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The best cars of 2017

2017 was an excellent year for cars, but which are the ones that The Business Times' motoring writers look back more wistfully on?

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Lexus LC 500

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Audi A8 L

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Honda Civic Type R

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Mercedes-AMG S 63

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BMW 330e iPerformance

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Porsche 911 GT3

IF you want five opinions on a given car, just ask the three main car reviewers for The Business Times. But for anyone who loves driving, 2017 will be a year to remember. The relentless march toward autonomous driving and electromobility picked up speed, but new cars from Audi and BMW showed that the driverless, petrol-free future might not be so bad. Meanwhile, the year delivered plenty of old-school thrills, subversive fun and jaw-dropping glamour from Honda and Porsche, Mercedes-AMG and Lexus, respectively.

Here's a look back at BT's favourite cars of 2017, along with what we said about them when we drove them.

Lexus LC 500

What we said: "For all its novelty, the LC still possesses many classic Lexus characteristics, including plush accoutrements and cutting-edge technology."

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Fittingly for a car that looks like it was designed either by aliens or someone from the distant future, the Lexus LC coupe is packed with technology: one version of it has a 10-speed transmission, while another has two different gearboxes. Inside, however, the LC is more traditionally Lexus: it's built like a vault, feels as plush as the cigar room of a gentlemen's club, and is extremely civilised on the move.

That said, the LC 500 version we tested does have a wild side that's readily expressed by a throaty snarl from its 5.0-litre V8 engine. But according to the car's chief engineer, the best way to enjoy the LC is to think of it as a lifestyle accessory, and have it complement a world of fine dining and high fashion. The Lexus transcends mere transport to feel like one of the finer things in life.

Audi A8 L

What we said: "The A8 limo is the kingpin of Audi's line-up, and that it comes with lots of technology is little surprise."

Audi's new A8 debuted this year with a tantalising glimpse at what technologies we can all look forward to someday; it has no fewer than 40 driving aid and safety systems, and an optional new suspension system can anticipate bumps on the road as high as 11 centimetres to deliver an astonishingly smooth ride. It can practically drive itself at speeds of up to 60km/h, and Audi says this should free up the driver's time during the morning crawl to work. The goal is to hone the tech until it can claw back an hour per day for drivers. Isn't that something we'd all love to see happen?

Honda Civic Type R

What we said: "If a fella came to pick up your daughter for a date in a car that looked like the Honda Civic Type R, you would greet him at the front door with your favourite 7 iron."

Honda's Civic Type R looks like it jumped out of a manga book, which is only right for an outrageous machine with an irresistible sense of fun. Its top speed is a heady 272km/h, yet because there are more wings on the Civic than in the inside of a beehive, it feels supremely stable at that speed. It's also a demon on the track, with all the things a would-be racing driver could want: straight-line stability under braking, instant turn-in response and plenty of traction for blasting out of corners with.

The Honda is also a manual-only car, which tells you that it's for people who care about driving. No one has discovered the Fountain of Youth, but the Civic is the next best thing.

Mercedes-AMG S 63

What we said: "The faster you go, the sooner you'll discover that a delightfully naughty soul lurks beneath the S-Class' luxurious civility."

What could be more subversive than a plutocratic limousine with the ability to keep up with a Ferrari? The Mercedes-Benz S-Class was given a facelift this year and, apart from cosmetic updates and new features, it gained a new, 612 horsepower engine for the Mercedes-AMG S 63 model.

No one needs a car like this, but the S 63's existence does make the world a better place in our book. And it finally answers an age-old question: what do you get the man who has everything? The car that can do everything.

BMW 330e iPerformance

What we said: "The BMW zips to 100km/h in just 6.1 seconds, which puts paid to the idea that eco-friendly cars are boring."

One day we'll all be driving electric cars, but here's an early taste in the form of a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid: charge the BMW 330e's battery bank, and you can cover 30km on electricity alone. Its combustion engine would have so little to do that, by our calculations, it would be possible for the average Singapore driver to run one for just S$36 a month.

Yet, the 330e is no slouch and it has much of the poise and balance that makes the basic BMW 3 Series such a joy to drive. Whether electric cars will be any fun remains uncertain, but BMW showed us this year that the journey to the future can still be enjoyable.

Porsche 911 GT3

What we said: "You know you're in for a treat when you spot 10,000rpm on the rev-counter and the engine rouses rowdily to life."

As the world grows increasingly hostile to fossil fuel power, the 911 GT3 feels like a last hurrah. Facelifted this year and given a new 4.0-litre engine, the Porsche remains a study in how to deliver racing car thrills for the road. It may have advanced handling aids such as rear wheel steering, but the GT3 retains a free-revving, naturally aspirated engine with the option of a manual transmission to provide a throwback to a more demanding but rewarding way of driving.