2013 Porsche Boxster S first drive photosEnlarge Photo
For those of us that appreciate a well-rounded, well-balanced machine--one that doesn't put down the biggest power figures or the lightest curb weight, but melds a grab-bag of medium into something greater than its parts--the 2013 Porsche Boxster S is perhaps the best car introduced in 2013. Yes, the S is markedly better than the standard Boxster, as the all-new chassis and Porsche's brilliant suspension tuning yearn to make use of every bit of the Boxster S's 3.4-liter, 315-horsepower output. The sound of the hot little flat six is fantastic, especially with the top down. Get the PDK if you can afford it, as it's truly brilliant, even in fully automatic mode, almost psychic with its downshifts. The 2013 Boxster S is one of the most enjoyable driving experiences we've had all year.
BMW M5s and M6s, lined up for track day action at Laguna SecaEnlarge Photo
One thing two-seat roadsters aren't good at, however, is carrying people or things. Fortunately, BMW's 2013 M5 and M6 fit that bill very nicely. While they aren't as precise, engaging, or truly fine-tuned on track (or a good canyon road) as the Boxster, they're formidable weapons for lap time on track, with abundant grip, good balance, and 560 horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 engine. They're also incredibly good road cars, reaching a balance of on-track ability and over-the-road comfort that few cars manage. If you opt for the M5, you can carry four tall adults in comfort, and even equip it with a six-speed manual. The M6 is better suited to couples that require only occasional rear-seat duty--but either way, BMW's latest M cars wear their dual-purpose nature well.
2013 Lamborghini AventadorEnlarge Photo
Sometimes, however, you just want to throw practicality out the window, and that's where Lamborghini comes in. Born of tractors and a hatred for Enzo Ferrari, the brand packages more emotion, vigor, and exuberance than nearly any other. In the Aventador, those characteristics are at full boil. With 700 horsepower on tap, all-wheel drive, and a robotized manual paddle-shift automatic gearbox wrapped in a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, it's both potent and high-tech. In truth, the Aventador is a violent, somewhat uncomfortable, awkward, and unapproachable machine. But it's also a road-going work of art, insanely powerful and quick, acoustically drop-dead gorgeous, and priced like a nice house. If you want to make a statement that ends with "...and I just don't give a damn!" you can't go wrong with the Aventador. It's a childhood fantasy brought to life.
2012 Fiat 500 AbarthEnlarge Photo
Also Italian, and also passionate, somewhat impractical, and a bit obnoxious at times, but far more suitable to daily life--and priced at about 5 percent of the Aventador's sticker--the Fiat 500 Abarth is our pint-sized pick of the year. Despite the paltry (for this group) 160-horsepower output and front-wheel-drive layout, there is, quite simply, no car that does as good a job of masquerading as a city car while still being impressively fun to drive. Around town, it can be a bit buzzy thanks to the Abarth-tuned exhaust on the 1.4-liter turbo MultiAir engine, but open it up, and you get a classic Italian burst of four-cylinder song. Take it to the track, and you'll find yourself dancing with the very eager-to-rotate rear end. Try to pack your friends in, and you'll wish they were acrobats--but hey, it's a city car, remember?
2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 ConvertibleEnlarge Photo
If there's a downside to the swinging-for-the-fences attitude the carmakers seem to have taken this year, it's that a really great car can be one-upped by another that comes just a few months after. That's the case with the 580-horsepower Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Though it's nominally a 2012 model, it was launched to the press and the public early this year, so we're grouping it with the 2013 model-year cars--and for 2013, you can now get the ZL1 in convertible form. Compared to the new Shelby GT500, yes, it's 80-plus-horsepower short, a few hundred pounds heavy, and not a member of the 200-mph club. Behind the wheel, you won't care about any of that. Between the third-generation magneto-rheological dampers working magic on the lackluster Camaro chassis and the engineering team's masterful tuning of the five-stage Performance Traction Management system, the ZL1 is, by far, a more enjoyable, responsive, and engaging car to drive hard than any other in the super-muscle segment. Don't believe us? Fine. But it really is that good.