As the first storms of the season bring hope to the hills, let me wrap up a very good summer on the roads with the best of the bunch for this year - the new Porsche 911 Carrera.
I got to drive plenty of impressive machines this year, but if you're in that Romney-approved demographic - or just simply seeking the best-handling machine out there - the 911, especially its enhanced S model, really does the trick. For quite a few bucks.
Everyone's heard that the storied 911 is indeed one of the world's most graceful vehicles on a curvy road, and that's only gotten better with the new-for-2012, available-as-a-2013 Carrera.
In the case of the particularly well-optioned S that I got to drive, all of that classic response, grounded road feel and poised handling confidence is only further enhanced. The S models feature a slightly larger 3.8-liter, horizontally opposed six-cylinder than the standard 911's, bringing output to a thundering, naturally aspirated 400 horsepower.
And while the seventh-generation gains just 2.2 inches in overall length, the wheelbase is four inches longer and the track is even further extended in the S configuration.
That makes for a Carrera that looks, to casual observers, much the same as the previous edition, but is both larger on the inside and even more fearsome out on a twisty road or the track.
The 500- and 600-plus horsepower domestics may get the 911 off the line, but Porsche puts its money into a fantastic litany of stability control programs that keep the car cornering flat, universally, as well as keeping it eerily stable up to its top track speed of 187 mph.
Those range from dynamic engine mounts, designed to minimize engine oscillation, to active suspension management and dynamic chassis control, regulating ride height and roll.
Throw in torque vectoring and even some launch control from the seven-speed automatic transmission and it's a fiendishly performance-oriented automobile.
But it's still a hoot to drive, and all of that sea of acronyms and systems actually helps to both keep the rear wheels planted (a classic issue on the older cars) and to impart a nearly liquid feeling during spirited driving - 295/30ZR 20-inch tires on the back certainly helping to keep it stuck to the road.
Steering is now electrically assisted, ostensibly to save weight, but the feel is still superb, instantaneous and ... so unlike what you get in normal cars. Sigh.
It's a car where the massive, wheel-mounted paddles really do work (and get a work-out; the world's first seven-speed manual is also an option). And you'll find that the Sport Plus mode holds the revs so high that you swear the engine's going to explode, though it does dig up all 325 lb.-ft. of torque.
All of that said, the classic overall 911 experience hasn't been geeked to death. Start it up and you can still feel and hear that rear-mounted engine rumble and clatter, a testament to Volkswagenish beginnings. Goose it and it very quickly transforms into a "my god this is awesome we're all going to die" roar that can be slightly muted for residential excursions at the press of a button.
The biggest transformations have taken place inside where that Panamera-styled center console now sits, though the seeming litany of air and performance controls aren't overwhelming when learned and really do fall easily to the touch - including the amazingly intricate yet simple-to-use-when-flying-along navigation and stereo controls.
And seating - well, the seating's comfortable. Really. I weathered a five-hour stint of combat driving through the Jefferson County canyons and emerged unscathed, though there's always that sideways mambo dance to get in. Option it up and you'll get heated and ventilated leather seating with aggressive (but frequently necessary) thigh and thorax bolstering to keep you sucked in place.
The slightly sinister-looking, flat, wide, hand-stitched dash is also quite the piece of work; the five-pot instrument cluster also includes a video display that can put navigation directions and G-force readings at eye level.
In true 911 style, it's all drive and no messing around, so don't expect oodles of room for your junk and your oversized coffee (those hyper-stylized pop-out drink holders are more for show), though ... there is an ashtray.