2019 is officially over. It’s time for sunshine and (a sometimes rose-tinted) reflection on the year gone by.
Here at CarAdvice, we’re taking the chance to look back at some of the most interesting, exciting and downright strange stories published this year.
Here are the cars (or parts of the automotive industry) that most excited our editorial team this year.
Kez Casey, Road Tester
BMW 330i Touring
After a few stints behind the controls of the BMW 330i Touring I'm sold. I didn't think I'd fall for BMW's wagon like I did, but everything about the car spoke to me
This is the complete package. It's comfortable enough to pamper occupants, practical enough to be used for almost any task, brisk enough to put a huge smile on your face.
The 330i Touring also bridges the gaps in between with subtlety in spades for crawling through traffic, an easier-than-ever infotainment interface that lets you ask for things rather than go hunting through menus for them, and a look that could be one of the strongest (or least oddball) of BMW's current range.
This is the anti-SUV. The perfect reason not to buy an X3, and very likely to remain a tiny niche on BMW's sales spreadsheet. They will be rare and special on Aussie roads, which only deepens their appeal.
Mike Stevens, Producer
That feels odd to say, as I remain pretty firmly entrenched in the irrational "it's not a real Supra" camp (and I'm not usually that kinda guy, to be such a staunch and stubborn opponent to progress and opportunity), but... in its own right, it's just a bloody exceptional car.
And, really, perhaps my appreciation for this car stems from how complete my turnabout has been. I've always been weirdly proud of my capacity for walking back a rubbish opinion (don't pretend we couldn't all do with a little more self-awareness).
When the car was revealed, I shrugged. It's not as hot as the FT-1 concept, it's got a big shnoz, it's got a BMW engine (albeit the right design), it's got obvious BMW bits in the cabin...
But, I moved on. It looks much better in the flesh, I'm really into it. As for the BMW connection... the economics of the automotive world are what they are, and that shouldn't get in the way of appreciating a bloody good car. And it truly is that. It's a thousand times more capable than my old MkIV Supra, that's for sure.
Sam Purcell, Off-road Editor
Jeep Wrangler and Suzuki Jimny
Jimny: Progress be damned. While every other car in existence is getting bigger, softer, smoother and less offensive, the Suzuki Jimny sticks out like a middle finger from a clenched fist. It's a simple vehicle, but nails its niche exquisitely well.
It's fun to drive, even on-road somehow. But naturally, off-road is where it shines. It's the most engaging and involving off-road drive you can get these days, and it rewards you with an innate capability that the size and weight endows. When we took on on some hard tracks in the Victorian High Country, it did nothing but impress.
Wrangler: It wanders around on the highway like a drunk Labrador, and rated as poorly as a Proton Jumbuck in safety testing, but I think the Wrangler still needs to be celebrated. We put it to the test on some tough tracks in the Blue Mountains, and came away very impressed by what a standard vehicle is capable of pulling off.
Anything else would have been in serious trouble, taken on some serious damage, or both. The Wrangler (in Rubicon specification) used it's clearance, tyres, articulation and protection with wizardly prowess, clambering up some big, steep and off-camber rock steps.
It's not as well cut out for camping and touring as many other 4WDs, but in terms of pure technical off-road ability, the Wrangler is unsurpassed.
Curt Dupriez, Senior Road Test Editor
In a year of releases so safe, predictable and unimaginative that even Toyota’s RAV4 seemed interesting, Tesla took the sledgehammer (and a hefty metal ball) and broke the motoring homogeny mould with its Cybertruck.
Surprise! Not half.
Seemingly styled solely using ruler and inspired by an X-genner’s 70s childhood sci-fi fantasies, the radical Cybertruck sticks two middle fingers up to anyone and everything, including Tesla’s own ‘Model-something’ naming and left-field design conventions.
When the curtain lifted to collective gasps in November Elon’s stainless steel ode to geometry was such a slap to the automotive face that petrol heads from all corners of motoring were left wondering if this was some poorly timed April Fools gag.
But Cybertruck brought smiles of joy to young kids. Suddenly, non-car people – we all know a few – wanted to talk about this truck. And I began to imagine a near-future world where Cybertrucks were running around, mixing it on Any Old Street with the humdrum of biscuit-cut SUVs and Mister Sheened dual-cab utes.
If anything, it brings some sort of hope of a more interesting reality to the one in which we exist, even if almost nothing about Elon’s rolling homage to the wooden doorstop seems all that feasible, from fundamental car design principals right through to its alleged abilities for its alleged price points.
Cybertruck is easily my favourite motoring idea of 2019.
But it’s not just an idea, is it? As the records show, Elon moved his rolling cheese wedge out of La La Land’s driveway and into the lime-lit train wreck that was Cybertruck’s world premiere, which gets my vote as this year’s biggest disappointment… in spite of it being so hilariously entertaining to watch from the peanut gallery.
Scott Collie, Journalist
Lamborghini Huracan Evo
My first taste of the supercar life came courtesy of Pirelli. I'd always imagined it would be a heroic experience, with plenty of oversteer and no fear.
But it was wet at Phillip Island, and we were in left-hand drive cars, and my head was touching the roof wearing a helmet, and it was just a total sensory overload.
We started in the Aventador (scary, loud, tiny inside) and finished in the Urus (staggeringly capable) but it was the little orange wedge pictured here that really captured my heart.
It revs to the moon, and the rear-wheel steering makes it feel far more playful than its bigger brother. No two corners were the same – sometimes there'd be oversteer, others there'd be understeer, and sometimes it would track straight and true – but it was always easy to handle, even for a hack like me.
There's a depth of character to it, something about the way it handles, that left me wanting more. I still want more. Desperately.
Honourable mentions go to the Kia Seltos (practical, nice to drive, handsome – what more could you want?) and Alpina B5.
Mandy Turner, Podcast Host and Road Tester
Toyota's design department
For as long as I've been alive, Toyota's design department has never been known to blow your socks off. Some have been so bland they've blended in with the asphalt.
That was until the C-HR came along in 2017. Not only did its sharp and edgy styling take us by surprise, but it was genuinely an impressive car.
Since then, Toyota's design department has been kicking goals, with the premium-looking Camry and funky Corolla released last year – and this year proved to be one of its best as well.
Even though they look slightly like a brick on wheels, the new HiAce and Granvia are darn good vans with a unique aesthetic about them.
I'm not overly sold on the RAV4's new styling, but I applaud it for how different and Transformer-like it appears.
It has been highly successful for Toyota, as the fifth-best selling model in November's new car sales figures, and with a long waiting list for the hybrid version, it just shows Toyota is onto something here.
And then there's the Supra. The long tease campaign finally ended this year, and there's no doubting it was worth the wait. It looks like it's stepped out of a racing simulator, with sexy curves, polarising headlights, and head-turning colours, it's hard to find someone who doesn't like every gorgeous angle of the Supra.
And next year we have the all-new Yaris to look forward to.
When is Toyota going to stop with these good-looking cars? Hopefully never.
Mike Costello, Comparisons Editor
Safer commercial vehicles
This year saw the arrival of a few cars I'd consider best-in-class. I'm thinking the new-generation Mazda 3, Kia Seltos, Toyota RAV4, BMW 3 Series, and Volkswagen Touareg. But none of these really good cars revolutionised the market.
What has been more structural significant is the rollout of the latest active safety features on commercial vehicles. Tradies and delivery drivers have been given short shrift for too long, which is madness considering they tend to spend more time at the wheel than the rest of us.
Look at the dual-cab ute market. The Ford Ranger picked up standard autonomous emergency braking (AEB) in March, while a fellow top-seller in Toyota's HiLux followed suit in June.
The potentially life-saving feature is also available across the Mitsubishi Triton range, number-three in the market, and in more niche offerings like the new SsangYong Musso.
The fact this feature is now a requirement to attain the ANCAP five-star rating so important to OH&S-minded fleet buyers has played no small role in this.
On the van side of the market, we've also seen the top-selling Toyota HiAce arrive in new-shape form with AEB with cyclist detection, lane-departure warning, and auto high-beam as standard across the range, along with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a reversing camera.
Other vans like the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Volkswagen Crafter, Ford Transit and Transit Custom, and Peugeot Expert also get loads of the latest driver-assistance technology.
Indeed, the idea of selling a new dual-cab or van without a full suite of airbags for both rows (looking at you, VW Amarok) and AEB as standard, and without other tech such as lane-departure warning and blind-spot warning on higher grades, seems quite quaint now.
Hell, the new D-Max from humble Isuzu Ute due in 2020 will come with the works, and that's a brand which has traditionally gone without these functions.
The message is clear: blue collar workers matter, and it's about time they got this kind of respect.
Rob Margeit, Culture and Lifestyle Editor
It took 12 months for my favourite car of 2019 to twist itself around my brain. I started the year in January behind the wheel of the new Porsche 911 and spent the next 11 months thinking – no, knowing – this would be my car of the year. In January.
And then, in early-December, I drove the Audi RS Q8.
It's a stupendous thing, utterly absurd. From its 0-100km/h sprint time of 3.8 seconds (faster than the previously-mentioned Porsche 911, which stops the clock at 4.2s in base trim), to the way it squats when you're firing it at the horizon, to its supremely capable dynamics, despite being a 2.3-tonne SUV, the RS Q8 is so much more than a performance SUV.
It's a sports car, a grand tourer, a family hauler, and best of all, a bit of a sleeper.
It's ridiculous in a good way, and leaves you with a grin that could blind the sun. And it's quite possibly the greatest thing to roll off Audi's production line. Period.
Joshua Dowling, National Motoring Editor
Ford Ranger Raptor and Toyota Yaris GR
I can’t choose just one car, so I’ve hedged my bets with two vehicles at opposite ends of the performance spectrum – and included an example of everyday transport in an attempt to balance the ledger, so you don’t think we’re out of touch with the real world. Ahem.
My first choice is the Ford Ranger Raptor. Love it so much I bought one.
Sure, it lacks the power of the Volkswagen Amarok TDV6, but nothing is as plush to drive in the double cab ute market – except for maybe a Ram 1500.
I love the comfort, the handling (for a pick-up) and the road presence.
I discovered my other favourite car of 2019 in our final working week of the year, the Toyota Yaris GR hot hatch.
It has the world’s most powerful turbocharged three-cylinder engine packed in a lightweight body, sending power to all four wheels. It has the same power-to-weight ratio as a VW Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST and Hyundai i30N.
It’s so agile it feels like an extension of your body. The grip from the Michelin tyres and the traction delivered by the limited-slip front and rear diffs is profound. There is just one catch (see disappointments).
A supplementary favourite among cars people actually buy? The base model Hyundai i30 Go. I own two of them for family.
It has a roomy cabin in an era of downsized hatchback back seats and boots, a normal automatic in an era of CVTs and twin clutches, a full size spare tyre in an era of space savers, and a digital speedo and Apple Car Play to help stay on the right side of the law.
The Hyundai's 12-month service intervals, low running costs, and five-year warranty were also sweeteners.
Paul Maric, Senior Road Tester
Tesla Model 3
It'd be a bit strange for me to pick a favourite car without it being one of the ones I had bought.
So while I love the Supra, I'm a tech guy from way back and it's the Model 3 that struck a chord with me on both the tech and driving front.
The fact it's an efficient electric car suits the environmental checkbox, but my wife and I bought it because we love randomly waking up to new features and love the fact that it's supported by a decent (and growing) supercharger network in Australia.
There's also an Australian connection to the car – the program manager for Model 3 worked at Ford in Australia and helped develop Falcon and Territory, so it kind of feels a little bit homely in that regard.
It's also heaps of fun to drive and strikes a great balance between performance and comfort.