Picks of the Year 2016 - Part 1

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 | Latest News
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Small: Mercedes-Benz AMG 45 Photos: David Thomson

David Thomson and Richard Bosselman ease into 2017 by looking back at the
cars from the year just past that left a real impression. They start in this issue with
small, medium, large and luxury cars.

David's Picks
Small: Mercedes-Benz AMG 45
Medium: Honda Civic RS Turbo
Large: Kia Optima
Luxury: Rolls-Royce Dawn
Environmental: BMW 225xe

Small: Mercedes-Benz AMG 45

You've gotta admire the folk at AMG. As soon as the previous 265kW hot-rod version of Mercedes' A-Class was toppled from its power perch by the 270kW Audi RS3, they morphed the AMG 45 into a 280kW machine. It's barking mad stuff, but great fun nonetheless and especially memorable when sport-plus or track modes are selected.

Medium: Honda Civic RS Turbo

Sleek looks, classy interior, and fine engine and chassis combine to make the RS turbo variant of the latest Civic the most appealing new arrival from Honda for some years. Up with best in class standards or a class leader in several areas, it would be better yet with a conventional automatic or manual rather than CVT transmission.

Large: Kia Optima

With the recent demise of the Falcon, and the Commodore set to bow out later this year, change is the name of the game in the mainstream large-car market. Looking good, spacious, well appointed inside, and packed with safety features, the latest Optima has Kia well-placed to maximise a looming opportunity.

Luxury: Rolls-Royce Dawn

Dressed to the nines in sumptuous leather and aluminium-backed woodgrain veneer and powered by a mighty twin-turbo V12, the Dawn exudes class and craftsmanship more obviously than any new car I have been in, other recent Rolls-Royce models included. Widely and deservedly acclaimed as the finest four-seat luxury convertible made.

Environmental: BMW 225xe

The trickle down of iPerformance plug-in hybrid technology into everyday models has been a feature of an otherwise quiet new-product year for BMW. Three such vehicles from BMW came my way in 2016, and I've selected the 225xe to represent the lot because it is - plug-in technology aside - the most mainstream of those machines.

Richard's picks
Small: Holden Spark
Medium: VW Tiguan
Large: Skoda Superb 4x4 wagon
Luxury: Mercedes-Benz E Class
Environmental: Volvo XC90 T8

Small: Holden Spark

Above average efficiency is this car's forte: cheap to run, easy to operate, reliable and safe. There's technological flair and chic creativity, but nothing superfluous. The priority audience, those ‘‘millennials'', who might have only recently stowed L plates and be finessing their driving techniques, could settle for a lot worse, and sadly often do.

Medium: VW Tiguan

Bridging mainstream and luxury: that's the company line. Actually, as the first all-new VW since ‘‘Dieselgate'', it carries a heftier responsibility, to help repair a somewhat tarnished brand image (not so much here, but certainly in lots of other places) by being better than good. In a category stacked with stars. A challenge? Drive this car and you wouldn't think so.

Large: Skoda Superb 4x4 wagon

Yes, there's ‘‘that'' grille and having to explain the oddball starter-button location. But consider the high-end ambience, the huge practicality, the spaciousness and comfort that make it a great companion for long journeys. Don't forget the value pricing, especially to Audi and VW owners. Sensible is more than smart. It's sensational.

Luxury: Mercedes-Benz E-Class

For technology and innovation, this model is a tour de force. Nothing else is on the same page, some aren't even in the same era. Once this tech transfers from a sedan, a shape that barely attracts 5% of sales, to a SUV, a style that suits 40% of the market, Mecedes will truly cement an already enviable status.

Environmental: Volvo XC90 T8

The XC90 is a fine SUV, but the T8's engineering is especially brilliant. Volvo's Scalable Product Architecture was designed from the start to accommodate a petrol-electric drivetrain whose TwinPower label is actually a misnomer; I count two electric motors assisting the turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder. No matter. Electric thrust in town, a blended performance elsewhere. And still some off-road potential.