BOO! It’s that Halloween time of year again, and our thoughts have naturally wandered to cars. Since we can’t tell you which ones look best in a costume, we’re going to take a more creative tack. Rather than a standard Top 10, what we have here are two trick-or-treat Top 5 lists: one for the coolest tricks on the market today, and another for simple, no-nonsense cars that are just the biggest treats to drive
5. Audi’s Levitating Tweeters
If you specify the optional Bang & Olufsen stereo on a high-end Audi product, you’re in for a show. Turn on the stereo and watch as two exquisitely constructed tweeters automatically motor upward from their default flush-mounted position. We can remember when power antennas were cool, but this is a whole new level. It almost feels like a bonus that the stereo sounds awesome too.
4. Ford Mustang’s Track Apps
You don’t necessarily think of American muscle cars as having cutting-edge technological tricks, but the 2013 Mustang will make you think again with its excellent Track Apps feature. Available exclusively on Mustangs with the 4.2-inch color driver information display, Track Apps lets you monitor braking performance and handle g-forces in real time. You even can time your own 0-to-60 runs with the automatic-countdown timer–at a closed facility with a trained driver, of course.
3. Jaguar’s Levitating Shift Knob
Like Audi’s tweeters, Jaguar‘s circular motorized shift knob gets pride of place because it’s at the heart of the driving experience. You get to watch this futuristic show every time you fire up your Jag, and we doubt we’d ever get tired of it. The knob has a wonderfully high-quality feel to it too, reminding us of ultra-high-end stereo systems. You’ll thank yourself for splurging on a Jaguar every time you rotate this precision instrument into Drive.
2. Honda Fit’s Magic Seat
The second-generation Fit might technically compete against compact hatchbacks, but its rivals in versatility are much larger crossover SUVs. That’s because of the Fit’s legendary second-row Magic Seat, introduced on the first-generation model and refined for even more flexibility today. With the rear seatbacks in place, the Fit can carry four adults and their luggage with ease. Fold the seat flat, and you’ve got a whopping 57.3 cu-ft of cargo space, turning the Fit into a mini cargo van of sorts. The front seatback folds down as well, so the Fit can accommodate objects up to 7 ft 9 inches long. But wait, there’s more: The seat’s bottom cushion can be flipped up when the seatbacks are upright, creating a unique cubic cargo area between the first and second rows.
1. Ford’s Hands-Free Liftgate
Why didn’t someone think of this before? Introduced on the new 2013 Ford Escape and now spreading to other Fords, such as the C-MAX Hybrid, the hands-free liftgate enables a driver with an armload of groceries to open the liftgate by waving a foot under the rear bumper. If the vehicle detects that the keyfob is on the driver’s person, it automatically releases and opens the liftgate. Trick or treat? Actually, this one might qualify as both.
5. 2013 Mazda2
Most Mazda2 subcompact hatchbacks are rolling reminders that you cheaped out and didn’t get the next size up. But this Mazda is different. In typical trim, it has manual climate controls, a basic stereo and that’s about it, but there’s plenty of Mazda spirit once you get off the beaten path. From its exceptionally low curb weight to its precise steering and slick manual shifter, the 2 is number one for subcompact driving pleasure.
4. 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T
When it comes to tricks, the Challenger has been left behind relative to other Dodge products. Even the compact Dart is now available with the iPad-like 8.4-in uConnect interface, while the best the Challenger can offer is an outdated navigation system with blocky graphics. So here’s a suggestion: Skip the Challenger’s nav, forget about the latest technology and just get the base R/T with the rental-grade interior. Once you open up the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and experience the Challenger’s luxury-coupe ride quality, you’ll be glad for the lack of distractions.
3. 2013 Volkswagen Golf
A quick glance at the entry-level 2013 Golf reveals a surprisingly Spartan equipment range. You have a 2-door body, 15-in steel wheels, a manual transmission and nary an iPod or Bluetooth connection in sight. But while rival automakers might pack their compact hatches with more features, we challenge you to find a better driving experience for around $18,000. The Golf goes down the road with all the poise and substance we’d expect from an entry-level luxury hatchback. Small wonder, then, that the Golf-based Audi A3 has carved out a nice niche about $12,000 up the price ladder.
2. 2013 Scion FR-S and 2013 Subaru BRZ
You knew they were coming, didn’t you? Ask most industry insiders today where to find the purest drive on the market, unencumbered by needless technology and weight, and they’ll point you toward the nearest Scion or Subaru dealer. We do feel compelled to interrupt this national praise-fest with one cold hard fact: The humdrum 2.0-liter engine doesn’t have enough power or character to validate the “Toyobaru” twins’ aggressive sports-car styling. But if you throw some tight corners into the mix, there’s no sport coupe we’d rather be piloting than one of these.
1. 2013 Ford Focus ST
Yep, you read that right. We just picked the front-wheel-drive Focus ST ahead of the rear-wheel-drive Toyobaru twins for the biggest driving treat of the year. What gives? Well, try driving these cars back-to-back on a track or winding road and see if you don’t agree. The Focus ST is perhaps the most neutral-handling FWD car we’ve ever tested, employing a nifty brake-based cornering system that minimizes understeer in hard driving. It works like a limited-slip differential, but it’s actually better than that, allowing you to power through corners as if you had all-wheel drive. Oh, and the Focus ST also cranks out a spirited 252 hp, which puts it about fifty horses ahead of Toyobarus. Treats don’t get any better than this for 2013.