Best Picks Of 2013

BY Azfar Hashim

So 2013 was an eventful year for the local motoring industry: An introduction and implementation of new policies, changes in classification of new cars, and the list goes on.

Photos: Azfar Hashim

A decade down the road, 2013 will still be remembered for all that happened in that year. More importantly for all car enthusiasts/nuts/freaks however, was that more new models were introduced. New car distributors were still going strong as they put their range of products on the road and observed how every brand tried to outdo each other with each product launch It has been quite the year for us here at Burnpavement too. Test-driving and shooting the latest cars, while learning about each car as much as we can at the same time. It is never easy, but we admit, it's a privilege we enjoy thoroughly. At the same time, we here at Burnpavement are not (fully) driven by the advertiser’s dollar. Which means we have the biggest advantage here: to not be biased, to remain neutral and to give it to you as it is, fellow consumers.

We have carefully selected and picked six different cars that we feel are truly special in 2013. Individually, they all answer to different classes of consumers, but when you look at them closer, they are all cars that were built also to provide the most fun for their respective price tags. We have it all here: from a 1.6-litre all the way to a monstrous 4.4-litre. Without any further delay, here they are, Burnpavement's Best Picks of 2013 (left to right, clockwise direction): BMW M5 Competition Pack, Mercedes-Benz CLA200, Lexus IS F-Sport, Renault Megane RS265, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Porsche Cayman.

Mercedes-Benz CLA200

To date, this is the most affordable Mercedes-Benz sedan money can buy. At the same time, it’s the most youthful Merc, well, next to the A-Class. Seen here is the CLA200 decked with the AMG kit; something we feel is a must if you’re considering one. The CLA 200 is powered by a 4-pot 1.6-litre turbocharged powerplant, and mated to a responsive 7-speed dual-clutch auto transmission, whips out 154 bhp and 250 Nm; figures that are rather respectable in this day and age of force-fed hearts. And here is one interesting fact about the CLA: it is currently the world’s most aerodynamic production car with a cd (drag coefficient) of only 0.23. To quote tester Joel Tam, “We've yet to try the 250, but by the looks of it, the 200 is going to be the top choice. It's got the badge, the style and it delivers a compelling drive experience”. That is why it made it to our list.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

The Golf GTI is the most highly anticipated hatchback of 2013, with Volkswagen spending a huge chunk of their marketing budget on a big launch at the Changi Exhibition Centre. We were there as well, and having been given the chance to really trash the GTI around a circuit, the editorial team was really blown by its capabilities. Power comes courtesy of the EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and paired to the 6-speed DSG, this seventh-generation hot-hatch from Wolfsburg easily has 220 bhp and 350 Nm to play around with. Best of all, it needs only 6.5 seconds to get from nought to 100 km/h. Tester Jonathan Lim has this to say: “The car is certainly confidence inspiring, allowing you to really lean hard on it into corners, and to throw it about in high-speed chicanes”. Then in his review, tester Keegan Gan said, “In fact mashing the accelerator is a treat, as the car resonates with a rich burble and a near instant response that eggs you on to push it harder”. The rest of us at the Burnpavement office share the exact sentiments and collectively agree this is the ultimate hatchback, even for the family man.

Renault Megane RS265

If you love driving (hard) during both weekdays and weekends, and can never ever see yourself driving an automatic, then Renault has the answer: in the form of their lightning bolt Megane RS265. It receives nothing but praises everywhere it goes, and you cannot help but to agree. This is the epitome of a hot-hatch. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is strong, the six-speed manual transmission is a real joy to use on a daily basis and how it grips on to the tarmac while exploiting all of its 265 bhp and 360 Nm of torque is darn bloody brilliant. Its shape is odd; but who cares when it delivers joy by the truckload. This, dear readers, is the best modern hot-hatch money can buy. To quote yours truly, “The Megane RS has always and will remain as one of the best driver’s car, and in this iteration with the additional boost, it surely puts Renault on top of the chart when it comes to hot-hatches.”

Lexus IS250 F-Sport

It is bold, looks out of this world and grabs attention without having to try hard. This sums up the IS F-Sport, the boldest looking Lexus product for local consumers. It may not have any sort of force-fed heart or fancy twin-clutch transmission, but that doesn’t stop the IS250, with a 208 bhp 2.5-litre 6-cylinder engine and 6-speed auto ‘box, from taking a spot in our Best Picks of 2013. You get Japanese reliability, sharp handling and when pushed hard, an unforgettable, creamy 6-cylinder note. If you must have one, we strongly urge you to go straight for the F-Sport variant (as seen here); stylishly kitted, and you won’t be able to get your eyes off it.

Porsche Cayman

Some opine this is ‘the poor man’s Porsche’, but what this same bunch will never know is this: the Cayman is a real gem from Stuttgart. Mid-engined, perfect weight distribution finished off with one of the sharpest steering we have ever felt and seen, the Cayman is one of the best driver’s car money can buy. And really, you don’t need a 911; unless you really need the extra rear seats. Outright power is not one of its strongest suits, but when you stretch it close to its redline, the melody from that flat-six 2.7-litre engine is unforgettable. The 7-speed PDK ‘box works well here too, delivering all that 275 bhp and 290 Nm of torque without hesitation. Simply put, this is our sports car of the year. Tester Joel Tam has this to say in his review: “Ultimately though, a Cayman is made for the drive, and on that note, it passes with flying colours. Few cars can offer such sublime handling coupled with modern technology so successfully.”

BMW M5 Competition Pack

It has lost the 5.0-litre V10, and then duly replaced by a smaller 4.4-litre V8. But by employing a pair of turbochargers, the M5 remains the gentleman… with a maniacal side. Especially with the Competition Pack fitted. To be honest, we weren’t especially impressed at first; the ‘standard’ M5 did not leave much of an impression besides being ‘just a fast 5 Series’. However, this faster and better 575 bhp M5 is something else. Grip? Surprisingly, lots of it. Power? That goes without saying. Fun to drive? Hell yes! BMW’s M division put all of their expertise into this one shell and it became so, so much better. We love it.

Special Mention - Audi RS4 Avant

Ladies and gentlemen: meet the Audi RS4 Avant, the Burnpavement team’s overall Favourite Car for 2013. It has the pace, space and grace — all thanks to the sonorous 4.2-litre V8 heart and quick shifting 7-speed S-tronic that gives you 450 bhp and 430 Nm to play around with. Oh, and 1,430-litres (all rear seats down) of space for you to throw in and lug anything around. “Close your eyes, add a bit of throttle and you hear proper V8 noise; instant aural relief to any ears tired of the muted murmur of four and six-pot lumps”, was what yours truly had mentioned about the car. While tester Joel Tam praised, “Attacking corner after corner, swapping between the cogs and putting the Quattro system to the test on wet roads, I came to realise that the RS 4 is truly one helluva package”. Our writer Jonathan Lim also had high praises for it, and simply couldn’t get over the V8 and exhaust note at full blast.

Brilliant job Audi; we’re mailing over some hi-5s…