We’ve traveled the world and tested well over 220 cars to bring you the very best automotive reviews around. In 2017, we were blessed to have the best access to cars all over the price spectrum, from one of the smallest cars offered today to some of the quickest and luxurious, too. Now that 2017 is coming to an end, we’re reflecting on some of the very best cars and trucks we drove this year.
Enjoy, and check out the best cars we drove in 2016 right here.
Sure, it’s Motor Trend’s Best Drivers Car. It was also the best car I drove all year, of any aspect. It represents every teenager’s dream for getting into automotive journalism. I’ll admit it: Growing up, I had that Alpine stereo poster with the maroon Lamborghini Countach on my bedroom wall. That was my dream, which the fates have granted me. And although I’ve been fortunate to drive numerous outstanding vehicles in my career, I have found many of them wanting, of not measuring up to my teenage fantasies. But from the second I clicked shut the driver’s door, the Ferrari 488 fulfilled every automotive desire I’ve ever had. From its fingertip-precise driving manners to the snarl-to-shriek powerband of the engine to its origami sheetmetal designed to make pedestrians gawk. It made me laugh, sing, weep, and swear great glorious oaths. —Mark Rechtin
It’s kinda low hanging fruit, but I have to admit there’s one car this year that embodied everything I love about cars: (A) sexy styling, (B) an aural superstar, (C) in terms of performance, it more than cashes the check it writes with A+B, (D) it was pretty easy to get close to its limits without the threat of something going terribly awry, and (E) it was surprisingly livable. The Ferrari 488 GTB deserved our 2017 Best Driver’s Car award because it is exactly what it appears to be, and unlike some other exotics, it isn’t over the top in any way. —Chris Walton
I don’t even know what this car will look like, as I drove a mule made out of a current-gen Mazda3. Doesn’t matter. Under the hood beats a compression-ignition gas engine, promising diesel economy with gasoline emissions at an affordable price. For more than a decade plenty of gigantic automakers have loudly promoted then abandoned this concept while plucky Mazda has just quietly made its spark-controlled compression ignition Skyactive X engine work—and work really well. The car bristles with plenty more chassis and seating innovations aimed at maximizing driver satisfaction, which drives home the point that while everybody else is making noise about autonomy, Mazda still wants its cars to be fun for human beings to drive. Hallelujah. —Frank Markus
For me, 2017 was a super year for supercars. Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS, the McLaren 720S, and Ford’s radical new GT all delivered breathtaking, yet uniquely different, high performance driving experiences. But in a year of superlatives, one car brushed them all imperiously aside: the Bugatti Chiron. The fastest, most powerful street legal production car in history, the Chiron is an automotive engineering benchmark for the ages, a car that redefines the performance envelope for internal combustion engines. Cruising one effortlessly at 200 mph on a European freeway and realizing I was still only accessing 75 percent of this extraordinary car’s capability is an experience I will long remember. —Angus MacKenzie
Never have I encountered a vehicle that was excellent in every form it came in. The base XL work truck was utilitarian and geared perfectly for its intended mission, the Lariat (supposedly the lesser of the luxury trims) was well-appointed and rode comfortably, and the Raptor was just a beast on- and off the pavement. Both the 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 engines were exceptionally powerful; the 10-speed auto was a peach, and who knew that a sub-3.0-liter engine could pull that hard even with all the metal around it?! Regardless of the variant, the F-150 has grown into a solid truck with a great blend of performance, comfort, surprising fuel efficiency, and a slick multimedia system than many automakers could learn from (looking at you, Toyota, Mercedes, Mazda, and Lexus). —Stefan Ogbac
I spend most of my time reading stories other staffers write about driving cars, not so much driving cars myself. I’m also a relative EV novice; the only electric car I had driven prior to the Model 3 was the Kia Soul EV. So I didn’t fully know what to expect when I got behind the wheel of the Tesla. Even after driving it, I still don’t fully know what to think of it. It’s an experience unlike just about anything else. I’m not sold on putting virtually all functions into the tablet touchscreen, but the clean interior this allows is stunning. It felt more like relaxing at home, the dash a nice coffee table and the windshield a TV, than sitting in a car—only my furniture isn’t that nice. And when I finally got to driving instead of just admiring … wow. If I were a reservation holder, I might get a little antsy as I wait to actually get a Model 3 of my own, but there’s no denying that the Model 3 is a genuinely impressive machine. —Jesse Bishop
Well, this is a pretty predictable pick if you know me—the Tesla Model 3. How come?
Not because it’s been the talk of the automotive town; the only car I know that causes people at dinner parties to quickly walk across the room to hear about. As an introvert, I actually wish they didn’t.
No, the attraction is in its possibilities. The Model 3, right now, is a big blank canvas upon which Tesla has a once in a lifetime chance to truly paint the car of the future. Sure, right now it’s a canvas in the hands of a sprinkling of people who are getting their first taste of how beautifully a well-designed EV can drive. And it’s supported by the Supercharger network, underlining its uniqueness as the only long-range EV that can truly replace your internal combustion automobile. And—no small thing—it’s at a price that’s laser-guided at the heart of the market, too. But those aren’t any of my reasons, either.
I’m going to point at two things. Here on the side—see that video camera in the B-pillar and that other one in the front fender? They’re some of the eyes this car will use to see—via artificial intelligence—surrounding traffic for autonomous driving. Can Tesla pull this off without Lidar? I don’t know. But those cameras there indicate they’re sure going to try. And also look here—inside—at the big screen in the middle of the dash. It’s meant to replace the usual busy swarm of knobs and switches with a single touchscreen interface. Some have criticized this. I see it as an inevitable evolution toward a new language of man-machine interface, and Tesla, once again, is off to a giant head start in defining it. Some critics have cast these two features of the Model 3 as—at the moment—a glass half full. I see that empty half as where the future of the automobile could very well be poured. —Kim Reynolds
To help refresh my memory for this assignment, I scrolled through my Instagram account, which mostly serves as an archive of the good stuff I’ve driven. I paused at the Ferrari 488, stopped a tad longer at the fantastic Porsche 718 Cayman, but only the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R gave me goose bumps. The wonderful wail from its Voodoo V-8 stands out the most, but the GT350R is much more than its engine. Its lively steering, precise shifter, and sharp handling all contribute to a unforgettable driving experience and without a doubt the best car I drove in 2017. —Erick Ayapana
This year I had the pleasure of chaperoning our long-term 2017 Mini Clubman S All4. In addition to being incredibly fun to drive and surprisingly spacious for hauling stuff around, the Mini facilitated some remarkable adventures—both impromptu and painstakingly planned. Whenever I had the Mini in my driveway, I was constantly coming up with excuses to get out and drive. Whether it was venturing into the heart of downtown L.A. for the afternoon or taking a day trip out to the middle of the desert, the Mini was ready for it. Limited parking? No problem. Got passengers? Pile ‘em in. Picking up something oblong and bulky? It’ll probably fit.
The Mini also got me through a two-week, 2,000-mile road trip that included bucket-list places such as Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, historic Route 66, and so much more. The destinations were unforgettable, but the journey in the Mini was just as memorable. —Alex Nishimoto
When a car distinguishes itself after an entire day of driving most of its competitors on the same roads, you know it’s something special. That’s exactly what happened earlier this year with the 280-hp 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia, which won a comparison test against many formidable competitors. You’d expect the Alfa Romeo to look good and be one of the most engaging drivers in the class, but it was the car’s well-rounded appeal that really surprised. Sure, there are a few things in the interior I wish were different, and I personally have trouble trusting Alfa Romeo’s long-term reliability, but wow. What a car. —Zach Gale
The best car I drove in 2017? The Lamborghini Urus. Even if it isn’t the actual best car (or in this case, hulking SUV), I’m the only American who has so far been allowed to drive the latest (and second) soft roader from Sant’Agata. All other sport-oriented SUVs are on notice: the Urus is better than you are. Yes, for $200,000+ it had better be. Initially, I was swayed by the 650 horsepower and the approximately 3.3 second dash to 60 mph. After many laps around a 4-mile circuit, however, I’m most in love with the Urus’ brakes. Which, at 17.3 inches up front, are the largest that have been fitted to any car. Ever. What a world we’re living in. —Jonny Lieberman
My high points of the year include, as you’d expect, blasting up highway 198 in every single Best Driver’s Car competitor. The Porsche 718, 911 Turbo S, and Ferrari 488, of course, all stand out even months later. Oddly enough, so does the Corvette Grand Sport. Despite a gearbox that wasn’t quite right for the conditions (all too often I found myself running out of breath at the top of third into a corner or bogging in fourth coming out of it), I still remember how well that car stuck and steered, no matter how hard I was on the throttle or brakes. At the start of the 2017 Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, I had the opportunity to drive Mercedes-Benz’s “rote Sau” (red pig) with racing royalty, Jochen “Mischievous” Mass. But it was a replica of the 1970 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.8 AMG that we were driving; visually if not entirely mechanically accurate.
I knew I was going to drive all of these vehicles, weeks in advance, so I was mentally prepared for them and had my expectations going in. The one car that took me by surprise, however, was the Civic Type R—just one of the 46 vehicles I tested at Car of the Year. I had heard murmurs of how well it drove, so I can’t say I was completely surprised. Here is a sample of what I jotted down in my COTY notebook:
“I rolled my eyes when I first saw the vehicle, but after driving it I understand. It looks the way it drives: crazy fun. Haven’t had as much fun driving around the winding track in a very long time. Totally different approach from Porsche Boxster, but that’s as close as I can draw a comparison to in terms of overall joy of driving. Honda has put a lot of thought into the Type R, and it shows within the layers are refinement and sophistication. The shift feel is better than the Porsche. The engine doesn’t drone on the highway, and it’s not peaky—it just pulls hard in every gear. The engine just wants to rev and run all the way to redline. The seats are among best sport buckets I’ve ever sat in—holding monsters that don’t pop you in the jewels when you get in or out. Properly bolstered at the midsection but not overstuffed and in the way of flying elbows in tricky sets of corners. The wild bodywork doesn’t block outward vision or touch down/scrape on steep driveways. Honda didn’t just tart up the Civic Type R by slapping on OEM versions of aftermarket parts, they took a serious and seriously refined approach, considered everything, and it shows. It is cars like this that show Honda still has it. They might not be able build an F1 engine, but they can certainly build a Type R.” —Ed Loh
As a newbie for this year’s Best Driver’s Car, I was amazed by the organization and production that takes place during the “best week of the year.” I was lucky to find myself swimming in an ocean of supercars. From the Ferrari 488 GTB to Lexus’ new LC 500, I got to drive some of the most expensive, beautiful, and powerful cars in the planet. But above all, the one that stood out the most was the 911 Turbo S. The iconic roadster gave me goose bumps when I drove it up and down Highway 198, and it was so easy to control that inspired more confidence to push it harder. Not every supercar can be as fun to take to the canyons and be driven to work every day like the 911. —Miguel Cortina
Seven years ago, editor-in-chief Loh called in a favor and got me three days with a then-brand-new Maserati GranCabrio (known as the GranTurismo Convertible in the U.S.) on my honeymoon in northern Italy. This year, I drove the latest, and in all likelihood the last traditional GranCabrio through a neighboring province and to the famed racetrack at Monza. It’s not the fastest, most luxurious, best-handling, or most exciting car I’ve driven this year, but it’s my “best” because of what it means to me. A chance to revisit such an important time in my life so literally is worth its weight in Lamborghini Huracan Performantes, Jeep Wranglers, Chevy Colorado ZR2s, and every other awesome vehicle I drove this year. I’ll remember the sound of that glorious Italian V-8 rumbling through the tree-lined streets of the Parco di Monza long after it’s been replaced with a leaner, sharper, angrier, turbocharged car that won’t quite capture the same spirit no matter how good it is. —Scott Evans
This is an emotional pick: driving an Audi RS 4 and an RS 6 in the northernmost part of Finland. It was at the Nokian winter tire testing facility near Ivalo, a place nicknamed “White Hell” with miles of slalom and handling courses and speed runs on a frozen lake. In an AWD RS4 with studded Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 tires, I played on the slalom and handling courses set up on the ice, looking for that sweet spot between the edge of control and drifting dangerously close to a snowbank. Then I hopped in the same blue RS6 that set the world record for fastest car on ice when it hit 335.7 km/h (208.6 mph) on the Gulf of Bothnia wearing studded Hakkapeliitta 8s. My amateur speed runs never came close to the record, but the adrenaline rush of hurtling on uneven ice, with the steering wheel chattering in my hands, until I blinked and released the accelerator pedal, is something I won’t forget anytime soon. It was the precursor to a Motor Trend road trip through Finland that included a visit to the birthplace of my Finnish grandmother. Unforgettable on so many levels … —Alisa Priddle
I have always drooled over Porsches and anything Steve McQueen drove, so when I laid my eyes on the Panamera at 2018 Car of the Year testing, I knew I had to drive that bad boy because it’s always been on my top 8. The cool thing about Car of Year is that you get to drive a swanky car, with no other car on the road, at an accelerating speed. I am also a newbie and youngster here at Motor Trend, and I had never driven a Porsche before. My oh my, the Panamera was everything I ever dreamed of—driving it was exhilarating; the only thing missing was Mulholland Drive and a sick playlist containing the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” and Modest Mouse. —Erika Pizano
In a year filled with supercars such as Ferrari’s GTC4Lusso and 488, and super trucks, such as the Ford Raptor, Chevy Colorado ZR2, and Ram Power Wagon, I’m going to cheat and pick something that’s neither a car nor a truck—the Oshkosh JLTV. The JLTV is an impressive machine. With its bulletproof Duramax turbodiesel V-8, a Baja-tuned suspension, and two levels of armor, the JLTV is the ultimate go-anywhere, do-anything off-roader. Although you can’t buy one (unless your name is Uncle Sam), the Wisconsin-built JLTV is a remarkably fun, and more importantly, well-engineered military vehicle that will serve our country faithfully, just as the Humvee, MUTT, and original Jeeps did before it. —Christian Seabaugh