As winter gasps to its inevitable conclusion, aren't you feeling a tad shopworn? Why not picture yourself behind the wheel of a new car? Skip the usual subjects — the solid-citizen sedans and MPG darlings. Here are five vehicles, each with its own strong personality, each with a vibe that will rub off on you as soon as you get behind the wheel.
1. Pure Detroit: Dodge Charger
This modern take on the muscle car will give you full-size sedan size and comfort without a hint of full-size sedan boredom. Whatever thin veneer of civilization you've built up over the years will get blown to smithereens once behind the wheel of a Charger, and you won't even have to spring for the 707-horsepower Hellcat version to do it ... unless you're truly a hard nut to crack.
2015 Dodge Charger R/T
Rear-wheel-drive full-size sedan
Price: $33,990 (includes destination charge)
Engine: 5.7-liter V-8, 370 horsepower
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
2. The Adventurer: Chevrolet Colorado
Buying a pickup truck is a commitment to being a different kind of person. (You'll meet scores of new friends you never knew you had.) This truck has all the creature comforts and safety features you want but that weren't on pickups of the past. The Colorado is called a mid-size truck, and although it's smaller than the big-selling full-size trucks out there, its footprint is virtually identical to the full-size trucks of my youth. Get ready to drag yourself out of the house. The Colorado will make you want to go surfing. It will make you want to go kayaking and dirt biking. You can configure it for any kind of active lifestyle and, in the process, reconfigure your own life to be more interesting and versatile. If you've never had a pickup truck but always, in your heart of hearts, wanted one, the Colorado was worth the wait.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71
Rear- or all-wheel-drive mid-size pickup truck
Price: $35,865 (includes destination charge)
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 305 horsepower
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
3. Dressed to Kill: 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
If you saw the Caddy ad during the Oscars, in which the upcoming 2016 Cadillac CT6 glided ethereally past to the strains of Edith Piaf's anthem "Je Ne Regrette Rien" (the "My Way" of France, only better), you will know something momentous is afoot at GM's luxury division. While you're waiting to see the CT6 in the flesh, go look at the Cadillac ATS, and make sure you're seeing the coupe version. Your perception of Cadillac will be shattered. Once behind the wheel, you'll immediately feel that this is the life to which you are so richly entitled, occupying the elevated position you were always meant to fill. I'm not talking luxo-barge here. This is a smart car, for people who don't give two snaps about fitting in with the German-car herd. It's also stunning. Who doesn't want to be seen in that?
2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
Rear- or all-wheel-drive four-passenger compact luxury coupe
Price: $38,990 (four-cylinder) or $47,140 (V-6) (includes destination charge)
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 272 horsepower, or 3.6-liter V-6, 321 horsepower
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
4. That German Thing: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R
If you want a pure German-car experience of your own, owning this turbocharged, all-wheel-drive version of the Golf hatchback will make you part of a very special club — a club as rabid as the cult of Porsche, but you don't have to rob a bank to join. (Seriously! When I bought a VW Jetta turbo-diesel wagon with a six-speed manual transmission, I was inundated by boy racers who thought I was the coolest person in the world.) Adding the R to the Golf hatchback multiplies your personal coolness by a factor of 10. Volkswagen driving never gets old. Whether you drive fast or not fast, the driving position is eternally comfortable because of the excellent chair height and seating position that VWs all share. You're in total control, and you've made a big jump into a place where people love cars and love to drive, all at a reasonable price.
2015 Volkswagen Golf R
All-wheel-drive five-passenger hatchback
Price: $37,415 (includes destination charge)
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 292 horsepower
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
5. Viva Italiano: 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth
Feeling a little aggressive? If you want to own a classic-looking, sporty-driving car without taking a second job, and if you want it to be charming without going all adorable on us, you may be thinking about the Fiat 500 Abarth. This is the testosterone-aided model of the Italian subcompact. It's got a 160-horsepower turbo and track-ready brakes, steering, suspension and tires. All that, and Dr. Dre's Beats audio. The name "Abarth" comes from racer Karl Abarth, who first powered up a Fiat 500 back in the 1950s. He had a thing for scorpions. How awesome is it to drive a car with a scorpion badge on its nose? Don't you want to find out?
2015 Fiat 500 Abarth
Front-wheel-drive, four-passenger compact sedan
Price: $23,295 (includes destination charge)
Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder, 160 horsepower
Transmission: Five-speed automatic (six-speed manual optional).
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jean Jennings is a veteran automotive journalist with three decades of experience sharing her zany take on the world of cars. She is the former editor in chief of Automobile Magazine and is a frequent on-air commentator. Visit her website at www.jeanknowscars.com.
©2015 Jean Knows Cars, LLC; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC