PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — Every year I pick out one of the cars I drove in the previous year as my Car of the Year. I usually have about 100 to pick from, cars that I got to know road testing them for a week, others that I had a chance to take on a road trip for a few days, some I had for a weekend and a few that I drove on various ride and drive events and best of all a number of cars I got to drive around the track or off-road at various events.

A lot of my judging is subjective…how does a car make me feel, how does it fill the job of being what it is designed to be, how much wow factor does it have, how enjoyable is it to drive, how cool does it look when I park it.

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For some cars it is about gas mileage…that is a major factor in what people want in their cars today. How utilitarian is it? Can it be a hauler one minute and a family car the next? What about “Green” factor? What impact does it have on the environment? Last year Chevy’s Volt took the prize. I drove it around town all week and didn’t use a gallon of gasoline!

This year performance ruled. I went from the quiet of electric motors to the roar of all that Detroit will allow under the hood of a car, The Chevy Camaro ZL-1.

2013 Chevy Camaro ZL-1 Photo Courtesy Vinnie Richichi

2013 Chevy Camaro ZL-1 Photo Courtesy Vinnie Richichi

From the moment the bright yellow ZL-1 showed up at the parking lot at work it had a crowd around it. The rumble of the 580 horsepower supercharged motor shook windows in the building where I worked. Getting out on the open road in the ZL-1 It was everything that hooked me into cars when I was a kid. Noise, speed, handling and breeze blowing through the cockpit. You didn’t need a radio in this car, all you needed to do is to listen to the music of the engine and the transmission work together on the road. Punching it from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, the sheer force in which the tires squealed and the car took to the highway was unlike anything  I had experienced off of a showroom floor.

Sure the roofline was low, sure the rear visibility was non-existent, and yeah it guzzled gasoline but I tell you what. There was nothing I drove this year that even came close to giving me the outright pleasure that I got out of driving the ZL-1.

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In a world where we are continuously told…don’t stand out, in a landscape full of cars that look an awful lot like each other, in a time when it is all about going green the Camaro ZL-1 stood out, looked like no other car and was about as politically incorrect with a gallon of gas as you can get. It was the most fun you could have in the driver’s seat of a car and it came in at under $60,000.  For pretty much a turn-key race car.

There are cars I drove that were more refined…the Audi S5 comes to mind, more luxurious…the Cadillac CTS-V wagon and the AMG Mercedes does the trick quite well and the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Charger SRT-8 Hemi’s were awe inspiring but nothing quite touched a nerve this year like the ZL-1 Camaro. That’s why it gets my Car of the Year award.

Honorable Mentions…Fiat 500 Abarth…most fun per cylinder, Audi S5… best road trip car, Scion iQ …most surprising car, Mazda CX-5 best handling crossover, Jaguar XK Touring Convertible and Mercedes SLK350…best tanning machines. Dodge Charger Law Enforcement Edition…best car to pick up doughnuts in!

Best car to pick doughnuts up in. Photo Credit Vinnie Richichi

Best car to pick doughnuts up in. Photo Credit Vinnie Richichi

Oh and I do have to mention the coolest car I got to drive all year…while not necessarily new was absolutely unforgettable…


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Reviews, news about cars and the people who drive them, interviews and tips on how to get more out of your driving experience all on Drivetime with Vinnie Richichi and Rob Pratte Saturday mornings 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Newsradio 1020 KDKA. Also listen to Vinnie on The Vinnie and Cook Show Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan.