To this point in our series of what would you drive in 19X5, our editors' choices have largely been hypothetical. Even if we were old enough to drive in the era in question (or even born), we didn't have the money to buy something new and/or not terrible. As we enter the 21st century, though, things are different. For many of the choices, these are the cars we actually owned. After all, if we thought highly enough of them to put down actual money 15 years ago, why wouldn't we put down fake money today?
Sadly, Oldsmobile was no longer a thing in 2005, so Greg Migliore was out of luck this time around. We also made Joel promise not to pick a Miata, although he didn't exactly fall far from the tree. And thankfully, no one picked a damn Hummer H2, cause that sure was a hot-ticket item back then despite being objectively terrible, if apparently popular with the children of Cowboy Toronado.
So enjoy and let us know what you'd choose back in 2005!
Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski: I don't have to wonder what I would have driven back in 2005. Just one year prior, I bought myself a brand-new Mazda RX-8, and that's what I'd have chosen in 2005, too. Mine was Winning Blue, just like the one pictured above. I went with a six-speed manual, naturally, and had an absolute blast with the thing, rowing through the gears and taking it to its 9,000-rpm redline at least once every time I drove it. In subsequent years, I strongly considered buying a Subaru WRX STi, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or BMW 330i with the excellent ZHP package, but I just really loved driving the RX-8.
I eventually sold the Mazda and bought a pickup truck, due almost entirely to my growing motorcycling habit, but I still scrounge classified ads from time to time to see if there's a perfect rotary-powered and clamshell-doored example for sale near me.
News Editor Joel Stocksdale: I'm going to follow-up Jeremy's Mazda with another. And, no, I'm actually not picking a Miata, since I did that for 1995. This time, I'm going with the 2005 Mazda6 wagon. Why? Because I contend that it's still one of the best looking wagons ever sold in America, and it was great to drive. I actually know this from experience, having test-driven one when I was in college. Its 220-horsepower V6 is smooth and gutsy, and it could be paired with a five-speed manual transmission that was a solid if not class-leading shifter.
I would go with the S Sport model, which added more aggressive bumpers and side skirts. Some lowering springs and nice wheels and I'd have a quick, fun and stylish car that could haul everything I would need. And it would be a nice complement to that '95 Miata I picked last time.
Above: (Left) The author with his 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX in 2005; (Right) The author's son asking about the turbo boost gauge in the same vehicle in 2016.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: Back in the aughts, my vision was clear, and I knew what I wanted — at least when it came to cars. I bought a 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan in Rally Blue Pearl with a short-throw shifter and turbo boost gauge, and kept it for over a decade. In 2005, I would have done the exact same thing if I were in the market. I loved that damn car. I named her Sarah Michelle Gellar. I didn’t do too much to it in terms of modifications and customization, though the Cobb AccessPort I had was fun until it was taken in a smash-and-grab in Ypsilanti.
I drove that car on a 2,500-mile road trip with the person who would later be my best man. I taught another friend, who is now no longer with us, how to drive stick in it. I moved to California in that WRX. I moved it back to Michigan less than a year later, which was a great move — that car loved the snow almost as much as I do. I carted around an infant in it, a kid who, going into kindergarten, is now obsessed with cars. I finally sold the WRX a couple of years ago, when I just couldn’t give it the love and attention it deserved.
Hindsight, on the other hand, is not quite 20/20, at least not in 2020. Now, I’d be considering a 2005 WRX Wagon, or maybe a Forester 2.5XT. But I’m not going to overthink this. I’m going with the car I actually owned, same generation even, just a model year later. Younger me made a fantastic choice, and had a lot of fun everywhere he went because of that. If only I could conjure that same decisiveness in my next vehicle purchase.
West Coast Editor James Riswick: To hell with picking a car I'd pick if I, as I am today, were sent back to the year in question. This is definitively what I actually wanted back in 2005: a Mini Cooper S, in the exact specification you see above in Electric Blue with white roof, white wheels, Electric Blue interior trim and a manual transmission topped with Mini's baseball-sized shifter. I wanted it so much the above photo has been in a folder on my hard drive(s) since those days.
My wife-then-girlfriend was similarly a fan of the car, but she actually got one: an '05 Cooper S with the darker Hyper Blue applied inside and out, a white roof and big Sport package wheels in silver (her father's insistence, made the ride terrible). It had the automatic ('05 was the first time you could pair it with the supercharged Cooper S), which I have chosen not to hold against her. The manual did make it better, but as it was, the Cooper S is a wildly fun modern classic. The superlative steering in particular was barely powered to the point that my wife felt like she got an arm workout driving it slowly — thankfully she was often driving it quite quickly through the canyons west of Los Angeles. She thankfully let me drive it from time to time.
Frankly, I think every subsequent Mini Cooper generation has looked worse, had less character and been less pleasing to drive. Turbocharging replacing the supercharger. Easier multi-setting steering. Complicated interior controls. Of course, every trim panel in her car started to squeak and/or rattle about 12 minutes after leaving the dealer, the ride was Flintstonian and the seats, for whatever reason, made my butt go numb ... so, yeah, if I were to literally go back in time, maybe I'd pick something else. But I'm doing this for my 21-year-old self: Electric Blue Cooper S.
Associate Editor Byron Hurd: What I actually drove in 2005 was my brand-new 2006 Mazda6 5-Door (five-speed, V6), which is basically in this list already thanks to Joel's pick. What I nearly traded it for a few years later was a 2008 Subaru Legacy GT Spec.B.
2005 was simultaneously a great and weird year for enthusiast cars. It was easy to own something cool in the actual calendar year of '05; there are a TON of great choices. Picking just one vehicle from the 2005 model year, though, gets a little trickier. The Spec.B is a great example, because it was introduced for the 2006 model year, and only in limited quantities.
The next-best thing in my mind is this 2.5 GT Wagon. The one shown here belongs to a forum buddy of mine named Nick. Nick's GT Wagon has seen track time at Laguna Seca, gone ice racing and autocrossing, and, 15 years and two new engines and transmissions later, is still alive and kicking. Don't knock it; track duty is serious business.
This is what it looked like when he brought it home. Few cars have captured this magic since, and I'd gladly have one in this exact configuration.
Managing Editor Greg Rasa: In 2005, I was driving a V6 Honda Accord, which managed to be both fun to drive and kinda boring at the same time. But the car that caught my eye was the 2005 Ford Mustang. I had long ignored Mustangs, but designer Sid Ramnarace, working under Hau Thai-Tang and J Mays, wiped the Ford whiteboard clean and built a reinvigorated, retro/modern take on a classic. It pulled Ford out of decades of Mustang malaise, and though it still had some faults, it sure looked good. Despite the fact that Americans in the mid-Aughts were already going crazy for trucks and SUVs like they are today, Mustang sales in 2005 jumped 24%.
When we assembled our "what would you drive" list for 1965, nobody picked a Mustang — too easy, and there were too many other interesting cars to choose from. So here, I'm making it up to you, Mustang. You were a big story in 2005, too.
Being a cheapskate, I waited a few years to buy my fifth-generation Mustang used. But really, even a cheapskate could've justified this car brand new in 2005 — MSRP for a GT coupe was $25,140. That's 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of nostalgia for just $25 grand.
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer: By 2005, the Honda S2000 had already gone through a bout of changes. The 2.0-liter, 9,000-rpm screamer of a four-cylinder was replaced with a 2.2-liter that only redlined at 8,000 rpm. There were plenty of other changes, and a facelift was one of them. The facelift car (termed AP2) had a sharper edge to the design and looked slightly more aggressive than its predecessor. I love them both, but the AP2 is slightly more modern looking.
Honda doesn’t make many sports cars, but when the company decides to take one on, it tends to hit the bullseye. If I didn’t already have one high-revving Acura in my garage today, the S2000 would undoubtedly be on my shortlist of sports cars to buy in the near future. It’s a raw performance experience with an engine that’s still state of the art today. Plus, it’s a convertible, and I love convertibles. I think the 2005 me would’ve enjoyed daily driving around California (yes, 2005 me decided to move from Michigan to California) with the top down all the time.
At $33,150 at the time of sale, the S2000 was a whole lot of sports car for the money. I’ll have mine in Rio Yellow Pearl, please and thank you.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: In 2005 I was actually driving a 1993 Chevy Lumina, which I sold that fall to buy a 2006 Dodge Charger. I've always loved Chargers and I'd do it again, but for the purposes of this list I'm going with a 2005 Pontiac GTO. The 6.0-liter V8 with 400 hp was epic for '05. I'm glad we picked this year, as the '05 model featured the 6.0-liter in place of the 5.7-liter from the GTO's return in 2004. I also liked how the reborn GTO looked.
There was plenty of controversy at the time over the use of the GTO name on a rebadged Holden coupe. But V8 power, RWD, you got the essentials. You just had to compromise on the fact that this GTO didn't have the design or presence of its 1960s and '70s predecessors. That being said, it was a sleeper car and it may be the last GTO. The one above can be found on Autoblog's listings page with just 854 miles.