Welcome to what I hope will become an annual tradition on this site: the Soul Car of the Year. It’s my award for the car (s) I believe make a true connection with its driver. Far beyond speed, power, handling, and just plain performance, my Soul Scores seek to give you an idea of what the car is actually like to drive.
I’ll provide a category for SUVs/trucks and cars.
Every single car I’ve driven this year has been excellent in its own right, but a few truly stand out. Without further ado, I present the 2022 Soul Car of the year.
Soul SUV & Truck of the Year: Jaguar F-PACE SVR
“Why so serious?” is a quote you might be familiar with if you’re a Batman fan, and it’s one the F-PACE asks you each time you get inside.
After all, you’re not going to take this 4,500 lb SUV to the track (though you could). And you’re not going to do a pull from every stop light (but you’d win most in this SVR). No, this Jag knows the mission: to give you a smile on your everyday drive.
Other SUVs like an X3 M really are so serious. “Bro, when are we RACING?!” it begs from behind a pair of Oakley shades and suspensions so stiff it’ll shake perfectly white teeth loose. The F-PACE can keep up with the X3 M where it counts on the street, but gives you much more feedback from behind its soft leather wheel.
And that roar. The sound it makes is intoxicating. Even the straight pipes on my M3 can’t come close. Nothing gives you the thrill of a supercharger whine as it spools up to push more air into the hungry V-8. It’s never unruly. Pick up someone for a first date, leave it in comfort mode and no one is the wiser. Once you drop them off, open the valves, hit the gas and they will hear you a mile down the road. Perform this trick while they are in the car to find out if they are worthy of a second date.
The SVR is 0.1 second slower to 60 than that X3 M, and if you can feel the difference in speed from the driver’s throne, you’d be lying. But you sure can feel the difference in soul.
Soul Car of the Year runner up: F-TYPE R Coupe
I know. The Corvette is a far better sports car. It’s faster, cheaper, lighter, better balanced – the list goes on. And if speed is your ultimate goal, there’s no place else to look, especially once the Z06 arrives (flat plane crank V-8!).
But like the X3 M, the Vette is bored on public roads, and that makes it hard to connect with it at sublight speed. What you want here is something with a few flaws built in.
The F-TYPE R has ’em. It’s older, and you can easily tell from inside. The ride is a little harsh, and it’s tight (the Vette has two trunks, after all). And while it’s fast, the R has since been left behind by newer sports cars.
But then you get a beautiful Sunday fall morning. Hop in, start that amazing V-8 from the F-PACE, and hit the back roads. The steering comes alive even at slow speeds. That ZF transmission reads your thoughts. And the harsh ride matters little as you discover a chassis that offers great feedback with a willingness to get the tail out at every corner. The fact that it looks the part (it’s achingly beautiful) is the cherry on top.
When you get out, you might find yourself saying “I’ve had enough”. It’s an assault on all of your senses. So away it goes for the week. And that’s the point. The F-TYPE R feels special – special enough to make you look forward to the next beautiful weekend.
My advice here? Spring for the convertible. It’s the best way to enjoy this car – top down, V-8 at full song, and life’s troubles left behind.
Soul Car of the Year: Cadillac CT-5 V Blackwing
If you’re a regular reader, this won’t surprise you. It’s the only car to score a 10 this year. Imagine how good this car has to be in order to best a BMW M5.
It starts by offering a choice: automatic or manual. But that’s not really a choice, is it? Slower it may be than the automatic, but slow it is not.
Connected to this great-shifting transmission is another supercharged V-8, one that’s even more raucous than the AJ motor in the Jags. It crackles and pops each time you let off the throttle, and roars each time you stomp on it. Cadillac knows this is a luxury car, it just doesn’t care when it comes to the sound of freedom.
Actually, that’s a lie – Cadillac does care about luxury. GM’s magnetic suspension provides a smooth and comfortable ride in comfort, and a stiff (but never harsh), responsive chassis in sport. It’s the first, and to date only car, that offers a true dual personality with these silly modes. It might be the best sports sedan chassis I’ve ever driven – high praise indeed. Steering, brakes, clutch – they all feel perfect. The Blackwing feels even more communicative on civilian streets than the Vette. Partially due to the manual, sure, but there’s such substance here.
It’s not as nice inside as an M5, or its more upscale brother the Escalade V, but you’re certainly not slumming it from behind the wheel. Its shortcomings are easily overlooked, even if you can’t remember the name of the car.
Every car I’ve driven this year, from the 3000GT VR-4 to the Ram TRX, has made me go “ahh” once sitting back inside my M3. It’s a car that always feels just right. Not the Blackwing. Getting inside the M3 after a turn in that car highlighted just what’s missing from BMW M’s latest offerings.
It’s the only car I truly miss – the one with a real soul. Drive one if you can, buy one if you have the means. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
Bonus – BMW Soul Car of the Year
There’s no denying the fact that BMW holds a special place in my heart. Given the amount of M Power I’ve had the joy of experiencing in 2022:
- X3 M review
- G80 M3 ownership experience
- F90 M5 review
- G83 M4 Convertible review
- F10 M5 review
- 228i Gran Coupe review
- i4 M50 review
- M240i Coupe review
It only seems fair to give the brand its own category. Out of this group, it’s the F90 M5.
Here’s a fun game. Your wife calls: the baby’s on the way right now, meet her at the hospital across town. It’s raining out. And dark. Highway is full of traffic – you need to cut through it (and the back roads). Oh, and on the way back, you need to bring your mother-in-law home with you (and your newborn). This kind of extreme dual mission is what the M5 was made for.
It’s the only BMW of the group that feels like the roots of its lineage are maintained. The rawness of the E39 M5 might be long gone, but the existence of the E90 M3 sort of negates that car’s uniqueness. In its place is one of the best BMWs I’ve ever driven, from a pure competence standpoint. I thought the F10 felt less isolated, but the amount of refinement in the F90 is simply too much to ignore.
Speed and luxury are equally sprinkled in here, and if you have but one parking space, four seasons (and an unlimited budget), I can’t think of a better BMW produced within the past 20 years.
This is the last story of 2022 (you’ll still get a mailbag Friday), so I wanted to thank a few people for the enormous amount of growth this blog has shown over the past year.
Thanks to Eric and Pierre for sending over press cars, and to Larry at AMMO for opening his garage and guidance throughout the year. Thanks Dan Miele at Turn 7 Autocare and Kyle Walsh for always being invaluable assets on shoots. Thank you to everyone who let me shoot and drive their beautiful rides this year, your time and effort are greatly appreciated.
Thanks especially to my wife Corryn and daughter Madison, who help me on shoots, provide a sounding board, and keep me grounded. It’s impossible to do it without them. I love you 3,000.
Finally, thank you for reading. For coming to the Fall Cruise, sharing or commenting on an article, emailing questions and bringing this publication to life. I’ve no idea what the future will hold, but I’m grateful to have made it this far.
Happy holidays, happy new year, and full send into 2023!
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