2002 Chevy Z28 Camaro
We saw Chevy's newest attempt to revive the retro Z/28 label at the New York Auto Show as a weight-obsessed track monster. But a decade ago, when the Camaro last roamed our streets, there was no slash in the Z28. And while the old Z28 was merely the standard V-8 model, it still took its cues from when muscle cars were big, fast, gnarly looking beasts. With a Corvette-sourced 5.7-liter producing 310 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque, the Camaro offered the same brutish power with a broad, smooth power band that launched the Camaro effortlessly, whether from a standing start or for a fast highway pass. In previous-generation Camaros, cornering power came at the expense of riding comfort. Not here. It offers a more compliant ride while still offering very capable cornering. The 2002, the last model year of the fourth-generation car, represents the end of an era.
2001 Porsche Boxster
The Boxster is a purpose-built sports car, following in the footsteps of the race-bred 550 Spyder and its RS60 forefathers. Don't let its vestigial roots in the past fool you, though. This two-seater is modern in every way. The 2.7-liter flat-six boxer engine was enlarged from 2.5 liters in 2000 and produces 217 hp and 192 lb-ft, enough grunt for a 0 to 60 mph romp of less than 7 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. The use of aluminum suspension components helps in the rigidity and unsprung weight departments, endowing the vehicle with ultra-quick reflexes that seem to only get better with speed. This is a vehicle designed to go fast and be a thrill ride for a skilled driver.
2000 Honda S2000
When tasked with building this car, Honda engineers were told to give it superior handling, crisp shifting, incredible braking ability, and killer looks. They nailed it. The key to the S2000 is its 2.0-liter four-cylinder that revved to an amazing 9000 rpm and pumped out 240 hp—a specific output that's still impressive today. Honda also mounted the engine behind the front axle, technically making the car a front-midengine and helping it turn on a dime. In the years since its introduction, Honda has yet to build a car as exciting.
2004 Mazda MazdaSpeed Miata MX-5
We can't say much about the Miata's place as a legendary driver's car that hasn't already been said. But this is the MazdaSpeed variant, so we'll give it a try. Unlike its tamer sibling, the MazdaSpeed's turbo blows 7-1/4 pounds of boost into combustion chambers with fractionally reduced compression ratios (9.5 versus 10.0:1), allowing it to develop 178 hp—36 more ponies than the stock MX-5. Based on the LS trim, the MazdaSpeed Miata is equipped with a six-speed transmission, beefier gearbox, and heavy-duty clutch. The suspension has been tweaked too; springs have been shortened and stiffened; there are bigger antiroll bars and Bilstein shocks. Other MazdaSpeed signatures include an exhaust tip, a unique front-air dam, and Racing Hart wheels. While this pint-size roadster is not screaming-fast, it'll power through the twists like a rocket. Compared with the stock Miata, it's a fire-breathing dragon.