Limited Editions, News&Reviews, Top 5

5 Cars I Wish I’d Never Sold

The ones I shouldn’t have let get away

I’m the type of person who looks forward, not back, in life. I don’t struggle with an attachment to material possessions. When I sell something, I usually have a “don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out” attitude and move on. But there are a handful of automobiles I’ve owned that I miss and I’d love to have back in my garage.

1986 Audi 5000CS Turbo Quattro

An Audi 200 Turbo Quattro won the 1987 Safari rally outright, the first time an all-wheel-drive vehicle finished on the top step of the podium at the grueling African event. Being a rally nut, when a close friend’s father decided to sell his 1986 Audi 5000CS Turbo Quattro (the U.S. version of the 200) in the early 1990s, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity.

I loved that big Audi. The off-beat five-cylinder engine had a glorious soundtrack and the addition of the optional factory Fuchs 15-by-7-inch forged wheels shod with sticky Yokohama AVS Intermediate tires meant summer dry and wet grip was enormous. For winter duty, I fitted a set of Pirelli winter tires to the stock 15-by-6-inch wheels. I felt like rally god Hannu Mikkola as I dominated the snow-covered roads of Michigan in the Audi sedan, tapping the ABS off button to fully disable the antilock brakes for maximum left-foot braking fun.

There was one particularly snowy day when a friend’s pickup couldn’t make it up a steep hill, but a flick of the rotary switch in the 5000 locked the center and rear differentials, allowing the seemingly feeble German sports sedan to claw its way effortlessly to the top. When the snow melted and the Fuchs were bolted back on, I saw nearly 140 mph on the speedometer more than once. The Audi 5000CS Turbo Quattro was a jack of all trades sedan, and I loved it.

2002 and 2003 Mini Cooper S

I put a $500 deposit down at two Mini dealerships in Chicago before there were even Mini dealerships in the U.S. Logic told me the two biggest BMW stores in the Windy City would get the Mini franchise, and I was right. As such, I secured one the first Mini Cooper S models to land in North America in the spring of 2002. What a fantastic car.

The characterful supercharged engine and slick, six-speed manual gearbox worked brilliantly together. Its large, 17-inch wheels with run-flat tires gave an extremely harsh ride, but the wonderful steering and overall grip compensated. I felt like a rock star around Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It’s easy to forget just what a crazy concept the Mini was for the U.S. some 15 years ago. It caused both enthusiasts and the car clueless to stop me for a chat about my British hatchback. I sold that first red with a white roof 2002 Mini Cooper S for a profit in the fall of 2002 and ordered a silver 2003 with a black roof to my exact OCD specs. I also binned the standard run-flat tires for more conventional performance rubber, improving the ride quality and overall handling tremendously. That second Mini stuck around for a year or so, until I decided it was time to return to my all-wheel-drive rally routes.

2002 Subaru Impreza WRX

The WRX was my first Japanese car. I was a tried and true Euro snob until I began to realize that most Audi products had become too big, heavy, and expensive for proper winter thrashing duties. I found a lightly used, adult-owned WRX just before the snow arrived in late 2003: silver exterior, five-speed manual gearbox sans the tacky rear wing. A set of Dunlop SP Winter Sport M3 performance winter tires quickly took their place on the stock 16-inch wheels, and the slippery-road fun quickly began.

The gearbox was positive, the seats fit me perfectly, and the engine made great power — well, as long as you kept at least 3,000 rpm on the tachometer. I’d jump railroad tracks and anything else I could find, but I couldn’t seem to exhaust the extensive suspension travel. A trick modification to the ratcheting mechanism on the handbrake made low-speed turns and general hooliganism easy and the all-wheel-drive system with a limited-slip center and rear differential helped WRX be far less understeer prone than my previous Audi models. The WRX was also the last car I’ve owned that lacked stability control. I’m a huge fan of the brilliant safety feature, but there is something to be said about the top-spec car control that’s needed to drive a car lacking ESP quickly in the snow.

2008 BMW 328i

When I departed my full-time duties at Automobile magazine in 2009, I needed a car. Rotating through various BMW press cars enlightened me to their overall dynamic brilliance. Yes, the German company has lost the plot to a certain degree as of late, but the E90 3 Series was a fantastic car in sedan form.

I picked up a slightly used 2008 BMW 328i to serve as my new daily driver. Of course, it had a six-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive, and the sport package. The combination of run-flat tires and stiff suspension wasn’t perfect for Michigan’s crumbling roads, but at least the 328i came with 17-inch wheels versus the larger and heavier 18-inch setup. BMW’s naturally aspirated inline-six made great power and was smooth, smooth, smooth. It was also frugal, returning more than 30 mpg on 80-mph highway runs. I loved the buttery, meaty steering and the overall chassis balance. The heated seats were quick to warm my bottom on a cold winter’s morning and a set of winter tires combined with nicely judged stability control made the 328i an excellent vehicle for the coldest season of the year.

I vividly remember driving along an empty stretch of arrow-straight highway in Northern Michigan one particularly gorgeous summer’s evening with my mother-in-law riding shotgun. Eager to get home to my wife — and away from my mother-in-law — I scooted the BMW sedan up to an indicated 150 mph. It was rock solid, and I recall my passenger only piping up to ask why the wind noise seemed to have grown louder during the high-speed dash. I spent extended time in a couple of facelifted E90s, but none had the pace or overall feel of the lightly optioned 328i. When the present F30 3 Series hit the market, I quickly secured some seat time. I was disappointed. Sure, it rode better, had more torque, and offered a nice bump in interior space, but something was lost. Let’s hope BMW remembers the E90 when the next 3 Series hits the market.

2013 Scion FR-S

I sold the Scion FR-S to get a new Ford Focus RS in the spring of 2016. Now I want the FR-S back. Yes, the 350 hp, all-wheel-drive hatchback affixed with Blue Oval badges is faster and more practical, but I miss the purity and simplicity of the rear-wheel drive Japanese coupe.

I don’t do a ton of road trips in my personal car. Those are usually left for my wife’s car or various press cars. My drive to the office is short and not super exciting. The FR-S made each and every journey a pleasure. It’s not a fast car, but the lack of outright pace allows you to more regularly wring-out the engine and drive the FR-S hard without attracting the attention of Johnny Law. The low-grip Michelin summer tires and approachable chassis dynamics add to the entertaining package. A set of 16-inch steel wheels and winter tires along with aftermarket seat heaters made the Scion an impressive companion in the snow — and huge fun.

I also loved the seats, something that can’t be said for the overly bolstered Recaro setup in the Focus RS. The FR-S was also frugal on fuel. Again, not the case with the Ford. Sure, the Japanese 2+2 coupe is loud on the highway and rather basic inside, but I can live with that considering all the positives that come along with the under-$30K package. Plus, it rides better than the ultra-stiff Focus RS.

I don’t think automotive enthusiasts fully realize just how diluted modern cars have become. As more buttons and switches for various drive modes are added, something is lost. Spending time in a car like the FR-S (called the Toyota 86 for 2017) or its twin, the Subaru BRZ, clearly reminds you of this fact. Porsche seems to understand this with cars like the Cayman GT4 and 911 R, but they are expensive. My hope is that more car companies get on board offering simplistic automobiles, preferably at a reasonable price. In the meantime, I’ve missed the FR-S so much that I recently placed an order for a 2017 Toyota 86. I can’t wait for its arrival, and I hope the subtle improvements translate to an even better car for my needs in the real world.


- 1992, 1992-2000, 2001-2007, 2008-, Automobiles, Featured, History, Limited Editions

Subaru’s 15 Fastest Cars of All Time

Subaru has long been known for building some of the most capable and versatile vehicles in the world. If you’re planning on doing some rally driving, chances are Subaru has been near the top of the list of vehicles to check out. Popular models like the Impreza, Forester, and Outback have long been favorites of outdoors enthusiasts, and every year their cars get more reliable and lively.

The Japanese company has long been known for producing fantastic, rally-inspired, performance-oriented vehicles to add to their pedestrian line-up. While it may not have production vehicles that can keep up with something like a Corvette Z06, this smaller automaker does still hold the advantage in the all-wheel drive performance car department.

Today we will focus on acceleration times from 0-60 for rankings, since most of the company’s cars are governed to specific top speeds with electronic limiters. Naturally we have excluded concept models, one-offs, and heavily-modified aftermarket builds from the list in order to keep it “production vehicle specific,” and since certain models like the WRX STI ts Type RA and the Legacy Turbo models from the early 1990s did not have reliable performance statistics available, they were omitted from the list.

*Editors’ Note: this article has been updated to address some factual errors that were present in the prior version. We appreciate our readers’ diligence, and thank them for pointing it out to us.

15. Subaru Baja Turbo

Remember the Baja? The short-lived Subaru that hearkened back to memories of the Chevy El Camino or Subaru’s very own Brat? Well, it wasn’t just known for its awkward appearance, as the turbo version actually had quite a bit of jump to it, and could make the sprint from zero to 60 miles-per hour in 7.3 seconds with a manual gearbox. The Baja Turbo was limited to a top speed of 130 miles-per hour, and produced 210 horsepower from a 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine. Ugly never looked so good…

14. Subaru SVX

Digging way back into the archives for some performance data, you will stumble upon an oddball Subaru bearing a badge that says “SVX.” Hitting sixty in 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 143 miles per hour, the SVX was a true Grand Touring (GT) car, and while it only came in automatic (which was prone to overheating), it did come equipped with a 3.3-liter flat-six engine, and rocked all 230 horsepower and 224 pound-feet of torque all the way to redline. With its wind-defusing side windows, funky interior styling, and undeniably Lancer-ish lines, this car was the quintessential 90s vehicle.

13. Subaru Legacy 3.6R

Of all the Legacy models that have hit the market over the years, the 3.6R is one of the easiest to overlook, as it looked just like a regular Legacy and was not aggressively styled at all. And yet it remains one of the quickest models Subaru has ever produced, with its 3.6-liter flat-6 engine hitting 0-60 times in 7.1 seconds. The odd part was that this model only kicked out 256 ponies, which is strange, since certain four-cylinder Legacy models produced even more power.

12. Subaru BRZ

One of the newest additions to the Subaru lineup, the BRZ breaks the monotony of the company’s classic designs by bringing a rear-wheel drive platform to the streets. Despite its sporty appearance, it fails to even crack the top ten of Subaru’s fastest models, since testing showed the BRZ made the trip from 0-60 in 6.4 seconds courtesy of 200 horsepower. As the BRZ evolves in coming years, performance numbers will surely improve, but for now, it only makes it up to the number twelve on our list today.

11. Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Limited

Another Legacy model to add to the list, the Legacy 2.5 GT Limited bested the much larger 3.6R flat-six by quite a bit, as it shared a lot of genetic make-up with the mighty STI. Making the trip from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds, the 2.5 GT Limited used a turbocharged flat-4 engine, was available with a manual transmission, and was limited to an overall top speed of 150 miles per hour. With 265 horsepower, and 258 pound-feet worth of torque this version of the Legacy was a real surprise win for performance seekers, and if you re fortunate enough to find a Legacy GT wagon somewhere with a clutch, buy it, because that is a high-powered unicorn right there.

10. Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon

How do you improve on the WRX base model? Turn it into a wagon, of course! Although it’s no longer in production, the WRX Sport Wagon was a lean and mean rally machine that could jet past the original WRX back in the day as it hit sixty in 5.8 seconds. Now, more than a decade after it first hit American shores, the Sport Wagon is officially defunct. But when it was around, the WRX Sport Wagon’s turbocharged flat-4, made 227 horsepower and conjured up 217 pound-feet of torque, which was more than enough for a trip to soccer practice.

9. Subaru Legacy GT spec.B

Subaru only made 500 Legacy GT spec.B sedans, they cost quite a lot for what you got, and they were only available in one color: dark silver. They also shared the same 250-horsepower powerplant with the previously mentioned Legacy GT version, and according to Car and Driver, it had a navigation system that cost $1,200 more than the identical one drivers found in the normal GT model. But it did have better suspension, bigger brakes, wider wheels, and was able to fly to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 5.3 seconds for some reason. And while some may attribute these gains to the spec.B’s fatter wheels and increased grip, we relish in the fact that it was only made available with a six-speed manual gearbox and had one super slick limited edition interior.

8. Subaru Forester 2.5 XT

It’s pretty wild to think that a Forester model can outperform everything you have seen thus far, but at least on paper it’s true. The Forester 2.5 XT was the variant to consider too, as it was able to hit 60 miles-per hour in just 5.2 seconds courtesy of its 4.44 gearing. With its turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 250 horsepower, this car is still a great sleeper option for anyone looking for an unassuming around town ass-kicker.

7. Subaru WRX

Here’s the model everyone has been waiting for, the storied WRX. Long a favorite of daily-driven enthusiasts and rally drivers alike, the WRX has seen numerous incarnations over the years, and the base model is still able to hold its own in the top ten of Subaru’s fastest. The newest 2015 WRX can jet from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds according to Car and Driver, utilizes a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, and makes around 268 horsepower in base trim. And while it often gets overshadowed by its bigger twin, the STI, there is no arguing with the price point of one of these little cars, and how good they have become.

6. Subaru WRX STI

A glance at the picture above accurately summarizes the experience of driving the WRX STI. This suped-up version of the WRX is capable of hitting the 160 miles per hour mark, along with quickly sprinting from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds according to Road & Track’s test results. The STI offers the DNA of a rally car, with the practicality of an every-day vehicle, and while the WRX base model offers more or less the same experience,the STI and its half-liter larger engine cranks the fun up to frenzied as you confidently rocket through snow, mud, tarmac, and treacherous terrain.

5. Subaru Impreza 330S

The Impreza 330S is not one of the company’s more well-known models, but it sure does have some impressive performance stats. The 330S blasted from rest to 60 in 4.8 seconds, and used a beefed-up 2.5-liter turbo flat-four that created 325 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque, which are not small numbers by any measure. As the five-door hatch combined a six-speed manual gearbox with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system, this British specialty version of the Impreza made for one of the best Subaru models ever built.

4. Subaru WRX Special Edition

Perhaps the most “specialized” variant of the WRX to ever see release was a Special Edition. With its signature “Punkin Orange” color and blistering acceleration speed of 4.7 seconds to sixty, this decal-laden tangerine dream was a highly coveted machine when it first came out. Built with a wider body and bigger, blacker wheels, this limited run offering was a real beast on and off the track.

3. Subaru Impreza 22B STI

“The Subaru from hell” as Car and Driver so eloquently puts it, was a 4.7 second car that put up startling numbers for something that looked so dated. Rocking the boxy, early 1990s look, the 22B STI was only made in a batch of 424 cars, and was designed to commemorate Subaru’s 40th anniversary. Limited to an overall top speed of 144 miles-per hour, and rocking an unorthodox 2.2-liters of engine displacement, this obscurity rode its 280 horsepower motor all the way to infamy.

2. Subaru WRX STI S206

Somehow Subaru engineers keep topping themselves with WRX variations, and the WRX STI S206 is one of the best. While most Americans remain unaware of its existence, the Japan-exclusive neck-snapper has been ratcheted-up to 316 horsepower, and makes sixty look slow in just 4.5 seconds. Couple this with 318 pound-feet of torque and some serious “JDM swag,” and suddenly you’ve got a car that is designed to make any high school ricer drool.

1. Subaru WR1

The WR1 may be similar in looks to most of its milder brethren, but it is extremely advanced in the performance department. Producings 342 horsepower from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is no easy feat, and Subaru got this little demon to hit a top speed of 155 miles-per hour without issue. Zero to 60 was timed out at 4.3 seconds, and since the WR1 was a limited-run reproduction of a Subaru rally car, many people cried foul over its price and rarity. Originally used to win rally championships in its hayday, this car serves its purpose here today as the fastest production car Subaru ever turned out.