THERE’S no such thing as the perfect car. But there is possibly such a thing as the perfect car for a given situation.
That’s the premise under which I operate as I evaluate cars each week for Bloomberg. It’s like this: no one wants to drive the low, stiff, delicate McLaren 720S for very long on the cobblestone streets of downtown Manhattan, but you need to know it will blow your mind on a highway traveling upstate.
Pulling onto the track in a Volvo station wagon will probably elicit snickers and not a lot of respect, unless you can drive like Lewis Hamilton.
If you’re driving around the corner to meet a friend for coffee, you’ll probably leave the Rolls-Royce Phantom, and the attention it attracts, at home.
The cars on this list were the ones I drove that best fulfilled their intended purpose in 2017. Each excels at its given task, is priced fairly, and looks good doing the job.
Coupe: Mercedes-Benz AMG GTR
As I said in my review, it’s rare that I walk away from one of the dozens of cars I drive each year with a sinking feeling, as if I know I'll miss it.
I felt that way with the $157,000 (RM641,000) Mercedes-Benz AMG GT R. The GT R sits at the top of the Mercedes AMG GT line, with a 4.0-liter V8 bi-turbo engine that gets 577 horsepower and can hit 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds.
It has more personality and animal instinct behind the wheel, whether crossing corners or racing to 100mph, than most anything else I drove this year.
Inside, it feels roomy but remains intimate. The power-heated AMG performance seats and AMG alcantara-covered, racing-style sport steering wheel are handsome and ergonomic; the round dials on the control system on the centre console are beautiful and intuitive to use.
Honorable Mention: Porsche 911 GTS
It’s a toss-up between these two. With understated good looks, track-ready performance, and a starting price of $120,000 (RM490,000), the Porsche 911 GTS has an edge, largely because of its more-affordable price point and classic good looks.
In fact, it is the obtainable alternative to the ultra-exclusive 911 R and the thinking man’s version of the flashy GT3.
It comes with a boxer-six engine tuned for 450 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque.
What’s more, the twin-turbo 911 GTS hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds in manual (more on that in a second) form, just 0.1 second slower than that hyper-fast GT3.
And the top speeds are basically the same: just shy of 200 mph. Of all the 911 range, this is the value-added one you will want to take out. Consider it the sweet spot in the 911 lineup you may have overlooked.
Hatchback: Ferrari GTC4Lusso
Don’t let anyone tell you the US$300,000 (RM1.22 million) Ferrari GTC4Lusso isn’t a “real” Ferrari or isn’t as aggressive to drive as its counterparts from Lamborghini or McLaren.
This V12, 680-horsepower car has power-to-weight and compression ratios that far exceed anything in the grand touring category.
Zero to 62 mph is 3.4 seconds; top speed is 208 mph. New this year are about four new traction control systems, which also help things immensely.
The GTC4Lusso manages to be simultaneously balanced and extremely aggressive on the gas. You get smooth, consistent power through all seven double-clutch gears in an acceleration arch as smooth as silk.
What’s more, it has a back seat that can actually fit adult-sized legs.
All told, Ferrari’s brilliant oddball is the rare instance of a super-luxury car that is practical across a wide variety of scenarios, and a total delight to drive.
Supercar: Lamborghini Aventador S
Lamborghini’s “S” badging has always meant enhanced performance and technology. This is no more beautifully in evidence than with the US$422,000 (RM1.72 million) Lamborghini Aventador S.
In addition to being a four-wheel-drive car, the latest version of the Aventador is also a four-wheel-steering car.
Under the hood, the 2018 Aventador S’s V12 engine is a massive upgrade on the same boundary-breaking, naturally aspirated mid-rear V12s that went on to catapult the Muira, Countach, Diablo, and MurciÈlago to legendary status.
It produces 40 more horsepower, on top of the 2017 Aventador’s already hefty 700.
It also produces higher torque and higher revs in general than last year’s model. What’s more, it goes zero to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds, down a fraction of a second from its predecessor and faster than the 3.2-second Hurac·n.
Large Sedan: Rolls-Royce Phantom
The largest vehicle Rolls-Royce makes, the US$450,000 (RM1.84 million) Phantom comes with a 6.75-liter, 563-brake-horsepower, V12 engine powerful enough to run a tank. It can hit 60 mph in just over five seconds, remarkable for a car of its heft.
Most impressive is the car’s magic carpet-caliber suspension, library-silent ride, and four-wheel drive, which allows each wheel the autonomy to choose traction and vector over any change in direction.
That said, to appreciate the Phantom’s full glory, start outside by admiring the sheer wall of the grille, from which all the other elements flow.
Each steel prong has been hand-polished to mirrored, deco glory; the rectangular headlights are the only ones in the world frosted in Lalique glass.
The interior is designed to dazzle, with its inch-thick dyed lambswool carpeting; high-gloss, polished-wood paneling; drinks cabinet with whiskey glasses, decanter, Champagne flutes, and chilled compartment; and a ceiling that glitters with tiny lights.
This is the car that Queen Elizabeth, and Middle Eastern tycoons, buy as their stateside ride. One drive, whether or not you’re behind the wheel, will reveal exactly why.
Sedan: BMW 760iM
The US$156,495 (RM639,000) BMW M760i has powerful and athletic handling, fresh new colorways, and a massive back seat.
In a segment filled with forgettable town cars, BMW’s sedan captures attention from all angles, whether you’re behind the wheel, in the back seat, or watching from the sidewalk.
It comes with a big V12, 601-hp, twin-turbo engine good enough for zero-to-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
That engine comes from the same line as those used at sister company Rolls-Royce.
The back seat has multiple entertainment screens, massaging reclining lounge chairs, 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system, and interior automatic-dimming mood lights, as if it were a spa.
SUV: Porsche Macan S
Yes, this is a small sport utility vehicle. But there’s a reason it’s Porsche’s best-selling model.
The US$55,400 Macan combines practicality and Porsche performance in a package fairly priced for its segment-and it looks more distinguished than its more appliance-like competitors, too.
The base model gets 19 combined miles per gallon on its 340-horsepower, twin-turbo, V6 engine and can hit 60mph in just over five seconds.
The seven-speed paddle-shifting transmission, all-wheel-drive, and stability- and sway controls make for a smooth ride, while the Sport drive mode makes it feel sporty to drive, as true German engineering should.
Inside, myriad cupholders, ambient lighting, storage pockets, leather, heating, and entertainment systems make it feel luxurious without it feeling over-stuffed and without spiking the price. Bloomberg
Crossover: Volvo V90 Cross Country
Volvo already has the excellent XC60 and XC90 SUVs, but is betting that it can make a station wagon stylish and aggressive enough to garner a slice of the SUV market.
Enter the US$55,300 (RM225,000) V90 Cross Country, the heightened version of the US$49,950 V90 wagon.
Both are new for the year and are bigger and better-equipped than wagons from previous years.
If Volvo were to create a Venn diagram of an SUV and a wagon, the V90 Cross Country would occupy the middle.
The extra US$5,000 required to get the Cross Country edition affords nearly three inches of additional height over the standard V90, several inches worth of additional ground clearance, and lots of handy extras, such as full LED headlights that bend around curves as the car moves forward.
With ample storage and passenger space, all-wheel-drive capable of handling treacherous terrain, and that superior ride height, the V90 Cross Country makes full-size SUVs feel bloated-superfluous for all but the largest families or most devoted weekend warriors.