As you sit here reading this website, robots are vying to take away one of life’s greatest pleasures: the pure thrill of driving a car. Fears that recreational driving will be outlawed anytime soon (or indeed ever) are wildly overblown, but it’s possible to imagine a time — albeit several decades away, at least — when humans no longer need to drive cars. And after that? Maybe most people won’t even want to drive.
This year, that realization made us appreciate the simple joy of driving, controlling the raw power of 200, 300, or 600 galloping horses with your feet on some pedals and hands on a steering wheel. It’s a modern miracle. Cars must change, of course, to become safer, to fit into crowded cities, to become sustainable. But change is what keeps cars interesting. All of the great automotive pioneers leaned into new technologies, from Enzo Ferrari to Colin Chapman to Gordon Murray, and even to Elon Musk.
The truth is that it usually takes an existential threat to make us appreciate what we have. The mere idea of a world in which nobody cares to go for a drive on the open road, across the Alps, across a country, or across a continent with no fixed destination — well, that made us appreciate the cars we have, and the cars that are soon to come.
Check back for more coverage of our favourite joyrides of 2019 in the weeks to come.
Best Sports Car
Porsche 718 Spyder
Engine: 4.0-litre flat-six, naturally aspirated
Power: 414 hp
Utterly sublime. The little steering wheel, the precision throttle, and the transparent chassis are all brimming with feel and feedback. Response to driver input is immediate but not harsh. A hummingbird with the heart of a hellion.
Best Everyday Sports Car
BMW M2 Competition
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six
Power: 405 hp
The M2 is the smallest, most affordable proper M car, and looks understated enough to be parked anywhere. The back seats are good for luggage, or even a child seat. The automatic gearbox is fine, but the six-speed manual makes the car even more special. It adds another challenge, which brings another layer of reward when, say, you heel-and-toe just right.
Best Daily Driver for Condo Dwellers
Mercedes-Benz A 250 hatchback
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power: 221 hp
If you live in a place where parking spaces are a little on the tight side, the A 250 is ideal. It has all the high-tech screens and luxurious interior appointments of larger Mercedes models in an eminently parkable package. Also, it just plain looks great.
Must-have feature for 2020: Digital Detox
Bentley Flying Spur
The firm’s all-new “entry-level” sedan lets you hide the central screen when you’re driving. It rotates behind a gorgeous wood panel, letting you cut down on screen time and focus on driving this lovely machine.