John's top five cars of 2018
Principal Technical Researcher John Ewing reveals his favourite cars of 2018.
Audi RS4 Avant
RS4 Avant delivers a genuinely engaging and sporty drive with spacious wagon practicality, plus prestige brand creature comforts. It’s all there to enjoy – stunning engine performance, Quattro all-wheel-drive, limpet-like grip, corner-carving dynamics, powerful brakes. And it’s finished to Audi’s impeccable standards. We would happily have given it a loving home.
The previous Forester was one of the better SUV offerings. The latest fifth-generation is even more compelling, thanks to the wide-ranging improvements. Its new stiffer underpinnings, plus steering and suspension revisions, make for a great balance between confident handling and good ride quality. It’s better finished, and the cabin has a light, airy feel. It’s well equipped with advanced driver assistance features too. It’s an easy to live with all-rounder.
An update part-way through 2018 put extra polish on the Mazda6, already one of the mid-size class benchmarks. The big-ticket item in the refresh was the availability of a 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine that lifts performance levels. Premium quality finish inside looks like it belongs to a more expensive car and there’s plenty of driver assistance and safety technology. Great steering and handling round out an excellent package that can be had as either sedan or wagon. With offerings this good, it surprises us that more buyers don’t shop in this market segment.
Released late in 2017, it was good enough to grab a finals’ berth at Australia’s Best Cars 2018 test week. Up against a BMW and Mercedes AMG model in the premium sports car class, the hot-shot Honda placed second to the $30k dearer AMG – no disgrace there. The 228kW, 2.0-litre turbo engine is a little gem, the manual box has short slick shifts, the Brembo brakes offer plenty of stopping power, and the chassis dynamics and steering are first rate. A fun drive!
Through the generations Mazda has evolved the MX-5 but always remained faithful to the original concept. The latest RF GT retains classic two-seat sports car style and, like its forbears, delivers on the promise of pure driving pleasure. The 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine is willing and flexible, and the six-speed manual gearbox is a joy to row with short precise throws. The sweetly balanced rear-drive chassis and delightfully precise steering makes a blast through the twists and turns a real delight.