What’s the “best” and what’s the “worst” car? It varies from person to person, of course. For someone who just wants to get from “point A to point B,” a car that runs wins. Others with a feverish interest in vehicles will be more picky. For this year’s “best” list, we included some cars we’ve driven and had a ball in as well as some we’re still looking forward to driving. For the worst, well, read on.
So much about Tesla’s X 100D just plain makes sense; not only its lack of emissions, but its semi-autonomous driving mechanism (the term “self-driving” has been put on ice) which, when all the bugs are worked out, should be the way millions of people get to work and back, go to the store and live their lives. Unlike some lesser electrics we’re tested and frowned or yawned at since the 00’s, Tesla makes every internal combustion vehicle on the highway seem a clunky, clumsy relic of the 20th century, when men and women replaced their horses with vehicles that belched, burped, roared and required “gasoline” to do their thing.
2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
We didn’t drive this one (yet) but we’re liking what we see, despite some pretty severe criticism from other auto testers. The Giulia and Giulia Ti feature an all-aluminum, 2.0-liter, direct-injection turbocharged engine delivering a class-leading, standard 280 horsepower and 306 lb.-ft. of torque, with MSRP of $37,995 and $39,995, respectively. Their Ferrari-derived, 505-horsepower V-6 twin-turbocharged engine in Quadrifoglio achieves 0-60 miles per hour in a blistering 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 191 mph. That one’s got an MSRP of $72,000, and that’s the one we’ve got our eye on.
2017 Mazda 3 Grand Touring
2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring
The Mazda3 reminded us of a good diner – everything on the menu worked well, and the price is right, starting at a very affordable $18,095. Its 184 horsepower, 2.5 liter, twin-cam, aspirated four-cylinder engine won’t win you any races – 0-60 hovers somewhere around 7 seconds – but it looks sharp with its carved flanks and aggressive front end, and its steering and handling are pure fun. It’s also reasonably comfortable inside, with everything laid out so you can find it easily. Its circular controller, placed in the center console, is small and therefore less obtrusive than other automakers’. Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) comes standard on every model. For 2018, all Mazda3 Touring models are now equipped with a SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter engine (previously Mazda3 Touring 2.5 trim level and above) as well as dark silver alloy wheels. There’s a reason why it’s Mazda’s best-selling model in the world.
2018 Dodge Challenger Hellcat
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody
Ok, so this is a major “duh,” but the Challenger Hellcat SRT Widebody’s gotten deserved buzz galore and has put away all other muscle cars saleswise, whether tried-and-true or reissues. (We’ll leave the Demon out of this.) Fiat-Chrysler doesn’t make exact sales figures available but sales were reportedly in the “ding ding ding” category, according to a source. The Widebody is, as its name suggests, 3.5 inches wider than the standard Hellcat, particularly evident around its fenders, the better to accommodate its 20 x 11 inch “Devil’s Rim” wheels. It shares many of the engine components of the standard Hellcat, too, that being a 6.2-Liter V8 with 2.4-liter-per-rev supercharger producing that intoxicating 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission with an optional eight-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
2018 Mercedes Maybach
2017 Mercedes-Benz Maybach S550 4Matic
We’ve been in the rear of many sedans costing over $200,000 – seventeen Bentleys and counting, for example – but this rear is the one we’d surgically remove, place in our living rooms and enjoy its dual 12.3-inch high definition screens capable of accessing the net, its drink holders which either keep your beverage heated or cooled, its LED accents reminding us of Christmas, and the chairs’ ability to ease back and coax a nap. You’ll eat back there. You’ll hold important conversations back there. You’ll chill.You’ll bless this life if you’re smart enough. You’ll find things to be happy about even if that day at the office or at home went terribly.
2018 Infiniti Q60 Sport 400 AWD
Infiniti’s smart, snappy $53,300 (base price) Q60 Sport 400 AWD was a pleasant, rockin’ surprise. As snug as a racing car bug in its tight little driver’s seat, (it’s not a great car for the big and tall) we couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel every day of our week’s test and feel the purr of its twin-turbo V6 and its buttery exhaust note. Its got three driving modes, “Eco,” “Snow” and our favorite, natch, “Sport” which delivers a rollicking good time. Its handling is crispy though not abrupt, and its shifts are lickety-split, allowing you to do all you ever want to do in a spirited two-door.
2017 Mini Cooper Clubman All4
2017 Mini Cooper Clubman All4
Mini’s relaunch at the turn of the century revealed a smart, stylish ride unlike anything else on the road. How that morphed into the cheap-feeling, bloated Clubman All4 – including the bloated price of $40,000+ with options – is beyond us. The news wasn’t all bad – it’s got 228 horsepower, all-wheel-drive comes standard, its handling is decent and there’s more interior space than you’d expect, although there is this bizarre “hump” in the backseat that poked our passenger’s hips. It also wins the 2017 award for “Worst Nav System.” It’s convoluted, needlessly complicated, and we abandoned it a few days into the test. Stick to the Cooper S Clubman, we say, equipped with Mini’s all-wheel-drive system, starting at $30,300.
2017 Acura MDX Hybrid
Lookswise, it’s the blandest of the bland. This could be the Acura “Anything.” There isn’t anything terribly wrong with it once you’re inside and driving. Its drive is pleasant if uneventful. And it’s a hybrid, so you feel good about it. Where the MDX really shines is under its hood and in your hands and feet. It borrows a few things from its older exotic brother, the NSX, namely its AWD hybrid system delivering 321 combined horsepower. That’s enough oomph to satisfy most performance enthusiasts buying in this price range, and hey, you can always buy an NSX keychain. This engine, too, is more powerful than the all-gas MDX, which delivers a mere 291-horsepower, 3.5 litre V-6 with AWD.
Your electric motor is a 57-horsepower unit sending 57 horses to your front axle, sweetly merging with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission – paddle shifters if you prefer. But its pushbutton shift didn’t make it. We found it a dinky, hard-to-find, toylike mechanism. This sincerely a case of an auto company taking something that works perfectly well and complicating it unnecessarily. The Bluetooth system is also needlessly complicated, and it took us three days to properly sync a Droid to the system because we kept getting tired of sitting there yelling at it whereas in other vehicles, it’s a simple 2-minute process.