CAR OF THE YEAR 2017
The article of the year, that you didn't know you were waiting for
There are many good articles on the internet. There are even a few great ones. However, every once in a while man stumbles across an article that truly usurps the rest. A post that captures one’s attention from the first word, only to release said reader at the end of the comments thread. This is one of those posts.
If there’s only one thing you read today, let it be this.
2017 was an absolute stellar year for the automotive industry. Honda’s Type R made a return to form, Porsche released a manual GT3, Volkswagen unleashed the terrific ankle-biting UP GTI and Kia overcome all prejudices by producing what was arguably the most impressive car of 2017. And yet, despite each being truly, mesmerisingly brilliant, none of the aforementioned metal made it onto our ‘Top 10’ list. A list that founded exclusively on pillars of the renowned scientific truths that are our opinions.
Outraged? Intrigued? Excellent.
So grab some crisps, pull up a chair and dim the lights. This, is going to be good.
Welcome, to Defining Drives’ 2017 Car Of The Year.
10. Hyundai i30N (Performance Package Model)
During the foreword, you may have noticed the appearance of the adverb ‘arguably’ prior to us describing the Kia Stinger as “the most impressive car of 2017”. The reason for that is, well, to put it simply, we didn’t think it actually was and wanted to hide the surprise. The deserving recipient of that previously mentioned title, we believed, was Hyundai’s remarkable i30 N. A car that burst onto the automotive scene and toppled our prejudices the moment we heard it. From the startup, you just know that the I30 N was developed by proper car enthusiasts. Developed by ex-BMW M boss Albert Biermann, the i30 N hosts suite of impressive features designed to whet the appetite of the classic hot hatch enthusiast. Key among the lineup of features include a proper electronic limited-slip differential, a 202kw turbocharged 4 cylinder engine, configurable everything and a variable exhaust system which makes the N sound like a flaming lion in a microwave full of popcorn. Except louder.
And that’s exactly why we love it. The i30 N didn’t have to sound so hysterical, but it does. Why? Because, to quote Mr Bierman here, “the i30 N [was] developed for no other purpose than to deliver maximum driving fun”. Nurburgring lap times? Acceleration figures? Irrelevant and trite. Here, finally, is a hot hatch with a sense of humour. A car that raises a fat finger to the establishment and lets its dog crap in their yard. Marvellous.
9. Rolls Royce Phantom
It is a well-known fact among the automotive-loving community, that the Rolls Royce Phantom is the best car in the world. End of story. So when Rolls announced that they’d be replacing sixth generation vehicle with a new one, the automotive world took notice, knowing that it was going to be tremendous. And it is. There is no car on sale today that can hold a candle to Phantom VII’s interior. Nor can any manufacturer match Rolls painstaking attention to detail. It is truly the metaphysical personification of the word ‘elegant’. It is perfect.
So why then, for all its exquisite opulence, does it only manage a ninth place finish on our list? Well, as much as it pains for us to say this, the Phantom didn’t excite our automotive taste-buds quite like others released during the year did. Translation: we’re not old enough to lust after a Rolls quite yet. As a form of transport though, the new Phantom resets the luxury benchmarks set by its fore-fathers and thus transcends to something beyond perfection in the process. Which is impossible in the same way that getting 110% on a test is impossible. And yet, Rolls have done it.
8. Land Rover Range Rover Velar
Earlier this year, Land Rover replaced the beloved 4th generation Discovery, with an all new model sans tonka-toy inspired looks. How was it? In a word: underwhelming. And then, just months later, Land Rover’s luxury arm, Range Rover, released the Velar, the SUV nobody asked for. And it was brilliant. We don’t quite know how they managed this, but in 2017 Land Rover released both the most underwhelming vehicle of the year and the most underestimated vehicle of the year.
Slightly larger than Range Rovers own Evoque, whilst still smaller than the Sport, the Velar is the niche of niches. And yet, somehow, it works. First and foremost, it is achingly pretty. When specced correctly the Velar’s sloping roof-line and pinched headlights along with (in R-Dynamic spec) gorgeous 21 inch rims and flush door handles coexist to create undoubtedly, the most stunning SUV on sale. And that’s just the exterior. The interior too, is truly a revelation. Labelled by Range Rover as “a calm sanctuary”, the Velar’s interior unites 21st century technology with traditional British artistry.
And yet, despite all the coddling luxury, the Velar manages to stay true to Land Rover’s 4X4 origins with 251 mm of ground clearance, all-wheel drive, an active locking rear differential and a wading depth of 650mm. It is, the distillation of the Range Rover ethos. Luxurious, alluring and capable. That is to say, utterly fantastic.
7. Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
Growing up, I was always told by my wise mother (bless her heart) that “everyone is special”. That no-one is better than anyone. Lies. All lies I tell you. There are people more special/ gifted than others. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen them. Supermen and women capable of reciting the arithmetical value of pi to the four thousandth digit whilst simultaneously crushing Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match… blindfolded. The Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo is of a similar calibre.
In theory, the Sport Turismo is a Panamera with extra boot space, however, in execution, it is considerably more desirable and lust worthy. There’s something about a fast wagon that gets our engines here at Defining Drives running. And boy, oh boy, does the Turbo S fit the criteria. 0-100km/h is dispatched in an almost certainly conservative 3.6 seconds with 160km/h reached just 4.6 seconds later. Equally as capable of undertaking the school run as it is crushing many so called ‘supercars’ at the local racetrack, the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo has a bandwidth of abilities as vast as it is deep. It makes a very strong case for itself as the sole answer to the “one car garage” predicament.
6. Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster
AMG. Three letters that have featured in the nightmares of the tires the world over since madmen Sir Melcher and Aufrecht, the company’s forefathers, started tuning Mercs in 1971. However, Affalterbach’s latest offering, the GT R, benevolently labelled “the Beast of the Green Hell”, appears to be an AMG of a different thread. Unwaveringly focused in its pursuit for Nurburgring lap honours, the GT R is utterly obsessed with toppling Porsche’s lethal GT3. As a track focused sports car it is mighty, however, as an AMG… it falls short.
Let us explain.
Traditionally, AMG’s have always been about tire-shredding antics. Hooligans in suit jackets. Think Rambo in a tuxedo and you’re not far off. The GT R, though, isn’t. And this is bad news; because if you wanted a sports car to light up the local track and then be able to drive it home, you’d buy a GT3. End of story. However, what do you buy if you want something that’ll light its tires at the slightest feather of the throttle? Something more… bitey, like a shark?
Enter the GT C Roadster. A GT R that has let its hair down and no roof. A car that will help you achieve a tire-debt in the millions within the first week of ownership. A car renowned for single handedly keeping the petroleum stock-market afloat. It is ludicrously unhinged and a true return to form for AMG’s halo vehicle. It’s so good in fact, that we reckon it’s good enough to be labelled as a spiritual successor to the raging hippopotamus that was the SLS. Buy one. Become bankrupt. Be happy.
5. Dodge Demon
“My car can do wheelies” has to be the ultimate pub-brag of all time. “It can do the quarter mile in 9.65 seconds…stock” would have to be second.
In a world of Tesla’s and Chiron’s, Dodge’s 626kw Hellcat-on-steroids, the Demon, is still an incredible piece of kit. Acceleration is otherworldly and surely the work of some hellish magic. For starters, a 1939kg sedan with the underpinnings of a 16th century Mercedes E-class shouldn’t be able to catapult from standstill to 100km/h in two point three seconds. 2.3! That equates to an accelerative g-force of 1.8 G’s; which, fundamentally, is equivalent to the force of gravity instantaneously doubling on your body. Which, in case you are semantically disabled and require a translation, would hurt. A lot.
How Dodge have managed to sell such an awesome tool for such little coin is beyond us. It’s catalogue price of $85,000 (US) makes the Demon approximately three hundredths the cost of a Chiron. Sure it’s a bit of a one-trick pony, but what a trick!
4. Lamborghini Aventador S
Let’s get one thing straight, the Lamborghini Aventador S shouldn’t be here. No, this spot, should’ve gone to Ferrari’s appropriately named 812 Superfast. A car which goes like the clappers and sounds like an army of ADHD bees on cocaine. However, Ferrari insisted on puncturing its face with a dozen gaping holes and ducts thus ruining what is an otherwise staggering supercar.
See, buying an 812 would be like a marrying a chimpanzee. You can gloat about how a chimpanzee is vastly more loyal, intelligent, stronger (i.e. better) than the average human companion, but you still have to wake up looking at a monkey’s face each morning. And no-one in their right mind would want that.
So call us Shallow Hal, but that’s why this spot had to be filled by the Aventador S. Mechanically and scientifically it is undeniably, a worse car than the 812. For one, the Aventador’s interior may as well be a Dacia’s next to the Ferrari’s and its engine isn’t quite as ear-poppingly addictive. But should the day come when I stumble upon a million dollars, I know just which one I’d park in my living room, and it wouldn’t be the Ferrari...
Part 2 OUT NOW:
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Photography Credits: Manufacturers