We say it every year: we at Roadshow are incredibly lucky to drive the latest and greatest cars. Sometimes we get short stints in exotic locations, and other times we test for several weeks at home on familiar roads. Every experience is worth it, but looking back over the past 12 months, some stand out more than others.
These are our 2021 favorites, from incredibly practical compacts to hilarious supercars, a concept and a classic.
The 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster is automotive perfection
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Picking my favorite car of the year was extremely easy. It’s not aor a or a , but a 64-year-old Mercedes-Benz with 215 hp. The 1957 300SL is mechanical perfection: it has the best manual transmission I’ve ever used, impeccable handling, a phenomenal six-cylinder in-line and incredible steering feel from its giant ivory steering wheel. In addition, it seems that That† Driving this roadster around Pebble Beach on a foggy morning was nothing short of amazing.
While far from the sexiest or most entertaining new vehicle I’ve driven this year, the 2022 Ford Maverick is arguably the best — or at least the most creditable. Specifically, I am talking about the cheap XL and XLT hybrid models. I love small trucks, and I’ve been waving my arms for a decade and begging the industry to develop a fair, simple and affordable pickup truck. With a standard hybrid powertrain rated at up to 42mpg, seating for five and a rock bottom price of $21,490 (delivered), Ford’s Maverick isn’t just smarter than it should be. It is also more rounded.
— Chris Paukert
Seriously, is a list of “best cars” ever complete without a version of the Porsche 911? I’d say no, because simply put, this iconic nameplate is the gold standard in performance vehicles, with excellent driver engagement, more speed than you could ever need, plenty of technology and even a luxurious (if not very spacious) interior.
Earlier this year I reviewed the new 2022 Porsche 911 GTS and it was absolutely sublime, a joy to thrash the winding roads of northeast Georgia. Like other GTS models, this sports car runs a fine line and delivers noticeably more powerful performance than lesser finishes without being as over the top — and expensive — as Turbo variants. A rear-mounted flat-six delivers a rousing 473 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque and a big smile every time you roll on the throttle. Go with the available seven-speed manual transmission and you’ll never be bored. The 911 GTS is an absolute sweetheart, a car that I am grateful for having had the opportunity to experience.
— Craig Cole
I’m a sucker for affordable rear-wheel drive coupes, but sadly, the market isn’t equal to that these days. That’s why the second-generation Toyota GR 86 is such a treat. It’s drastically different from its predecessor from a styling perspective, with more defined and slightly more mature bodywork, while the interior is clean and straightforward.
But really, it’s the performance changes that are most welcome. A larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder boxer engine brings 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque to the party, and it can still be had with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission. Hurrah! There is also a vending machine, but don’t do that. Just don’t. The 86 also has a sharper and more composed handling than before, with a reinforced body structure and reworked suspension. Oh, and I can’t forget that Toyota is finally equipping the 86 with respectable factory rubber with Premium trim levels and getting Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires as standard. Thank you, Toyota (and Subaru), for giving us a new 86.
— Jon Wong
I’ve been lucky enough to pilot a few prototypes and concepts over the years, but it’s pretty rare that you’re invited to, you know, real drive things. Not only did Porsche put me behind the wheel of the Mission R weeks after its debut, but it also gave me a private track where I could really let myself go. This is Porsche’s vision for the all-electric future of its racing program, with 1,000 horsepower aimed at all four wheels. Not only is it exciting and wild to drive, but it also shows that the future of motorsport will be very bright.
— Tim Stevens
2021 Lamborghini Huracan STO is a sleek, average track machine
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All the Lamborghinis of my childhood were wild, unhinged things with wings and vents all over the place and seemingly not an ounce of refinement or precision or anything but insane and powerful. Those cars captured my imagination, and although Lamborghinis have objectively gotten better and better in the intervening years, I always felt that something was lost along the way: the drama. The Huracan STO brings back a lot of that for me. It sure looks insane with its dorsal fin and giant wing. It’s not particularly practical or reasonable for everyday use like other Huracans, but it really is a stunning driver’s car. It’s sharp, violent and exciting – by far the best car I’ve driven in 2021. It’s not a car I’ll probably ever forget.
† Kyle Hyatt
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the V8 dirt monster we’ve always wanted
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Does the world need a Jeep Wrangler that can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds, chirp its tires and emit a V8 roar like no other? New. But damn it’s fun. Powered by a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with a staggering 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the Wrangler 392 is the most ridiculous fun I’ve had all year. It climbed dunes, conquered rocks and left me with the roof down and the doors off. Sure, the fuel economy is appalling and it’s nothing I’d commute in on a daily basis, but as off-road gear, this V8 Jeep is hard to beat.
— Emme Hall
The Rivian R1T takes to the road with incredible acceleration and tackles trails with an eerily quiet confidence. Not only does the all-electric pickup have plenty of power and range for everyday driving (up to 514 miles) with a little wiggle room for light towing, but it’s also packed with unique features such as the gear tunnel storage that converts into a pull-out pickup truck. up. camp kitchen. Unlike any truck I’ve ever driven, the R1T is a great vanguard for the emerging wave of electric pickup trucks.
† Antuan Goodwin
I didn’t want to stop driving this car. The whining flat-six engine, the perfect six-speed gearbox, the excited shiver that runs down my spine as the rev counter hits 9,000 rpm—driving the Porsche 911 GT3 Touring is an experience I won’t soon forget. The only car to come close to the thrill of the GT3 Touring this year was the standard GT3. All the rest? Far, far behind.
I have another GT3 tester in January. So when you see a rerun on our 2022 list, you’ll know why.
— Steven Ewing
Our experience with high-end luxury electric vehicles has long been limited to a single car from a single manufacturer. But now we’ve finally reached a tipping point where old automakers are bringing their know-how to the table to deliver a new generation of EVs. So it should come as no surprise that Daimler — you know, the people who invented the car — rolled out one of the best in 2021.
The Mercedes-Benz EQS was practically the best car I’ve driven all year. It proved that an electric car can be just as much a rolling block of opulence as gasoline-powered petrols. It rides like a dream and delivers more than enough punch when needed, though, at. And then there’s Hyperscreen, a marvel of a dashboard that contains three separate displays to create one component with a whole lot of wow factor. The EQS has set the bar high for all future luxury EVs, whether they come from startups or legacy OEMs.
† Andrew Kroko