The best of the best sold in North America between 2000 and 2010.
I decided to make up a list (in no particular order) of my ten favourite cars of the 2000s. They may not be the fastest, or the cheapest, the most reliable, or the most exotic, but there’s something about each and every one of these cars that makes them innovative or unique enough to be absolutely brilliant.
1) Range Rover Sport Supercharged (2005-2009)
Okay, okay. I know, the Range Rover Sport is fundamentally terrible. It’s not efficient, it breaks every five minutes (the rear liftgate on our 2012 tester had a mind of its own), and it’s obnoxious. However, as bad as it is, the Range Rover Sport is absolutely awesome, and this experience cannot be accurately depicted in words. While the old (2005-2008) 4.2L supercharged V8 was good, the new 5.0L supercharged V8 for 2009 was even better. This Range flies with confidence at any speed. It’s not as ostentatious as the Big Daddy Range Rover, but it gives you 90% of the driving experience at a fraction of the price. Keep in mind, I wouldn’t take a Sport off-road. It’s a rolling fashion statement that will definitely earn you a few negative salutes from bystanders (I had two guys in a G35 pass us, lean out of their window, and flip me the bird for no apparent reason), but there are few SUVs out there that provide the level of the Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
2) Honda Civic Si (2006-2009)
i-VTEC just kicked in yo! A boy-racer favourite for a couple decades now, the 2006 redesign for the Honda Civic meant the creation of what’s in my eyes the best Civic Si ever. Priced to compete at just under $30,000 new, this Si was only available with a phenomenal “snick-snick” 6-speed manual in both coupe and sedan forms, and had a screaming i-VTEC engine. Those who doubt the fun factor of the Civic Si have probably never revved it high enough to feel the engine. This motor needs (and loves) to be revved high, as its power delivery is all in the higher RPMs. The interior, while controversial with its digital gauges and spaceship-like cockpit, is very ergonomic and in typical Honda fashion, a comfortable place to be.
3) Subaru WRX Wagon (2002-2003)
Powered by a 2.0L turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder putting out an intense 227-horsepower, the Subaru WRX Wagon tried its hardest to prove to North Americans that station wagons were cool. Not to be mistaken with an Impreza Wagon, the WRX doesn’t stray far from its rally pedigree. Though an automatic was optional, the best way to get the WRX was with a 5-speed manual. It didn’t have leather seats, a sunroof, or silly gizmos like a navigation system. This little wagon is one of the best cars for a single guy, a couple, or even a couple with a kid to drive year-round. All-wheel-drive, a turbo, and a stick; what more does an enthusiast want? Oh, and enough room to throw skis, a snowboard, or a weekend’s worth of gear in the back. Awesome.
4) Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI (2004)
The pictured V10 TDI, purchased new, was in the garage of one of our staff members for years, and it’s easy to see why. A bi-turbo, 10-cylinder SUV with 500+ lb-ft of torque that gets 7.5-8L/100km all day long? Is there really any downside? Well, typical to Volkswagen, a few electrical gremlins should be expected, but the sheer amount of torque this SUV has is enough to spin the Earth in the other direction. While a bit pricey, if you have a kid or two and can’t get away with a sedan, it’s hard to go wrong with one of these. Sure, you could get a Jetta or Passat Wagon with a TDI, but you won’t have nearly as much fun. Plus, it’s so understated it can slide by unnoticed in any part of town. Here’s one of the few examples where it’s a great idea to take advantage of Volkswagen models’ lack of resale value.
5) Infiniti G35 Coupe (2003-2007)
A complete game-changer for Infiniti, the G35 Coupe came in with a bang for MY2003. Powered by Nissan’s famous VQ 3.5L V6, the G35 Coupe was given a factory exhaust system that made it one of the best-sounding non-exotic cars of all time. Superb seats, a roaring engine, and an available 6-speed manual made the G35 one of the most popular cars of the decade amongst the young executive crowd. It brought serious competition to the BMW 3-series and the Audi A4, making it by far the most successful car ever under the Infiniti name. While the interior wasn’t very innovative nor was it overly pretty, it was the sharp, futuristic exterior styling of the G35 that made it stand out in any crowd or venue.
6) BMW 335i (2007-2009)
Not overrated in the slightest, the BMW 3-series is unsurprisingly on nearly every enthusiast’s “favourites” list. In fact, every petrolhead should make it a point to own a 3-series at least once in their lifetime. Incredible handling, balance, weigh distribution, and engine selection makes the baby Bimmer a pleasure to own. The 335i introduced for MY2007 had a twin-turbo 3.0L inline 6-cylinder that put out 300 horsepower. Even though an automatic was available, the only way you should buy one is with the butter-smooth 6-speed manual. The early 335i models are known to have turbo issues, but with an extended warranty you should be fine. My pick is the 4-door sedan rather than the 2-door coupe or cabriolet.
7) Audi S4 3.0T (2009)
My personal pick for the best “everyday” car has to be the 2009-redesign of the Audi S4. Powered by a supercharged 6-cylinder badged “3.0T” for heritage purposes, the S4 makes driving to boring meetings a matter of fun. I found myself going out of my way to go for a drive every time I had an S4 in our possession, and stories from owners are no different. The 6-speed manual and 7-speed DCT are both equally good, though metropolitan commuters would prefer the “automatic” option. Everything is designed wonderfully, as expected from an Audi, and it seems that other than fuel mileage, there are really no complaints to report with the S4. I think you should buy one. Now.
8) MINI Cooper S (2002-2006)
Quite possibly one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars, I personally like the Cooper S a lot more than the rear-drive MX-5. While taller people have issues squeezing into the little Mazda, the Mini is very accommodating even to enthusiasts well over 6-feet tall. As with any other German car, electrical gremlins are known to show up from time to time, but the resale on the first-generation Cooper S (known as the R53) is reasonable enough to allocate for a few repairs here and there. The 1.6L supercharged 4-cylinder is an absolute animal, especially when coupled with the 6-speed manual gearbox. Shift throws are great and the car is a pleasure to boot around the city with as well as cruise calmly on the highway. Oh, and unlike on the MX-5, the Cooper S has rear seats to accommodate Tweedledee and Tweedledum if you so require.
9) Honda S2000
There’s a reason there’s no such thing as a cheap used S2000. It was one of the best sports cars to ever come out of Japan. Similar in concept to the Civic Si, the beauty of the S2000 wasn’t truly unleashed until it got into the higher RPMs, where the engine began to scream and put a gigantic, almost embarrassing grin on the driver’s face. A small 4-cylinder hamster-in-a-wheel with VTEC powers the S2000, mated to an exquisite 6-speed manual transmission. It’s truly Honda’s answer to the Mazda MX-5, and it’s a crying shame that it was discontinued. Today’s market truly is lacking in pure, affordable two-seat roadsters, and the S2000 is certainly one that is sorely missed.
10) Acura TL (2004-2008)
Though suffering from a severe case of torque steer, the TL was quite possibly one of the best-looking Japanese sedans ever sold in North America. Priced at right around $40,000, the Acura TL was a Honda Accord in a business suit. While its front-wheel-drive setup hampers it from being able to handle like a 5-series, it’s far more interesting than an ES350 of the same year and is just as reasonably priced. Powered by a typical Honda V6 engine coupled to either a 5-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual, the TL flew. Its interior was a pleasant place to be in and was filled to the brim with gadgets.