Like most of us, 2020 turned out quite differently than we might have expected back in January. By the end of February, it was clear that COVID-19 was going to be a serious problem as auto shows and drive events started being cancelled en masse. But our local press fleets have remained in operation, and a calendar free of travel has meant more time to test cars here at home. Luckily, sitting in a car by one’s self meets the requirements for social distancing, and a car interior can be a welcome change from spending all day every day at home.
All that means we’ve managed to test drive a respectable amount of new vehicles despite the new realities. These are the highlights of a year spent behind the wheel.
Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs
Just under half (15 out of 32) of the cars I reviewed this year were hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or battery electric vehicles. I logged the most miles in one of the more exotic hybrids on the list—the Acura NSX supercar. Ohio to Florida in three days remains a memorable trip, but it was hard work. Runner-up would be the Toyota Venza that took us to Cooperstown, New York and back in a day. Unlike the NSX, the Venza had very comfortable seats and adaptive cruise control. This plush crossover was one of my unexpected delights of the year.
I did expect to be impressed by the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and yet it still surprised me. It was the only thing that really stood out at this year’s Chicago auto show, as the vehicle delivered all that promise and more on the road. It’s handsome, it’s got some useful driver assists, and it really does get 52mpg (4.5l/100km)—all for less than $28,000.
Seven of the 32 cars we reviewed this year were BEVs. We’ll have more to say about the Volkswagen ID.4 and Volvo XC40 Recharge in the future, for we spent less than an hour with each. And expect a Ford Mustang Mach-E review in the new year—we just scheduled a week in January with that electric pony. The pandemic postponed the planned facelift for the Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Kia Niro EV is highly competent, and one of the few BEVs to approach Tesla when it comes to range efficiency. The Mini Cooper SE was a hoot to drive, the Polestar 2 impressed with a great interior, as did the Audi e-tron Sportback, although at a price that’s another rung up the ladder.
Money no object, however, I’d have the Porsche Cayenne Coupé Turbo S E-Hybrid. And I never thought I’d see myself typing those words. Yes, it’s a big SUV, and yes, I’m the kind of annoying writer who never stops telling you the reader how much he dislikes big SUVs. But the Cayenne Coupé’s power to weight ratio means it doesn’t feel like a big SUV to drive. Its battery pack is big enough to cover most of my normal journeys. And that houndstooth interior might be my favorite of all the cars I’ve driven this year.