’s amazing what a set of performance tires can do. I once put Pilot Sports on a 4 cylinder Malibu. Overkill, yes (but totally worth it) Nobody can expect a car to perform the way it does with sticky tires. It’s impressive. Try it once.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
9 months ago

Years ago, I put oversized summer stickies and winter grippies on the several Dodge Colts I owned for delivering pizza. You’re right. Both made a huge difference. (And I’d estimate that the tires paid for themselves as a result.)

Marlin May
Marlin May
9 months ago

I concur. I had an ’84 Honda Civic DX 5-speed (pre-facelift) with a whopping 74hp. It was fun-ish. I suspected there was more fun lurking in the car so I put a set of good performance tires on it and went on a week long vacation driving north up the California coast on Highway 1. My kind of fun little commuter car came alive! It was amazing. I’d expected a little bit more nimbleness and got a canyon carver!

Last edited 9 months ago by Marlin May
Thatmiataguy
Thatmiataguy
9 months ago

Yep, I’ve done this too.

I put a set of 245 width Pilot 4S tires on my 2004 Camry and it griped quite well. I even autocrossed it once and with the front swaybar removed, it was picking up the inner rear tire in every corner!

Tybalt
Tybalt
9 months ago

This past weekend I rented a current-generation Toyota Camry, and it was a shockingly competent car. I know this won’t be a shocking insight for many given the Camry’s popularity, but it really does punch above its ‘average car’ stereotypes.

This is the second time I’ve driven one in the last 4 or so months, and each time, it checked all the boxes – spacious, adequate handling, acceleration you can live with, technology that works [even if it’s a bit clunky at times]. It was also comfortable to sit in, and not excessively noisy.

All of that and i was rocking close to 40 miles per gallon. Granted, I was driving in near-ideal conditions where the speed limit keeps you around 55 mph most of the time, but it made me consider buying one in the future.

Thatmiataguy
Thatmiataguy
9 months ago
Reply to  Tybalt

2022 Camry Hybrid owner here, and yep, they’re better than you’d expect them to be.

If you get the hybrid, I see 38-40 mpg on every tank, and that includes everything from big hills (live in SoCal), high speeds, stop and go traffic, and heavy A/C use. I can also go 450+ miles on a single tank.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
9 months ago

I’m watching an R32 on Cars and Bids right now and I did not need this encouragement Matt.

Rippstik
Rippstik
9 months ago

There have been plenty of cars that surprised me but the one that I was shocked by was the 2012(ish) Elantra Touring wagon (manual). My aunt had bought one and I was able to take it on a short road trip. The shifter was shockingly precise and good, had enough power, and rode well.

The other car that shocked me was a first gen Mazdaspeed3. Those are rocket ships in stock form.

Jbavi
Jbavi
9 months ago
Reply to  Rippstik

I streetparked in a new (to me) part of town last weekend and around my car were 2 Mazdaspeed3s and a Mazdaspeed6. I think the only MazdaspeedAnything I had ever seen was a Mazdaspeed Miata that my buddy had. I assumed they all must of have been owned by one guy as I saw what I think was a Mazda 616/Capella/RX-2 in the driveway next to the streetparked cars. There were other cars under covers being the RX-2 and I can only imagine what he had back there

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
9 months ago
Reply to  Rippstik

My parents own a Elantra Touring (’09), I had a ’12 and a friend of mine is currently trying to sell his ’12. The auto is pretty underwhelming, but the stick is about as good as it gets for an economy car of the era. These went for 18k all day back when they were new, the interior is genuinely nice for what it is, and the form factor is damn near perfect. I’ve packed these cars with outrageous amounts of stuff.

Mine, and my friend’s didn’t end up being as reliable as we would have liked, but my parents, who bought theirs new back in fall of ’08, has been absolutely perfect. So I’m willing to attribute our bad luck to bad treatment from prior owners. I wish there were cars still on sale as practical, cheap, and easy to live with as the Elantra Touring.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
9 months ago

First one that comes to mind is the first gen GLA45. I expected it to be cheap dogshit and not “a real AMG” boy was I wrong. Well, partly. The interior was cheap shit, and too tight for me to ever consider serious wheel time, but holy hell that thing was a blast. It was way way better through corners than I expected and the engine was batshit for what it was. Also air-cooled Porsches. I have always and will always adore them, but I expected their age to show in a not great way. Totally wrong. But that one is less surprising, I suppose.

Conversely, there are three that shocked me with how much I didn’t like them. As a kid I was a whore for three things, Nissan (F&F R34 was my personality for years), Aston Martin (my other personality trait) and fast German cars (obviously this is the only one that’s persisted. Which I guess means I like Astons again). So I had some high hopes. The R35.. I genuinely can’t think of anything nice to say about it. It’s fast. And that’s all I have. Drove a Virage and it upset me how much I hated it. Maybe the new ones are better, but that thing was cramped as shit, the interior was falling apart (it was maybe 3 years old?), it didn’t sound great from inside, and worst of all it didn’t feel even slightly special. The last is the W205 C36 AMG. I have owned AMGs and worked for Mercedes, so I’ve driven almost all of them. No matter which engine it had or what platform it was on, there’s a secret AMG sauce you can’t really put into words, but you know it when you drive one. The C63 had none of it. Of course it was fast, but I hated the ride and the handling wasn’t good enough for how bad it rode. Also never liked the W205s interior. Drove tons of sedans and a few cabrios (which I would still buy despite this because it is absolutely stunning). Even the cabrio with the top down just sounds like a broken garbage disposal when floored. Which is odd because the M177(176/178) sounds great in all the other cars. The C43 was better imo! I just never got any sort of good feeling from it.. which is something I’ve gotten from every other AMG I’ve ever been in (see GLA above), and stepping into any AMG E-Class is like walking into the front door of my home. I don’t know what went wrong, and sadly, it seems it’s gotten worse with the W206.

Last edited 9 months ago by Glutton for Piëch
Black Peter
Black Peter
9 months ago

Not the AMG but the GLA250, I got one as a rental, and when frustrated by the climate control and traffic in Portland I gave it the beans, wow.. The more I drove it the more I liked it. I’ll agree about the interior, but it was honestly the only rental I considered buying.

121gwats
121gwats
9 months ago

Granted, everything is relative, especially when you’re 20 years old.. but my first new car was a 2001 Hyundai Tiburon – the one with the round Celica style quad headlights. I picked up a base model w/ a 2.0L 4cyl 5-speed and it was a riot. Yes, everything was the cheapest plastic known and the styling was derivative to say the least. I didn’t car, this car wasn’t an obese automatic ’92 Thunderbird (my previous car). The Tibby was happy to go canyon carving with minimal body lean and living in high revs – I mean, you had to with that 4 banger. I beat the hell out of that car through college and into my first job and it needed almost no maintenance (including original clutch) at 160k miles when I hit a deer.

I absolutely loved that car. It was clearanced out at $13.9k new, and I expected much less fun. Wiki photo for reference

AssMatt
AssMatt
9 months ago

For pedants like me: “ADR” stands for “automated dialogue replacement,” and is often called “looping.” Actors record dialogue after the fact in a studio, usually to dub different languages or cover for on-set interference like background noises (like a nearby freeway or airplane behind your middle ages movie). Wind is often mitigated by those fuzzy caterpillar covers on the boom microphones, but some days, well, the bear gets you.

Mocamino
Mocamino
9 months ago

Ferrari 458. Thanks to my lovely wife, I drove one on an autocross course at an ‘exotic car experience’ a few years back for my 50th birthday. Understand that I expected a lot from the car – I mean, it’s a Ferrari. But for all I expected, it was better. The power off the line was phenomenal, unlike anything I’d ever driven. So was the handling. It was a little smaller than I expected, and when I first walked up to it I figured it would be uncomfortably small inside. I’m 6’1″ and was about 230 at the time, and it was like putting on a well-tailored glove. A glove that went scary fast, but somehow never felt like it was out of control. No matter how hard I pushed it, it scoffed and dared me to do more. It was willing and able to do more than my driving skills had to offer.

AssMatt
AssMatt
9 months ago
Reply to  Mocamino

I did that too! I hated the instructor shouting at me non-stop to speed up, slow down, brake, turn sharp etc, but I liked the car (I had a 430) so much I went back the next year and paid for extra laps, telling the instructor “I will start slow and work up as I get comfortable, so please keep quiet unless we’re about to die.” Those progressively fast six laps (at my own pace) around cones in a parking lot sure helped me understand why people buy track-only cars they only drive annually.

Mocamino
Mocamino
9 months ago
Reply to  AssMatt

Given an excess of funding (huge lottery win or something similar), I’d seriously consider buying a 458 and hitting the track as often as possible. It was an amazing car to drive. I also had a less-than-optimal experience with the instructor, but he was just doing his job (i.e., keeping me from wrecking the car).

EXL500
EXL500
9 months ago
Reply to  Mocamino

Re smaller than expected: my first Ferrari sighting was a 330 GTC in 1968. I was totally surprised at its relatively diminutive size.

I also got yelled at for yelling at the top of my lungs “It’s a Ferrari”. I was 13 and we were in the family Rambler at the time.

It’s still among my top few Ferraris I’d love to drive/own, although that will likely never happen.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
9 months ago

Both my GMT400 pickup and my wife’s GMT800 Yukon. I had owned and driven earlier C/K trucks, and liked them, but the 400/800 platforms are just so much nicer to drive. Both trucks just do what we ask them to, affably, consistently, and in more comfort than I expected. They’re sort of like big dumb friendly dogs, and I love them for it.

V10omous
V10omous
9 months ago

I had a BMW 120i as a European rental years ago which was actually quite a nice car.

I can’t imagine anyone has ever had high expectations for a Buick Lucerne, but the one I commuted in for a few years was quite comfortable and dead reliable.

I test drove a 200 series Land Cruiser on a lark and almost bought it on the spot; it felt so much better on road than a Tahoe or anything else in the segment that I was in shock.

On the flip side, the worst vehicle I’ve ever driven relative to expectations is undoubtedly a first gen G Wagen, even from someone who drives trucks all the time, they are awful.

Last edited 9 months ago by V10omous
Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
9 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

I used to actively convince expectant mothers out of the old G Wagens. They all told me to pound sand and all returned within the year for a GLS.

Toecutter
Toecutter
9 months ago

The rust heap of a Triumph GT6 purchased for $1,200 in 2005 really exceeded my expectations. I didn’t expect for it to corner as well as it did. My expectations were not at all high, and the car was(and sort of still is) a pile of crap.

Staffma
Staffma
9 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Triumphs have a certain je ne sais quoi to them, perhaps in spite of all the negatives about them.

Blajghhh
Blajghhh
9 months ago

Maybe not the typical one, but I was very surprised at the Mitsubishi Mirage. The expectations were exceedingly low, but it was fine. And I expected it to be cheap to run, and it’s even cheaper. So overall a top tier shitbox, that is light enough to toss around carelessly, and thrifty enough to encourage inappropriate application of the gas pedal. It’s a go cart, a golf cart, and a little bit of an actual car mixed in. But damn is it easy to maneuver, see out of, fill with gas, and fix for pennies.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
9 months ago

I was sorta let down when I first bought my Land Cruiser. I knew it was going to be slow, and I knew it wasn’t going to handle well but I was hoping it would feel a little more special. On the road that is. When I took it on my first trail…I can’t tell you how much the vehicle transforms. I’ve never driven anything with as strong of character switch between on-road and off. It’s not just that it’s capable, it FEELS happier. To date I still have never driven a car that feels at home in the dirt as much as the 80 series does. There are smoother, quieter and more capable vehicles…but nothing feels as designed for this job as does the 80.

Last edited 9 months ago by Pat Rich
PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
9 months ago

The R50/R53 Mini Cooper was a huge surprise. I had high expectations, tempered by knowledge that they’re front wheel drive.

They turned out to be far more fun than I ever thought possible in a car being propelled from the wrong end.

Mechanically and electronically, I’d say they’re pieces of shit, but they’re probably the greatest front wheel drive cars ever made, and the only ones I really lust after.

Last edited 9 months ago by PaysOutAllNight
Lockleaf
Lockleaf
9 months ago

I’ve heard this often, from many people. Unfortunately, even at the low prices they can be found for today, I can’t get over my initial bias. My first experience with one of those Mini’s was replacing a head gasket on a turbo S. That job was such a complete nightmare bitch that I have hated those cars ever since. Kinda pathetic actually.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
9 months ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

I’m never advocating for owning a BMW Mini.

But I’ve driven almost a dozen of them while shopping for one for myself, complete with more dashboard warning lights than I care to count. I loved every single one of them. A Cooper S or JCW with a manual are especially brilliant.

They’re an absolute riot to drive, but there aren’t any out there that are actually good enough to buy unless you have the patience of a saint, and either a fortune for a mechanic or a dedicated, fully equipped bay in your garage at home.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
9 months ago

My wife has had a 6MT Cooper S for ~6 years now. R53 I think. It’s a fun summer car (convertible) that we don’t rely on, but it’s been great. Oil changes and new tires and good times in the sun!

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
9 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

R52 is the convertible S, I’m looking at one for my wife right now to match my R53. If it hadn’t been for a disgruntled sex offender parolee on my caseload putting sand in my oil, mine wouldn’t be all torn apart right now.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
9 months ago

This. My dad used to have 2x R56, a Cooper S and a Clubman base. I have always had… thoughts.. about both FWD vehicles and the BMW MINI. I was so wrong, I absolutely fucking loved that little car. It was so fun, had so much personality. The club interior and double sunroofs, peppy little engine, all of it was just so fun.

He decided he preferred the Clubman as it got better mileage, and he only got them to go to the office in. He told me I could have the Cooper S to turn into a track car after my brother was done using it. It needed the chains done and had a small oil leak, would rattle on cold start. Otherwise, it was flawless as my dad is very pedantic and will replace anything that isn’t to his liking. Plan was always to fix those issues once my brother’s car was fixed (backorder parts). Get a call from my brother at 2 AM in a Walmart parking lot that he needs us to pick him up. Apparently it had told him it was low on oil and he didn’t add any. FOR TWO MONTHS. He kablooeyed my baby. 🙁

Alexk98
Alexk98
9 months ago

This may be THE cliché, but the Miata. Having put a few hundred miles on an ND, and now owning an NA for a couple years, both are an absolute joy to drive, and the NA has been a treat to own and modify due to its simplicity, parts availability, and deep knowledge base.

Thomas Kilger
Thomas Kilger
9 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

This! I had an NB for a few years, and i still miss it to this day

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
9 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

Yep. There’s a reason it’s always the answer. Had the same experience, but I was dumb and sold mine and regret it frequently.

EXL500
EXL500
9 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

Miata is on my list as a second fun car in a few years after I start SS and do RMDs from my 401K. I’m never getting rid of my GK Fit if I can help it.

Last edited 9 months ago by EXL500
Vb9594
Vb9594
9 months ago
Reply to  EXL500

It’s only a cliche because it’s true.

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
9 months ago

2013 Chevy Sonic LT with the 1.4 turbo and 6 speed manual transmission was so surprisingly fun to drive I bought it. I did a handful of mods to it, including a tune that really woke up the power delivery, even tripoded it on the Dragon, the interior ergonomics were terrible and the general build quality was pure cheap GM, but it was a fun place to be on an open road.

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