MORE AT POPULAR MECHANICS
Last week we looked at cars that deservedly got the axe in 2013. This week we'll be a lot kinder because we're looking at the models that are disappearing altogether or making way for generation 2014, but that we'd love to have in our garage.
The Gallardo is no more. Lambo sold a total of 14,022 units in the supercar's 10 years of production, a figure that matches the sum of all Lamborghinis sold in the history of the brand.
That's one successful run, and this is probably the most important car in the brand's history, too, for reasons beyond sales. The Gallardo revived the notion of what Lamborghini could be. And it took key parts directly from owner Audi and massaged them into something distinctly more Italian.
Plus, the V-10 (which is also in the Audi R8) provided Lamborghinis with something they didn't have: reasonable reliability. Driving the Gallardo fast and hard isn't a scary experience—the car may look bombastic and over the top, which is partly the point, but everything works easily and well, from the excellent clutch, to the stupendous brakes, to the very precise steering.
Lamborghini will replace the Gallardo sometime next year, which probably means that anyone lusting after a Gallardo should wait until its successor debuts, so that the used price of a Gallardo floats downward. At least a little.
Make our 1-Series the fantastic 135is, with a lovely in-line six-cylinder good for 320 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque and mated to a perfect six-speed manual. That muscle is paired with the truest iteration of an old-school BMW chassis (think 1990s-era 3-Series), one that feels more driver-focused than anything in the company's lineup today, save perhaps the outgoing M3.
It helps that the 1-Series sits on a short wheelbase (6 inches shorter than the current 3-Series) with the rubber pushed to the corners so it handles superbly both on the track and the street.
With the 1-Series on its way out, one could make a strong argument for either waiting for its replacement, the new 2-Series, or opting instead for the forthcoming Audi A3 as the compact German luxury sedan of choice. But if a dealer is itching to move the last of his 2013 1-Series inventory, there could be a deal or two to be had on this car. And you might envision a day a decade from now when in-line sixes in subcompact sedans will be very hard to find. So buy, use gently, and hang onto this Bimmer.
Ford Mustang Boss 302
The Boss isn't coming back in this body style, which is about to be replaced by the redesigned 2015 Mustang. It's likely we won't see a new pony bearing the name for a number of years. When and if there's a new Boss, it's hard to imagine the redone Mustang with modern rear suspension will feature quite the same anachronistically endearing qualities as the 2013 Boss that's smoking fat 19-inch Pirellis.
Yes, this is a muscle car, but never has a 444-hp V-8 felt as tractable, even with that solid truck-like axle astern. You can and will experience that axle's quirks, especially if you decide to peel out frequently, when your Boss will want to hop all over the tarmac, barely hewing straight. Likewise, uneven surfaces and rolling terrain can make the rear end squirm. But this, too, is part of the Boss's charms. And who knows if any future Boss would come with a suspension as tight on the track yet as friendly as your favorite hound?
What's so unexpected, considering how well this car behaves at speed (and it is a very easy car to drive exceedingly fast), is that the Boss 302 is almost placid when driving around town. It doesn't idle roughly. Clutch work is heavier than in an Accord, sure, but hardly taxing on the quadriceps. And though outward visibility for this era of Stang isn't superb, finding the corners of the car in a parking lot isn't a mighty chore either.
One logical, if unoriginal thought: Last-of-a-kind Boss 302s, especially one-offs like the Laguna Seca edition, are going to be collector cars. The trick is being able to afford one and choosing not to abuse it. Which will be mighty hard.
Audi TT RS
In a bygone era some sneered at the Audi TT as a chick car. Such chauvinism persists, which is fine—stealth mode can be entertaining. Blast to 60 mph in 4 seconds flat at a stoplight showdown and show the neighborhood that this isn't your little sister's Malibu Barbie dream rod. It's a 360-hp all-wheel-drive hockey puck that can pull nearly a full g on the skidpad, and run even with rivals.
What keeps this Audi from being even better are a few decisions by the corporate kings behind Audi (that would be Volkswagen and Porsche). It's easy to imagine that cabal didn't want the seven-speed dual-clutch version of the TT RS sold in the U.S. because it might step on sales of Porsche Caymans. Likewise, there's no question that a five-cylinder engine is just an oddity, and though the exhaust's rally-car-style bellow is brutally satisfying at full throttle, the mill itself isn't an aural pleasure. During longer commutes it's a permanent conversant, talking incessantly through the cockpit.
No, this isn't an A8. But of the handful of sports cars this capable and unique, only the TT RS makes sense as a four-season daily driver, even in 6 inches of snow.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The thing we knew (and know) about the C6 Corvette is that it eats supercars with ho-hum, yawn regularity. And we don't mean just straight-line fast; the C6 Corvette steers and corners with the very best machines ever devised. It's a superb car for teaching yourself track skills, too, because it's forgiving of the kinds of mistakes nonpros make, and it responds happily to the minute progressions you'll make with increased track time. And because this car lived such a long, happy life before the smokin' C7 replaced it this year, performance parts are sanely priced—at least compared with the exotic competition.
The souped-up Z06 comes not only with a stonking 638-hp, 7.0-liter V-8, but also with a few goodies from the yet-more-expensive ZR1—specifically, its suspension and carbon-ceramic brakes. That makes for a stiffly sprung grocery getter, albeit one that has some of the stoutest stoppers on any production car anywhere.
The often-heard complaints—that the Corvette of this era has retrograde seats and 1980s Chevy Citation plastics—well, they're mostly valid. But a plush interior is what you're giving up to get a supercar on a budget. And you're going to gut the cockpit to fit the roll cage, right?
Toyota Matrix AWD
Go ahead. Unleash your very best string of expletives at this choice. Done? Good. Because we're not actually recommending you go buy this car new. After a decade of Matrix production that is now concluding, there are a lot of used Matrixes out there for the taking. Anyone shopping for good, if not exciting, transportation ought to consider one. That is especially true for anyone who commutes in, say, Buffalo, N.Y., or Cleveland, where a Matrix with AWD could charge through 10 winters of lake-effect snow without a worry. Its chassis-brother Corolla can't do that, and neither can a slew of other subcompacts on the market that come with only front-wheel drive.
Maximum cargo capacity (rear seats folded) is a commendable 49.4 cubic feet. That's on par with a Subaru Impreza hatchback, the only other car in this price range.
And despite stalwart reliability, the Matrix isn't as beloved as the Impreza. That's good for your bottom line, and it makes finding a used Toyota for less dough a lot easier.
Volkswagen Golf R
The next Golf R should debut in the U.S. about 1 year from now. It will be more powerful than the outgoing Mk VI Golf R. The 2015 will be good for 296 hp, up from 256 horses for the car that's about to disappear from dealerships. And the new car is said to get superior fuel economy, too, in part because it's moving to the new, lighter MQB architecture of all future MkVII Golfs.
Why mourn the loss of today's car, then? Because VW hasn't promised the U.S. will see the next R. And at least so far, the current R is probably the very hottest and best performance Volkswagen ever sold in America.
All-wheel drive and a creamy six-speed manual helped make the Golf R so good. But it was about more than that. While stats types lamented that the R was more expensive, less agile, and slower in a straight line than boy-racer Mitsubishi Evos and Subaru WRX STIs, those folks simply don't understand that the R was never about pure performance at all costs. Like a BMW M3, the R was meant as a high-performance daily driver—a car that, with modifications, could compete in that realm, but whose natural home is on the street.
Yes, we'd sorely love to see what the next R can do, particularly if they sell it in the U.S. with a dual-clutch transmission (you can get it either with DSG or a six-speed manual in Europe). The DSG comes with launch control, and we already favor this gearbox in some Audis and Volkswagens. But the Mk VII Golf R is just a hope for Americans at the moment, so for now we'll sorely miss the outgoing one.
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
The next-generation CTS is a superb car. But the hot wagon version is gone, and we don't know if the newly sober and sane lords of GM will ever produce a Cadillac wagon with a 6.2-liter V-8 good for a ridiculous 556 hp. Something tells us the answer is no.
Our advice, then, is to find one new or gently used while you still can, because no Benz E-wagon or BMW 5 Series equivalent is as nuts or as engaging as the CTS-V Wagon. And the Caddy doesn't deliver a flinty ride, either. It's stiff, yes, but the extra rearward weight helps keep the car planted and makes it feel less nervous than the V sedan. As a daily driver it's a no-nonsense commuter, albeit one with speedy steering and a smooth six-speed manual.
Then there's its easygoing pragmatism: You can fill this car with 25 cubic feet worth of hardware store goodies behind the second row of seats—that's a number that bests lots of SUVs. Overall cargo capacity is nearly 60 cubic feet, which also smokes the competition. And just try to run 0 to 100 mph in 9 seconds flat in your typical crossover.
Yes, we kicked Suzuki on its way out the door last week. But this isn't actually a Suzuki. It's a rebadged Nissan Frontier, one of the last-ditch, death-spiral moves by Suzuki as the carmaker was cratering.
We doubt you can find one new, as the massage-job lasted only through 2012. But any wise Frontier shopper should also investigate the Equator. You may find one at a cheaper price, and this is literally the same truck.
While the Toyota Tacoma eats Nissan's lunch in this segment, the Frontier is a perfectly good truck—stability on crummy roads, good steering, and a demeanor that makes it easy to chew up plenty of long highway miles. You want it with Nissan's 261-hp, 4.0-liter V-6. That engine is thirsty, but this truck needs the power.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
The Toyota FJ Cruiser was much loved for its tremendous off-road capabilities and retro styling. Sadly, it was loved by too few takers. Only about 20,000 have sold per year since the rig debuted in 2006.
That's not enough to justify production, which stinks, because the FJ offered four-wheeler fans a great alternative to pickups or the only other alternative, a Jeep Wrangler. And the FJ was a great deal compared to the Wrangler, with 9.6 inches of ground clearance, optional locking rear differential, the superb finish quality Toyota is known for, and a trouble-free 4.0-liter V-6.
Downsides include rearward blind spots created by the retro look. And though the FJ looks mighty large on the outside, it's fairly tight in the interior. We could say the same thing about the Wrangler, however, which is why you see so many of the stretched Unlimited versions of that rig driving around.
If there's good news for fans of the FJ, it's that the party isn't officially over until the end of next year, so you can still get one new before Toyota pulls the plug.
[Related: The 20 Best Apps of 2013]