It's almost worth learning the French or Italian language and moving to Europe. Good grief, some of these cars could even make British food a tempting proposition. Yes, what follows is a peek at forbidden fruit, a look at a few tasty morsels that Old World denizens can enjoy every day, but Americans can only dream about. Oh the irony, where a country that based its constitution on all men being equal finds that some are more equal than others.
Ford Focus RS
This is perhaps the most infuriating injustice of all. It's not as if the Blue Oval doesn't sell the Focus stateside. Just not the good models. Ford of Europe has a habit of creating exceptionally fine, award-winning cars only to have them ignored completely by the suits at Dearborn, who would rather channel their energies into flogging pickup trucks. The new Focus RS would be more welcomed over here than universal affordable healthcare. This compact front-driver has a turbocharged 2.5-liter four producing 300 hp and a meaty 324 lb-ft of torque, plus a rally-bred suspension, a Quaife helical limited slip differential, and a slick six-speed gearbox. Add it all up and the result is a fabulous driver's superhatch.
Citroën Nemo Multispace
We've found Nemo. This Citroën certainly looks weird enough to have come from the watery depths. And if some Americans bought the Pontiac Aztek, who knows how this might be received? With a 75-hp 1.8-liter diesel engine, this thing can average 52 mpg, yet still provide soccer moms with the space, practicality and elevated driving position of their beloved SUVs. Citroëns are also known for being easily affordable. Of course, the quality gets a tad patchy as a result, but that's the inevitable downside. Still the Nemo Multispace has 20,000-mile service intervals, four airbags and ABS... the kind of things a young family would appreciate whatever their nationality.
Every so often, Peugeot will make a humdinger of a car. It's all the other so-so models and so-so build quality that saw this marque retreat from the USA. So the joys of the 205 GTI became the stuff of legend to most American enthusiasts. And the handsome Pininfarina-designed 407 Coupe might as well have been a unicorn. Now there's the RCZ, a compact two-plus-two coupe, set to compete with the Audi TT, but with a dose of Peugeot's famed handling prowess. The top-of-the-range model gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine good for 200 hp. And naturally for a Euro, a torquey (251 lb-ft) diesel version will be available when the RCZ goes on sale in spring 2010.
OK, so it's not completely impossible to get a Noble this side of the Atlantic, but it's certainly not as simple as walking into a local showroom, writing a check and driving off. And when will the new Noble M600 be available to American drivers, if ever? This mid-engined, carbon fiber-bodied supercar is rumored to be capable of 200 mph, thanks to a 4.4-liter, 650-hp (with 604 lb-ft of torque), twin-turbo V8 (the same basic engine as the Volvo XC90's). All in a package that weighs around 2,810 pounds. Think of it as a Ferrari F40 or McLaren F1 for the early 21st century. Sales are due to start in 2010 to anyone who can stump up the equivalent of $330,000.
Caterham R500 Superlight
Its chassis design is over 50 years old. This back-to-basics two-seater costs about $60,000, and sports a relatively modest 263 bhp/177 lb-ft of torque. Yet put it on a track and it can keep up with super-expensive exotica like the Pagani Zonda, Ferrari Enzo, Bugatti Veyron, and Porsche 911 GT2, all without the help of traction control or any other gee-whizz driver aids. Standstill to 60 mph takes just 2.88 seconds. Sweet mother of Yogi Bear, why isn't this thing embarrassing Corvettes and Vipers over here? Proof that the British car industry can occasionally get something right, Caterham is currently looking at expanding its workforce because orders have increased. Yes, increased