The 10 Best Cars of the 2010s
The last decade showcased some of the biggest changes the automotive world has seen since the dawn of the horseless carriage. Compiling this list was no easy task.
“Best of the decade”. Wow, talk about a loaded question, right? Especially considering that the 2010s saw some wild advancements in the world of EV, hydrogen, and other alternative fuels. Not to mention the world of semi-autonomous driving. Tough to drill down to just ten, but we did our best. The following is listed by year, with vehicles from the same year listed alphabetically.
2010 Nissan Leaf
One of the most important cars of the decade to be sure, but one could probably make the case that it was the single most important car of the decade. After all: you could say the Leaf was the pioneer of the all-EV age, the car that made people stand up and realize that, actually, “Yeah. I can work with this.” Nissan managed to fit an all-EV platform into a very common hatchback, with little sacrifice to passenger space or cargo room. Sure; the taller roof required to achieve that space looks a little awkward – as do the headlights – but the popularity of the Leaf suggests that people were just fine with it. Not to mention it was all tightened up when the facelifted version debuted for 2018; it looked even better, and could be had with more range.
2015 Ford F-150
The F-150, of course, has been serving for many decades (and many decades more, if you include the F-1 and F-100 trucks that the current F-150 traces its roots back to), but with the arrival of the 13th generation for the 2015 model year, Ford took a plunge into the unknown – to the light truck world, at least – by crafting the body and parts of the chassis out of aluminum. People freaked out, certain groups tried their darnedest to show how bad an idea it was, but lo and behold, the F-150 continues to soldier on as the bestselling vehicle in North America. Only now, it’s lighter, and coupled with the popularization of a 3.5L twin-turbo V6 over the V8, it’s more efficient, too. With EV and hybrid models now on the horizon, expect the F-150 to rock the pickup world once again very soon. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing one of those two on our “best cars of the 2020s” list, too.
2015 Ford Mustang
Even though it was styled to look like a classic Mustang, the big news was how new the powertrain was thanks to the use of a turbocharged four-cylinder. There would still be a V8 option, of course, but the addition of turbo power (and RHD) meant the Mustang was finally going to be able to make inroads into Europe and the UK. Indeed, the Mustang was already popular amongst enthusiasts there; imagine what the arrival of one they could actually walk up to their local Ford store and buy could do for the brand? Add the it’s-basically-a-race-car Shelby GT350R model and the Bullitt retro special, and you can see how the Mustang of the 2010s, while advanced, always stayed true to its roots.
2015 Volkswagen e-Golf
Emerging from the dark cavern that was dieselgate was never going to be easy for VW. So what did they do? Well, they turned to their stalwart model – as they have so many times before – to pull them out of the doldrums. It was a Golf, yes, one that looked similar to the approximately 80 billion they’ve sold over the years, but its fancy foglights and aero-spec wheels meant the existence of an all-EV platform. It was originally good for about 190 km but that number would grow as the batteries got bigger and denser. It still looked like a Golf, though, which was important as oftentimes, folks that buy EVs don’t want to be showy about it. It sold in droves, though, and it helped pave the way for the big rollout of VW’s MEB EV platform due to make landfall worldwide this year.
2017 BMW M5
When the M5 first debuted, it was widely heralded as the ultimate sports sedan. You could say, then, that 2017 saw the arrival of the ultimate version of the ultimate sports sedan. With twin-turbocharged V8 power and AWD, the latest M5 was the most advanced M5 ever, and the most powerful. Of course, the M5 was always loved because it could always act the hooligan even though it was dressed up in a Hugo Boss suit. They had to keep that vibe alive amidst all the techno-nerd mumbo-jumbo that surrounds the modern car world. So what’d they do? Well, they took said mumbo-jumbo and found a way to make the M5 act like a proper RWD car – just as it’s always been – if the driver so wanted. We’re not talking about the automatic shuffling of power as you move through the bends, either. Oh no. We’re talking about locking the front wheels — and the traction control system – right out so it was just you, the steering wheel and that back end. Yes, there would be drifts. Drifts aplenty. Hooo-rah.
2017 Dodge Demon
Introduced to massive fanfare as Fast and the Furious star Vin Diesel performed a smokeshow on Manhattan’s Pier 94 on the evening of the 2017 New York International Auto Show, the Demon represented just how far Dodge and SRT were willing to take their legendary HEMI V8. Good for 1,000 hp and a 2.3-second 0-60 MPH time that even made the NHRA try to make it illegal, the Demon came complete with optional skinny front tires and very little in the way of interior accoutrements. How little? Well, there was no front passenger seat, but you could add one if you liked. For $1. In an era where the EV ruled (apparently), the Demon was a giant you-know-what to the establishment.
2017 Ford GT
While the Demon makes power through the motor equivalent of blunt force, the 2nd incarnation of the Ford GT does it with much more precision. It used a twin-turbo V6 that shared bits with both its Daytona Prototype and Le Mans racer siblings, and while the recently arrived Shelby GT500 now holds the prize for most powerful production Ford ever, the 647 hp and 550 lb-ft the GT has means it’s no shrinking violet. Couple that with a chassis and suspension system developed in Canada by the wizards at Multimatic, and you have the grounds for not only a pitch-perfect road car, but a race car that managed to win its class at Le Mans in 2016. To be able to do that in the first year of a race program? Must’ve had the ghosts of Le Mans past working in their favour. That, or it was just a really, really good car.
2017 Tesla Model 3
Just as the Leaf made EV motoring a real option for the everyday consumer, the Model 3 made Tesla a real option for the everyday consumer by being (somewhat relatively) affordable but with the same styling and innovation – both inside the car and within the powertrain – as its pricier Model S and X siblings. Equally notable was the story of never ending production and delivery delays but they’re up and running now, and selling in droves.
2018 Lincoln Navigator
The production version may not have had the outlandish “Lamborghini” doors that the concept first seen at the 2017 New York International Auto Show did, but the rest of that wild concept made it to production relatively unchanged, from the big wheels, to the garish colour choice and of course, that massive front grille. Inside, the seats are adjustable umpteen ways and are fit for an airliner, while all manner of mood lighting and glossy materials make for an experience unlike many others in the biz this side of a Bentley Bentayga or – yes, believe it – a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. After a few years having to bow to the likes of the Cadillac Escalade and various Brits and Germans, the Navigator was once again the hallmark of the luxury SUV.
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Mitsubishi was going through some tough times in the early part of the decade. Their cars weren’t selling all that well leading to the cancellation of the likes of the Lancer sedan and hatchback. The RVR was OK, and the I-MIEV was a valiant effort, ultimately wilting when confronted with the unstoppable combined force of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. They always had the Outlander, though, with its excellent AWD system (well, “AWC” system, or “all-wheel control system”) and relatively modest cost of entry. The Outlander fought the good fight through it all and with the PHEV version, emerged a shining star in the crossover game. No other manufacturer offers this much practicality from their PHEV SUV/CUV for this kind of money and Mitsubishi is reaping the benefits.
BONUS: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7
It was a performance monster to be sure – especially in Z06 and ZR1 form – but it was more what the seventh-gen ‘Vette represented that was the story. And it was a story that only recently became reality. It represents the last of the front-engine Corvettes, a tradition that’s been going on for decades. For 2020, the long-hooded, cab-rearward profile is gone, replaced by a much more modern mid-engine shape. The C8 will be a better, perhaps even more accessible performer to be sure, but you have to think that for a time, a small part of what made the Corvette great for so many years will be gone.
BONUS: 2015 Toyota Mirai
If the Leaf (yes, that little chestnut again) represented the dawn of the EV age, then surely, the Mirai will be looked at as the dawn of the hydrogen age (for consumers). Using hydrogen fuel cells to power an EV system, the Mirai releases nothing but water vapour from its tailpipe. As we continue to explore new frontiers of mobility, you have to think that hydrogen will play a major part. And Toyota’s been there with the Mirai from the get-go.
BONUS: 2017 Honda Civic Type-R
Big asterisk here as the fastest version of Honda’s stalwart compact has been serving duty in other parts of the world for decades, developing to a cult status rivalled only by the likes of the Nissan GT-R and Toyota Trueno/86. It only arrived in North America for the 2017 model-year, however, and proceeded to impress everyone. Even though it didn’t have AWD like its major competitors the Ford Focus RS and VW Golf R, it had a trick front-diff that made sure it could pull through turns with the best of them and there’s no denying that the 306 turbocharged horsepowers the Type-R delivered satisfied the petrolhead in almost everyone. Its looks weren’t for everyone – that rear wing was divisive, to say the least – but it had the go, so many were able to forget about the “show” and just get on with experiencing one of the best drives the compact hatchback world has ever seen.
BONUS: 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder/McLaren P1/Ferrari LaFerrari
It was oh-so-perfect, wasn’t it? All three of these major supercar manufacturers coming out with hybridized models at pretty much the exact same time? It’s almost as if the manufacturers were espousing the racing world, when everybody comes out with a new car at the same time because they pretty much have to. Either way; these three managed, in short order, to make hybrids cool and most every super- or hypercar that’s come down since has had some form of hybrid tech underhood. It’s a trend that won’t likely change when the likes of the McLaren Speedtail and Mercedes-AMG Project ONE arrive.