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We’re incredibly fortunate to have access to the cars we do. All year long, we drive an abundance of the planet’s most precious metal sculptures, flogging them on tracks, roads, and everywhere in between. It seemed in 2017 like our quotient of top-notch machinery was at an all-time high as we drove some of the most desirable cars right into the pages of this website and our print magazine.
Choosing a favorite is not easy. Do we pick the luxury and comfort of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom, the always-ridiculous Bugatti Chiron, Lamborghini’s V-12-powered swan song Aventador S, or something like the all-new Jeep Wrangler? While not as combative a task as picking winners during our annual All-Stars awards, we had a wide range of opinions.
Editor-in-chief Mike Floyd: The term “greatest car in the world” can mean different things to different people. It can be the car you’ve had for 15 years that never let you down. The muscle car you only take out of your garage on sunny summer days. The supercar from the poster on your wall when you were a kid. The astonishing, multimillion-dollar vintage machine you drooled over on the lawn at Pebble Beach. Or the eighth-generation Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Maybe it’s the mystique that’s developed around it. Or its price tag. Or the marketing hype. But the Phantom represents the ultimate, the excess, the dream of being someone rich, important, famous. By the way, the all-new Phantom is also a damn good car. It’s big and heavy, yes, but its twin-turbo V-12 just pulls and pulls. It actually turns pretty well, too, and is underpinned by a world-class, aluminum-intensive architecture. But more than that, it’s what’s inside that has been properly done. The craftsmanship is astonishing, the materials, the overall execution is unlike any modern production car I’ve ever been in. As it should be. And that’s without even mentioning the “gallery,” the art installation in the dash.
Yeah, I know, it’s a car for the .001 percenters. Why should anyone care? Because it’s the greatest car in the world. It was an honor to drive and be driven in it. And it’s been an honor to have you along for the ride in 2017. Thanks to you all from all of us here at Automobile.
My honorable mentions: Lexus LC 500, McLaren 720S, that day in Utah in the Ford GT, the Honda Civic Type R, the Toyota Camry (damn right I said it), Mazda Miata MX-5 RF, that day in dirt in the Honda Ridgeline Baja truck, that day at Streets of Willow in the OVC and Revology Shelby GT350s, Camaro ZL1 1LE, Range Rover Velar, Mercedes-AMG E63 S, and BMW M2.
Executive editor Mac Morrison: In retrospect, I don’t know what I expected as I headed to the first drive of the 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS. The car’s on-paper numbers—700 hp, 553 lb-ft, 3,200 pounds and change—are bonkers. But aside from a general understanding that this 911 would be fast, I was quite curious to discover the end result. By the end of a full day of driving, including a handful of laps on Portugal’s Algarve circuit and more than 100 miles on the road, I realized it had been quite some time since a new car made me smile and giggle so much. It’s not just the silly power, torque, and seemingly never-ending acceleration, either.
The GT2 RS’s ability to use every bit of its twin-turbo 3.8-liter bang is astounding. Its combination of aerodynamic and mechanical grip rewrite the rules of quick cornering, and the steering and brakes are not only up to the task but also feel great to use. This is one of the rare modern cars to find the right balance of performance and feedback, feeling a long way from overly refined and boring without crossing the line into the realm of scary or intimidating hair-trigger snappiness. You certainly know you can get in a lot of trouble driving it, but you can also enjoy it without holding your breath while waiting for it to spit you into a ditch. Dare I say this is the best driver’s 911 of all time? I know Porsche geeks will never reach a consensus on that title, but there is no denying the new 911 GT2 RS is a performance-car masterpiece.
Editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine: Is it fair to choose a full-blown race car as a “best drive”? It is when said machine rearranges both your preconceptions of the laws of physics and your DNA. Hurling the Ferrari 488 Challenge around Canada’s Circuit Mont Tremblant was an electrifying, soul-awakening feast of race engineering at is finest: a screaming, 660-plus horsepower V-8, brakes that stop like a padded bridge abutment, an aero-aided chassis that cornered so hard it could pry the fillings from your teeth. Does such extreme prowess come at the expense of fragility or finickiness? That’s this Ferrari’s coup de grace. For two days I pounded around Tremblant, lap after lap after lap. Not once did the 488 Challenge so much as breathe hard. I call that the performance of the year.
Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa: I want to choose the Honda Civic Type R, but I don’t know if I can get used to the idea of agreeing with associate editor Jonathan Klein. The Type R is fabulous fun, more engaging than the supercars on our 2018 All-Stars drive, with sharp steering and handling and that great gearbox (the latter of which makes it more engaging than, say, the Ford GT or McLaren 720S). On the track, it dances with the best of them and can kick out its tail like a RWD sports car. But rather than align with Klein, I’m going to go with the Miata Cup Racer, which handles the (small, tight M1 Concours in Michigan) circuit exactly as I’d expect from a street-legal Miata. It’s nice to know they’re virtually interchangeable. I know what you’re thinking: The Miata is a #noboringcars car because I own one. No, I own one because it’s a #noboringcars car.
Automotive design editor Robert Cumberford: Quiet, fast, spacious, comfortable, the Tesla Model 3 is very impressive. This was a top-spec, extra battery capacity car with about $20,000 in options. I’d like to have one but can’t afford it, alas.
New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman: I loved the Porsche Boxster S I spent a week in, but my priority characteristic in a sports car is steering feel, and the Lotus Evora Sport 410 has this in spades. In addition to robust power and an extraordinarily supple ride, it amounts to a half-price supercar you can use. Now that Lotus has Geely funding behind it, I expect it is a harbinger of even greater things to come.
Features editor Rory Jurnecka: Time will show the new Ford GT to be a special car even decades from today. Built mostly to win Le Mans—which it did—the limited-production, road-going variant is unique and engaging to drive with an experience all its own. It is wholly different from the ubiquitous McLarens, Ferraris, and Lamborghinis that compete for background photo space on your laptop. That this success came from a small, skunkworks team of rogue engineers hidden in Ford’s basement is nothing short of amazing.
Senior digital editor Kirill Ougarov: As I’ve expounded upon since it sadly left our care, my pick has to be the BMW i8. The mix of design, tech, and solid grand-touring dynamics really meshed with my personal tastes. “An enjoyable to drive, distinctively stylish grand tourer that offers a preview of coming electrified attractions” is probably the best summary I have, which I stole from my own story.
Online editor Ed Tahaney: The Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2 Spyder beats out my other favorite ride of the year—the Honda Civic Type R—only because it’s a drop-top. Both cars are a blast to drive and will make you an instant celebrity wherever you roll up. I love the Giallo Tenerife paint job that makes it look like an angry wedge of cheese, while its V-10 screams 580-hp obscenities. The cupholder sucks, but everything else about the Spyder does not.
Senior copy editor Kara Snow: Not only is the Ford GT the wildest car I drove in 2017 in terms of both the actual ride and its hyper-futuristic design, but the experience in Ford’s race-winning beast was as emotionally thrilling as my very first time behind the wheel.
In his day, my grandfather worked on Fords for movie studios. My dad loved Mustangs. He owned many through the years and was hoping to fix up his 1946 Super De Luxe before he died unexpectedly five years ago. I’m sorry he never got to see what Ford would follow up the first two generations of these supercars with: a wonder of design, handling, and quickness—with all of the turbo’s whizzing and whooshing and the 647 hp V-6’s stunning growl.
Getting to drive the new Ford GT completes the circle for three generations of car lovers. It was a dream come true to pilot an American supercar made by a company with deep roots in our country’s history. And in my own life.
Daily news editor Conner Golden: Somehow I managed to sneak my way behind the wheel of the 2018 Porsche 911 GT3, which claimed the golden tiara of my favorite car of 2017. Porsche is loath to admit it, but the 991.2 GT3 takes what made the 911 R so incredibly desirable and offers it to the (wealthy) masses minus a handful of lightweight panels and stylistic affects. With a 4.0-liter flat-six whizzing all the way to a 9,000-rpm redline and a delicious six-speed manual transmission (seven-speed PDK optional), the GT3 was unspeakably excellent in every scenario.
Creative director Darren Scott: Hands down, the Volkswagen Golf R is the best VW I’ve ever driven. At first I didn’t even know it existed, but I quickly learned it’s a pocket rocket on rails. Its overhyped little brother, the GTI—of which I have driven many examples—is a bush-league second baseman compared to this lightning shortstop. No flash, no nonsense. It delivers acceleration, power, and handling on demand—supercar sophistication in a street-size package, a real driving experience. There are two downsides. One is the Tamagotchi-style center console (come on VW, it’s 2017), and second is all the parking lot wannabes telling you the Ford Focus RS is better. Who cares! All that means is there are two incredible cars to choose from.
Graphic designer Michael Cruz-Garcia: My personal favorite has to be the McLaren 720S from our All-Stars event (more coverage coming soon). It was my first time driving a car of that caliber, and it sure made an unforgettable impression. The design of the car alone makes a statement and looks fantastic at any angle. You get a true sense of blinding acceleration that not many cars can muster, and at the same time you feel smooth transitions from gear to gear. People couldn’t get enough of it. By far, it received the most thumbs up on the road.
Associate editor Jonathon Klein: If you know me, you know I love a few things: my wife, my dogs, and mega-powerful rear-wheel drive automobiles. There’s something intoxicating about having more power than an attack-class nuclear submarine sent only to the straining rear wheels. With this in mind, my pick for favorite car I drove in 2017 is rather stunning: the Honda Civic Type R.
The Civic Type R is a “relatively” low-powered, front-wheel drive hot hatchback. No rear-drive shenanigans or Super Saiyan-power to speak of. But this is the machine I’d kill to drive again and again, lap after lap, day after day. The Civic Type R is a canyon weapon, sharp as scalpel carved from obsidian, and adds a bit of hysterics that I adore in its styling. It’s the best. Full stop.
Production editor Eleonor Segura: Of all the cars I drove in 2017, our Four Seasons BMW M2 was the most fun, making it my favorite. The M2 was the perfect car to drive on the curvy Ortega Highway; it was made for such roads. Though there is more to love about the M2, its ultra-wide tires and hefty body stole my heart.
Social media editor Billy Rehbock: I don’t normally consider myself as a Ford or Mustang guy, but the 2018 Ford Mustang GT with the optional Performance Package is the most memorable car I drove in 2017. It has incredible steering feel, grip, brakes, and of course, power from the 5.0-liter V-8. It’s the first normally aspirated car I ever used to do a windows-down tunnel pull, and the resulting sound was one of the filthiest noises I’ve ever heard a car make. I had so much fun driving the Mustang that I passed my driveway twice in order to spend more time behind the wheel. The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Package is a champion of the muscle-car spirit and has all of the driving chops to back it up.
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