The Automotive Winners and Losers of 2008
It’s been a crazy year. For every high watermark set in measures of performance – be it horsepower, handling, track times, or fuel economy – there’s been equally trying levels of adversity. We’ve gone from horsepower wars to hypermiling, from the Nürburgring to Capitol Hill, from gold-plated Porsches to the Tata Nano. If nothing else, it’s been an interesting ride.
By Brad Iger
The following article does not represent the opinions of Spike TV or its affiliates.
5. Mini Cooper
When gas skyrocketed over the summer, a lot of people started to reevaluate what sort of vehicle they really needed. And when the housing market imploded, people simply stopped buying cars – not only because they didn’t have money, but because nobody could get credit.
Every single automotive manufacture had dramatic sales drops from the previous year – except one. That’d be Mini Cooper who’s sales were up 43% over last year. Really drives home our need for an compact-yet-upscale, fuel efficient vehicle made here in the U.S.
The western world had been waiting literally decades to get our own Skyline, and we finally did, the R35 Nissan GT-R. And it was worth the wait. With twin turbo V6 making a notoriously underrated 480hp and some of the most advanced technologies available in the automotive market today, the GT-R showed up the Porsche 911 GT-2, the reigning king of Germany’s Nürburgring, by breaking the Porsche’s lap record - for half the price. And with the brand new 2009 370Z already receiving accolades from motoring press around the world, Nissan’s performance division is really hitting their stride right now.
Despite better alternatives, this year, hybrids really came into the popular conciousness as the go-to vehicle for the “go green” trend. Unfortunately, the people who follow such trends rarely read the fine print, which includes facts like a Toyota Prius has a larger carbon footprint than a Hummer H2.
Regardless, when gas prices skyrocketed over the summer, people scrambled for solutions, and the Prius was waiting with open arms. Ford was quick to jump on board and has had some success with vehicles like the Escape Hybrid (Obama’s ride of choice!), and next year’s Fusion Hybrid is already turning out better mileage numbers than the Prius in a much better platform, both performance-wise and aesthetically. So it looks they’re here to stay – at least for another five years or so.
2. GM Performance Group
Okay, we might all be freaking out about the economy, gas prices and global warming right now, but earlier this year GM’s Performance division was just taking names left and right. First, GM set its sights on BMW and the untouchable M5, considered by many people to be the perfect sedan. Up until this year, the current-gen M5 was the sedan lap record holder at the Nürburgring. GM took them to task, on their own turf, and shattered the M5’s record in the new, 570hp Cadillac CTS-V. That’s right, it’s a Caddy that makes almost 600hp, straight from the factory. In fact, the CTS-V smoked the competition in every category of performance when pitting against the BMW M5 and Mercedes Benz C63 AMG.
Then, while the Nissan GT-R was doing its self-congratulatory victory lap for besting the Porsche at the ‘Ring via superior technology, GM brings their new 640HP Corvette ZR1 and just smashes the GT-R’s record, using comparatively archaic push-rod engine design. No arguments this time – the Vette killed them. Dodge later brought a Viper ACR there and ran a better time, but honestly the Viper isn’t really recognized because it’s basically a street legal race car, whereas the ZR1 can drive you to work, then the track, and then home, without ever breaking a sweat. Hat tip to GM for being the fastest guys in town.
1. VW Jetta TDI
The western world is slowly starting to figure out that the slow, smoke-belching diesels of decades ago are a thing of the past, and that diesel technology has come a long, long way. It’s really no secret – Europeans have been enjoying clean diesel technology for years.
While the less-than-green hybrid manufacturing practices slowly gets more press and people realize the environmental damage done when building a hybrid vehicle (due largely to the nickel mining for hybrid batteries) actually nullifies the benefits of the vehicle's low emissions, clean diesels have suddenly the greenest rides in town. Which is why the VW Jetta TDI was named the 2008 Green Car of the Year.