When Was the Last Time You Were Really Excited about New Cars?
I had the privilege of driving the new Alfa Romeo 4C Spider over the Fourth of July weekend (look for my full review later this week), and for the first time in what felt like many years, I found myself fantasizing about having this car—a new car.
That may sound strange coming from someone who loves cars, so let me back up a minute and explain: like most enthusiasts, there was a time when I would regularly devour car news, read the latest reviews, and daydream about what new car I would trade my current car for next when the time came. Each new model generation presented new possibilities in design, engineering, performance, and, ultimately, driving experience.
During my brief time with the 4C Spider, my excitement had me asking: when did I lose my passion for new cars? Don’t get me wrong, every year there are still some new cars that are groundbreaking and praise-worthy for various engineering or design achievements. Currently, there are exciting examples, like the Porsche 918 Spyder, the new Ford GT, or just about anything from Ferrari. But we’re talking limited production exotic car territory with prices that render them out of reach for more than 99% of car enthusiasts.
When was the last time I was excited about a mass-produced new car that I could either afford or reasonably daydream about owning one day…before this 4C Spider, that is?
For me, that time was right around the turn of the millennium: the late ’90s and early ’00s. I consider that period to be the pinnacle in terms of driving excitement offered by new cars from pretty much across the automotive industry. Here are some of the machines of that time that especially made my heart race:
- 998 BMW M Coupe: This was love at first sight for me. I ended up buying first an S52-engined ’99 model and later trading up to the ’01 model with the S54 engine. To this day, I regret selling it.
- 1998 BMW E39 M5: The last great M5 in my book. Manual-only, and no silly fake engine sound from the speakers.
- 1999 BMW Z8: A simply beautiful, innovative design mated to the excellent powertrain from the E39 M5. Granted, a bit out of reach for most, but still not (yet) Ferrari territory in terms of price.
- 1999 Honda S2000: A roadster designed for the driving enthusiast, featuring a never-gets-boring 8900 RPM redline!
- 998 Audi S4 Avant (B5): AWD and massive torque at low RPMs made this wagon a true driver’s stealth weapon. Sadly, they later proved to be very unreliable.
- Audi TT: another ground-breaker in terms of innovative design, though I’ve since learned that Freeman Thomas took inspiration from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ. Of course!
- 2000 Lotus Elise: The second-generation Elise made it to the States and offers us a driver-oriented, no-nonsense track car for the streets.
Technological advancements certainly didn’t stop by the year 2000. Cars continued to receive new technology with each year, but they also got a little bigger, a little heavier, and a little more compromised for mass tastes—ultimately making them rather dull for the driving enthusiast.
Do you agree with this assessment? If not, when was the last time you were truly excited by new cars?