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by James Ward

It has been another massive year here at CarAdvice. Not counting launches, we had a staggering 838 cars through the Sydney and Melbourne garages.

This is our rundown on the cars and happenings that we loved through 2015 – and some that we didn’t.

Below, the CarAdvice team weigh in on their top three cars of 2015, along with their greatest surprises and biggest disappointments.


 

Alborz Fallah
Founder

My top three cars of 2015:

BMW X5M – still the best performance SUV in the world.

Aston Martin Vantage – 10 years old and it still has me by the heart.

Hyundai Tucson – when you just can’t put yet another cx-5 on the road.

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Surprise of the year: Porsche Cayman GT4 – For making the 911 Carrera and even the Carrera S feel totally outgunned. What an amazing package this car is, feels like a race car you can drive everyday.

So much poise, so much precision and all of that without being even remotely mundane or characterless.

Disappointment of the year: Toyota Prius – Though I haven’t driven it, I was thinking that with Tesla steaming ahead and Toyota having had access to the American company’s battery technology at some point over the last few years, that perhaps Toyota would try and not be so insanely boring and actually take a chance on making the electric drivetrain in the new Prius more than just a gimmick.

Let’s face it, when electric cars are no longer a novelty, a hybrid is just a poor excuse to appear environmentally friendly. Prius literally translates from Latin to mean “to go before” which Toyota chose as it was highlighting how it cared about the environment before anyone else. That may have been true 15 year ago, but now it should have its name changed to Toyota Odiosis. Google it.


Tony Crawford
Founder

My top three cars of 2015:

McLaren 675LT – While I’m still not completely sold on McLaren’s styling (I’m just not certain they have truly found their own styling DNA yet), there is no denying the ability of this inherently British racing car manufacturer to build what I consider to be one of the best all-round high-performance sports cars on the planet. And while we only got to drive the McLaren 675LT on track at the famed Silverstone International circuit, its on-track performance, specifically, is nothing short of mesmerising.

That’s not just its outright pace (from literally anywhere throughout the rev range), but just how  easy it is to pilot this ground-hugging missile at speeds that feel every bit as quick as a Porsche 918 Spyder. All the major controls – from throttle response to steering – make you feel as one with the car, while grip at all four corners on turn-in is staggering. It even sounds the business, which, for a twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8, wasn’t expected. But at full tilt down the main straightaway, this McLaren has a noise all of its own.

Mazda MX-5 – Mazda could ill-afford to get its fourth-generation MX-5 wrong and, thankfully, they got it just right. The philosophy behind the new version was a back-to-basics approach, like the original version that debuted in 1989. Specifically, that meant the car had to be lightweight, responsive, and fun to drive.

The new-generation MX-5 delivers on all counts, and as much as some folks might have believe the 1.5-litre version we also get in Australia is the purest incarnation of the car, my decided favourite is the more powerful 2.0-litre model, which loses nothing in the handling department but gains so much more in the fun factor, at least for me. It brings driving enjoyment and affordability back into what is a cracking little sports car, with a soft-top you can lower or raise while on the go. And it doesn’t look half bad either.

Kia Sorento – The redesigned Kia Sorento is a winner in every regard, especially when it comes to quality and overall affordability. It’s significantly more stylish in what seems like a move to create a more euro feel to the big seven-seat SUV from Korea. The fresh design outside continues inside, with a new large-screen infotainment system in what is a more mature and much cleaner layout. Space is impressive, too, as is accessibility to the third row. It drives well, rides well and is really enjoyable from behind the wheel.

Its 2.2-litre diesel powertrain is excellent: refined, generally responsive, and with plenty of punch when you need it. It doesn’t drive big, either. Even in the top-shelf Platinum trim, the Sorento is something of a bargain at $55,990 (plus on-roads) when up against similarly-sized euro rivals, as it comes with a stack of creature comforts and loads of safety features.

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Surprise of the year: Lexus GS F – While the now-retired IS F left me a tad disappointed in its all-round performance – or lack of – the all-new, full-strength GS F gets the balance between luxury and performance just about right. The fact that Lexus chose Spain’s Jarama race circuit, north of Madrid, to launch its new high-performance mid-size sedan, displayed plenty of confidence, and for good reason. Right from the get-go, the GS F felt at home on the track, with little effort required from the driver.

The car’s balance though the faster corners was superb, as was the grip. At all times, there was plenty of feedback, which simply meant you could push and push. Even at the limit, it was easy to drive. The extensive road loop back to Madrid revealed even more surprise: Lexus luxury had in no way been compromised by its performance, and the new interior is a substantial step up. It’s also a lot of car for the money when you factor in the standard kit on board. Arrives in Feb, 2016.

Disappointment of the year: BMW 340i – Armed with a new high-performance 3.0-litre straight-six engine from the master engine maker, BMW – and a price tag nudging ninety grand, I had expected more from this new 3 Series. While it’s still quick, there’s some incessantly annoying lag off the line, if you’re anxious with the throttle.

I much preferred the old 335i and its more immediate response. It sounded better too. Then there’s the largely numb steering feel with BMW’s new electrically-assisted power steering systems, something BMW purists won’t be happy with. That said, I love the new interior design, that’s a real plus.


James Ward
Associate Publisher

My top three cars of 2015:

Subaru Outback – a real return to form for Subaru. A good looking, well packaged car with loads of kit, at-home-anywhere practicality and excellent value. A huge leap forward from Subaru’s somewhat complacent trajectory of recent years.

There is so much to like about the Outback – I love the integrated roof rack cross-bars and the eyesight driver-assist system is among the best on the market.

Volvo XC90 – this was the car I was most excited about in 2015 and, for me, it didn’t disappoint. The flexible and functional interior that made the original car such a winner has been improved, with a level of design finesse and consideration to the ‘family driver’ that is second to none.

Yes, it is expensive when optioned up and yes, the ride is quite firm, but the level of quality and attention to detail are a big step above the car that it replaces.

Holden Commodore VFII SS – The VFII SS is the car the Commodore should have been all along. I always hated that the previous generation SS, with its 6.0-litre V8, sounded like a vacuum cleaner. To make the new car more raucous and noisy, plus a bit more punchy, is exactly what we all needed from the General’s last ‘Aussie’ hurrah.

The Commodore has always been an excellent vehicle, but now it’s fun. It may not be very ‘PC’, but nothing brings a smile to your face faster than hooning about in a big V8.

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Surprise of the year: Haval H8 – I half expected the Haval to spontaneously combust or simply fall to pieces. The fact that it served up a weekend of reliable, comfortable, quiet urban running-about is a great reminder that the Chinese are here, and they mean business.

Yes there are plenty of flaws with the Haval, but it wasn’t that long ago we said the same thing about the Korean brands, and we know how far they have come.

Give brands like Haval another five years, and they’ll be mixing with the best of what Korea, Japan and some of the Europeans can offer.

Disappointment of the year: Jaguar XE – I’ll caveat this by saying the Jag isn’t a bad car, I just I really wanted the XE to be better. Dynamically it is great – it offers a sporting and engaging drive that is befitting of the leaper on the steering wheel – but it just doesn’t feel finished.

The ‘that will do’ end to the exhaust pipes, the ergonomically confusing door switches and sub-standard interior trim materials, plus that useless back seat… The ‘premium-medium’ segment is a well qualified one to play in, and you can’t try to mix it up with the best in the business unless you are completely match fit. I hope the MY17 XE receives some little improvements that make it the car it should have been all along.


Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

My top three cars of 2015:

Audi Q7 – A car with all the right kit: seven seats, safety equipment in spades, a brilliant turbo diesel engine and all the luxuriousness you could want when you’re spending upwards of $100K on a family bus.

It is refined, comfortable, quiet, and while it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to look at (I personally prefer the look of the old model!), it should be high on your list if you’re buying a premium SUV.

Subaru Outback – I like what Subaru has done with what was previously known as the Liberty range. It realises that people who want a sedan will buy the Liberty, and people who wanted a Liberty wagon really would have been better served with the Outback (hence there’s no Lib wag anymore, but here comes the Levorg).

The new Outback – particularly the 3.6R – was one of my favourite cars of this year. Practical, a lot prettier than it used to be, and priced a lot better than before, it’s a great option for those who need a family wagon, but perhaps don’t need seven seats.

Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4 – Yeah, so of course the first drive you get in a Lamborghini is going to be a memorable one, particularly at a racetrack. The experience is made even better when you get to spend a few days in the car, living with it, seeing whether its quirks and quibbles are actually manageable.

Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t want to drive a Lambo every day. Parking it is a nightmare, and it’s impossible to see anything behind you when you’re reversing. But going forwards on open roads, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

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Surprise of the year: LDV G10 – Didn’t expect the Chinese-made LDV G10 to be decent, let alone pretty bloody good. At $30K on the road, the turbocharged courier van is one of the best budget business vehicles on sale at the moment.

Sure, a diesel would be better – particularly if it came at the same price point – but there’s a lot to like about the G10. And if you can cast aside the lack of curtain airbags for the rear seats, the people-mover version is a bargain, too.

Disappointment of the year: Fiat Panda and Kia Pro_cee’d GT axed in Australia – two cars that Australian buyers just didn’t get met their local ends in 2015. The Pro_cee’d GT- a two-time winner in CarAdvice comparison tests – was dumped because buyers are too lazy to change gears themselves.

The Fiat Panda was just misunderstood from the start: were it marketed as a budget small SUV, it may have succeeded. Upside is that there are a few brand-new or demo models around for about $10,000!

Dishonourable mention: Jeep Renegade – Okay, so the car itself wasn’t a disappointment, but the pricing was. Lop $5K off, across the range, and my mind would be changed…


Mike Costello
Senior Editor

My top three cars of 2015:

Mazda MX-5 – Base variant, 1.5-litre engine, manual gearbox. $31,990 RRP. The ND MX-5 is literally everything it needed to be. Lighter and cheaper than before, and as sharp as ever.

I love the softness of its suspension that makes it pliant around town and pleasantly engaging in the country, the way its tiny engine revs out to redline, the snappiness of its gearbox, and that slick new manual roof mechanism that takes three second to operate. Almost — almost — flawless. The problem? Anyone over 190cm can’t really fit. Sigh.

Ford Focus Trend – A landmark year for Ford Australia, with the new Mondeo, Everest, Ranger and Mustang going on sale. But none surprised me like the updated Focus.

The LZ update means the base Trend now offers a cracking 1.5 turbo engine and a very resolved and well-equipped cabin with standard DAB+ and sat-nav, alongside the class-topping handling of its predecessor. And all for an RRP of $23,990. I’d buy one.

BMW 330i – It won our comparison test against the Benz C250, Lexus IS200t F-Sport and Jag XE 25t R-Sport. BMW finally got around to putting sufficient standard equipment into its mid-sized exec (head-up display and adaptive dampers FTW), and this fact, alongside the simply amazing new 2.0-litre engine/eight-speed auto duo, make the Bimmer about the best way to drop $70K on an everyday car. Just option that M steering wheel, for Pete’s sake.

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Surprise of the year: Suzuki Vitara – You might have noticed my predilection for affordable cars (well, aside from the Bimmer). This theme continues with the new Vitara, which marked the return of an iconic badge with some flair.

Its two-tone design is funky as hell, its cabin is a little low-rent but tough and spacious, it handles well enough and is brilliant value in 2WD guise. In early 2016 it will get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a new turbocharged engine option, which will address two key shortfalls. If only it were the off-road demon its ‘90s predecessor was…

Disappointment of the year: Hyundai Tucson/Kia Carnival ANCAP fails – So many options: the decidedly average Jaguar XE cabin, the Ford Everest Titanium’s pricing, the Haval H8’s steering…

But the fact these two otherwise wonderful Korean family cars got ANCAP four-star safety ratings (Tucson, Carnival) on account of poor lower leg protection — not merely some technicality — points to an engineering issue within the parent company. The fact they’re selling so well means most buyers may not care, but I sure as hell do. Fix it, guys.


Curt Dupriez
Comparisons Editor

My top three cars of 2015:

Mazda MX-5 2.0 base manual – Of the (preciously few) emotion-driven cars I sampled in 2015, the MX-5 skewed the balance of its pluses and minuses more positively and personally than any other device. It was a spiraling seduction: the more I drove it, the more I loved it, the more I found any excuse to drive it more.

The 2.0-litre version, in particular, shuffled to the top of my personal daily-driver hit list, practicality be damned. It makes humdrum commuting an event, its torque and diminutive size enabling the roadster to attack the urban jungle like a sniper.

Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Estate – A startling counterpoint to an MX-5, perhaps, but the Affalterbach family hauler yanked my heartstrings just as hard, more so than either for its more illustrious C Coupe or GT S kin.

Yes, I’m a sucker for a hot wagon, but the C 63 S Estate blends performance, practicality and panache so keenly tailor-made to my whims it seems as if AMG’s lab coats snuck into my (un)consciousness to steal the recipe.

Parked next to a base 2.0L manual MX-5, I can’t think of a more perfectly balanced and well-rounded two-car dream garage in 2015 for a petrolhead dad such as I. Unless the extended family drops by, in which case…

Audi Q7 – I’d add Audi’s excellent seven-seater. In the financial windfall of a parallel universe, the game-moving Audi would make car number three in my Swiss chalet forecourt. Mainly because, of 2015’s (mixed) crop, it’s the car to drive when I don’t to want to drive.

It’s so quiet, rides so beautifully (on optional air suspension) and is so suitably luxurious and roomy that it’s my go-to car for being stuck in gridlock during a heatwave. For lugging the missus, kids, parents and addenda around during the festive summer break, it’d be my go-to SUV. And I did.

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Surprise of the year: Land Rover Defender 90 Heritage – No other vehicle delighted and appalled me in roughly equal measure, confounded and challenged me, shook up my perception of car values and served as the most potent antidote for 2015’s raft of motoring mediocrity. Nothing else this year made me so smitten with its charisma and made me want to kick it in the dashboard in frustration in the same moment.

The biggest surprise, though, is that ‘Noddy’s Car’ (as I nicknamed it) plastered a stupid, permanent grin on my face when I drove it – or even looked at it – such was its ability to tap into my inner child. My biggest regret in 2015 is being unable to take my five-year-old son for a spin – he would’ve absolutely loved it (and perhaps loathe it all the same).

Disappointment of the year: Mitsubishi Evolution X Final Edition – Once the leader and innovator, the former all-paw turbo-four benchmark transitioned through ten generations in just 15 years to stay on top of its game. Key to its excitement was evolution. Then X arrived in 2007 and Mitsubishi sat on its hands, leaving the welcome mat for Germans to pillage the barn for eight years.

Extinguishing Evo’s once mighty halo with a Final Edition bringing nothing more than a token output hike and a build plaque to a defeated range is a travesty for those of us petrolheads old enough to remember the once-mighty heroes’ halcyon days. Driving it, in still terrible five-speed-manual form, is a stark reminder of just how devolved the dead horse became well before it’s pulled from showrooms.


David Zalstein
Journalist

My top three cars of 2015:

McLaren 570S – When a car maker combines near-race car levels of engagement and connection with super sharp dynamics and astonishing outright performance in one single, lightweight, ‘baby’ supercar, it is a truly special thing. And the McLaren 570S is exactly that.

To be in the presence of this thing – let alone get to drive it on stunning Portuguese roads and a race track – is something I’ll never forget. I’ve never driven any modern car that thrills and captivates me like my own track-focused project car (which I’ve tuned to my liking over the last 10-plus years). At least, I hadn’t, until I got to drive the 570S. A total machine.

Peugeot 308 GTi – Go the French! Over the last few years, Renault and its Renault Sport team have made damn sure that when you think top-shelf hot-hatches, you think of a French one (and maybe Nutella-filled crepes). But now, after some time out of the spotlight, it’s Peugeot’s time to shine.

And the car that will put Emile and Armand Peugeot’s lion back near the top of the performance hatchback tree is the new 308 GTi. Five-door practicality, plush cabin ambience and legitimate ‘fast’, the latest GTi Pug is for real and I wish it well.

Ford Fiesta ST / Toyota 86 – Being CarAdvice’s resident Weekend warrior track tester has plenty of perks – it’s got to be one of the best jobs going. Paid to hassle a variety of cars around Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway is a pretty sweet gig, but two equally sweet cars that I’ve had the privilege of driving this year are the Toyota 86 and Ford Fiesta ST.

I know I’m only supposed to pick one car here but they’re both just huge fun, even if one’s rear-wheel drive and one’s front. If you’ve got around $25-$30k, go buy either of these – you won’t stop smiling.

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Surprise of the year: Citroen C4 Cactus – Yes, the Citroen C4 Cactus looks different. Perhaps even a little odd. But driving the 81kW/205Nm turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol base model across Paris earlier this year was a cracking experience in a cracking car – neither of which I was really expecting.

Teamed with a five-speed manual, the lightweight Cactus is fun, funky and entertaining – and I hope it finds success in Oz.

Note: The diesel automatic variant was also surprising, but not in a good way…

Disappointment of the Year: Axing the Kia Pro_ceed GT – Probably my biggest disappointment of 2015 came on November 18, when Kia Australia confirmed that the Kia Pro_ceed GT would be axed from the local line-up.

Still being young-ish, and even younger at heart, I’ve had a soft spot for this turbocharged, three-door, manual-only hot-hatch since first driving one back in April. What a great little thing and what an equally huge shame to have it gone. If you can chase down a run-out model at drive-away prices (or better), go buy one.


Mike Stevens
Producer & News Editor

My top three cars of 2015:

Mercedes-AMG C63 – Alright, so this is the car I was in most recently and it’s fresh in my mind, but the explosions that V8 fires off on overrun won’t be leaving my memory anytime soon anyway. Even a lazy take-off delivers a sound akin to grenades rolling out of the exhaust, what a treat. Every time I think I’m ready for an all-electric future, monsters like this show up to tempt me back. Combine that with muscular yet mature styling and a beautiful cabin, and this is an easy favourite for me.

Mazda MX-5 1.5 – I haven’t driven the 2.0-litre yet, but even without it, I think I’d remain resolute that the 1.5 is the sweet spot. And I say that as a 105kg (maybe 110kg…) fella. This thing has the mojo to move me more than happily enough, and at a cracking good price.  Great looks, especially in that Soul Red, more than make up for the fact I can’t fit a cap on my head while the roof’s up.

Ford Everest – For a ute-based SUV that will, despite its capabilities, spend most of its life on regular roads, this is a very convincing stand-in for a large softroader that looks and feels leaps and bounds ahead of (most of) its ute-based rivals. In higher-spec models, there’s also the decent Sync2 infotainment system.

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Surprise of the year: Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative – The idea that Australia could be on the bleeding edge of anything tech-related is a little mind-blowing – we’re something of a technological backwater, really. So to have the southern hemisphere’s first-ever driverless vehicle tests carried out right here in Australia is, if only for an autonomous car nut like me, pretty damn amazing.

The idea that it could be an annual thing is likewise a real kick for me.

Disappointment of the year: Honda Civic Type R – Not so much the car itself, but the entire process. Deciding on its development so late in the life cycle of the current model, and then taking an age to get it to market. So much of an age, in fact, that it was decided there’d be no sense in bringing it to Australia when there’s already been a new-generation Civic range revealed.

And, while it has proven a mighty quick thing, its styling is a letdown when compared to the muscly concept that preceded it. Where we were initially greeted to new sheetmetal with pumped guards and a futuristic rear that combined the tail lamps and wing into one wild mutant design, we were eventually given some bolt-on flares and a gaudy wing.


Paul Maric
Senior Road Tester

My top three cars of 2015:

Porsche 911 Carrera 2 GTS – It’s both exciting and a little sad at the same time. This is the last of Porsche’s naturally aspirated 911 Carrera range, and the example I had a chance to steer in seven-speed manual form was the ultimate driver’s car.

It’s the perfect blend between emotion, power and soul. I’d also have mine in white, too.

McLaren 650S Spider – I never really thought much of McLarens as drivers cars. To me, they always lacked soul and that emotional connection. That was until I had a proper go at the McLaren 650S Spider, driving it up the highest mountain in the United Arab Emirates.

Not only was it 45 degrees Celsius in the shade, the road was roasting and sticky. A truly memorable experience in a car that has totally won me over.

Tesla Model S P90D – Aside from the fact it’s a technological masterpiece, we also had the chance to prove it’s quicker than a V8 Supercar. The Model S P90D is the car of the year, if not the century.

Tesla has managed to develop a car and brand that was almost ready to meet its maker and now, today, it is one of the visionaries of the industry.

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Surprise of the year: Ford Everest – Based on a commercial vehicle? You could have fooled me. The Ford Everest — behind the VF Commodore — is the engineering gem of Australia’s engineering fraternity.

It’s light-years ahead of its competition in terms of ride and handling, and manages to perform just as well off-road.

Disappointment of the year: Mitsubishi Evolution X Final Edition – Mitsubishi is a manufacturer that in some aspects feels like it has totally given up. The final ever Mitsubishi Evolution is the perfect example.

It’s a car that hasn’t advanced even in the slightest since it was launched what seems like a decade ago. Poor form for a brand that was once a king of affordable and aspirational sports cars.


Tegan Lawson
Lifestyle Editor

My top three cars of 2015:

Subaru WRX – The updated interior of the Subaru WRX has given this car the boost it deserves. This cult-classic looks better than it has in years, both inside and out.

The addition of a touchscreen brings it into the 21st century and, overall, it’s far more pleasant inside the cabin. It’s still a cracker of a drive and remains awesome value for money.

Holden Commodore VFII SS V Redline – This was an important launch for Holden. With local manufacturing winding down, the Commodore is a long-time Australian institution and Holden needs to go out with a bang.

The VFII SS V Redline delivers, with a whopping 6.2-litre V8, bi-modal exhaust that sounds epic and a well fitted out cabin.

Kia Sorento – Gone are the days of dorky mini-bus family haulers. The seven-seat Sorento offers space and functionality, with the top-spec full of extras like heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, third-row air-conditioning controls and it’s a breeze to maneuver around town.  The Hyundai Santa Fe was also a highlight.

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Surprise of the year:  Toyota Rav4 – Who hired an interior designer with a bit of flair? Toyota did. The new Rav4 is barely recognizable inside and it’s a refreshing change.

I had to get out of the car, walk around the back and check the badge to make sure I was in the car I thought I’d jumped into.

The Isuzu D-Max deserves an honourable mention here too.

Disappointment of the year: Suzuki S-Cross – Time for an overhaul. Suzuki has a rich history in the realm of small SUVs. Despite these credentials, unfortunately the S-Cross is desperately in need of a new engine & transmission combination.

It’s sadly underpowered and can’t hold its own among its competitors in this regard. It does have its good points, but this one problem overshadows them. Get the engine and transmission right and the Suzuki S-Cross can get back on track.


Trent Nikolic
Senior Editor

My top three cars of 2015:

HSV Clubsport R8 LSA – If America is the spiritual home of the muscle car (usually a two-door in the classical sense), Australia is the home of the muscle sedan. It is a long tradition that the new HSV R8 LSA embodies more than any variant before it. It’s not perfect and it’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s a tour de force of V8 fire and brimstone, with the balls to match the soundtrack. I’ve always opined that I’d love an HSV GTS, but this R8 LSA almost tips the balance and some money back into the wallet. It’s a fitting goodbye for an impressive and brutal performance sedan.

Lamborghini Aventador – Any Lamborghini brings with it a sense of occasion, but my short stint behind the wheel of the Aventador reminded me of the outright potency of the supercar platform when it’s delivered with aplomb. New age theorists can bang on about small capacity engines and turbos all they like. The true supercar formula requires 12-cylinders, mounted rearward, outrageous performance and styling to match. Nothing competes with the Aventador dollar-for-dollar on those counts and we might not be able to rejoice in such outrageous folly for much longer either. The Aventador is a return to form for Lamborghini, all sharp angles and dramatic styling, with the obscene performance to match.

Kia Sorento – You might think a Sorento is a little boring in this company, but this SUV more than any other, is a blaring declaration from South Korea that the Japanese manufacturers need to look over their shoulders big time. The Sorento is as good, if not better, than any other SUV in the segment, for a lot less money. It’s a cracker as a family truckster, doing everything in style and comfort. Proper seven-seat ability makes it even more attractive. Most people don’t actually need and SUV, but the Sorento is at the very top of the heap.

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Surprise of the year: The VW emissions scandal – The depth of the Volkswagen emissions scandal and the level to which a massive company would lie to get to the top, oh yes, that was a surprise. It is a huge issue that will likely go deeper at VW and no doubt affect other brands as well.

Disappointment of the year: Jeep Renegade – I’ve come to a dead heat between the final Mitsubishi EVO and the Jeep Renegade and I’m sad on both counts. The EVO is a boring, nonplussed, disinterested farewell for one of the most legendary cars of all time – certainly among fans of WRC. The fact Mitsubishi could conjure nothing more special than what it has offered up is truly a let down.

The Jeep Renegade on the other hand should be a lot more appealing than it actually is – the price not the vehicle itself. It should be a real worry for Jeep that the Fiat 500X is a more attractive SUV than a vehicle from a company with the heritage of the Jeep brand.


Tim Beismann
New Cars Editor

My top three cars of 2015:

Honda S660 – For most enthusiasts, driving the Honda NSX around a high-speed bowl at the brand’s global R&D hub would be an unbeatable experience. But for me, it was eclipsed just moments later by two short laps in the brilliant Honda S660 roadster.

No experience behind the wheel in 2015 could match the sound of the S660’s 47kW screaming like a tortured blender, the euphoric feeling of its short-throw manual transmission, or the sensation of the wind in your hair as half your head pokes out above the sills. I’m still considering applying for Japanese citizenship to have another go.

Volkswagen Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition – The emergence of the Volkswagen Golf R Wagon was the manifestation of one of my automotive dream cars this year, and it didn’t disappoint.

Packing the Golf R’s intoxicating performance, handling and sound into a sexy yet practical wagon body is about as close to perfection as it comes. Here’s to car makers turning a few more dreams into reality (Skoda Yeti RS or Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Convertible, anyone?)

Ford Focus – Though it’s long been one of the best selling cars in the world and has always been dynamically strong, the Ford Focus has never really caught on with Australians.

It was encouraging, then, to see Ford (globally and locally) give the Focus the best possible chance in the market by sharpening the design, boosting the standard features, giving it a new engine and a regular auto transmission, and improving the value equation across the range. If you’re in the market for a small car, it’s absolutely worth a look.

2015-best-beismann

Surprise of the year: LDV G10 people-mover – I climbed into the Chinese-made LDV G10 people-mover with low expectations, but ended the week praising it in so many ways.

The ride comfort is about 1000 times better than in a Honda Odyssey, equipment levels are impressive, the interior is comfortable and versatile, and there’s nothing else on the market that comes close to hauling mum, dad and the entire netball team (nine occupants, for the uninitiated) for $32,990 driveaway. It’s just a shame about the two airbag situation…

Disappointment of the year: The decision to ditch the Skoda Roomster – There aren’t many people in the world who love the Skoda Roomster more than me (one of our favourite commenters excepted).

Naturally, news of the axing of the second-generation Roomster just weeks ago left me moping and moaning around the office like my ugly but loveable dog had just been put down. I know it was only going to be a rebadged Volkswagen Caddy anyway, but I’m still sad. Misunderstood, and forever missed.




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