“Single seeks relationship that’s sleek, sexy, powerful and fast.”
No, it’s not a personal ad; we’re talking about a romance with cars that express the owner’s character and attitude. So before you’re ready to walk down the aisle with a minivan, here are some hot cars to celebrate your single lifestyle.
Lexus SC 430M
If you love seductive two-door coupes that hold a few surprises for onlookers, the SC 430 is guaranteed to please.
The SC 430 remains stable and balanced during most driving exercises while still remembering its luxury-car roots—a fact you'll come to appreciate once you get the SC 430 out on an open stretch of road. The SC 430's steering response exhibits good on-center feel, though when pushed hard, the SC's big 18-inch wheels tend to allow the car to plow (continue to move forward when the wheel is turned) a bit; it's not a worry as the Lexus traction control system will quickly intervene before you can get yourself into too much trouble. Ordinary twists and turns are no problem for the SC 430, and with the top down and stereo cranked up, you could spend hours traversing the winding back roads that lead home. With its top up, the SC 430's interior is as quiet as any hardtop Lexus, a pleasant reprieve from the usual wind rush and air leaks that accompany the more traditional soft-top convertible design.
Speaking of trouble, it's easy to come by if you happen to be of the lead-footed variety. The SC 430's 4.3-liter V8 produces a thundering 300 horsepower—enough power to move the SC from 0 to 60 in under six seconds. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission available and does an excellent job of handling the SC 430's power. The V8 is as near to vibration-free as any V8 can be, and its acceleration is quick and seamless. Its lovely, melodious exhaust strikes just the right note befitting the car's striking good looks.
Four years ago, Lexus sent its design team to the French Riviera, where they observed how the other half lives, plays and dresses. From these observations they created the SC 430, a classic coupe that distinguishes itself in many ways. Its look is a sophisticated blend of curvaceous lines, carefully-placed chrome trim and stylized headlamp and taillight treatments that all work together to create a form that appears to have been carved from a single block of steel.
Lexus has used a generous helping of bird's-eye maple to contrast with the SC 430's dark dash and seating materials. The effect is eye-catching to say the least. A big set of wide bucket seats is among the most comfortable we've found in any class. Some bits and pieces clearly have been borrowed from the Toyota parts bin, somewhat diminishing an otherwise brilliant interior design.
Standard equipment on the SC 430 includes a 300-horsepower V8 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, power-retractable hardtop roof, automatic air conditioning, illuminated keyless entry, fog lights, garage door opener, HID headlamps with washers, dual heated power mirrors with auto-dimming feature, DVD navigation, front side-impact airbags, heated leather seats, cruise control, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, tire-pressure monitor, traction control and 18-inch alloy wheels.
At $64K, the SC 430 comes pretty complete.
The hard-to-get SL is in short supply because it's such an amazing automobile that everyone who is anyone wants one. If you can endure the long waiting list and inevitable markup, the SL is one super-coupe that you'll want to hold on to for a long time.
The SL is more than just a performance dynamo; it's an attention grabber. The power-operated hardtop looks as good in position as it does retracted.
Let's face it: the only reason not to like the SL is that you can't afford it. Don't feel bad; neither can ninety percent of the country.
As you drive the SL you'll feel that exactness we are referring to in the steering wheel and brakes and in the way the car corners and copes with emergency situations. What you won't feel is the army of computers monitoring, controlling and adjusting every facet of the SL driving experience. Mercedes-Benz has equipped the SL with Active Body Control, an innovative suspension that helps to keep the car level in sharp turns and can also detect when a rollover is eminent, activating the pop-up rollover bar.
The SL500 combines both power and price into a very desirable package. Powered by a 302-horsepower V8, the SL 500 rockets from dead stops like a stone leaving a slingshot.
The SL's retractable hardtop works flawlessly, and when in place, is as handsomely appointed inside as any Mercedes coupe. The optional glass panel top puts a unique twist on the retractable hardtop design.
The SL blends many of the lines from the latest Mercedes show cars into a production coupe that words alone cannot do justice. A long hood, short deck, massive wheels and a retractable hardtop that is barely detectable as such puts the SL in a class all its own.
The SL500 comes standard with a 302-horsepower V8, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, COMAND, ABS, driver's information center, illuminated keyless remote, Xenon headlamps with wiper/washer, auto-dimming mirrors with right-hand tilt down feature, navigation, Bose audio, dual side-impact airbags, front head airbags, automatic pop-up roll bar, dual 12-way leather power seats, cruise control, stability program, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, traction control, Active Body Control and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The SL500 starts around $90,000.
The Mazda MAZDA3 is probably the hottest small car on the market. It has loads of style, substance and an interior that would make some so-called premium sedans green with envy. Available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatch, the 3 is the latest testament to Mazda's brilliant comeback. We found the 3's handling to be simply superb, with incredibly tight steering that responds instantaneously to steering input. As we joyfully wound our way over the serpentine road, we were instantly reminded of other great compacts that evoked the same emotional response. Even though the 3 is a front-wheel-drive car, it exhibits very little torque steer. You can push this car well past the limits of most in its class and still maintain control. Of course, the big 17-inch tires make all the difference in the world, as does the newly designed E-link rear suspension. The E-link suspension separates the springs and dampeners, placing them at an angle that minimizes intrusion into the cargo area while providing tenacious road-holding ability. The 3's stopping ability is also excellent thanks to the four-wheel disc setup and optional ABS.
The secret ingredient for a faster, more thrilling 3 is its 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine borrowed from the MAZDA6. Though it only has 12 more horses than the 2.0-liter, the 2.3's powerful low-end grunt and linear torque curve help to accelerate the 3 like nobody's business. The optional automatic transmission features a quick-shifting 1-2 gear ratio for a faster response, making even steep hills no threat to rapid acceleration. If you fall in love with the sedan rather than the five-door, you needn't worry; the 2.3-liter is available on the 3s model, as are massive 17-inch wheels.
A scorching new exterior could easily have been penned by BMW or Alfa Romeo. The MAZDA3's strong lines denote its performance abilities and look particularly attractive on the sporty five-door hatchback.
For the money, you won't find an interior like this anywhere else. The 3's racy three-pod instrument cluster, red dash lighting and long list of standard and optional features make it feel like a high-priced sports sedan. Head and legroom are very generous, and the five-door models allow you to lug around bulky items that would not fit in the sedan's trunk.
The 3i comes standard with a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, rear defroster, dual remote-control mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, cloth bucket seats, split folding rear seat, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with touch controls, tachometer, intermittent wipers and 15-inch wheel covers. The 3s adds the five-door hatch model, a 160-horsepower 2.3-liter engine, air conditioning, illuminated keyless remote entry, fog lights, dual power mirrors, power locks, power windows, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The base 3i starts around $14K and is nicely loaded for around $17K.
You'll like the new TL if you like the way Darth Vader looked in Star Wars. The TL is wickedly intimidating, especially when viewed from a front three-quarter angle, yet it has one of the most civilized rides you'll find in this class. If you need room for four, but also love having your time driving solo, this car has much going for it. The TL also performs exceptionally well in crash tests.
Power for the new TL comes from a 3.2-liter 24-valve VTEC engine. A two-stage manifold helps increase horsepower, which tops out at a whopping 270. When mated to the five-speed Sequential Shift automatic, the TL's engine can propel it like a bullet. Shifts are practically imperceptible, begging the question: "Why interfere with a good thing?" Of course, if you are the type that prefers a bit more control, you can opt for a tight-ratio six-speed manual, a first for the TL line. Even with all its newfound power, the TL's engine is still one of the cleanest-burning in the world, elevated this year to a ULEV-2 status.
The TL's exterior is bold and aggressive, uniquely Acura in both appearance and build quality. If you really want to stand out, you can opt for the SEMA-inspired A-Spec package that adds larger wheels and tires, special ground effects and an upgraded A-Spec steering wheel and shifter.
The TL's interior is clean and simple. There is more rear-seat legroom than in the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series, and overall passenger volume is among the best in its class. The dash features a set of cool recessed instruments, backlit in blue with bright white numerals. The center stack is handsomely appointed with large rotary knobs for the climate and audio and is covered in a tasteful aluminum trim. The standard DVD-audio sounds amazing, but can only be experienced with DVD audio CDs (though regular CDs will play just fine). You'll love the optional voice-activated navigation system.
The amazing sound of the DVD-audio can be taken full advantage of inside the TL's soundproof cocoon. DVD audio splits the sound into five separate channels, allowing you to hear your favorite songs as you've never heard them before.
Blue LED dash lighting looks really cool and works well in both bright sunlight and darkness. We think it adds a bit of high-tech chic to the already cool interior layout.
In notable Acura fashion, the TL comes standard with everything except the voice-activated navigation and high-performance tires. All TLs come equipped with steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise and audio, auto climate control and choice of five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic or six-speed manual. Also on the list are Brembo front disc brakes (six-speed only), 17-inch alloy wheels and front and rear side-impact airbags.
The Acura TL is priced from $32,000.
There are plenty of reasons to like the MINI Cooper. Admittedly most of them are purely emotional, but the car is a delight to drive, gets great gas mileage, comes loaded with features and definitely stands out in a crowd.
The 115-horsepower engine has no problem pulling the MINI around and, so long as you don't have a full load or are climbing steep inclines, the acceleration is more than adequate for passing and merging. You'll find the MINI's handling to be downright mind-boggling, with instantaneous turn-in and a level cornering attitude that would make the original proud. The standard five-speed manual shifts smoothly, but is not as precise as the wonderful Getrag six-speed found on the S model. If you want an automatic, you will have to go with the base Cooper that offers an advanced CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) as an extra-cost option.
The 163-horsepower Cooper S provides a significant increase in performance yet costs only a few thousand dollars more. Though it runs like a cheetah closing in on dinner, the Cooper S does exhibit one unusual trait. Upon engaging first gear, you'll notice what feels like turbo lag. The Cooper S slowly moves forward and then-as the supercharger gains momentum-suddenly rockets away. The Cooper S runs on 16-inch run-flat tires that provide better handling than the stock 15s, but also contribute greatly to the S model's rougher ride.
The retro dash with its big, center-mounted speedometer is a defining element of the MINI design. The big panoramic glass moon roof opens the entire cabin to the outside.
The MINI is as radical inside as out, with a huge speedometer predominantly mounted in the center of the dash and a freestanding tachometer bolted to the steering column. There are numerous styling tricks that delight and entertain, such as the dash-mounted toggle switches and the sculpted plastic door panels. You won't find much cargo room behind the rear seats, but you can fold them down if you need the extra space.
The MINI Cooper comes standard with a 115-horsepower 1.6-liter engine, five-speed manual transmission, manual air conditioning, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, keyless entry, power locks, power windows, power mirrors, air conditioned glove box, dual front side-impact and front and rear head-curtain airbags, AM/FM stereo with CD, leatherette bucket seats, tilt steering wheel, sport suspension, tire pressure monitor, 15-inch alloy wheels and a rear wiper washer. The S model adds a 163-horsepower supercharged engine, six-speed manual, 16-inch run-flat tires, aluminum foot pedals, sport seats and a stiffer suspension.
The MINI Cooper truly is an original. Fun, cute and very collectible, the Cooper and Cooper S are an absolute bargain, especially when you consider that they start at around $17K.
A convertible model joins the lineup; available in both base and S trim and with a starting rice of less than $22K.
BMW 3 Series
The 3 Series is BMW's most popular model. If you love the thrill of driving a powerful rear drive car, you'll appreciate the 3 Series' superb balance combined with excellent steering, braking and acceleration. The 3 Series Coupe stands virtually alone in this field, with no direct competitor from Audi, Lexus or Cadillac.
The 3-Series' rear-wheel-drive setup allows you to test the limits of your playful side and even get into some good-old-fashioned fishtailing fun if you switch off the standard Dynamic Traction Control. Unfettered by any front-wheel-drive hardware, steering is direct and true, with almost instantaneous turn-in. The 325 cars are powered by a 184-horsepower inline six, delivering a drive that is more fun than furious. The real power comes from the 330's larger 3.0-liter six that produces a healthy 225 horsepower. This engine has a much flatter torque curve and pulls strongly at just about any speed.
The 3 Series has always been a handsome car and this generation may be the most attractive to date. Beautifully shaped sheetmetal, a long wheelbase and loads of BMW signature styling cues really make this car stand out. The coupe is especially attractive, with its low stance, expansive glass and big wheels and tires.
325 models come standard with a five-speed manual, stability control, 16-inch cast alloy wheels, keyless entry with selective unlocking, one-touch power windows, automatic climate control, AM/FM stereo with CD, front-seat side and head protection airbags, power moonroof and a leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
The 330 adds leather trim, larger wheels and tires, 8-way power seats, a Harman Kardon stereo and sport suspension.
The 330i sedan is ust a hair over $36K.
The second-generation Prius is larger and more powerful than the first car, with an all-new hybrid electric drive system and a much longer list of standard and optional equipment. The hatchback design increases the Prius' cargo-carrying ability.
If you're concerned about the environment, this car should produce next to zero greenhouse emission in stop-and-go driving. Speeds below 30 mph are handled by the electric motor; the gas engine comes on only when you need more power or are driving at highway speeds.
The Prius is a very technologically advanced machine. In a nutshell, there are two powerplants onboard the car: a 1.5-liter gasoline engine rated at 76 horsepower and a battery-powered electric motor that generates 50 kilowatts (67 horsepower). When you start the Prius, you won't hear the sound of the engine turning over. You simply push the start button, select D from the dash-mounted shifter and depress the accelerator. The Prius moves forward in utter silence because initially the electric motor is doing all the work. As you get up to speed, the Prius's computer brain signals the gasoline engine to switch on, at which point the electric motor surrenders control in a seamless operation that is virtually undetectable.
The Prius's push-button starter is just one of the many futuristic features found inside the car. The graphic power display lets the driver monitor the interaction between the gasoline engine and electric motor.
The 2005 Prius is a sportier car than the original, with a fastback rear hatch design, bigger wheels and tires and a wider stance. A generous serving of side glass makes for good visibility, and the big rear hatch opening can swallow a 25-inch TV with no problem.
The center dash houses a large LCD screen that shows the power transfer map between the gas and electric motor, as well as the display for the climate and optional navigation system. There is even an optional remote key fob transponder that tells the Prius you are its owner, allowing the doors to be unlocked and the car to be started without the use of a key.
The Prius comes standard with a 76-horsepower 1.5-liter gas engine teamed to a 50-kilowatt (67 horsepower) electric motor. Standard features include a CVT automatic transmission, ABS, air conditioning, rear defrost, power locks, power windows, heated power mirrors, illuminated remote keyless entry, AM/FM stereo with CD, tilt-wheel with touch controls, rear wiper/washer, traction control and alloy wheels.
The Prius lists for just over $21K and, when fully loaded, can easily top $30K.
The tC is Scion's latest addition, filling the role of sport coupe for the youth-oriented Toyota division. With rumors growing that the Celica will soon be discontinued, the tC is perfectly poised to take over as the company's hot hatchback. The tC brings a much-needed dose of cool to the Scion division. While the xA and xB are versatile, their four doors and timid power supply hardly put them in the GTI, RSX/MAZDA3 category. Its robust power, long list of standard equipment and low base price are exactly what young consumers are looking for in a sports car. The tC is long on style, but short on rear-seat headroom. The cool interior may be a little too hip (and colorful at night) for some people's taste. The 2.4-liter engine sings sweetly, with plenty of pulling power, and the five-speed manual delivers crisp, short shifts. Handling and braking are also well above average, making the tC a very fun car indeed. Front-seat passengers enjoy ample head and legroom, but the rear passenger's will have to stoop if they're over six feet tall. The rear area is better utilized by folding down the seats, creating a large cargo hold; the front seat also folds flat, allowing longer items such as surfboards to be stowed with the rear hatch closed.
The tC comes nicely loaded for around $16,500.
Few automobiles are as neatly defined as the Porsche 911. The 911 says "sports car" by look, reputation, even by name, and the substantially revised 2005 model delivers on a reputation for speed and style in spades.
This sports car hasn't earned its reputation overnight, of course. The 911's 41-year run is a story of steady, subtle improvement punctuated by periodic major overhauls. The changes for 2005 are closer to an overhaul, marked by a change in the 911's internal codename at Porsche (it's designated 997, replacing the 996, which had been built since 1998). If the 2005 model looks conspicuously similar to the original 1964, this 911 is nonetheless a thoroughly modern driving machine, packed with the latest in material advances, engine technology and electronic management. The 911 remains the standard by which other sports cars are judged, and the 2005 raises the standard.
There are hundreds of changes from 2004, including new electronic technology, more powerful engines and a redesigned interior. The 911 is equipped with curtain-style head-protection airbags for the first time. Even the familiar silhouette has subtle changes a Porsche nut will notice in an instant. These styling tweaks increase storage space and improve aerodynamic efficiency; in our view, they also increase the 911's sex appeal.
The 911 had evolved from its original air-cooled, VW Beetle roots long before this latest round of updates. Yet over the past 10 or 15 years, as Porsche engineers ironed out some of the 911's handling quirks, they'd also moved this sports car in a more civilized direction. Granted, the 911's race-bred handling and braking performance were surpassed by few cars. It turned with the accuracy of a sniper and blitzed along at 125 as stable as the Rock of Gibraltar. But the 911 has also adapted the accoutrements of a grand-touring coupe, with multiple-adjustment heated memory seats, automatic climate control, more sound insulating material and one-button convertible tops. To some hard-core 911 old-timers, it's become downright cushy. One of the most striking things about the 2005 model is that in some subtle but obvious ways, the 911 has devolved.
That doesn't mean it's suddenly become a Spartan buckboard of a high-performance car. The comfort, convenience and high-tech features are still here, and then some, including a new, optional fully active suspension. Yet in certain, very deliberate respects, the 2005 911 is more primal than its predecessor. Perhaps it's a more aggressive rasp from the exhaust, the way the engines deliver power to the drive wheels or the way the shift lever snicks between gears. Maybe it's an extra tingle of vibration through the frame channels. Whatever the reason, in standard trim the new 911 is edgier, and we're sure driving enthusiasts will appreciate the difference.
All told, if the 911 can be classified as a supercar, it remains one of the easiest supercars to live with. It's more user friendly than competitors, from the Chevy Corvette to the Ferrari F430. It rides smoothly and comfortably for a sports car. It's relatively easy to get in and out of and it's happy to putt around all day at Buick pace, particularly with the Tiptronic automatic transmission. The 911 has earned a reputation for being nearly bullet-proof, and there's very little about it that's finicky.
With launch of the 2005, Porsche has reduced the number of 911 models from 11 to just four. Among those four, the all-wheel-drive, crazy-powered Turbo S and Turbo S Cabriolet are still based on the previous platform (996). More variants of the new 911 will trickle out over the next few model years. A new 911 convertible should reach showrooms by the end of calendar 2005.
This we say with certainty: Nearly 60 years after the company was founded, Porsche continues to make some of the world's great sports cars. The 2005 Porsche 911 is the best one so far.
The Porsche 911 has a base price of $69,300. Fully loaded will snag you for more than $85,000.
Description Source: Kelly Blue Book
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