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Fox Car Report's Favorite Five of 2011

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Ford

Choosing the “Car of the Year” is a fool’s errand. Just look at the covers of your favorite automotive magazines – you know, those limp things on the rack between the Doritos and deicer at your local convenience store. Yes, there are some commonalities, but by and large you’ll find a collection of vehicles with the title bestowed upon them that’s large enough to fill one of the many shuttered car dealerships dotting the nation these days.

Watch: The Real Cars of the Year

Of course, in January you will learn the definitive answer when the North American Car of the Year award is announced at the Detroit Auto Show. It will either be the Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Passat or Ford Focus. Deserving cars all, but that was indeed a collective yawn you just heard. I won’t even mention the “Truck” of the Year, which will be a crossover.

Instead, please mull over Fox Car Report’s Favorite Five cars of 2011. The criteria? 

Memorability.

Yes, that is a period.

These are the five cars reviewed on this website over the past year that delivered more than expected and that I would be most happy to see parked in front of my home. That’s not to say I would have the Lamborghini Aventador towed away, or that the Toyota Prius V isn’t possibly the most practical car yet created, but you wouldn’t need to either push or shove me into any one of the following. Enjoy.

(Or not. That’s what the comments section is for.)

BMW 1 Series M Coupe

As the truest “car of the year” on the list, BMW’s little performance giant is a one and done proposition. Less than 1000 of them were built for the United States, all are apparently spoken for, and there won’t be a follow-up performance anytime soon.

What a shame. After all these years, BMW may have finally created THE ultimate driving machine. The 1M -- as it will always be known -- is packed with plenty of good stuff from the company’s hereditary uber-car, the M3, but in a smaller, lighter, nimbler package. Powered by a smooth and throaty 335 hp turbocharged inline-6, the $47,560 1M proves that Joy can indeed be BMW.

Ford Mustang Boss 302

As it approaches its 50th anniversary (really?) the progenitor of the pony car class has reached its apogee…again.

The $41,105 Mustang Boss 302 endows muscle with manners like no car before. Its free-revving 444 hp V8 perfectly matched to an adjustable suspension that makes it a true competitor to the aforementioned M3 and many other hallowed sports cars. The fact that there is an even more hardcore two-seat version called the Laguna Seca is icing on the cake, but since only 750 were made you can think of it as the 1M of Boss 302s. Fortunately, there will be a fresh batch cooked up next year.

Nissan Juke

To some, it is the second coming of the Pontiac Aztek. They need to lighten up and take it for a spin.

The Juke may not offer the most utility of any cute ute (or even be technically cute) but this wonderful bundle of absurdity is the embodiment of everything that is great about the world of automobiles. Give Nissan credit for taking a chance on the styling, which on the whole is somehow is greater that its parts, and respect for backing it up with dynamics that fall firmly into the “fun to drive” category. $20,530 can buy a lot more boredom than the Juke delivers.

Dodge Charger

Evolution is a funny thing. You can never be sure if the only remaining species of a genus is one step from extinction, or sitting atop of the Darwinian heap. Either way, it’s a good idea to enjoy it while it lasts. Who knows how good Dodo Parmagiana would’ve been?

Along with its tuxedoed Chrysler 300 cousin, the Dodge Charger is the last American rear-wheel-drive full-size sedan. It’s styling is as bold as it gets, and with the optional 470 hp HEMI V8 under the hood the brawny four-door is ready to burn rubber with the best of them. Combine that with an interior that makes you feel like you got more than you paid for and you probably did.

Fiat 500

Fiat's return to the United States is not a chick car, it’s a “chic” car. It’s also the only Italian car you can buy here for less than $126,500, and costs just $16,000. You got a problem with that?

Inside and out the 500 is a retro-fabulous delight, if you go for the well-executed1950’s sort of thing. For those who need a little more convincing, allow yourselves to be bathed in the sweet music from its 101 hp 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. The 500C drop top cabriolet is a good way to do that. Whether you think of it as a four-seat Vespa or a cut-rate Maserati, do either of those really sound like a bad thing?

Click here for Fox Car Report's Favorite Five of 2010