2017 is almost over. It’s time for Christmas parties, sunshine and rose-tinted reflection on the year gone by. But here at CarAdvice, we aren’t taking our foot off the pedal just yet – instead, we’re taking the chance to look back at some of our favourite cars from this year.
It’s no secret I love the Volkswagen Beetle, so it’s probably no surprise my favourite car this year was the Beetle Classic final edition.
When I got the opportunity to compare the back-to-basics model with my very own 1965 ‘Bug’, it was something I couldn’t pass up. This certain car was made even more special because it was the very last Beetle to be imported into Australia – number 53 of 53, resembling the year Volkswagen came to Australia. With its hubcaps, chrome trim and badging, Volkswagen did a great job replicating features of the old model. The only wish I had was for a manual to be optioned.
As a mad VW enthusiast, it was surreal and a tad emotional driving the final Beetle. My Volkswagen friends came to see it and even asked if it was for sale – it gained a lot of intrigue from the fraternity. After seeing the cute car tick over the significant 1000 kilometres on the odometer, I developed a connection with it, washing it as if it was my own, and talking to it. My workmates thought I was crazy.
I felt like the luckiest girl in the country, because after that drive, it’s now locked up and is part of Volkswagen Australia’s collection. It will never be sold to the general public. What an unforgettable two weeks it was.
I’m all about the BMW M140i Performance Edition, and (slightly late to the party) adored the Ford Focus RS when I drove it earlier this year. There’s something about grey hot hatches, apparently.
Where else can you get a proper BMW inline-six and rear-wheel drive, all wrapped in a practical (yep, ugly) body for less than $70k? It isn’t a full-blown ‘M’ car, but the M140i was more than enough to keep me happy. Also, the exhaust on the Performance Edition sounds great.
The Focus RS isn’t an original choice, but it’s just so good. It rides like there’s sand in shock absorbers, looks like a 12-year-old was head of design and has an appalling driving position, but all of that fades away when you feel the GKN Twinster system working its magic. Immensely capable and brilliant fun. What more could you want?
The base Cayman, not the S, as it’s the value pick. While I am probably going against the grain when it comes to applauding the loss of two cylinders from the marque’s iconic horizontally-opposed engine, the fact is that this downsizing combined with the tricky variable-vane turbocharger has delivered a car that is not only faster, but more tractable in the real world.
While 911 fan boys will use this as another excuse to label the 718 ‘not the real deal’ I’m wearing my mid-engined preference as a badge of pride and frankly don’t care what the ‘atmo lovers’ think.
So why no options? Apart from avoiding the PCT (Porsche Car Tax) the bare bones base 718 Cayman is just fine as it is, and the manual saves the extra required for the PDK box while adding to the driving engagement (albeit subtracting from the 0-100km/h sprint).
Even better – don’t tick the PSE (Porsche Sports Exhaust) box and the new 718 sounds even less like a Subaru WRX while you enjoy pure motoring perfection.
My first full calendar year as an automotive journalist has been filled with so many great experience, not just behind the wheel.
I’ve driven quite a few more cars than I’m used to and, interestingly, both of my car highlights for 2017 are manuals – considering this time last year I was barely able to drive a stick shift.
The Abarth 595 Competizione was such a pleasant surprise that I couldn’t avoid mentioning it. Considering I have such an up-and-down relationship with our company-owned 595, it’s astonishing how much of a difference the MY18 Competizione spec makes.
It’s stupid fun in such a small package, and I almost cried when we had to give it back. The Monza exhaust makes a dirty-sexy noise and the optional bucket seats are a godsend compared to the standard Abarth pews.
Add to that the extra power and racier look, and you’ve got a pocket rocket that is as cute as it is cheeky – bellissimo. Stay tuned for my garage review!
Second is the Holden Commodore SS-V Redline manual, because my first time driving a V8 Commodore only came just before the iconic sedan went out of production.
The 6.2-litre LS3 V8 is an absolute gem, as is the standard bi-modal exhaust. Despite its size the SS-V is seriously quick in a straight line and nimble in the bends, while the six-speed manual is really rewarding once you get the hang of the springy clutch and notchy shift action – I later drove the auto and it just wasn’t the same.
Even though the cabin could be nicer, I think the Giulia has been one of the sweetest launches this year – partly because it’s genuinely good, but also because it’s nice to see a new entrant in that space.
The Peugeot 3008 also really impressed me, it’d be on my shopping list if I were in the market for a small-to-medium SUV. Incredible interior, a good drive, and very competent infotainment.
And, of course, the Kia Stinger. What wonderful consolation for fans of big rear-wheel-drive performance sedans (albeit in liftback form), and with a general look and feel that is in most ways superior to the car it ‘replaces’ in Australia’s automotive landscape.
The Stinger has totally blown me away. Not so much because it’s a sharp performance machine, but because it has come from a company that doesn’t have a history of making performance cars.
It nails the brief on style (in my opinion), performance and engagement. It misses out on exhaust noise, but there’s an aftermarket exhaust just around the corner.
The HSV GTSR W1 redefines what’s possible from Australian engineers and smashes it out of the park for noise, performance and sheer driving fun. It’s an unruly machine that demands respect but delivers smiles.
Finally, the DB11 V8. Sure, it’s not Aston Martin’s engine, but it takes an incredible motor from the visually underwhelming Mercedes-AMG GT S and plonks it into a car that is the automotive equivalent of fine art. It hammers, sounds good and looks the part. What more could you want?
My focus within the editorial team is on the attainable, middle-market. Yet I still have a heart and soul. The car this year that kick-started the former and stirred the latter, most of all, was the hyped Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Is it technically better than a M4 or C63? No. But throw it into Race, plant your foot, and feel the Ferrari-derived engine punch you in the gut as you work through the ratios – via gorgeous metal paddles. It’s visceral, demonic, flawed. Everything it should be. Bravo.
Special mentions – three vehicles aimed at key segments blew me away this year. They were the brilliantly-priced Hyundai i30 SR warm hatch, the slick and fun-to-drive Toyota C-HR, and the gorgeously-designed Volvo XC60 crossover.
I’m the first to whinge that modern supercars aren’t scary enough, intimidating enough to drive, and too easy to drive fast… and yet the Aventador S should be praised for being the easiest big Lambo to drive in anger.
So much so that official test driver Peter Muller was pissing himself as I chased him down around the Ricardo Tormo circuit in the new S, unable to outrun the newer car in a vastly less settled older Aventador.
We should rejoice in bellowing, naturally-aspirated V12 engines while we still have them and Lamborghini remains the finest proponent of the art. The Aventador S is the best V12 Lamborghini ever. End of story. Forza Italia!
Having cut my teeth, and plenty of skin, restoring a 1969 Alfa Romeo Duetto Spyder as my first car, you could say I’m one of those with a soft spot for the once great brand. The Giulia is a car we all wanted to be great.
We wanted it to signal the resurrection of the once storied Italian manufacturer. And, in nearly every respect, the Quadrifoglio is. Sure it has flaws, but no car is perfect regardless of what the manufacturer might tell you and the Giulia QV is devastatingly fast in the right hands, engaging and sharp.
In short, it’s everything an Alfa Romeo should be. If you’d rather a BMW M or Mercedes-AMG product, fine – go buy one. Neither will deliver the feel good factor of the QV, with the Veloce an admirable runner up in the range.
I was smitten by Porsche’s 911 GTS. Specifically the rear-driven coupe version with PDK I drove on track in South Africa.
Extra muscle, presence in styling, purpose in dynamics, it massages the already excellent 911 Carrera in all the right places and brings the best out of the breed. Closest thing to liveable road-going 911 nirvana in the current high-achieving sportscar breed.
MORE: Porsche 911 GTS review
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the Top 5 lists of 2017, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.