The best part of test-driving new cars for a living is picking your nephew up from school in a Ferrari 812 Superfast.
The worst part is not knowing how to start a car, turn down the radio and/or casually circling it at the gas station trying to figure out how to open the gas cap. (And every once in a while, you might have to explain to a rural police officer why you’re in a Maserati Levante … that’s not yours.)
But those are the trials and tribulations we sign up for to help you make sense of the — frankly daunting — automobile landscape. And, yes, it’s worth noting that we also f*cking love cars.
Herewith, our 11 favorite test drives from the last 12 months, every one of which should be on your radar if you’re planning to buy or lease in 2018.
The Closest Thing to a Self-Driving Car: Cadillac CT6 Supercruise
Despite a penchant for speed, I am, at the end of the day, a defensive driver. Accordingly, I’m very skeptical of the autonomous vehicle beta roll-outs that have been happening out West. But then there was Cadillac. Did Supercruise — the marque’s name for their new semi-autonomous driving platform — let me take a nap? No. Did I play a game of chess on the way to D.C.? No. But did it do every damn thing it said it would? Abolutely. While the new feature didn’t make me love the CT6 any more than I already did (not possible), it’s the horse I would bet on in the race for self-driving greatness.
The Ultimate Daily Driver: Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio
A new sports-sedan champion has emerged, and it’s not from Germany. Specifically, it’s the Giulia, an Italian
How Ferrari Got Its Groove Back: Ferrari 488 GTB
The 488 GTB is a car that would have impressed Steve McQueen. And as we ripped, roared, coasted and cornered our way around some of the most scenic roads in New England, the 488 GTB humming with a grace and authority backed by 660 horses, it was hard not to feel a kinship with the late King of Cool. Which is to say: we probably looked like the exact brand of self-satisfied sybarite you’d expect to find behind the wheel of a Ferrari. And we definitely liked it.
The Grocery Getter With an Attitude: Audi A4 Allroad
We previously called it an “SUV in drag.” Now I’m calling it “the car I would buy today.” The Audi A4 Offroad is a benchmark for luxury wagons. The price is fair, starting at $44k. The 2.0-liter TFSI engine is more fuel conservative than its competitors. And it strikes the perfect balance for anyone with a day job that wants to open ‘er up on the weekends. And a pro tip for all you city mice: garages charge car prices — not SUV prices — for the Allroad, meaning all the sport and less of the expense.
The Luxury SUV That’s Not Afraid to Get Dirty: Jaguar F-Pace
Broad strokes: if you fancy yourself one part Bond and one part Bear Grylls — don’t we all? — the F-Pace has your name all over it. The mostly aluminum build has tapered, aerodynamic alloy wheels with all-wheel drive, an eight-speed transmission and paddle shifters that make for controlled, lightning-quick turns and a smooth ride. Inside, there’s room for plenty of gear or a small family: Jag says it seats up to five, but we say it’s more like a comfortable four, which still makes it a mansion compared to the interior and cargo space of any Jag that came before it.
The Big-Ass Car You Can Actually Drive in the City: GMC Yukon Denali
After towing some horses around Upstate New York in GMC’s Sierra Denali, we decided to take
The ATV Wearing a Car Costume: Land Rover Discovery
We took the Land Rover Discovery for a day of pummeling trails across the approximately 8,000 acres on which the historic Biltmore Estate sits. We pushed this lovely beast through ultra-tight tree tunnels, up rock climbs and through three feet of water, all courtesy of superlative off-road features like the Terrain Response and the Hill Descent Control. When you’re teeter-tottering with your front wheels four feet off the ground, those bells and whistles come in mighty handy.
The Affordable Supercar: Mercedes AMG GTR
In terms of raw sex appeal, pedigreed power and drool-worthy design, the AMG GT and especially its new Roadster variant match revs with a very rarefied group that includes the McLaren 570GT, Ferrari 488 GTB
I Can’t Believe It’s a Cadillac: Cadillac CTS V-Sport
Had I driven this car with a blindfold on, I would never have guessed it was a Caddie. The way it hugged curves. The way it accelerated. The weight and precision — there was no way this was a Cadillac. My parents drove Caddies, and they were so … humorless. The cars too. But the V-Sport delivers the German driving experience we crave wrapped up in Cadillac’s inimitable style.
The Stroller: Lincoln Navigator
Have you ever wished you had nine kids? Me either. But if I did, there would only be one choice. The Navigator is forward, robust and luxurious in a way that says, “Your commute should be the easiest part of your day.” To boot, you won’t find an auto manufacturer that listens to its buyers to the degree of Lincoln. From color choices to driver experience to somewhere to put that great big purse, it’s a marque that’s got a loyalist community like no other for a reason.
The Pure, Unfiltered Fun-Mobile: Audi R8 V10 Spyder
I’m going to make this simple: I have never. Even in the Rolls Royce Phantom, I have never. Because while the Rolls is the height of luxury, it’s a passenger car. The Audi R8? She’s a driver’s car. You better know some things about yourself before you get into this ride: 1) That you’re skilled behind the wheel. And 2) That you know your own boundaries. Because this car makes it very, very easy to turn the Catskills backroads into a racetrack — and that is highly frowned upon by New York’s finest.