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Expert Reviews 2 of 4
By Jason Stein
December 24, 2001
We don't think he's taking orders, offering zero-percent financing or trying to get the automotive world back on its rails, but if old St. Nick were in the giving mood, we'd be ready to take the keys.Christmas is about dreaming. Or at least
daydreaming of something new to drive.It's about wishing and wondering and hoping what you wished for is going to be parked in the driveway on the morning of the 25th.What's that commercial running these days?"We got you a new CD player," a
beaming father tells his wide-eyed daughter on Christmas morning."It's parked in the driveway," he says.And, vroom, just like that, a new set of wheels is rolling into view.If only life were that simple. If only the cars would fit in Santa's
sleigh.If they could, we'd have a few suggestions.The following five are all cars we've enjoyed this year, and wish they'd fit in a stocking or under the tree.Are they likely to end up in our driveway tomorrow morning? Doubtful.Would it be
a Christmas dream come true? Most definitely.Audi TT RoadsterIt didn't take long for Audi to turn its one-time concept car into a permanent head-turner. It took even less time to make it a stunning ride.It might not win a race in the
quarter-mile. It might not be the most comfortable touring car. And it might not be the truest expression of outright sports sizzle, but you can't deny this about Audi's little roadster: From the first turn of the key, it draws unparalleled interest from
standers-by.Gawking becomes sport. Finger-pointing becomes fun. And it's all OK because, with the TT, it's par for the course.Available with five- and six-speed transmissions, the TT is an exercise in euphoria. Its 1.8-liter, 20-valve turbo four
is available in 180 or a six-speed 225 horsepower.But it's so much more than that. From the aluminum twin-hoop roll bars, to optional saddle-tan leather seating and a power-operated wind deflector, the TT roadster might be based on the Volkswagen Golf
platform, but it's so much more. With aluminum tinges throughout, an unconventional setup inside and a throwback-style seat position (that makes you believe you're sitting in a bathtub), the TT is simply terrific.There are less-expensive rivals that
perform as well, but for style and features, the TT rivals sports cars that cost thousands more.Christmas cost: $33,200 (base 2-door convertible)Christmas message: Fun, daring, stylish and cool. Is there anymore?BMW Z3 CoupeCar and Driver
called the Z3 coupe, "the face of Henry Kissinger and the moves of Josephine Baker."Ouch. That's awfully crude for the holidays.We think the beauty of the Z3 coupe rests in the fact its beauty is hardly skin deep.Based on the roadster of the
same name, the best part of this unique two-seat coupe is not its funky frame but its low curb weight and high chassis rigidit
y. It's a fun-to-drive formula. And it's a Z3 zoooomer.With two new powerplants for 2001, the Z3 is available with either a 225-horse 3.0-liter in-line six or a slightly-less powerful version of the new M3's 333-hp 3.2-liter engine. It's heck on
wheels. And it's a looker, despite its unusual looks.Inside, the Z3 is like driving a scaled-down version of some of BMW's more popular products. It's a tight ride without much room for movement, but with a true driver-to-road feel. Handling is
razor-sharp and with BMW's Dynamic Brake Control, ABS and an antiskid system, braking stability in turns is a lock.And did we mention it's fun?Christmas cost: $38,900 (3.0i 2-door hatchback)Christmas message: Thrilling on the pedal, if not on
the eyes, the Z3 might be the most fun BMW on the market.Chevrolet Corvette Z06Just when you thought the American "wild child" couldn't get any better, along comes a better Corvette.Pack your seat belt
hold onto your hat. What makes the new 'Vette Z06 a real holiday gift is the fact it's faster than some Ferraris, more slick than a few Porsches is substantially less money. Now engorged to 405 horsepower, dig into the throttle of the LS6 5.7-liter V-8
and this lightest and most athletic Corvette lunges forward at positively indecent speeds. Even in the 350-hp versions, the combination of control and raw push is enough to snap a few heads back.And that might not even be the best part.Even with
tires fit for NASCAR, the Corvette handles and rides with the best of them. There's also room for loads of luggage, a tasteful interior, comfortable seats, shorter gearing for better acceleration, grippier tires, a titanium exhaust and full measures of
speed and excitement. This easily becomes a can't-miss speed demon built for every enthusiast's fancy.Big, bold and brawny, there's no better high-performance value. A Christmas hint: Also ask for your own racetrack.X-mas cost: $48,055 (Z06 2-door
coupe)X-mas message: They don't build some race cars with this much outright passion.Chrysler ProwlerThe Plymouth name might be long gone, but its retro roadster roars on.Want to know the Prowler is still going strong? Listen closely as it
rumbles down the street.Nothing new here for the car that changed its stripes each season, but little else. It's pretty much what it was when it first rolled out of Detroit.That doesn't mean it's any less desirable. And a new color is major news
to the Prowler faithful. This year it's the Black Tie Edition with silver and black two-tone paint and silver floormats. We think it's just window dressing for a classic.Turn the key and watch the heads turn. The all-aluminum 253-hp 3.5-liter V6
rumbles to life and cruises with authority, or attitude, down the street. That means 0 to 60 in about six seconds, but this is all about touring.No luggage needed. With two cubic feet of rear room under a massive back shell - enough for a thin
briefcase - this is a rear-wheel-drive hot-rod meant for a Sunday drive under blue skies.Buyers still snap them up as fast as Chrysler builds them and for good reason. With a sloped front end, manual soft top and a small, jutting nose, there's
character in this throwback.X-mas cost: $45,280X-mas message: Hot-rod retro that carries character like few others.Jaguar XJR 100Jaguar sedans might not be the most practical or technologically advanced set of wheels on the planet, but
they're elegant.And who couldn't use more elegance in the driveway?With tasteful styling, handsome interiors and a lightning rod under your right foot, the XJR is a lesson in deception. Don't let the wood grain fool you - this is no technological
antique. Under the hood, a supercharged and intercooled 4.0-liter DOHC 32-valve V8 makes 370 horses and makes it one of the quickest sedans we've dri
ven (5.6 seconds in 0-to-60).And you'll look good at that speed; actually, at any speed. With 18-inch wheels and Brembo brakes supporting a sleek, tasteful and distinguished interior, you can race the Mustang next to you, then race to the black-tie
Christmas dinner.For all their bulk and length outside (a whopping 202.7inches), the XJR is a little cramped inside, but it shines for its top-notch refinement, potent V8s and British charm.The standard for any luxo-charged ride.X-mas cost:
$69,355 (XJR 4-door sedan)X-mas message: Refined. Respected. And a roaring ride with an obnoxiously-smooth engine.