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.
“Write up your top five rides for the past year,” they said and, voila, here they are, based on 2017 test drives and my totally biased opinion.
Your choices may vary, but that’s what keeps life interesting…
FIFTH: FORD MUSTANG GT 2017:
Ah, the Ford Mustang. Pony car heritage, a storied past, “Bullit” and sexy successors encompassing the ideals of an American sports car.
But a little bit of the romance always seemed to derail with that mental needle-dragging-across-a-record sound every time I would tip one into a corner.
This year’s Mustang tester was supposed to be a 2.3-litre EcoBoost model but I wound up with an unexpected bonus – a 5.0-litre V8-powered GT fastback coupe (460 hp, 420 lb/ft).
Good looking, I admitted from the start – stunningly styled with muscular mass and burly bits in all the right places.
Quick, strong and bellowing with a soul-stirring baritone moan but, most importantly, it now corners with abandon, having lost the live axle rear end, replaced with an integral-link independent rear suspension.
This isn’t just one of America’s legendary sports cars anymore. With a fresh yet traditional style, continuous upgrades and new driving and handling manners, this is a Mustang you can proudly live with every day.
FOURTH: RAM 3500 2017:
Go big or go home.
If that’s your macho truck mantra, consider this Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X4, stretched to 6,586 mm or almost 22 feet of length, widened with optional dual-axle fat flanks.
And this harnessed to a stump-pulling heft of a 6.7-litre Cummins inline-six turbodiesel (385 hp, 900 lb/ft) mated to a six-speed Aisin heavy-duty automatic that helps spin the earth through four-wheel drive traction.
That combo will haul a full load of whatever the heck you want in the eight-foot box or, as tested here with an optional 25K direct-mount fifth wheel hitch, will also haul anything up to its 14,157 kg (31,210 lb) tow rating. It’s a fun ride for trucker wanna-bes as long as you keep that fat behind out of tight parking spots.
Even in mid-level Laramie trim, it’s easy to option-bump this beastie to a near-$90K price range.
But, at the risk of repeating myself, as one truck exec explained, “Half-ton pickups are for people who really like trucks. Heavy-duty pickups are for people who really NEED them.”
THIRD: HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC 2017:
Hyundai introduced the Ioniq lineup with graduated states of electrification – the Ioniq hybrid, Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid and Ioniq Electric – geared to suit varying degrees of dedication to a new propulsion ethos.
Early adopters and techies will gravitate to the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, powered by an 88 kW electric motor (118 hp, 218 lb/ft) and energized by a 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery array. This combo boasts a 200-plus km range, none of those klicks necessarily boring.
It pulls off the line briskly, handles with verve and offers comparable compact interior room with minimal cargo intrusion – 650 litres, only 100 litres less than the hybrid.
Recharging with an average of 20 kWh only costs a couple of bucks and takes 24 hours (110V outlet, Level 1), 4.5 hours (240V, Level 2) or half an hour (Fast-charge, Level 3).
No huge adrenaline rush here, just a nerdy kind of pleasure to be found in monitoring range and EV performance while blowing past petrol pumps.
Add incentives ($14,000 in Ontario, $8,000 in Quebec and $5,000 in B.C.), free entry onto HOV/HOT lanes, and near-zero emissions and you’ve got good reason to include the Ioniq Electric on any wish list.
SECOND: BMW R1200GS 2017:
Hmm, they did say top five rides, not top five cars.
So let’s throw in the R1200GS, a “halo” bike of the BMW brand. Think Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman and their “Long Way Round” world tour, or any of the other myriad explorers who choose the GS models of the past for global trekking.
Now fast forward to today’s 2017 R1200GS, harnessing the heritage 1170 cc boxer twin (125 hp, 92 lb/ft) bolstered by transmission tweaks, new engine management, driving mode choices, Automatic Stability Control, Hill Start Control and the latest generation of available Dynamic ESA with automatic damping adjustment and a self-levelling suspension. Add in more options, more colours and bolder graphics with styling and aerodynamics refreshed to match.
Model choices range from an ultra-adventure Rallye to our subtler as-tested Exclusive model – less brazen, more demure and dipped in a cool shade of Iced Chocolate Metallic.
I toured across Canada on a sibling BMW R1200RT the year before, so the GS felt like coming home, similar but different with new tech and new engineering enhancing the GS’s traditionally potent package of on-road civility and off-road grit.
FIRST: LEXUS LC 500h 2018:
The entries listed above could swap any of the spots – arbitrary rankings, at best.
But the Lexus LC 500h locks up first place, combining powerful flanks with streamlined athleticism for a design that entrances the viewer from any angle.
And with a matching contemporary interior, groundbreaking technology, and premium luxuries inside that astonishingly handsome package, Lexus LC premium coupes set a new benchmark in the art of staying true to the original concept.
There are two versions – the LC 500 harnessing a 471 hp 5.0-litre V8 and, as tested, the LC 500h combining a 3.5-litre V6 with hybrid electric power for a combined 354 hp.
For all its elegance, this 2+2 luxury coupe has a schizophrenic quality to its performance, whispering electrically off the line or bellowing up to speed with an air intake/exhaust-tuned symphonic howl.
I only spent half an hour in the car at AJAC’s Car of the Year testing, most of time standing there staring at the damn thing.
With an $118,750 MSRP, the Lexus LC 500h may be more about one-upmanship than hybrid eco-consciousness. But park this look-at-me trophy in the driveway and I guarantee you’ll draw more stares and envy than anyone else in the neighbourhood.