Editor's Note: In the first annual CultureMap Auto Awards, automotive writers Nic Phillips and Kevin McCauley bestow honors in 10 categories for the top 2012 cars and trucks and explain why they're deserving of a good hard look. We turn up the heat for our sixth award:
Performance Car of the Year: Scion FR-S
Sports car enthusiast rattle on about the importance of light weight and clamor for a stripped-down, rear-wheel drive, affordable performance car. In 2012, it happened. The Scion FR-S (and its twin, the Subaru BRZ) arrived, and they were every bit as gratifying as we had hoped. Toyota and Subaru collaborated on this "built by passion, not by committee" coupe leveraging Toyota's might with Subaru's sporting expertise and midship-mounted horizontal boxer engine.
We found the FR-S to have a stunning suspension tune and a brilliant balance that made you want to get behind the wheel as often as possible: It's a driver focused car that got better the more you drove it. Additionally, we found it to be livable, decent on gas and affordable — starting at $25,255, it's the overall most compelling new sports car of the year.
Drive it. You won't miss heated seats.
Performance Car of the Year Runner-up: 2013 Porsche Boxster S
The 2013 Porsche Boxster S raises the previous Boxster's already high game to the next level — 911 levels.
As with the new 911, our Best New Design award winner, we loved Boxster's rich new interior and greater refinement, but the performance jump and exotic new looks will be what we remember most. Ironically both of our Performance Car of the Year picks use boxer engines, both pushed to the middle of the car and both resulting in the best driving dynamics on road and track alike. But Porsche's delivers more than 100 horsepower more than the Scion. As it should, this near-perfection starts around $61,000, with options pushing the $90,000 mark.