Though 2020 has been a year when we had our travels and movement severely restricted, that didn’t stop us from witnessing and sampling some of the best cars launched this year, albeit many of them late, with a difficult gestation period. Many of these drives happened towards the second half of the year, after lockdown restrictions were eased enough for us to go out, drive about and enjoy some semblance of freedom in the safety of our cars. And as we end a year, we look back at our favorites.
1.Porche Taycan Turbo S – need I say more? The Taycan Turbo S is figuratively speaking, the most shocking car I drove this year. Exhilarating, otherworldly, and intense are words that come to mind when describing performance of the Taycan Turbo S. Crucially, it feels like a proper Porsche, not some cobbled up piece of kit that was a knee-jerk reaction to looming legislation changes demanding an almost completely EV line-up in the near future. Its sexy silhouette connects the Taycan to the seminal 911, the car that really established the Porsche legend.
2. Fiat Abarth 595 – the little Italian that could, proof that you don’t need big power, massive grip levels and a huge footprint (on the ground, and in terms of carbon emissions) to have huge dollops of fun. The Abarth has loads of character, is fine to drive, even if it’s very quirky, in an Italian sort of way. The price, however, puts it beyond the means of more people.
3. Ford Ranger Raptor – perhaps the most impressive car that lived up to its hype, the Ranger Raptor is truly the king of performance in the pick-up market. Best riding, most comfortable, and crucially most capable out of the box with its amazing long-travel FOX suspension and bi-turbo diesel engine coupled with the 10-speed automatic 4WD system and off-road assistance software. To drive it is to experience the hype and be a believer!
4. Audi A8L – Audi’s motto is Vorsprung Durch Technik or Advancement Through Technology. In the case of the stylish yet somber A8L, it comes packed with everything but the kitchen sink. The party piece is that amazing predictive adaptive suspension which constantly monitors the road ahead and adjusts suspension firmness accordingly. It works very well in that you don’t realize it’s there. The ride, comfort and refinement is just always perfect.
5. BMW 730i – the BMW is ground-breaking for its amazing value-for-money proposition: it straddles people looking at the mid-size luxury sedan class and temps them with a full-size luxury limousine. Crucially, you don’t feel BMW cheaped out on you even with a modest 4-cylinder turbo gasoline engine that feels so smooth and refined. It is the smart choice in this segment, undercutting rivals by P2 million.
6. A90 Toyota Supra – as a quick disclaimer, I have a soft spot for the Supra nameplate, being an owner of the previous generation JZA80 MKIV model. Objectively, the MKV A90 is faster, sharper and just better in every sense of the word than its predecessor. Only the looks are a bit awkward, but it grows on you. The ZF 8-speed automatic might deter romantics looking for the allure of six on the floor like the Getrag V160/161 of the older model, and the B58 might be no 2JZ, but objectively speaking, the package works brilliantly. It’s just as easy to extract more power out of the new engine which takes a lot of abuse, has already an impressive and extensive after-market support and crucially, welcomes a new generation of enthusiasts who want to be part of the Supra legacy.
7. Nissan 370Z NISMO – cynics will say the 370Z came too late to the party, but a good car, like this Z, will always be a good car, regardless if its old or new. The 370Z has loads of old-world charm and character: imagine a 90’s JDM sports car (the 90’s were considered as the golden age of Japanese sports and performance cars) perfected through the years and reintroduced to a mature enthusiast market who grew up dreaming about one day driving a 90’s car but with all the modern niceties and convenience of the 21st Century? That’s how to best describe this Z, and that’s why it resonates with people of my generation.
8. Land Rover Defender 110 – like the Supra and the Z, the 21st century Defender has big shoes to fill, arguably the biggest shoes to fill in fact. But Land Rover’s Defender is also meant to welcome new members to the fold because let’s face it, driving an agricultural-feeling truck with minimal refinement and creature comforts won’t grow your business. Its off-road ability is unquestioned, but now supplanted with 21st century technology to make your life easy when you’re not trying to conquer new roads and undertake new adventures in your spare time.
9. Jaguar I-Pace – the I-Pace has the distinction in being the first full EV vehicle I’ve used in my life that didn’t feel like a science experiment on wheels. Fast, comfortable, refined and predictably sharp like a cat, just like any Jaguar. It felt very normal, in a good way of course yet just as engaging and enjoyable to drive as any well-sorted car, EV or not. If all EV’s were as polished, complete and as refined as the I-Pace and the Taycan, transitioning from internal-combustion engine vehicles to EVs will not be a problem. And she is a real looker too in its cross-over cum XL-sized hatchback silhouette.
10. Mazda CX-30 – the Mazda CX-30 rounds out my list because well, it was so good we ended up buying one. Smooth, refined, enjoyable to drive, and though we’ve barely covered much mileage (1800kms in 6 months), it just gets better and better as the mileage piles on. Truly, for mass-market everyday motoring, it’s hard to beat the CX-30. It’s got the ride height of a proper cross-over, the space of a larger 2-box wagon-body design but with a sleek, stylish silhouette that’s very modern and sexy.
I wonder what 2021 will be like?
A car enthusiast through and through, Botchi Santos believes that different people have different needs. He tries to find the best car for a specific audience, and spruces things up by delving into car culture, helping make the local car community vibrant and enjoyable for all. His passion for motoring is built around a belief that cars are among the top three life purchases.