2006 BMW M5
2006 BMW M5. Click image to enlarge

Join Autos’s Facebook group
Follow Autos on Twitter

Article and photos by Paul Williams

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads

Photo Gallery:
Ten years: ten fine cars

The first decade of the 21st Century doesn’t come along very often, and its conclusion is a good time to reflect on some of the more interesting cars introduced post-Y2K (Remember Y2K? Big fuss; no problem). The vehicles below are vehicles I’ve driven that stood out from all the others, and somewhat tellingly, there are a lot of performance cars here (although I’ve tried to include a few exemplary lower priced vehicles). However, if I was to create this list on another day, chances are it would not be exactly the same. Trust me, I could do a list of 20 or 30 cars no problem. Ten gets tougher. Car of the decade? I’m working on it.

2006 BMW M5

Everyone was blown away by the M5 at the international launch in 2004, and for me, the memory lingers. Maybe it’s because I drove this sublime car at a ridiculous 270 km/h along the German Autobahn; a philosophical journalist colleague in the seat next to me, the car rock solid and jet smooth as we devoured both distance and fuel. Probably the most dumb-ass thing I’ve done at a press event, although earlier in the day, BMW did hijack a military airport runway for us to experience the M5’s launch control, just because they could, and it does, and why not? The Clark Kent of supercars, the M5 flings off its glasses, dons its cape and offers 507 horsepower at the press of a console-mounted fun-button. Its seven-speed transmission is perfectly matched to the car’s race-bred V10 engine, and the vehicle’s entire attitude is one of profound, exquisite, unshakeable competence.

2004 Mini Cooper S

2004 Targa Newfoundland Mini Cooper
2004 Targa Newfoundland Mini Cooper. Click image to enlarge

I had the pleasure of driving Mini Cooper S in the Targa Newfoundland in 2003, and a John Cooper Works version at the same event in 2004. Introduced (or re-introduced, depending on your point of view) in 2002, the car was, and is, a revelation. It is without doubt one of the most fun cars you can possibly drive, transforming its owner into a rally-racer right off the showroom floor. The responsiveness of this car is uncanny; it simply goes where you point it, behaving pretty much like a go-cart as it takes corners at ridiculous speeds, the gleeful whine of its supercharged 1.6-litre engine pumping out 200-horsepower, and becoming the soundtrack of your journey as you shift through the gears. Now, of course, they have turbochargers, which are arguably better, but the supercharged models had a particularly appealing character, in my view. I liked this car so much I bought an ’04 with the JCW package. What a hoot.

2008 Audi R8

2008 Audi R8
2008 Audi R8. Click image to enlarge

As if in a dream, a silver Audi R8 was actually delivered to my door early one Sunday morning in 2008. Out of nowhere, it seemed, people appeared and congregated around the car. In short order, a small crowd surrounded the R8. Then friends and colleagues turned up. It was a spectacle. Rides were duly given; passengers returning with beatific expressions on their faces. They’d become R8 devotees, and were off to spread the word. Oh, maybe the R8 is a little ho-hum now that everybody’s seen a few. But look at it with fresh eyes, and it’s truly a stunning piece of kit. Driving the R8 was awesome. The way the shifter clicked through the billet aluminum gate, the seats that form-fit to your body, the weird sexy steering wheel and the outrageous sound of the V8 at full throttle, right behind your neck. A dream car made real.

2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Click image to enlarge

High performance vehicles aren’t just supercars; they’re any vehicle, really, that has extraordinary capability in a particular environment. To make the point, Jeep launched its new line of Wranglers (what we used to call TJs) at the Rubicon Trail in California. Believe me, anything that can make it through this trail is a high performance vehicle. When I say you can drive a Wrangler Rubicon over boulders, you have to imagine boulders that would flatten an average sized house if they ever got moving. And it’ll do ditches, mud, bogs, fallen trees, whatever. You have to see this thing in its natural environment (which is, of course, the natural environment); its wheels splayed in this direction and that, its body tilted at impossible angles; its private parts exposed for all the world to see. If ever there’s an apocalypse? Afterwards, you’ll want a Rubicon.

2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo

2010 Porsche Panamera
2010 Porsche Panamera. Click image to enlarge

The newness of this vehicle is still affecting people’s judgment, in my view. Either you love it or you hate it, but this for me, finally, is the answer to the question, “If you could have one car, what would it be?” Mine would be spec’d up to about $200K, as I would want the 20-inch turbo wheels, the Sport Chrono Package, the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), the Sport Exhaust and the Ceramic Brakes (PCCB). I’d also want the Burmester High-End Surround Sound System, a two-tone leather interior and Bluetooth (can you believe Porsche charges $950 for Bluetooth?). There are also illuminated carbon fibre door sills, which would be a “must have,” I should think, just to see what they actually are! Look, this car has such performance that you will nearly pass out under acceleration. And it’s not just a dragster… this is a Porsche! According to David Donohue, he with a winner’s Rolex Daytona meaningfully strapped to his left wrist, the Panamera handles as well as 911 Carreras that he has raced. “It’d be a great car for the family,” he fantasized at the vehicle launch in Wisconsin. I can see it now; the wife and kids hanging on for dear life while hurtling around the Road America racetrack; Mr. Donohue explaining the practical virtues of the Panamera’s hatchback…

Connect with Autos.ca