Today being my last day at CNET, I was clearing out my desk and came across a stack of window stickers for all the cars I have reviewed and driven in the line of duty as an editor on the Car Tech channel. Rather than indulge in dewy-eyed reminiscence on my own, I thought I'd share a few of the highlights with you, the readers who have endured--and hopefully occasionally enjoyed--my automotive observations over the past two-and-a-bit years.
Starting with my review of the 2006 Buick Lucerne, I have been in and out of the driver's seats of literally hundreds of cars, some of which were more memorable than others. The Mercedes S550 with its hard-drive based navigation system, night vision camera, and adaptive cruise control gave me my first real exposure to the rarefied world of automotive technoluxury, an experience I was to revisit many times over. Equally impressive was the self-parking Lexus LS460L, which became the first car to receive a perfect 10 score in a CNET review. And it was while enjoying the heated massage seats in the stunning Mercedes-Benz CL550 in the outside lane of I-280 that I got my first on-the-job speeding ticket. On the subject of beautiful cars, one of the highlights of my first few months was the Jaguar XK, the first real-head turner that we got in to the CNET garage and still one of my all-time favorites. (While the XKR Convertible was more impressive from a performance perspective, I prefer the clean design of the original.)
Performance high points have to include the mighty Shelby GT500, a true modern-day muscle car; the Porsche 911 4S; and the awesome Audi R8, which I got to flog around Laguna Seca raceway. A barrage of BMWs has crossed the CNET garage threshold during my tenure, including the frighteningly fast 2006 BMW M5 and the BMW M6 (in successive weeks!), the 2007 BMW Z4M, and, most recently, the new, brawnier 2008 BMW M3, which I spent a memorable day thrashing around the hills of Northern California. For sheer over-the-top luxury, I have to hand it to the $375,000 Rolls Royce Phantom with its automatically closing doors, in-dash TV, and built-in umbrellas.
Amid such a backdrop of awesome automotive hardware, it was sometimes easy to lose track of the less exotic--but no less remarkable--stream of test cars that showed up twice a week. The Mercedes-Benz SL550, the 2008 Subaru WRX STi, the Audi S5, the Saturn Sky Red Line, the BMW 135i, and the hard-top Mazda Miata MX5 have all brought a smile to my face on the freeways around San Francisco. The impressively economical Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTec deserves a special mention for nearly getting me all the way from San Francisco to LA and back on one tank of diesel, while the 2007 Honda CR-V remains a favorite for having accommodated no fewer than seven dogs in back on one of our more adventurous practical field tests. The 500-horsepower Porsche Cayenne turbo was probably the most outrageous car I've reviewed in my time here, although the 9mpg 2007 Cadillac Escalade has to come in a close second.
So, what would I choose if I could drive any car from the past two years out of the CNET garage and into the sunset? That's a tough one. Having had the privilege of driving so many cars that I will never be able to afford, my values and benchmarks are so skewed that I am ruined forever as a car buyer. Keeping things in the realm of attainability, I think that for sheer driving enjoyably, the Honda S2000 is still tough to beat.
Thanks for your feedback and comments over the past couple of years: I can say without reservation that it's been a blast.