BEST OF THE BEST
Ten of the best: our top rides that hit the tar in 2019
Motoring Editor Denis Droppa gives a rundown of the best vehicles launched in SA this year
The new eighth generation of Porsche’s rear-engined icon is better than ever at blending civilised commuting with pulse-racing performance.
It is that perfect everyman’s sports car with a wide set of talents, which have been further extended at both ends of the comfort and sports scale. It cruises over unkempt tar as smooth as chilled Amarula, but show it an open road — preferably a twisty one — and it comes alive in all kinds of adrenaline-surging ways.
New technology includes a Wet Mode that makes the car almost foolproof to drive in the rain.
Suzuki Swift Sport
A fitting example for the aphorism: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog”. With its punchy new 1.4l turbo engine the Swift Sport accelerates like a Jack Russell chasing a ball, and combined with its slick handling it can’t fail to paint a smile on your face.
It has great fuel economy to boot, and the relatively affordable R315,900 pricetag comes with features like six airbags, stability control, reversing camera and touchscreen infotainment.
BMW 8 Series Coupe
The new 8 Series Coupe, with its two doors and restricted rear seating space, is a car that shuns practicality in favour of glamour. But what glamour. It is probably BMW’s most beautiful car, styled to slot effortlessly into millionaire’s playgrounds like Clifton or Monaco.
It’s no slouch either, with the M850i xDrive version capable of 0-100km/h in just 3.7 seconds. Rear-biased all-wheel drive, adaptive M Suspension, an electronically controlled rear diff lock, and rear wheel steering make the big coupe hug curves very proficiently too.
The future of cars is electric, we are constantly reminded, and the Jaguar I-Pace brings that future a little closer with its useable range of 400km-plus; if you commute less than 80km a day you’ll need to charge the car only once a week.
But this battery-powered luxury SUV is about much more than tackling dreaded range anxiety. Its power delivery is addictive; it accelerates like a sports car with no lag or pauses.
Combined with its luxury and high tech, and its competence in the corners and even offroad, makes it a worthy 2019 World Car of the Year.
There are still compelling reasons not to be an EV early adopter including the high entry price and the lack of a stirring engine sound, but we didn’t expect to enjoy the drive so much.
Toyota Corolla Hatch
It’s a Corolla, but not as we know it.
The solid, dependable Corolla is Toyota’s most successful car but has earned a reputation for being conservative and dowdy. The new Corolla Hatch injects some pizzazz into the equation.
The hatch has shed its Auris cocoon to emerge with fresh styling that no longer seems headed straight for the rental-car lot. Inside too there’s been something of a revolution, with smart soft-touch finishes dominating the cabin, along with some of the most appealingly styled sports seats in the compact hatch segment.
The 85kW/185Nm four-cylinder motor, while low on excitement, makes up for in refinement and easygoing commuting pace.
Ford Ranger Raptor
With so many aftermarket Raptor styling kits seen on Rangers, Ford decided to introduce a real Raptor squarely aimed at offroad weekend warriors. It doesn’t disappoint, and its rally-bred Fox suspension, giant tyres and a rock-straddling 283mm ground clearance make it a bundu basher that won’t get easily stopped in its tracks.
It looks the part too, all sneering agression with its flared fenders and blacked-out Raptor grille.
The power’s not quite as aggro as the rest of the package, but we like the Raptor for its sheer audacity.
BMW 3 Series
The seventh-generation of Bavaria’s popular sedan has become even more sophisticated and refined, but at the heart of it is still a driver’s car that delivers on the promise of its forebears. The increased wheelbase and track width have improved both ride comfort and handling stability.
It’s become a scaled-down luxury car and can be thought of as a 5 Series with slightly less leg room.
Pick of the bunch is the 320d for its mix of performance, economy and refinement.
The second-generation Q3 makes a bolder styling statement, and beneath that eye-catching shape is a vehicle that’s grown into a roomier family carrier.
That enlarged cockpit presents a digital world set into a premium-feeling environment embellished with leather and chrome.
Audi has hit a sweet spot with its new midsized SUV, packaging good space and practicality into a strikingly designed vehicle with superb driving dynamics and a great ride quality on rough roads.
The newest version of the original luxury SUV has evolved into a tour de force of capability, comfort and high-tech appeal.
Apart from the sexy digital dashboard and MBUX infotainment system, it has optional air suspension which at a switch can be set to wafting comfort or roll-resisting stiffness. As an option, E-Active body control independently regulates the suspension at each wheel, and when driving offroad is able to “bounce” the vehicle out of sand or mud.
New in the safety repertoire is a system that automatically applies the brakes if you intend to turn across oncoming traffic that was unsighted.
Porsche Cayenne Coupe
The new Cayenne Coupe brings the ethos of the crouching 911 into the SUV class.
Driver appeal is aided by an active rear spoiler that deploys automatically at 90km/h to improve downforce, while the flagship Turbo version rocks your world with its ability to blitz from 0-100km/h in just 3.9 seconds.
Under that attractively swoopy roofline it remains a practical and spacious vehicle.