Going back to cars, here's a particularly juicy one for me: several years ago, I had a mad crush on the very last iteration of the Cadillac DTS. Oh yes, the front-wheel-drive, Northstar V8-powered sofa-on-wheels that was the last remaining shred of the elderly-swooning days of Cadillac's past. Every time I had the chance to drive one, I was secretly giddy. Don't hate me, okay?
These days, the DTS is gone, but I've still got a mess of other cars that hold a special place in my heart. And in the spirit of camaraderie, I've asked my other Autoblog editors to tell me some of their guilty pleasure cars, as well – Seyth Miersma, as you can see above, has a few choice emotions to share about the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Read on to find out what cars make us secretly happy.
Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG
This decadent convertible is the epitome of the guilty pleasure. It's big, powerful, fairly heavy and it's richly appointed inside and out. It's a chocolate éclair with the three-pointed star on the hood. Given my druthers, I'd take the SL65 AMG, which delivers 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. That output is borderline absurd for this laid-back convertible. I don't care. You don't need dessert. Sometimes you just crave it.
The SL line is about the feel you get on the road. The roof is open. The air, sun and engine sounds all embrace you. It's the same dynamic you could have experienced in a Mercedes a century ago, yet the SL gives you the most modern of luxuries. An Airscarf feature that warms my neck and shoulders through a vent embedded in the seat? Yes, please.
Sure, it's an old-guy car. Mr. Burns and Lord Grantham are probably too young and hip for an SL65. I don't care. This is my guilty pleasure. Release the hounds.
I drove my first Flex in 2009 when my mother let me borrow hers for the summer while I was away at college. The incredibly spacious interior made moving twice that summer a breeze, and the 200-mile trips up north were quite comfortable. Another five years would pass before I would sit behind the wheel of a Flex, and while it has been bad-mouthed as a Mom-mobile by a few of my 'friends' (I'm seriously considering getting new ones), the twin-turbocharged V6 variety has been one of the most exciting vehicles I've driven this year.
I don't know why the Flex gets so much grief. The interior of this boxy-beast is huge, I had no problem fitting five adults in the back, and it can get up and go when you need it to. On paper it has a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds, only a tenth of a second slower than the EcoBoost Mustang. It's not about to break any records, but then again, this is an almost-5,000-pound wagon we're talking about. My only gripe about the Flex (and it is my only gripe) is the price tag, which can exceed $50,000. It may not be sitting in my driveway as my daily driver any time soon, but when offered, I will take this keys to this Blue Oval any time.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR
The only reason I'm picking the Mitsubishi Evo X GSR as my "guilty pleasure" car is because I've gotten razzed by other Autoblog editors for being sweet on it – I don't feel a bit guilty though.
Even as its become very long in the tooth, there's still nothing on the market like the Evo if you care about tactile driving. The Mitsubishi offers intense feedback to go with lightning-quick steering and staggering grip. And, for all the epithets heaped on the GSR's basic five-speed manual, I still find the gearbox competent to use (once it has completely warmed up), and satisfying as well.
More modern cars like the Subaru WRX STI, Audi S3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG might have better road manners and nicer interiors (much nicer), but they all sand down the rough edges that give the Evo its essential character. I'll drive a "comfortable car" when I'm old.
While I'll admit that the rational thinker in me would pick the Honda Odyssey as my minivan of choice, I still have a super special place in my heart for the big and lovable Nissan Quest. I'm 29 years old, and with no family to cart around, minivans are sort of a novelty for me. I like driving them every now and then because they're kind of fun, in the way that sitting in an oversized bean bag chair is pretty neat for a short time. I wouldn't own one, but every time one comes through the office, I'm happy to take it home.
That's where the Quest comes in. I remember being sort of ho-hum about the prospect about spending some time with Nissan's minivan, but five minutes after leaving the office, I was smitten. Inside, it's huge, and really plush. Outside, it's got this neat, almost JDM look that I find pretty attractive. And from behind the wheel, it's really quite good – plenty quick, with a well-behaved CVT, and soft, predictable dynamics. That glasshouse allows you to see everything in a panoramic view, and honestly, I just really enjoy driving this thing.
I'll never buy one, unless I wake up one morning and suddenly find myself responsible for three small children (and if that ever happens, there are probably a few other phone calls I'll need to make before ordering my daily-driver Quest). But as far as the novelty of minivans go, the Quest is my pick.
I've got a long list of cars I'd like to drive, and most of them would give me absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. But there is one that I'd be embarrassed to be seen in, yet I can't help but be intrigued by it. And that's the Lancia Ypsilon.
Introduced in 2011, the third-generation Ypsilon is based on the same platform as the Fiat 500, and is available with the same 900cc TwinAir turbo engine and five-speed manual that's a firecracker combination for a car this small. But instead of three doors, the Ypsilon has five, and instead of charmingly retro styling it, well... it tries to be chic and elegant, but by most accounts it fails miserably at that. Call it the automotive equivalent, then, of a plastic tiara.
So why on earth would I want to drive it, you ask? Because it's shaping up to be the last new Lancia ever made. The brand has been in a slow decline over the past several years until it found itself in the same position as Plymouth, Mercury and Oldsmobile... and we all know what happened to them. The growing Fiat empire tried keeping it relevant by selling Chryslers rebadged as Lancias in Europe. But after that idea failed, Fiat left Lancia at home, confined to selling only in Italy, and only one model. And you're looking at it.
Does that make the Ypsilon a worthy successor to the badge that has adorned such greats as the Aurelia, Flavia, Fulvia, Delta Integrale and Stratos? Lord no. Not by a shot so long you could fit into it more of these little Italian runabouts than they ever actually managed to sell, ably parked nose to tail. After all, if it were a great car, even a good one, it wouldn't be staring down its own demise, approaching faster than it could ever hope to actually drive. But unless something changes - and changes in a big way - the Ypsilon will almost certainly be the last Lancia. And I'd like to say that I at least had the chance to say goodbye.
There's something intriguingly honest about a good 'ol fullsize pickup truck that makes them a real guilty pleasure of mine. I'd never argue that a pickup like the Ram 1500 is dynamically rewarding in any meaningful way, but I revel in the torque of a big diesel engine just as much as the next guy, and nobody is going to turn their cheek on the luxurious cabins of today's high-end pickups. That said, all that I need – and all just about anyone really needs, if they're honest – are the basics.
Today's crop of base V6 engines are pretty darn great – I'm particularly fond of the 3.6-liter Pentastar in the Ram 1500 when hooked with the excellent eight-speed automatic – but it usually doesn't cost much to opt for a V8. Of course, there's no such thing as a cheap truck in 2015, once you've added four doors and a few options, but for $35,000 or so, a buyer can get a new truck that can serve as a family hauler, and while hauling the family's garage full of stuff, too. It's like two cars in one.
Considering how competitive the fullsize pickup truck market is, there are always deals to be found. For instance, it's currently possible to buy a Ram 1500 with the Big Horn package for the same price as a lower-tier SLT, and it will offer up the aforementioned Hemi engine as standard equipment, plus some interior niceties that will make you feel like you're not sacrificing anything to drive a truck.
Look, Acura should rightly be lambasted for its inability to build a car that's the equal to the Germans, Cadillac and Lexus, but that surely doesn't mean critics have carte blanche to rip on the poor RLX, a vehicle whose offenses exist only in the minds of people who claim they know what Acura "is supposed to be."
In terms of a pure, comfortable, accommodating luxury sedan, the big Acura is excellent. The ride is supple and smooth, while the same can be said of Honda's well-regarded 3.5-liter V6 (I've yet to drive the RLX Sport Hybrid, so I can't really comment on that). Comfy ride aside, the Precision All-Wheel Steer system, aside from having the adorable acronym "PAWS," delivers a surprising degree of agility for a roughly 4,000-pound, front-drive sedan.
But best of all is the cabin. Now I agree, the dual-screen center stack is horribly unintuitive, but the material quality and overall feel of the interior is just fine. And for audiophiles, the 14-speaker Krell stereo is arguably one of the best available in a car under $100,000. Yes, I'm including it with the excellent Burmester systems found in cars from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche and the stellar Lexicon unit found in the Hyundai Genesis and Equus.
There are better vehicles out there, but the RLX scores points for me by being a single-minded luxury sedan that's easy to drive and easy to live with. So leave it alone.
Ford Taurus SHO
The Ford Taurus SHO is my guilty pleasure car. I can't quite explain why, because $40,000 is way too much to spend on a non-luxury sedan. But on the rare times I get to test drive one of these babies, my day is made.
Without the SHO package, the Taurus is a perfectly fine sedan, maybe a little on the conservative-and-boring side. But put in a 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine to get 365 horsepower, tighten up the suspension to give the sedan better road feel, and engage the fully-automatic AWD system, and you've got some fun.
SHO stands for "Super High Output," and the engine certainly lives up to that name. It's responsive, powerful, and quiet. And makes commuting fun. I've recommended this car to quite a few people over the years, and if they follow my advice they only come back with one problem: they get too many speeding tickets. Oh well. Isn't that what the term YOLO was made for?
I have loved microcars from the moment I saw Steve Urkel in an Isetta and asked my dad what that weird little bubble was. Ever since, I've preferred small cars as evidenced by driving a 2006 Mini Cooper for nearly a decade. At the same time, I can admit that I'm a cheapskate.
These two facets dovetail perfectly when it comes to the guilty pleasure I get from the Chevrolet Spark. If I were single, the little hatchback would offer everything I need from a car. The huge expanse of exterior glass is appealing, but I love the instrument cluster the most. That big, chunky LED tachometer reminds me of something out of '80s cyberpunk. It's somehow anachronistic despite being available now.
The other great thing about inexpensive, tiny cars is that you can wring their neck and remain at completely law-abiding speeds. Plus, with its zingy, little 1.2-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission, it's possible to keep the revs up in the Spark and get decent fuel economy. I might be cheap, but I still like having fun while driving.
Dodge Grand Caravan
Another harsh Michigan winter is in full swing and I've found that the icy roads and sub-zero temperatures do some strange things to our vehicular preferences. For instance, this is the only time of year you'll find Autoblog staffers happy to trade the keys to a rear-wheel drive sports car in favor of a bland SUV, or in my case, a Dodge Grand Caravan.
I found myself enjoying a recent week with the GC much more than I had anticipated. It's not so much that the Caravan performs particularly well in the snow, rather the cold weather comfort you'll experience in its cabin. The available remote start system had the van warm before I ever stepped outside, as seat and steering wheel heaters quickly toasted the touch points. The remote liftgate allowed access to the Caravan's cargo area without having to lay a hand on the freezing, salt-covered sheet metal, and remote sliding doors allowed passengers to easily get in and out of the vehicle, even when hoping over a curbside snowbank.
So while nothing can replace the thrill of sliding around the snowy streets in a rear-drive sedan, or plowing through the powder in a 4x4, I found the Dodge Grand Caravan to be my unexpected guilty pleasure of this winter season.