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Jil McIntosh's best and worst of 2008

Jil McIntosh's best and worst of 2008

JIL MCINTOSH’S BEST

Ford Flex

I drove a lot of really good vehicles this year and I was immensely impressed with the redesigned Audi TTS convertible. And if something were staying permanently in the driveway for my use alone, it would be the wonderful but tight-fitting BMW 128i.

But for versatility, multi-passenger comfort, cargo capability and general usefulness, this year’s crown belongs to the Ford Flex.

On a 2,300-km road trip, with three adults, the Flex proved roomy in any of its three rows of seats and was comfortable for a five-hour-straight stretch. It drives like a car, has the convenience of a minivan without the soccer-mom stigma, and isn’t as tall and unwieldy as many SUVs. Its interior quality, which has been a weak point for Ford in the past, is very good and hopefully marks a turning point for the automaker. And while styling is subjective, I think its flat-nosed, station wagon design is way cool. All in all, two thumbs up.

… AND WORST

Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

I’ve always said that there is no such thing as a bad convertible on a sunny summer day, but I’ll make an exception for the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder.

It’s a shame, really, because the powertrain in this convertible is incredible. The 3.8 L V6 is powerful and responsive, and it’s a joy to row the six-speed manual transmission up and down through the gears.

But this great engine needs a better home. Hang on tight when you hit the throttle, because the torque steer is so bad the car will make a right-hand turn. It’s nose-heavy and lumbers in and out of corners, and the wide turning radius usually means two tries to get into a parking spot.

The car just seems like a coupe with the roof sawed off. The cowl shakes, the body’s flimsy and the doors sound tinny and cheap. I couldn’t sit without turning my ankle sideways to get my foot on the throttle and I couldn’t see a thing out the soft top’s tiny rear window. Mitsubishi may call this a “driver’s car,” but I’d rather not be the one driving it.

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