Best and worst we drove this year

Jim Kenzie remembers the best (Audi S5) and worst car (BMW X5) he drove this year.

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The Best

Best cars of 2007? That’s a pretty long list. On an absolute scale, I’d have to say the Audi S5.

I initially drove the very pretty coupe version of the upcoming new generation A4 sedan, with the 343 horsepower 4.2 L V8 stuffed under its comely hood at the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada Cars of the Year Test Fest about a month ago.

Subsequently, I have had a weekend in the same car, but during the worst winter storm in 60 years.

But what a car. Beautiful, fast, handles great, even in lousy weather (yes, winter tires) good room inside, beautifully finished. And for under $70,000 to start, a bargain amongst super cars.

That R8? Yep, fabulous too. But twice the seats at half the price? I’ll take the S5.

The Worst

You could almost guess that the worst car I drove all year would be an SUV. You might not guess that it is the SUV which most of my colleagues rate as the best there is – certainly, one of the fastest, and made by a company whose prod-ucts I generally admire.

But the new BMW X5? No thanks.

Lady Leadfoot and I spent a few days booting around Newfoundland in this car after the Targa competition. This had been our team’s support vehicle.

Initially, I thought something was broken in the steering. The big wheels and tires, apparently reacting badly with the active steering system, would follow grooves in the pavement and “tramline,” as the Brits call it, in a most alarming manner.

Speaking of alarming, every time we breathed in this thing, it beeped or honked or flashed or squeaked or squealed. Just too much Big Brother, too nanny-ish.

The worst was the park distance control system, designed to tell you if there was something behind that you might bump into. BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP – yeah, yeah, I know there’s a pole back there, but it’s 20 metres away. I know it’s there because the backup camera gives you a decent view of the area behind you.

So I shut the system off – and the camera went off, too! What genius came up with that idea? Give me the camera, but shut the bleedin’ car up!

Add to all this the fact that I bumped my head constantly getting in and out of this thing, the lousy ride quality, the noisiness, the unfathomable sat-nav system and that steering – by Day 3, Lady Leadfoot actually asked me to stop swearing at the car, because it wasn’t going to get any better by itself.

They sell these things by the thousands, and can’t throw a 5 Series wagon off a building onto somebody. I don’t get it.

It’s as if the German engineers said, “Hah! If these Americans want this type of car, we will give it to them!”

Not to me, though.

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