We all dream of stepping out into our driveway and finding a four-wheeled present with a giant bow. Let's say you want to make that fantasy come true for someone in your life -- here are ten cars, listed in alphabetical order and chosen to fit all budgets and tastes, that would make great presents.
The Chevy Aveo5 is the perfect gift for someone who can't afford their own car. It may not be a great car -- okay, there's no "may" about it, it's not a great car -- but the Aveo does provide basic, reliable, inexpensive transportation. And the best reason to give an Aveo as a gift is this: Once the recipient can afford his or her own vehicle, it's bound to be a step up from the Aveo.
Millions of Americans dream of owning a Corvette, and the ZR1 is the ultimate. With a 640 horsepower engine, lightweight construction, and specially-designed tires, it's a world-class supercar -- and without question the most thrilling vehicle I've ever driven. Can't swing the $105,000 price tag? No problem -- the base-model Corvette is priced under $50,000 and delivers a ton of bang for the buck.
For fans of old muscle cars, the Challenger is a dream come true. While cars like the Mustang and upcoming Camaro are modern-day interpretations of classic muscle cars, the Challenger is a true homage to the original. Most classic car fans -- particularly Chrysler devotees -- would kill to have one of these in their driveway. My pick of the three available models is the Challenger R/T, though the base-model Challenger SE delivers the look and the feel at a much lower price, and the king-of-the-hill Challenger SRT8 is the fire-breathing monster to get if you can afford its fire-breathing price tag.
4. Honda Fit
If you like to give practical gifts -- think Swiss Army knife -- then the Honda Fit is a good match. The Honda Fit does it all: It seats four adults in comfort, hauls plenty of cargo, gets incredible gas mileage, parks anywhere, and lasts forever. Fits are reasonably priced and come well equipped, with power windows, mirrors and locks, air conditioning, and a CD player as standard -- so your recipient won't think you've been shopping in the bargain bin.
The S2000 CR -- a lightweight, race-ready version of Honda's S2000 roadster -- is the ultimate toy car. As a daily driver, it's pointless -- it has no A/C, no stereo, and if you want to take the aluminum roof off, you have to a) have a helper and b) leave it at home. And that's what makes it such a great gift. I mean, how many holiday gifts are pointless? How often will your loved one use that automatic tie steamer or Miata-shaped Jell-o mold? Never. But buy an S2000 CR for the car fanatic in your life, and he or she will be out every weekend when the weather's nice, grinning like an idiot and having the time of his life in this racecar-for-the-masses.
Let's say you want to give someone one a big, cushy Lexus or Mercedes, but you can't justify spending $65,000 on them. Head on down to your local Hyundai dealership and check out the big new Genesis sedan -- a proper leather-lined, wood-trimmed luxo-yacht that comes lavishly equipped for just $33,000. Nine grand more gets you all the available trimmings, including a 375 hp V8 engine, leather-wrapped dash, navigation system, and 17-speaker Lexicon stereo. It's a great way to stretch your car-gift-giving dollar.
The Mazda5 is a great practical gift for a growing family -- six seats, convenient van-style sliding doors, and a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine make this the perfect big-family car for uncertain economic times. The Mazda5 looks good and is surprisingly enjoyable to drive. Want a cheaper alternative? The Kia Rondo costs less and does the job almost as well.
A Mercedes is the ultimate gift, and the SL is (arguably) the ultimate Mercedes -- a two-seat top-down roadster that's as luxurious as it is hedonistic. I'm partial to the hot-rod SL63 AMG, which has an engine powerful enough to pull planets out of orbit, an exhaust note that makes Harley-Davidson fans grimace with envy, and a price tag that could give Warren Buffet a moment of pause -- but if the person on your gift-list isn't a gearhead, they'll probably prefer the subdued elegance of the SL550.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rivals the Honda S2000 CR for my pick as the ultimate road-going toy. This all-wheel-drive supercar features a ridiculously small engine that produces a ridiculously big amount of power, and both its acceleration and handling defy belief. Don't buy a Lancer Evolution for anyone but an absolute die-hard car fan -- the ride is hard and loud, the trunk is tiny, and the car goes through tires, brakes and gasoline like there's no tomorrow. But for those who really love to drive, the Lancer Evolution is like a party that never ends.
10. Porsche 911
Countless car fans dream of one day owning a Porsche, and if any car lives up to the hype that surrounds it, it's the 911. Everything about the 911 -- the way it looks, the way it feels in the curves, even the way it sounds -- is totally unique, and every drive in a 911 is a special occasion. Life experience has taught me that few things completely live up to the hype that surrounds them -- but the Porsche 911 is one of them. For a car lover, it's the ultimate road-going gift.