As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time for a bit of reflection.
As it happens, 2018 was a major year for new car reveals, as well as the advent of some crazy fun models. From cheap-as-you-like econoboxes to all out sports cars and everything in between, the TFL staff thumbed through all of this year’s cars and picked our absolute favorites.
The fun isn’t over yet, either. Looking forward into 2019, we’re shaping up to have a hell of a year ahead for more fun cars as well! From the revived Toyota Supra to the new Ford Explorer and the new Mazda3 to, controversially, the new Chevy Blazer, it won’t be a year to miss.
As always, thank you all for your support, as we wouldn’t be able to drive these cars in the first place without you. Stick with us as we launch our way into 2019 for the latest news, views, and real-world reviews!
Roman Mica (two picks!): 2019 Hyundai Veloster N and Mercedes-Benz G-Class
The new Hyundai Veloster N is the best car I’ve driven this year because it is a value packed hot hatch that doesn’t compromise on-road drivability with go fast parts.
Think of it this way: If BMW decided to build a sub-$30K hot hatch, the Veloster N would be it. The new car takes the sophistication of a finely track tuned sports car and brings it to the masses so that even I can enjoy the car both on the track and on the road. Simply put, it makes triple-digit speeds approachable and fun for ham-fisted drivers like myself at a price that won’t scare my personal banker from loaning me the money to buy it.
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is the other best car I’ve driven this year, because it does something that no car should ever be able to do. It makes a box on wheels sexy fast and fun, but more importantly, it’s still off-road worthy.
There’s no part of my brain that understands how the G-Class can both go from 0-60 in under five seconds and at the same time crawl up Mount Everest. This should not be possible, and yet the G-Wagen makes both look easy. Sure you’ll need to take out a house mortgage to buy one. But ask yourself this question: can my house look both sexy and rugged while at the same time impressing the jaded paparazzi on Hollywood Boulevard?
Nathan Adlen: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Turbo
Like everybody at TFL, I am forced to acknowledge the popularity of crossovers. To that end, I’ve been looking for one that incorporates some off-road ability with foul weather driveability – But most importantly, fun.
While the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Turbo has no business on off-road adventures, it is quite capable in nasty driving conditions. Most importantly, it’s available to the masses and it is outright fun to drive!
Michael Curtis: Genesis G70
It is never easy to take on the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes C-Class. To do that, a manufacturer has to combine good looks with luxury amenities and still find a way to make it drive well.
And yet, the new Genesis G70 does all of that. Its stylish looks, 365 horsepower twin-turbo V6, rear-wheel drive platform, and comprehensive tech package put it in close competition with the Germans, if not ahead of them. Plus, the G70 comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. I found myself loving every moment behind the wheel, and seriously trying to figure out how I can bring one home.
Tommy Mica: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
It is very difficult to combine affordability, quality, and most importantly fun in an attractive package. Just a few years ago affordable Toyotas, although very well made, were not known for their thrilling designs or sporty driving experiences.
However, the new Toyota Corolla hatch fulfills both in spades. With a vastly unique exterior comprising of complex curves, materials, and color options the new design saw more positive reactions during our week with the car than just about any other. Combine this with a snappy manual transmission and trick rear suspension setup and the new Corolla hatch brings heaps of personality to a historically mundane nameplate. With a competitive price and options list that would put a 3-year-old Lexus to shame, and the Corolla hatch is, in my mind, moving the bar for the entire segment.
Dan Jedlicka: Lexus LC 500
Lexus really outdid itself with its $92,000 LC 500 V-8. This rakish GT coupe is gorgeous and fast with a 471-horsepower V-8 shooting power through a smooth, super-efficient 10-speed automatic transmission.
The over-the-top luxurious interior makes you want to drive only with clean clothes. Handling is sharp despite a 4,280 pound weight, and it’s a great long-distance cruiser with its adaptive variable suspension and 26 miles per gallon highway rating. Advanced safety features and a solid build help protect occupants. Resale value promises to be very good if its owner can ever talk himself into selling this car, which is reminiscent of the fabulous 1960s Ferrari 400 Superamerica coupe.
Arv Voss: Audi A8
Audi in my opinion has long been understated in the luxury category of automobiles. The 2019 Audi A8 L should certainly dispel any misgivings or preconceptions as to its place on the luxury sedan podium. It is clearly a winner – even in its V6 powered configuration. Consider it among the ultimate world class of luxury transport vehicles.
It’s loaded with so many technological features that it’s mind boggling. It is elegantly svelte with a modest grace and beauty in its form. It is also extremely capable in its performance attributes. Acceleration is brisk and instantaneously responsive with no turbo lag. The ride quality is firm, but extremely smooth with the Predictive Active Suspension. Handling characteristics lean to the sporty side of the equation with the Dynamic All-wheel steering providing enhanced maneuverability and low speeds and more precise response in steering at higher speeds. Yes, it’s expensive, but it seems to be absolutely worth every penny. The V8 version should prove to be even more desirable.
Zach Butler: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
I never thought I would find myself thinking so much about a Jeep. More to the point, I never thought I would think so much about a Jeep that, if it were up to any sensible person, shouldn’t exist. Fortunately, the world is not full of strictly sensible people, so here we are: in a world where, for just over $90,000, you can have a 707 horsepower SUV courtesy of a 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8.
Some things in life are just meant to go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Coffee and creamer. Mac and cheese. But 707 horsepower in a freaking Jeep? I wasn’t so sure, until I got behind the wheel. After grinning and laughing like a certifiable moron my whole commute home, I was a changed man. Four-wheel drive, neck-snapping power and an exhaust note to wake the dead, you just can’t go wrong with the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Trust me, off the line it will downright humiliate a wide range of sports cars on the road. Just ignore your fuel economy struggling to break into double digits.
Mike Curtis and I constantly argue about this car. He just can’t fathom why I would take this over, say, a BMW M5. Look, you expect an M5 to go like hell. You expect it to be luxurious, and you expect it to be expensive. What I found most enchanting about the Jeep is it kept surprising me in those areas, even after my first time behind the wheel. And it kept putting a smile on my face. It’s ridiculous, and I love it for that. Of all the cars we drove this year that I felt I truly wanted, this one topped the list.