Fortunately for me, I have a job where I get to drive some pretty incredible cars. It’s the dream for car enthusiasts, as there probably isn’t another career choice that allows for as much automotive fun. In 2016, I was able to do some pretty amazing things, see awesome places, meet cool people and drive some really fun cars. Not all of them were perfect, not all of them were BMWs and not all of them were actually all that great, as cars. But most of them provided some amazing experiences.
So I’m gonna give you my top three best cars I drove in 2016 and then you kind folk comment below with some of the best cars you drove. They don’t always have to be the absolute best cars, but maybe the experience you had driving them made it your favorite car experience of the year. Maybe you drove an Italian supercar for the first time, or maybe you finally test drove that brand new BMW you always wanted. It could even be your daily driver, something that you’re already used to, but had such a fun time, say at the track or on a twisty back road, and that was the best driving experience of the year for you. That’s fine, too. So let’s get started.
BMW Z4 sDrive28i
Okay, I’m probably going to get made fun of for this a bit. One of the most fun cars I drove all year was an aging bright orange convertible that most people call a secretary’s car. But I don’t care because I had some really good times with the old Z4. At the start of this most recent Spring, I had the opportunity to drive a BMW Z4 sDrive28i. More specifically, BMW lent me the Z4 so I could drive up to Monticello Motor Club up in New York. It was about a two hour drive from BMW HQ in NJ and it was just me and a six-speed manual convertible driving down some beautiful scenic New York State roads. On the way, it started to rain and I had to pull over and put the top up and continue on.
When I got there, BMW was shooting a commercial and I got to meet Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster (I’m a big Bond fan, so that was awesome). On the way back, the skies cleared up and, despite it being a bit cold, I was able to drop the top again, put the seat heaters on and blast back home in a rear-wheel drive, manual, convertible BMW. It’s hard to call that a bad day. In the following days, I had some fun taking some trips with the wife and the dog (getting my dog into the front seat of a convertible was kind of hilarious). So, while the Z4 sDrive was only a good car, not a great one, I had a ton of fun with it and have experiences I’ll remember for awhile. So it definitely makes the list.
MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop
Another car that isn’t the sexiest of choices but one I had an absolute blast in, so much so that I still talk about it to friends and family. Back in July, in the brutal heat, MINI invited me out to join them on MINI Takes the States. My leg of the trip consisted of Charlotte, North Carolina to Richmond, Virginia and ending in Baltimore, Maryland. All by way of a MINI. On the trip from Richmond to Baltimore, I was able to drive a MINI JCW through some of the windiest, most desolate back roads I’ve ever seen. While I had heard rumors of Virginia police being extra strict (I heard a story of a journalist being jailed for a night or two for doing 15 mph over the speed limit), these roads went for about 100 miles without a single other car in sight, nevertheless a police officer. So I was able to really push that little 2.0 liter turbo-four, row through those gears and have some great fun.
Not only was it one of the best drives of my short career doing this, but the car was excellent fun to drive. That little JCW is one of the most fun cars I’ve driven in a long time. It’s just so peppy, with great turn in, more than enough power, a gearshift that’s actually kind of difficult and a ride that’s so firm it hurts your eyeballs, it feels like a mini (pun intended) rally car. Driving that little JCW for a few hundred miles was a journey I won’t forgot for a long time.
BMW M4 Competition Package
My favorite car of the year has to be the BMW M4 Comp Pack. While it’s not a car that gets a lot of praise these days, with most people complaining that the M4 is bad because it isn’t what it used to be, I had a great time with it. Luckily, my test car was wearing Yas Marina Blue which, with the Comp Pack wheels, which looked absolutely killer, so that helped. But I took that car all over the place, driving the hell out of it and showing it off to friends. We just had a great time with the M4 Comp Pack.
But the most fun I had with it was during its photoshoot. In the boony back roads of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, in near pitch blackness, we pushed that M4 hard to see what it could do. Launch control allowed us to see just how fast 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds is, even in damp conditions. It’s fast, if you didn’t already know. Then I was able to outrun a modified Volkswagen Golf R through some seriously twisty roads, doing speeds that apparently aren’t ideal to do in those woods. That car showed me that BMW still knows how to make a damn good performance car, even if it’s slightly more clinical than the cars it used to make. Its performance blew me away, though.
There were a couple of cars that I absolutely loved driving in 2016, but only had really short drives in so I can’t really call them the best. The new Shelby GT350 is one of them, which I had the chance to drive in Las Vegas. What a great car with a brilliant engine and surprisingly capable suspension. I wish I had more time in that. The other car that really stood out to me was a modified second-gen Porsche Cayman S. In Palm Springs, I was able to drive a Cayman S that was hooked up for track duty. The powertrain was stock, so a 3.4 liter flat-six and a PDK transmission, but the rest of the car was ready for track use. So it had a lower, stiffer suspension, better brakes and stripped out interior with four-point harnesses. I’ve never been able to corner so hard without a hint of drama in my life. Just a beautifully neutral car with incredible steering. But I only got a few laps in that so I wish I had more time with it, or even just with a second-gen Cayman S (not the 718, though, yuck).
So those are my best cars and experiences of 2016. What are yours?