Are The Europeans Still The Best?

With increased opposition from the east and west, one can only wonder if the Europeans are still the kings of the hill, and if so how much longer they can hold on.

We all know about the rich heritage that embodies the European automakers like Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Bentley and the likes. But, these days it’s not always about heritage when buying a car that goes fast and costs lots of money. No one can argue that of all the sports and luxury cars in the world the Europeans have the best track record when it comes to racing and providing the customer with the top honors for their dollars. In 1894 the first race with cars took place from Paris to Rouen. While 1895 was the first auto race in America.

American cars like the Corvette, Shelby Cobra and the Dodge Viper/SRT-10 were created, designed and built to take on Porsche, BMW, Jaguar, Ferrari and the others. Through the years the American competition has always been there and up until now was only slightly noticed as competition -mostly by diehard enthusiasts of the American cars- and the Japanese competition… Well, what Japanese competition? The Toyota Supra, Nissan Z’s and ZX, Mazda RX-7 were great cars but unfortunately none of them are around anymore to show that they were that formidable at going up against the Euros’ and the Nissan Skyline was never offered in America so doesn’t really qualify for this comparison unfortunately. The Mazda RX-8 and Nissan 350Z have given a good fight but have proven to be too different then their rivals they battle.

Why do we even judge it like this? Well simple, people, especially the Europeans have always maintained that Germany, England and Italy made the most beautifully aesthetic and modern cars. The interiors have always been sublime and some of the best places to be. It isn’t until recently that you could even compare a Cadillac’s interior to a Mercedes-Benz’s interior. While the American automotive companies have gotten smarter they aren’t quite there yet and I think even they would concur in some ways. The best car that America has built recently to compete is the Corvette. The car handles fantastically, is fun, quick, decently built and best of all has a high quality Euro panache design to it. Best of all for 2008 the Corvette offers something the other guys from the other side of the Atlantic have been offering for years, leather stitched interiors. The new Corvette Z06 has proven to be the best value for the dollar in the world and has been chosen buy many American and European automotive media sources. Even better the new ZR1 will prove to be twice that of the Z06 and worth quite a bit more for not much more money. It will compete hand in hand with the Porsche 911 GT2 and the Ferrari F430 Scuderia and be just as good for much less than half the price.

Lexus and Infiniti have for years been widely said to be the next iteration of the German luxo cars but from Japan instead and cheaper. Lexus entered the market and started producing high class cars for low class prices. The same goes for Infiniti. Recent years have shown the Japanese to be catching up in more ways than one, including price. Even though some of the cars are still cheaper, they are too expensive for the automakers to sell and keep the name and mark they have. The one thing the Japanese have been great at is producing fun sports cars with small engines that are worth the money. The 1990’s proved to be a great era for the Japanese sports cars from Toyota, Nissan and Mazda. While the Mazda Miata was creating a whole new automotive class the RX-7 was doing battle with half the engine of its competitors, fitted with the now famous rotary engine only using 1.3 liters to push out over 250hp and 217lb-ft of torque.

The Japanese have been in the news the most lately with cars like the Infiniti G35 and G37 sports coupe taking on the BMW 3-series coupe and sedan for less of the price with similar performance. And of course most notably for the sheer amazing Nissan GT-R that has shown to be just as quick as the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Corvette Z06 for less.

The Americans have also been in the news lately with the Corvette, the Cadillac CTS (which received Motor Trend’s 2008 car of the year, don’t even get me started on that farce!) the new SRT-10 coupe with 600hp and also the newest efforts with hybrid cars, SUV’s, and trucks from the big 3.

With all of the cars that are coming out to join the kids on the block the Germans and Italians are still at it, better than ever too. While we can’t really add the Brits in there anymore since they are owned by everyone else including the Germans and Americans, Aston Martin is still making headlines while being under control of Prodrive and have shown to be one of the best exotics in the neighborhood. Ferrari, Porsche and BMW are going stronger than ever and fighting hard to keep their titles. Now in country fights between MB, Audi and BMW are heating up, and getting hotter than ever! The new BMW M3 will show that the world once again that the Germans do it better plain and simple.

While Germany and Italy are still making the best cars, they do have some considerable competition. Motor Trend crowned the Mazda CX-9 as the SUV of the year for 2008 and the Cadillac CTS as the car of the year. The Germans weren’t even close in the running for either award either. But, the Germans still have a hold on the market and continue to sell very well and are growing in all the right places. With BMW bringing the 1-series to the states, they have no real competition in that segment over here. Road and Tracks most recent test of the E92 BMW M3 in the February, 2008 issue, they achieved amazing numbers, 0-60 in 4.1s, ¼ mile time of 12.5s and a top speed of over 160mph. Wait a minute, this just happens to be similar performance numbers to the 2008 Z51 package Chevrolet Corvette, and the M3 has less power and weighs more and has seating for 4. The M3 used to always be slower in straight line terms to a Corvette, not anymore baby. The Germans learned some things from the Americans while the Americans were trying to write the notes as fast as the Germans were going. The Japanese learned the most by copying and then finally coming up with their own real ultra-performance car, the Nissan GT-R.

So what have we learned here? Well, with pressing from the American and Japanese markets the Germans and Italians are still fighting hard. Even though some may say the days of European domination are over it seems that the fight is just heating up. The GT-R is going to give a good lesson to Ferrari, Porsche and BMW to work harder and better. The Corvette will continue to struggle in the European eye, but is looking better and better. With the BMW 3-series that seems to develop better and better with age, just like a fine wine, the others are having a hard time keeping up, but they are gaining, and fast might I add. Ferrari and Lamborghini are business as usual. You can’t disrupt the Italians, because it will be a while before they actually think someone is better then them at making the perfect blend of sports and luxury performance car, even if Audi owns Lambo. There is a street brawl going on here. There will be equal cars made from all the fighting countries, but, who will win? No one will ever truly win, because whoever is better in my eyes is not as good in someone else’s. But, this will make for a much better shopping experience when looking for the perfect luxury and/or performance car.


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