A look back at the people and products that moved us this year.
ULTIMATE DRIVING MACHINES
BMW is getting back to what it does best: great, compact, drivers’ cars. The engineers in Munich have been busy churning out new SUVs at breakneck pace, but we’re glad — relieved, even — to see they haven’t forgotten how to make the fun little sports cars that earned the brand its “Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline in the first place. These cars seem to come alive in your hands; they’ll make you want to take the scenic route every time.
We didn’t think the M2 could be improved upon, but M Division never rests. A new, more powerful twin-turbo motor makes this a bona fide future classic.
The all-new convertible gets a turbocharged straight-six and a look that says, “Take me to California and don’t look back.”
Stole the Show
Mission: Impossible – Fallout was a three-hour self-indulgent mess, but wow, that car chase. The beautiful green BMW (E28) M5 deserves an Oscar nod. The 1985–87 M5 is a master class in Bauhaus industrial design. Alright, it’s slow and soft by modern standards, but that big straight-six engine made by the motorsport department sings like Lady Gaga all the way to the redline. God, we miss old BMWs like that. Why don’t more movies use vintage cars in chase scenes? Great question. Call your local Hollywood producer and register a complaint.
THE ONES WE WANT IN OUR GARAGE
Every year we’re blessed to be able to drive so many hot new cars. Many are great, but a handful we can’t stop thinking about. In 2018, these were the cars we just couldn’t quit.
Aston Martin Vantage
Price: $172,495 | Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Just seeing one is enough to make any grown adult weak in the knees. It’s a shark-nosed, flyweight, rear-drive Aston Martin coupe, and it’s brilliant. We drove it back in March, on a rainy racetrack in Portugal, and frankly, we can’t stop thinking about it. The all-new Vantage — now powered by atwin-turbo V8 engine from AMG — has the perfect amountof menace, enough to always make it exciting. The chassis and steering provide a natural sense of control and balance that ensures it’s always fun to drive, rather than scary.
Price: $130,000 (estimate) | Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Retro is an ugly word in the car business — usually, it means lazily reheated versions of formerly trendy designs. The Mercedes G-Class is different. The all-new 2019 model looks almost identical to the original 1979 model, but it’s not retro, exactly. The G-Class never went out of production — so it is an old design. Thanks to (gasp!) independent front suspension and a wider track, the 2019 G is now reasonably comfortable on the road and has less truck-like handling. It’s a modern classic you can buy right off the showroom floor.
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring
Price: $163,300 | Engine: 4.0-litre flat-six
Porsche’s 911 GT3 hardwires itself into a driver’s brain, reacting intuitively at the speed of thought. The naturally aspirated flat-six engine is a rare treat in this turbocharged, hybridized world, as is the mechanical precision of its six-speed gearbox. The only drawback is that giant wing that makes it look like an escapee from the set of the next Fast & Furious. The Touring Package unveiled this year is a zero-cost option that removes the unsightly wing, making the GT3 an ideal stealth-ship for boy-racers who’ve grown up.
Price: $44,900| Engine: 2.0-litre turbo and supercharged four-cylinder
Last year it was the V90 Cross Country wagon. This year, we’re smitten with Volvo’s smaller V60 wagon. What can we say? Volvo’s cars are a breath of fresh air in a crowded market. Where other brands trade on aggression, Volvo bucks the trend with simple, effortless, elegant style. The Swedish-designed and -built V60 is a beautiful piece of Scandinavian design, not unlike Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair. It’s a useful object that promises to makes everyday life a tiny bit nicer.
Three new coffee-table tomes dedicated to our favourite subject
Erich Strenger and Porsche: A Graphical Report
Worshipped for the posters he created for Porsche in the ’50s and ’60s, Strenger gets his due in this colourful art anthology.
Pass Portrait – Großglockner
Discover the incredible history of Großglockner alpine pass — the best road you’ve never heard of, and officially your next bucket-list road trip.
Marcello Gandini: Maestro of Design
This luxurious two-volume, leather-bound book is almost as lovely to behold as the revolutionary Gandini car designs contained within. Almost.
Electric SUV showdown. Which will come out on top?*
On sale: 2019
Best bit: It can drift.
It’s a far cry from Will Smith’s fancy electric Audi in iRobot, but it’s a step in the right direction. Think: less science-fiction, more science. Early photos show prototypes drifting across the desert, so we expect it’ll be fun to drive.
On sale: 2019
Best bit: It’s an X3, so you know it’s going to be good.
Remember the wild-looking carbon-fibre i3, BMW’s first new electric car? This is sort of the antithesis of that. It’s as conventional as electric cars get. In fact, BMW just took an X3 and filled it with batteries.
On sale: 2019
Best bit: It has a handlebar moustache. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
The EQC looks basically identical to the 2016 concept car of the same name. But this is just the tip of Mercedes’s electric iceberg. Expect coupes and sedans to follow soon.
Range: 377 km (est.)
On sale: Now
Best bit: It looks like nothing else on the road.
Who would’ve thought Jaguar would be the first mainstream luxury brand to introduce an all-electric SUV-thing? More futuristic-looking than its rivals, the I-Pace provokes either love or hate. (We love it.)
Tesla Model X
Range: 383–475 km
On sale: Since 2015
Best bit: Those falcon wings, baby!
Tesla had a big head start on its rivals, and offers range that seemingly can’t be beat. Even if the ride/handling could be better, and early cars had a few kinks that needed to be worked out, the Model X still has plenty of cachet.
*If you’re not ready to go all-electric just yet, try this: Range Rover PHEV. It looks and drives like the full-size Range Rover we know and admire, but thanks to a big lithium-ion battery pack, it can drive around 50 kilometres in electric-only mode.
CADILLAC GETS SERIOUS ABOUT SUVS
The Escalade aside, Cadillac has long made sedans its bread and butter. But with the XT4, it’s finally bringing its trademark swagger to a smaller, more youthful luxury crossover. That lunging motion that the frame looks to be making? That’s Cadillac making a grab for the real money.
Its overdue entry into the crowded subcompact market proves worth the wait, thanks to the XT4’s blend of handsome presence with smart practical (and luxurious) considerations. From the driver’s seat, you feel the benefits of an all-new platform built around a 2.0-litre Turbo four-cylinder engine with 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
Navigating the winding forest roads of Washington, the car felt heftier and more stable than its small size would suggest, while still tackling twists and elevation changes with nimble ease. Add that to a few much-appreciated safety features, like a digital rear-view mirror that lets you see what’s behind you even when the back seats are packed, and you have our new favourite road trip ride — and Cadillac’s first real subcompact contender.
FUTURE MOMA MATERIAL
The game-changing design of the Audi Q8
Audi’s all-new flagship SUV surprised us this year. Instead of being just a nicer Q7, which would’ve been fine, the Q8 was a blank-slate reimagining of what an Audi SUV should feel like. Sitting anywhere in the cabin — not only the driver’s seat — is futuristic experience. It shows a way forward for Audi’s design language, and for SUVs in general. See: the 3-D grille, shrink-wrapped surfacing, wide stance, minimal dashboard, and the big glasshouse that provides a panoramic view of the world as it glides past. It’s an SUV that opens up the world to you, rather than one that cocoons you away from it.
IS THE AFFORDABLE TESLA REALLY HERE (AND AFFORDABLE)?
Not in 2018. Maybe next year. We drove the top-of-the-line Tesla Model 3 Performance. It was a riot — the most fun-to-drive EV we’ve ever tested. The range of 499 kilometres is impressive too. But there are fears about initial quality — and then there’s the price. It starts at $84,800. What happened to the “affordable” $35,000 (US) Tesla we were promised two and a half years ago? Delayed. And delayed again. Hopefully 2019 will be the year it finally arrives.
CONCEPTS THAT CAPTURED OUR IMAGINATION
Giugiaro Sibylla concept by GFG Style
We’re often told the auto industry is going through revolutionary changes. But in showrooms, you end up seeing the same old stuff. Not from Giorgetto Giugiaro. It’s good to know the legendary designer still has new ideas up his sleeve.
Peugeot e-Legend concept
Yes, retro is played out. But this French concept, revealed at the Paris Motor Show, is just so perfectly executed. It reminds us of a simpler time, when designers made cars with nothing more than a ruler and a pencil.
Letters of Recommendation
Learn to ride a dirtbike
Because of the freedom, the power, the braaAAP of the engine — not to mention the thrill of facing your wildest fears. Just don’t expect to become a 12 O’Clock Boy on day one. There’s something pure and simple about riding through the forest or along a dirt track that you simply will not find sharing a concrete slab with cars.
Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy in Gimli, Manitoba
Of all the things you can do in a car, driving an AMG on a gigantic sheet of ice in glorious Gimli is in our top three. The sun is shining, studded tires are fitted, you’ve got 500-odd horsepower under your right foot, and there’s nothing to crash into but fluffy snow. Expert coaches will teach you how to drift these AMG super-sedans until you’re dizzy.
Had a rough week? The trash heap that is social media getting you down? Watch James May, The Grand Tour’s lovable nerd (formerly of Top Gear) put mopeds, guitars, and all kinds of other little machines back together. He’s slow and meticulous and explains things as he goes in a rambling, grandfatherly way. It’s as close to meditation as TV can provide.
Subscribe to a New Car Today
We’ve been hearing about new ways of buying cars for years now — Sharing! Apps! — but Volvo is the first to offer a truly new option here in Canada. Care by Volvo costs $949 per month. For that, you get a new S60 sedan or V60 wagon, and you don’t need to worry about maintenance or buying winter tires. (Granted, it doesn’t include insurance.) The subscription method lets you upgrade to a new model every 12 months and takes 10 minutes to sign up for on your phone. Getting a car has never been so easy.