Every year, the writers and editors of Gear Patrol test out hundreds, if not thousands, of different products in their respective fields. For those of us on the Motoring Desk, as we call it, that means driving a lot of cars. We drive them on media junkets in far-off locales, on race tracks and desert roads, on the long highways to our ancestral homes and the crowded streets and parkways of America’s great cities.
As such, many of those cars blur together at the end of a year. The 10 on this list, however, stood out. They’re hardly the only great cars we drove in 2019…but they are at the top of the list in our minds.
The Telluride marks the latest phase in Kia’s transition from a budget brand into a high-quality one. It provides the style, substance and space you expect from a luxury SUV, but at a mid-range price. It’s a commanding and comfortable cruiser that handles like a smaller car, and can tackle any terrain short of serious off-roading. The Telluride, dare I say it, makes the three-row minivan-on-stilts SUV something a cool young person would want to own. —Tyler Duffy
Over the summer, I had the pleasure of driving the Miata ragtop and Miata RF back-to-back for several weeks. Both, importantly, had manual transmissions. Is it cliché to say that, dollar-for-dollar, the Mazda Miata may be the perfect roadster? Yes, but for one very particular reason: it is, dollar-for-dollar, the perfect roadster. It cruises as well as it drifts; the pleasure of manually lowering the soft top from within the cabin is nigh-unparalleled; and its styling is aggressive without being ostentatious. It may be small and slow(ish), but in any form, the Miata remains the modern embodiment of “replacement for displacement.” —Nick Caruso
Few cars can match the AMG-tuned version of the latest Gelandewagen for sheer breadth of capability. Luxurious as an S-Class, off-road-capable as a Land Rover and fast as a Mustang GT in a straight line, the G63 performs a diverse array of divergent tasks far, far better than any single vehicle ought to. Sure, it may cost as much as a decent house, but can your house do 0-60 mph in less than four seconds and crawl up a 27º slope? —Will Sabel Courtney
Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel
With the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6, the Jeep Wrangler finally scores the engine it deserves. It delivers a phenomenal amount of torque — 442 lb-ft at just 1,400 rpm — which makes the Wrangler an even more maniacal rock climber. Highway passing becomes a breezy, civilized affair. Oh, and the more efficient diesel averaged 30 mpg over a variety of driving conditions in our hands. You won’t miss the manual transmission, though the engine’s added cost could prove a sticking point. —Tyler Duffy
Porsche Panamera GTS
I drove the Porsche Panamera GTS around southern California for a week this fall — not a bad way to navigate sunny beachside streets and mountain roads. It’s a driver-focused version of the brand’s sport sedan, and meant to channel the 911’s sporting heritage into a four-seat conveyance. What strikes me most is the GTS’s versatility: I could cart around my parents in the morning and thrash kinky hairpins in the afternoon, feeling comfortable and confident all the while. Its twin-turbo V8 burbles and pops; the seats cement you in place; the transmission is unflappable and smart as hell. It’s not cheap, but for the 911 enthusiast with kids, you could do far worse. —Nick Caruso
Even in a year where I had the chance to drive the XE SV Project 8, the I-Pace was my favorite Jaguar. Yes, the supercharged V8 track machine is an utter delight, but it’s the all-electric crossover that feels more relevant here in 2019. In fact, “crossover” is something of a misnomer; it rides lower than even a diminutive Honda HR-V, while being as fast and agile as a sport sedan. It feels like a whole new category of vehicle, one perfect for charging into the 2020s on a rush of electrons. —Will Sabel Courtney
The Mercedes-AMG E53 fuses gasoline and electricity to create an exceptionally smooth and potent hybrid. The torque comes instantly, while the car always stays glued to the road. You can’t hit its performance limits on a public road — at least, not, safely. You can crank up the raucous exhaust, or retreat to the stately sobriety of a classic Mercedes. About the only criticism that one could muster for the AMG E53 is it’s almost too perfect. Driving a car this fast feels like it should be harder. —Tyler Duffy
Yes, the Gladiator and the Wrangler both carved out spots on the list of our favorite cars. The Wrangler’s virtues are well-known by now, but as it turns out, they’re largely improved by adding five feet of truck bed behind the cabin. The ounce of off-road capability the Gladiator gives up to its shorter sibling is outweighed by the sheer tonnage of its added towing and cargo-carrying capability. Plus, it’s a midsize pickup truck that’s also a convertible with a six-speed manual that lets you take the doors off. How could you not love it? —Will Sabel Courtney
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
The newest version of Ford’s most potent factory Mustang is a far cry from past GT500s; no longer a raw straight-line monster, it’s been transformed into an honest-to-god budget supercar, capable of running with far pricier European exotica on track and street alike. As someone who loved the previous version with an irrational passion, I fully expected to feel betrayed by the new Shelby GT500. I wound up walking away converted instead. Ford has made a stunning, engaging car that manages to make its 760 horsepower feel wholly usable. —Will Sabel Courtney
Ferrari 812 Superfast
Some cars define themselves in logical terms — how much they can tow, how many they can seat, how far they can go on a gallon. The 812 Superfast, in contrast, exists for purely emotional reasons; it’s a creature of id, not superego. By rational measures, there’s no reason to spend $335,000-plus on a car like this — not when other companies make vehicles that are faster or quicker or more luxurious or more technologically advanced for far less. Two minutes behind the wheel on a back road, though, and you’ll never want anything more than this car. —Will Sabel Courtney
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