Well we’ve made it through another year. Most of us anyway. My great-aunt Margret sadly did not; I shall not however forget her last words: “Hold my beer”.
For those of us who did make another trip around the sun, we can celebrate the fact that we’ve made it. Or looking back on the events of this past year, be grateful that our world does in fact still exist.
I was fortunate enough to travel to many races and spend time with some great cars. Of course, there were some less than memorable races filled with rain delays and bad hotels, and there was a smattering of forgettable cars; some uncomfortable, and at least one that left me on the side of the road and in the waiting room of dealership for two days. I determined that the same car was cursed; I took it to a major sporting event only to lose the key. I was almost heartbroken that someone turned it into the “lost and found” window at the stadium.
Overall however I had a chance to spend time with some great cars. I was, as always, grateful for the opportunity to do so. I now look forward to 2019 and more great cars. But first here are the top 10 cars I’d put in my driveway, my annual list not based on cost, but based on the cars I would not hesitate to establish a long-term relationship with (in another room I’m certain my wife just got a chill and thought to herself “I feel a disturbance in the Force”, until she remembered what I look like).
This past year the emergence of SUVs continued unabated as did the advent of the hybrids. This led to what some might consider a shocking revelation when it comes to my top vehicle of 2018. Unlike years past I didn’t pick out a single vehicle from each category, instead the top 10 came from the overall pack of all vehicles I drove making the list a bit heavy on the sports car side, but hey it’s my list after all and I’m still an old-timey fast car type of guy.
SUVs and crossovers continued to become the number 1 sellers in the automotive market. They were the overwhelming cars I spent my weeks with this year. There were stand outs, but the problem is that with so many most seem to run together. This makes the stand outs, well, stand out. The Rogue Sport wasn’t much different than the Buick Envision, while the Cadillac XT5 had all the luxury you’d find in the Audi Q7 or the BMW X2.
The stand outs to me were the Volvo XC60 (I tend to love all things Volvo) and the GMC Yukon XL Denali, a land yacht that seems to put up a middle finger to the “smaller is better” thinking going on in the world right now. My absolute fav however was the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. This new for 2018 Cherokee is the grandest of the Grand, and although I love all things Jeep, after a week with the Trackhawk (which I characterized as the spawn of a Dodge Demon and a normal Grand Cherokee) I was left swooning and wondering what my payments would be a month. If you must give up your sedan for an SUV you might as well enjoy the drive.
There are still a few good sedans to be had, however. The Cadillac XTS Platinum V-Sport stood out among all the four-doors this year. It reminded me of the big old Caddys of old and with 410 horses under the hood there’s enough power to make the drive fun.
The XTS isn’t to be confused with another one of my 2018 favs; the 2018 Cadillac CTS-V. There’s a little less room in this sports sedan and more power with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 cranking out 640 horsepower and 630-foot pounds torque making it a beast on the streets. I like the AMGs, the M Series, but the Cadillac has more room and power, and should put those Euro brands on notice.
Maybe I was a bit jaded by the weekend at Daytona International Speedway Lexus sent me to for their Performance Driving School. A school that had me rocketing down that iconic frontstretch at near 165 mph and slinging around the same road course the Rolex 24 races, but the 2018 Lexus RC-F I had in the week leading up to all that was one of the best sports cars I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with in several years.
Not to be outdone, FCA sent me a 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat widebody for a week. This monster of a car replaces the Demon that left the lineup after one year. With 707 horses under the hood, and a price tag that makes it surprisingly affordable, don’t be surprised if you see me pull up in a widebody Hellcat someday. I also had a Mustang GT Coupe Premium which had 460 horses, a wonderful sounding symphony coming out the back and a new system that can make you look like a burnout expert and left the fans in the infield at Darlington Raceway cheering and videoing this black beauty.
Among the most beautiful cars I’ve driven in the past few years the Lexus LC 500 may not be the fastest among sports cars, but few will argue it isn’t anything but a gorgeous piece of rolling art (as was the LC 500h a hybrid fav I had a few months later. Not as much power, but just as beautiful). There was also a nice surprise among the sports cars this year as I finally got to spend a week (finally) with a Kia Stinger. Sure, it can run with the big dogs, just not for too long. The price tag is almost shocking considering it’s a Kia, but if people buy it, we should see the Stinger floating around the roads for many years to come.
I am the last person you’d think would climb aboard the hybrid train. I don’t hug trees or walk softly upon Mother Earth, and I definitely won’t ever become a vegan; in fact, if I were to choke to death on a near raw piece of steak people would be able to say, “he died doing what he loved.”
That’s why it may come as a shocker to some that my absolute favorite car of 2018 (and in fact close to all time favorite) was a hybrid.
The 2019 BMW i8 Roadster stole my heart. From the gull wing doors to the spaceship looking interior the i8 was nothing like I had anticipated. The drive (even when the battery was empty) was lightning fast and seemed faster with the hard top slid open; the look turned heads, started more than one parking lot conversation, and left me smiling each time I drove it. Yes, it was a bit tough to get into, trunk space was non-existent and with an MSRP nearing $200,000 far out of my budget, but none of that mattered. The drive was exhilarating and left me wanting more. If this is the future of motoring, I am so on-board.
So then, lets prepare for another trip around the sun. Except of course my great-aunt Margret who died doing what she loved, fixing toast in the shower. As for me, I’m going to eat a steak.
My Top 10 Cars for 2018
10. 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
9. 2018 Cadillac XTS Platinum V-Sport
8. 2018 Cadillac CTS-V
7. 2018 Lexus LC 500h
6. 2018 Kia Stinger
5. 2018 Lexus LC 500
4. 2018 Lexus RC-F
3. 2018 Ford Mustang GT
2. 2018 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Widebody
1. 2019 BMW i8
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