- Each year Business Insider selects 15 finalists for its Car of the Year competition.
- The cars are chosen from the more than five dozen we road tested during the year.
- The vehicles range from family SUVs and sedans to supercars and electric vehicles.
- Brands represented this year are Audi, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Honda, Jaguar, Kia, Lamborghini, Lexus, Lincoln, Nissan, Subaru, Tesla, and Volvo.
- One of the 15 will be named Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year.
Autumn has arrived, and with it the fifth instalment of Business Insider’s Car of the Year award.
In 2014 the Corvette Stingray was our winner. In 2015 it was the Volvo XC90. In 2016 the Acura NSX captured the trophy. And for 2017 we chose the Porsche Panamera. As with 2016 and 2017, we stuck with our lineup of 15 finalists for this year.
Our esteemed finalists are the vehicles – from sedans to supercars to SUVs – that impressed us most. They’re the best of the best and were selected after a year of test-driving and reviewing more than 60 cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and sports cars.
To be eligible, a model must be new or have been substantially updated within the past year, and it must have been road tested by at least two members of the Business Insider team.
In 2018, senior correspondent Matt DeBord and senior reporter Ben Zhang shared the majority of reviewing duties, with news editor Bryan Logan lending a hand on the West Coast. Images were contributed by Hollis Johnson, Business Insider’s photo editor, and Jessica Tyler, our visual-features reporter.
Our methodology is straightforward, focused on basic questions:
- Is there a strong business case for the vehicle?
- Did our reviewers agree that the vehicle should be included? We have to come to a consensus, even though we might disagree on some particulars.
- Was the vehicle objectively excellent? There has to be some sort of wow! factor.
- Did the vehicle stand out from the sea of competition, particularly when it comes to technology? A Car of the Year finalist has to be special.
- Can we strongly recommend buying or leasing the car? We demand to know whether we’d buy the vehicle ourselves if we had the resources.
We’ll announce the 2018 Car of the Year on November 19 and prepare you for the big event by revealing our five runners-up the week before. We’ll also reveal who won Infotainment System of the Year and Audio System of the Year.
So here they are, the 15 finalists for Business Insider’s 2018 Car of the Year:
2019 Aston Martin DB11 Volante
Engine tested: 4.0-litre, twin-turbo, 503-horsepower V8
Base price: $US219,000
Why it’s here: The Volante followed our experience with the Coupé, a Car of the Year finalist in 2017.
The Volante lacked the Coupé’s V12 engine, but it didn’t disappoint.
DeBord wrote in his review:
“The DB11 Volante doesn’t feel lighter or friskier than the Coupé – it has that same extremely purposeful vibe, supremely confident going fast in a straight line accompanied by a throaty roar of combustion through the dual exhaust pipes, supremely confident diving into corners, supremely confident racing away from semis on the highway, supremely confident just cruising through the New Jersey suburbs (well, as supremely confident as a car can be in that environment).”
Oh, and the Aston Martin DB11 Volante is absolutely gorgeous.
2018 Audi RS3
Engine tested: 2.5-litre, 400-horsepower, turbocharged five-cylinder
Base price: $US54,900
Why it’s here: “The Audi RS3 is simply astounding,” Zhang wrote in his review of the 2018 Audi RS3 2.5T quattro S tronic.
“It’s brilliant not just as a performance machine, but also as a compact luxury sedan. It’s both a predatory animal lurking in the tall grasses, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, and a warm, comforting friend.”
Zhang’s verdict was clear: “We were blown away by the S3’s style, comfort, and performance back in 2015. With the RS3, Audi and Audi Sport have simply taken things to the next level.”
2018 Ferrari 812 Superfast
Engine tested: 6.5-litre, 789-horsepower V12
Base price: $US335,000
Why it’s here: In his review of the 812 Superfast, DeBord had this to say about his new favourite Ferrari:
“At the legal speed limit in the 812 Superfast, you’ve barely roused the beast. On the freeway, you can finesse the throttle to dance the 6.5-litre under the hood – a bump in displacement from the F12’s 6.3-litre – enjoying the snarls and growls, or you can shift gears yourself, using the elegant carbon-fibre paddles behind the steering wheel, and feel the snaps and jerks, the kicks to your spine and sternum, as you deploy the G-forces.”
For what it’s worth, this glorious machine was also Business Insider’s first yellow Ferrari, and at an as-tested price of $US474,000, it was one of the most expensive vehicles we’ve ever reviewed.
2018 Honda Accord
Engine tested: 2.0-litre, 252-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder
Base price: $US23,570
Why it’s here: Zhang, a former Accord owner, really liked this humble sedan, which we sampled in mid-grade Sport and top-of-the-line Touring trim levels.
In his review of the Accord Sport, he wrote, “The new Accord is a return to form for Honda’s venerable marque.”
And he added:
“It’s fun, yet sensible. It’s a high-tech car, yet approachable. It’s lighter and smaller, yet roomier. This is really Honda at its finest. It’s not the NSX supercar. It’s not the HondaJet. Honda’s forte has always been delivering exquisitely engineered and beautifully executed transportation for the masses. And with the new Accord, this is exactly what you get, along with an extra dose of fun and personality.”
2018 Jaguar E-Pace
Engine tested: 2.0-litre, 296-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder
Base price: $US38,600
Why it’s here: Jaguar has been adding crossover SUVs at a furious rate the past few years.
In his review of the 2018 E-Pace R-Dynamic HSE, stickering at $US54,000, DeBord wrote:
“Every box has been crossed off the list when it comes to the E-Pace. Yes, it’s a sharp set of wheels. Yes, it has good cargo capacity. Yes, it can carry two adults and three smaller folks (but ideally just two) in Jaggy style. Yes, it’s crammed with all the airbags and driver-assist features modern luxury buyers demands, a bird’s-eye park-assist camera view to lane-keep assist to emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and adaptive cruise control.
“But what genuinely makes the E-Pace a Jaguar worthy of the brand’s long lineage and celebrated DNA is what happens when you drive it in a spirited way. This car is fast and fun. Very quick, and an absolute blast to throw into corners.”
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Engine tested: 3.0-litre, 380-horsepower, supercharged V6
Base price: $US70,450
Why it’s here: In his review of the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD, Zhang wrote that it’s “absolutely terrific.”
“The driving experience, utility, and gorgeous sheet metal blew us away,” he said.
“The Sportbrake offers a compelling combination of luxury-sedan comfort, sports-sedan performance, crossover-SUV cargo capacity, and enough room for a family of five,” Zhang concluded. Who needs an SUV when you can have a Jagon?
2019 Jaguar I-Pace
Engine tested: Dual electric motors, producing 394 horsepower; 90-kWh battery pack, with a range of 234 miles on a single charge
Base price: $US69,500 (before tax incentives)
Why it’s here: The much-awaited Tesla competitor is a winner, according to Zhang.
In his review of our Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE tester, he wrote:
“After a week with the 2019 Jaguar I-Pace, we came away impressed.
“The Jag is engaging to drive, with a luxurious and modern cabin. Its styling is modern yet maintains many of the striking design cues that make Jaguar stand out. However, the I-Pace isn’t perfect. Its styling can be polarising, while the raked rear hatch cuts into the crossover’s car capacity. In addition, the 5.6 inches of ground clearance will limit its off-road capability.
“In spite of its imperfections, we found the Jag to be a really fun, stylish, and likable car that’s easy to live with.
“Jaguar has been on a roll in recent years, with a string of hits including the F-Type sports car, the XF sedan, and the F-Pace SUV. With the I-Pace, the English luxury brand looks to have another winner on its hands.”
2018 Kia Stinger
Engine tested: 3.3-litre, 365-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6
Base price: $US32,000
Why it’s here: Few cars impressed us as much in 2018 as the Stinger, perhaps the best machine Kia has ever made and a lovely challenge to the best sports sedans the Germans have to offer.
We actually drove it three times, in different trims. Of the $US52,000 GT2 that DeBord reviewed, he had this to say:
“It’s an endlessly fun car, a literal joy to drive. It fires up with a pleasing snarl (OK, an augmented one, but still) and growls cheerfully when pushed. It’s flat-out fast. The 0-60 mph time is supposed to be 4.7 seconds, but I thought it was notably quicker than that. And you have to watch yourself at cruising velocities, as the Stinger taps out the legal speed limit in a hurry, but do so with such poise and relative quiet that one can easily overlook the speedometer …
“A brilliant risk for Kia, and one that should be brilliantly rewarded.”
2018 Lamborghini Huracán Performante
Engine tested: 5.2-litre, 631-horsepower V10
Base price: $US274,000
Why it’s here: Well, it’s just about the nastiest Lambo Huracán that money can buy.
Of the $US320,000 version DeBord tested, there was this verdict:
“Street-legal-wise, the best part of the Performante is of course that vicious, snarling, belching, burbling V10, all thrust and backfire and bark and yowl. Simply driving around at the legal speed limit, flipping between gears, is auditory bliss. You don’t need to go fast, heretical as that is to say. You can have fun playing the pipe organ of combustion that is the Performante’s brilliant motor.
“Yes, indeed, 320 grand is a rich price to pay for such pleasures, which can also be had with less-expensive versions of the Huracán.
“But if you are a track hound, or if you simply have the resources to spend up on forged composite carbon and the like to feel your car glued to pavement at all times, then you’re not going to want to overlook the Performante. It’s spectacular.”
2018 Lexus LS 500
Engine tested: 3.5-litre, 416-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6
Base price: $US75,000
Why it’s here: Zhang drove the new $US116,000 LS 500, Lexus’ legendary flagship, and concluded that “the folks at Toyota’s luxury division prove they still have the magic touch.”
“No one questions whether Lexus can do luxury and refinement. But the brand has been criticised for being a bit dull and inoffensive over the years. In reaction, Lexus has pushed to become more modern and aggressive in its design. However, early attempts at this came off as a bit forced, like a middle-aged dad trying to use slang. And you can definitely see this in early forms of the spindle grille.
“Over the past year or two, the look and feel of Lexus’s new design language has really come together. And the new LS is really the capstone of this process.
“The new LS 500 proves that Lexus can still deliver a luxurious, refined, high-performance luxury sedan, but wrapped in an edgy and dramatic design.”
2018 Lincoln Navigator
Engine tested: 3.5-litre, 450-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V6
Base price: $US73,000
Why it’s here: DeBord reviewed the 4×4 Reserve trim level of the Navigator, tipping the price scales at $US90,000, and understood why Lincoln can’t build the big SUV fast enough to satisfy demand:
“With the new Navigator, following the debut of the flagship Continental sedan, Lincoln has nearly completed its comeback in the luxury market. Navigator was an important part of this process, and Lincoln has basically done everything right. The classic has been updated, gracefully, without sacrificing its functionality. It now stacks up much better against the Cadillac Escalade, and Caddy will be under pressure to keep pace.
“If really, really big rides are your bag, you can’t go wrong with the 2018 Navigator. Lincoln created this segment, and it’s clear that they still know exactly what they’re doing.”
2018 Nissan Leaf
Engine tested: Single electric motor, producing 147 horsepower; 40-kWh battery pack, with 151 miles of range on a full charge
Base price: $US30,000 (before tax incentives)
Why it’s here: The Leaf has been around for a while and needed an update.
In his review of a $US37,865 tester, Zhang wrote: “The new Leaf is a solid second effort from Nissan. The Leaf looks terrific, while its interior fit and finish convey an almost premium air. It’s also packed with infotainment and driver-assistance technology.”
He wasn’t nuts about the sub-300-mile range, but he noted that a longer-range battery is on the way.
2019 Subaru Ascent
Engine tested: 2.4-litre, 260-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder
Base price: $US31,995
Why it’s here: In a US market defined by crossover-SUV sales, the new Ascent is a warning shot across the industry’s bow.
“Subaru really needed to get the Ascent right,” Zhang wrote in his review of a $US45,670 Ascent Touring. “And boy did they nail it. The 2019 Subaru Ascent wowed us with its user-friendly design, its refined cabin, a cornucopia of standard safety features, infotainment tech that works, and a gutsy turbocharged engine. In a market in which the weak are quickly exposed, Subaru is entering the fray with all guns blazing.”
Tesla Model 3
Engine tested: Single electric motor, producing 217 horsepower; 65-kWh battery pack, with 260 miles per full charge
Base price: $US46,000 (before tax incentives)
Why it’s here: You have to ask? The Tesla Model 3 is the most hotly anticipated automobile in human history.
Luckily, the waiting was worth it. The car is absolutely fantastic. We drove it three times in 2018, in both the rear-wheel-drive version and the all-wheel-drive high-performance spec.
In his review of a $US57,500 Model 3, DeBord enthused, enthused, and enthused some more:
“What’s really so hypnotically and addictively compelling about the Model 3 is how many great ideas have been crammed into one automobile. This is a car that’s absolutely bursting with thought, about the present and the future – and the distant future. Those ideas are overwhelmingly optimistic. Clearly, because it creates no tailpipe emissions, you can buy a Model 3 to feel better about yourself and your life on the environmentally embattled Earth …
“But the truly astounding thing is that Tesla, in only about five years of seriously manufacturing automobiles, could build a car this good. That’s a staggering achievement.
“Wait, did I say good? I meant great.
“Hold on, did I say great? Sorry, I meant greatest.
“Say hello to the best car money can currently buy.”
2018 Volvo XC40
Engine tested: 2.0-litre, 248-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder
Base price: $US34,000
Why it’s here: In his review of a $US46,000 XC40 T5 R-Design, DeBord gave Volvo props for creating a dandy compact crossover:
“It’s no BMW or Audi, but as Volvos go, it’s refreshing. On balance, I preferred it to the XC60 (although rear legroom is obviously better in the XC60). My testing involved a mix of around-town puttering and highway jaunts, so I got a decent sense of the XC40’s manners under a variety of conditions …
“For Volvo, the XC40 is critical to competing in the hot, hot, hot crossover segment. With a completely refreshed portfolio, the Chinese-owned Swedish stalwart has a full-size, mid-size, and compact SUV. As luxury buyers shift away from passenger cars in profitable markets, such as the US, it’s vital that Volvo capture as many buyers as possible.”
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