My Dream Car: Seven Essential Elements

My recent piece on EVs and the introduction of a number of EV pickup trucks within the next 6 to 18 months drew more comments than almost any blog post I’ve previously written! Actually, all the comments were sincere, insightful, and worthy of entering into the dialogue. I intend to write an EV follow-up piece later in the year, specifically waiting for the production version of the Tesla CyberTruck to hit the market….

That EV piece was written while wearing my daytime hat. As part of that gig, I’ve also contributed several articles to the website medium.com, and in scrolling through that content over the weekend, I found another piece that might generate some feedback, if not quite as controversial as the gas-vs-electric situation. I had been challenged by a colleague to write a piece on my “dream vehicle”; if money were no object, what would I drive? I quickly realized that there is no one all-around best car, and instead, I tackled the assignment by thinking about which automotive attributes are most important to me, and then selecting the cars which fulfilled those attributes.

You can read my selections below, and feel free to let the rest of us know which vehicular features are most important to you and which cars or trucks satisfy them. You can find the original article here: My Dream Car: Seven Essential Elements.

My Dream Car: Seven Essential Elements

Do you have a “dream car?” Is there one vehicle that is your dream machine? With an unlimited budget, which singular vehicle would you make your own? It’s fun to fantasize about such a choice. It’s likely that you’ve seen a car parked on the street, or in a new car showroom, and said to yourself, “if only I had the funds!” Or maybe it’s a car you’ve only gazed at in a photograph, some valuable classic from many years ago.

Even if finances allowed it, that dream car would probably not suffice for everyday use. It might be too cramped, too noisy, or too fuel-inefficient to drive regularly. This is why each of us drives a (insert your make and model here) for commuting to work, dragging home supplies from the home improvement center, and taking the family on vacation.

In spite of those necessities, it’s fun to think about that dream car. For me, a Ferrari from the 1960s with a big V12 engine in the front driving the rear wheels has been a dream for decades. But drive such a beast all the time? It would have no traction in the snow, would get about 9 miles per gallon, and where do I put the 2x4s from Home Depot?

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(Above: Ferrari Daytona)

What if I could build a fantasy car, taking all the best attributes from all my favorite vehicles, and combine them into one super-duper dream machine? Now that’s what dreams are made of! The best way to start is with a list of the features most important to me. Here are my top seven attributes, ranked in order. If I can identify a vehicle that embodies the attribute, I’ll include it in the description.

#1: Driver positioning. I love to drive, and typically put over 20,000 miles a year on my vehicles. I know what it’s like to be behind the wheel for an entire day, sometimes over multiple days. Nothing is more important to me than feeling both comfortable and in control. The seat must be supportive without being too hard; the steering wheel, pedals, and shifter must all be within comfortable reach; and the instrument panel must be legible without taking my eyes off the road but for a nanosecond.

For seat comfort, every Volvo I’ve owned, including my current 2016 V60, has excelled in this area. For overall positioning, a Mazda Miata comes close to perfection, provided you can fit in its rather tight passenger compartment.

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(Above: Mazda Miata)

#2: Outward visibility. Driving involves all kinds of lighting conditions in all kinds of weather, so I need to be able to see out of the car. Too many cars fail in this regard. Narrow windows, wide roof pillars, and thick rear quarter panels create blind spots. I think stylists sometimes forget that function must take precedence over form.

Admittedly, safety comes into play here, as a car that has an airy “greenhouse” (the term for all the glass) may not offer great crash protection. But to me, a Fiat 124 Sport Coupe (which I once owned) has a greenhouse that is aesthetically pleasing while providing expansive outward vision.

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(Above: Fiat 124 Sport Coupe)

#3: Vehicle responsiveness. Being in control when driving extends to knowing that the vehicle will respond to driver inputs in an expected way, while also providing a level of sportiness. Steering should be precise, with no freeplay. Braking should be firm and easily modulated. The car should ‘hold the road’ and take curves with no body lean or tire squeal, yet without harshness delivered through the suspension and into the passenger compartment.

Since their introduction, the Porsche Boxster/Cayman twins have gotten consistently rave reviews from the automotive press for their responsiveness on the road. I got the chance to drive a Cayman a few years back and I would concur!

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(Above: Porsche Boxster)

#4: Comfort and convenience features. I may be showing my age, but after years of only affording no-frills cars, then tolerating noisy, drafty, bare-bones sports cars because “that’s how sports cars are,” I can’t live without certain creature comforts. At a minimum, air conditioning, cruise control, heated seats, and a basic stereo must be in the dream car. At best, climate control, adaptive cruise, a heated steering wheel, and SiriusXM (along with a backup camera) will all add to my ability to remain comfortably ensconced all day long.

My boss’s Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG, which I got to ride in once, fit the bill nicely and then some!

#5: Powerplant (type, placement, and power output). The gearheads among you are rejoicing because I’m finally getting to the heart of the matter: the motor that provides the “go” to the dream. The recent surge in hybrids and pure electric vehicles means I should at least consider those powerplant options. If I really want to be all-inclusive, I should include diesel and even steam as considerations.

While hybrids have advantages, and EVs are definitely the future, my dream car will stick to good old gasoline. That’s based on both the type of power delivery I desire, as well as the availability and convenience of replenishment (pumping gas versus finding a recharging station).

The dream machine should be a mid-engine design, and that’s very related to my desire for responsiveness. It’s been proven that the best handling car is a mid-engine car. Be sure to make the distinction between “mid” (like Porsche Boxster) and “rear” (like Porsche 911). Rear engine cars, with the weight behind the rear axle, are too tail-heavy. A mid-engine placement puts that weight behind the front seats, but ahead of the rear axle, for near perfect weight distribution. Look no further than the new mid-engine C8 Corvette to see the latest embracement of this feature.

Modern engineering has given us four-cylinder turbocharged engines that kick out copious amounts of horsepower yet still enable us to whiz past gas stations. My favorite engine currently fitted to a new car is the 2.0-liter inline-four in the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan. This engine makes 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque, yet delivers a combined EPA rating of 28 mpg (33 mpg highway). This fuel economy rating is especially impressive given the Giulia’s curb weight of 3,500 pounds. This Alfa’s engine outshines almost all the competition in its specs when compared to similar engines.

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(Above: Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan)

#6: Carrying capacity. This one is simple. I need two seats, one for me and one for my passenger. And I need room for the occasional hauling job. The simple answer is your basic, regular cab full-size American pickup truck. Is it any wonder that the pickup is the #1-selling body style in the country today? A lot of guys and gals will tell you that they’re already driving their dream machine when pointing to their Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, or Ram 1500.

#7: Exterior design. I’ve ranked this attribute last but still felt it important to include, because my dream car’s design should be something that stirs my emotions and gives me pride of ownership. Although I can’t see the car’s styling from the driver’s seat, others can, and who doesn’t enjoy admiring glances!

There have been many beautifully-designed cars through the decades, and everyone has their favorite. From a pure design standpoint, I think the Jaguar E-Type, also known as the XKE, is the most beautiful car ever built. And while I didn’t pick a Ferrari, you should know that Enzo Ferrari himself said the same thing about that Jaguar!

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(Above: Jaguar E-Type)

The car aficionados among you may be shocked that I did not mention the dream car’s transmission, to wit, “you didn’t say it should have a six-speed manual.” You are correct in your observation. While I own two older vehicles with stick shifts, my daily driver has an automatic, and I’ve discovered that I’m less fussy about transmission choice. To me, the attributes I have chosen all override the choice of a gearbox.

Is there a vehicle available today that encompasses all of my dream car’s features? I want a command cockpit with excellent outward visibility. The car should have a mid-mounted gas engine that makes around 250–300 horsepower yet still delivers fuel economy in the 25–30 mpg range. Steering, braking, and handling should all provide precise control, good feedback, sticky handling, and on-road comfort. Speaking of comfort, my interior must have AC, cruise, and a decent sound system to blast the tunes. It’s got to look great on the outside, and be able to make those hardware store runs….

If not for that last point, a car like the Porsche Boxster comes close to fulfilling my dream car fantasy. For visibility, I’d need to drop the top, which I’d do whenever weather allows anyway. Could I attach a hitch and pull a trailer to the store? It’s worth a try! This was a fun exercise, and I hope that this encourages you to assemble your own “dream car,” if only in your dreams.

All photographs copyright © 2021 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.