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Madman’s 2011 automotive awards

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Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011 2:38 am | Updated: 6:46 am, Mon Feb 13, 2012.

"Sport Compact Car" magazine had been around since the late eighties and was my favorite magazine. As the magazines title implies, SCC featured small, powerful and well - handling cars from all over the world. SCC was written by a different breed of automotive writer, guys who walked the walk. Unlike most mainstream automotive rags, the SCC crew built their own project cars, raced in organized events and spent most of their free time under a hood. SCC was my car bible until like many other excellent publications, it fell victim to falling add revenue and declining readership. SCC published their last issue in March of 2009, I was absolutely gutted.

After modifying my first Honda Civic, I aspired to be like the mechanical geniuses of SCC. I don't know for sure if I would pass SCC muster, but humbly I think maybe I could. Every year they would have contests to find the ultimate street car or eight great rides and I felt they were qualified to criticize and give praise.

I hope I will do the SCC guys proud in my own "best of" list. Perhaps an awards list, like they do in Hollywood, minus the sappy speeches. Yes, put on your formal wear, grab a champagne flute and have a seat ... it's the first ever madman's automotive awards. Please cue the band.

The "Best Brand" award is for the car company that has made the biggest strides this year. Car companies produce cars to sell and make money, but every so often they take chances that need to be recognized. Chevrolet made headlines when they negotiated with the United Auto Workers in order to bring production costs down in the manufacture of the new Chevy Sonic. These concessions were necessary in order to compete in the small car market. Chevy also developed the Chevy Cruze with innovative technology for fuel savings. To be perfectly honest, the Chevy Volt clinched it for me. It really is the future of electric / gas hybrids. I would rather ride the bus than drive a Volt, but it really is a game changer.

The "Most Improved" award goes to the car company who has shown the most improvement this model year. Five years ago most Kia automobiles were awful. Perhaps awful is too strong a word ... Kias were undesirable, cheap but neither attractive or a more than ho-hum machine. However, today I can think of three I would proudly drive every day. The Kia Forte is a charming sport coupe that looks better than the current Honda Civic and costs thousands less. The Kia Optima is a sweet looking sedan with more standard power than anything even close to its price range. Lastly the Kia Sportage looks like a mating of the Lexus and Infinity crossovers; but it will cost you about half. Kia has clearly benefited from its parent company Hyundai.

The "Most Fun" award was an agonizing decision. I have driven so many cars this year it is tough to chose just one. The Chevy Camaro SS was smooth and powerful, but its stylish low roofline made me feel a little claustrophobic. I must be getting old. The Fiat 500 made me feel as if I had sun rays of happy joy warming my face, but every time I mashed the go peddle, it didn't go. I have to go with the car that I wrote the big check for. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 is like a luxury car with a serious attitude. The Genesis resembles an Aston Martin DB9 both inside and out and that is one heck of a compliment. I still can't believe the Genesis coupe is a Hyundai. It is just so awesome. Good job, Hyundai!

The "Best Sound" award took some online research, but this contest is important. The way a car sounds is as important as the way it looks or performs. I narrowed the field in my head before I began. The Ferrari 458, Nissan GTR and the Lexus LFA were the only contenders for the "ear joy" award. The Ferrari sounds like a well tuned symphony orchestra. It sings every octave so beautifully. I get very emotional as I listen. The GTR I used for this comparison was a model tuned by AMS. AMS is an aftermarket tuning company that takes the stock GTR and pumps it up over one thousand horsepower. The AMS tuned GTR is the soundtrack of a racetrack warrior, pure aggression ... scary. Lastly the Lexus LFA supercar costs the most and sounds the best. Lexus had help from Yamaha building the engine. Yamaha not only builds wicked fast street bikes, they engineer some of the finest audio equipment on Earth. They really took their time making this high - revving marvel sound the part.

"Madman's Car of the Year" is an honor that every car maker strives for. While there were many cars considered, only one automobile can walk away with top honors. The Fiat 500 captured my heart and left an impression that remains in my memory. Chevy's Volt is an astounding engineering accomplishment, but it is electric and therefore ineligible. The 580 horsepower Camaro ZL1 has 580 horsepower, that is a heck of a lot of power. However my car of the year is not available to us mere mortals. As a matter of fact, it will not be sold in the United States at all. When US customs agents told Horacio Pagani his 1.4 million dollar hypercar would have to be modified for US roads, Pagani told them to go fly a kite. Even though the beautiful 700 horsepower Pagani Huayra is the Madman car of the year it will not be able to retrieve its prize, how sad.

Congratulations to all of this years winners you are all exceptional. Now, if you will excuse me I have to get out of this tuxedo.

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