When it comes to making All 4 Adventure/UNLEASHED Jase and Simon push themselves, their crew and their gear to the limit in order to achieve the best 4X4, fishing and adventure show on Australian television.
I haven’t actually tallied up how many different vehicles I’ve driven this year, but the number is well over 50.
So when I was asked to pick my top five favourites of the year, I didn’t find it an easy task.
There’s something to like about all of them, but a few simply stand out from the crowd.
So here are my top five favourites for the year:
FIFTH – MAZDA CX-5 GT 2017:
Mazda’s CX-5 compact crossover SUV has been a success story since its launch in 2012.
I loved the vehicle from the first time I sat in the driver’s seat and our family is now on its second CX-5, a 2016.5 GS model.
It’s an important vehicle for Mazda and now accounts for more than a quarter of all sales worldwide.
The 2017 model marks the beginning of the second generation of the popular compact. It has 698 changes over the outgoing model so it shows that Mazda isn’t just sitting on its laurels.
The new model is simply better all-round featuring a quieter cabin, more comfortable ride and more inviting rear seats.
It is still very much a driver’s car and one that should be in every conversation when you talk about the best compact crossovers on the market.
FOURTH – CHRYSLER PACIFICA HYBRID 2017:
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid marks an industry first— it is the first electrified minivan to hit the market.
And while other manufacturers are abandoning minivans, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) continues to go “all in” with both the Pacifica and the Grand Caravan being built at the Windsor (Ontario) Assembly Plant.
These two vehicles account for more than 70 per cent of all minivan sales in Canada.
The Pacifica Hybrid is not an inexpensive proposition. Our tester touched the road at $56,495 plus a $1,795 destination charge.
However, Ontario buyers get a $14,000 ‘green’ rebate on this plug-in model, while Quebec offers $8,000 and BC $5,000.
We tested a 2017 Pacifica with the Platinum trim (the only trim level available in 2017), but FCA now has its 2018 Pacifica Hybrids on sale with three different trim levels, starting at $38,706 with the $14K government rebate already taken off.
It may be a big vehicle but it doesn’t drive like one and in hybrid form, it is as quiet as a library when in electric mode.
With a complete battery charge, the Pacifica Hybrid will only travel up to about 50 or so kilometres in electric mode. But this would be sufficient for a huge number of commuters who drive less than this to and from work every day.
And unlike vehicles that rely on electric power alone and create for many drivers what the industry calls ‘range anxiety’, with the Pacifica Hybrid you have a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine that kicks in to help with added acceleration when needed or when the electric supply is depleted.
In all, FCA says the overall range of the Pacifica Hybrid is more than 850 km, enough to take you from Windsor to Ottawa.
THIRD – PORSCHE CAYMAN 2017:
How could you not love a mid-engine sports car like the 718 Cayman? It is the fixed-roof version of Porsche’s entry-level two-seat performance sports cars along with the 718 Boxster roadster.
Both have significant sheet metal updates for 2017. In fact, every body part except the trunk lid, roof and windshield have been changed to give the Cayman a more striking, athletic appearance.
The Cayman gets a new 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine for 2017 that puts out 300 hp. It replaces a six-cylinder engine yet has 25 more horsepower and 67 lb/ft more torque, and is 13 per cent more fuel efficient.
While there is some engine drone to contend with, the 718 Cayman is a delight to drive— it’s well balanced and powerful enough with great styling to boot.
SECOND – ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QUADRIFOGLIO 2017
It was love at first sight when I first spotted the brilliant Trofeo white sports sedan.
Some people have a presence when they enter a room; the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio has one on the road.
With a small, but growing dealer network in Canada, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is starting from scratch again with the famed Italian Alfa Romeo brand.
The Giulia is a mid-size premium performance sedan with three trim levels, including the top-of-the-line Quadrifoglio, starting at $87,995.
The Quadrifoglio is powered by a 2.9-litre twin turbo V6, making 280 hp and 306 lb/ft of torque.
It is straight line quick, but also handles curves with ease, setting a track record for the fastest lap ever by a four-door production sedan at the famed Nurburgring circuit in Germany.
With racecar DNA from Ferrari, the Quadrifoglio has everything one would want in a performance sedan— great looks, superb performance and tremendous road presence.
FIRST – LEXUS LC 500h
The LC 500h was my favourite car of this year.
It is the hybrid version of Lexus’s flagship coupes that come in two flavours— a 5.0-litre V8 gasoline engine in LC 500 form or a 3.5-litre V6 with hybrid technology in the LC 500h.
Those who have driven the LC 500 sing its praises.
But I was blown away by the hybrid variant that is revolutionary in that it introduces an all-new Lexus multi-stage hybrid powertrain.
It is based around the 3.5-litre V6 engine, two electric motors and a 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery. It is mated with continuously variable transmission (CVT) as well as a four-speed automatic transmission.
It sounds complicated and it is, but in the real world it all works seamlessly.
The exterior design of the LC 500h is spectacular and even the much-debated Lexus signature spindle grille works wonderfully on this performance sports coupe.
The car is inspired by the LF-LC concept that was greeted with rave reviews when it debuted in 2012 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Concepts seldom reach the production stage and when they do they’re often altered considerably, but the LC 500h is a work of art that mirrors the original design.
While the gasoline-only variant of the LC coupe will likely be the vehicle of choice for the majority of buyers, the hybrid version provides great fuel economy while at the same time offering a high-class package of luxury, performance and cutting-edge styling.