2020 has been a bit of a mixed bag. Things were looking bright for the year at the end of 2019. But alas, a spanner has been thrown in the works. The coronavirus, economic downturn, border closures, and a brief period of panic buying toilet paper.
Despite everything, the car industry has soldiered on. And in some instances, it actually flourished. It’s a testament to how resilient the industry is. And we’ve seen plenty of car releases lately. Some were good, others were excellent, though there were a fair few that were rather underwhelming. So to round up the year, here’s my compilation of the 20 best cars of 2020. This list is an amalgamation of brand-new cars released in 2020, as well as recent releases in Singapore. So bear with me, it’ll be a bit of a long read.
Audi RS7 & Audi RS6
Of course, Audi’s coveted performance wagon and sportback. Now with more outrageous styling and body lines. Like before, both the RS6 and RS7 are powered by a twin turbocharged 4.0L V8 engine. But both cars now churn out 591 horsepower. For reference, the older model was only capable of 552 horses. But the previous C7 generation RS6 Performance variant managed to push out 597 horsepower, so we may expect to see an uprated version of the current RS6 and RS7 further down the line.
Inside, both these cars feature Audi’s virtual cockpit digital gauge cluster, and two other touchscreens on the dash and centre stack for your infotainment and climate control settings. Its all a bit of a tech fest. But I like it. Not so sure the less tach-savvy drivers would though. Both these cars have a rear hatch, although the RS7 has more of a liftback hatch. But for a performance vehicle, these two cars really set the bar high with their massive trunk spaces and incredible performance.
Bentley Flying Spur V8
Gone with the Mulsanne, in with the Flying Spur. Since 2013, Bentley as scrapped the “Continental” Flying Spur moniker for their range of 4-door luxury cruisers. No doubt to distinguish the Flying Spur from the Continental GT series. Now that the Mulsanne’s reached the end of the line, the Flying Spur’s taking on the mantle of Bentley’s performance saloon.
And now with the addition of the New Flying Spur V8, buyers can choose between the smooth and powerful W12 engine, or opt the soulful V8. The twin-turbocharged V8 produces 542 horsepower and 600Nm of torque. Black accents on the grille and bodywork differentiate the two models. But personally, I love the brutish nature of the V8 model. And its four less cylinders’ worth of fuel consumption to contend with.
BMW 4-Series Coupe
The current generation G20 3 series is an absolute gem. 50:50 weight distribution, a range of engines to choose from, including the magnificent 3.0L straight-six engine in the M340i. Seems the coupe version of the sedan will follow in its footsteps. And it does. It handles well, its smaller, and more agile. All things considered, it’s a great car….. Apart from the massive, gaping, hideous oversized grille that BMW has decided to fit to the coupe. Unfortunately, the new M-variants of this car have been given the same treatment too. Including the M3 sedan. Hopefully, the owners of these cars will be going fast enough that they wouldn’t be noticed.
BMW M8 Gran Coupe
Though hugely capable, the BMW M8 was a bit of an overhyped car. Basically, it has the same twin-turbo V8 from an M5, the same unique AWD system that can send all power to the rear wheels, all dressed up in a sleeker 2-door coupe body with a slightly more upscale interior. Essentially, it is the replacement for the previous M6. And it drives well too. But for those who favour a more practical car with the same coupe-style looks and more doors and PROPER back seats, the M8 Gran Coupe is the car for them.
While the earlier M6 Gran Coupe models were rather similar to the F10-generation M5s, the M8 GC clearly distinguishes itself from the current F90 M5 models. Its more boldly styled (even more so than the M8 coupe), with flared rear fender panels that accentuate the car’s wide hips. Even the back doors and fuel flap are curved to fit the profile of the car. It looks absolutely stunning for a 4-door production vehicle. And it is my favourite car on this list.
Ferrari F8 Tributo/Spider
Since the Ferrari 458 went on sale, it has been a revelation for Ferrari. And in the decade its been on sale, Ferrari hasn’t tweaked the formula for their 2-seater Berlinetta that much. Take a look at the new F8, and you’ll notice that the overall profile remains largely similar. The biggest change however, is the addition of the turbocharged 3.9L V8 engine found in the 488 Pista, which produces 710 horsepower and 770Nm of torque. In the grand scheme of things, these power gains and slight redesigns aren’t exactly significant. But no doubt, it is still a marvellous car.
The Ferrari Roma is the Italian brand’s new 2+2 grand tourer. And it’s the first newly designed 2+2 since the California and F12 Berlinetta. The Roma slots in between the convertible Portofino and F8 Tributo/Spider. Under the hood is the same V8 found in the Portofino, F8, and GTC4 Lusso. It almost doesn’t look like a conventional Ferrari with its curvaceous lines and tapered front end. It almost resembles 1960s Ferraris like the 250 GTO and Daytona. And I like it, but it may not be for everyone.
The Honda E is an oddity. Almost cartoonish. It looks as if a comic artist penned down his interpretation of a modern classic. And it actually works. This quaint little city car has no wing mirrors, instead it’s got cameras and screens on the dash. Instead of an internal combustion engine, it’s got a bank of batteries. 35.5kWh worth in fact. And yet it’s a practical little EV to just dash around town with. And I really do mean dash. The Honda E is offered in both 134 or 152 horsepower variants, and both produce 315Nm of torque. And given that it’s all electric, the surge of power will come on fast. Unfortunately, its battery life will run out rather quickly too. About 220km or thereabouts. And although there will be more charging points being installed across Singapore, owners just might have to slog it out and drive with a fair bit of range anxiety.
The new Hyundai Avante. Or was it the Elantra? Either way, both these names mean the same thing. And the new Avante (that’s what it called here I’m sticking to it) really does look like a brand spanking new car that came off an artist’s rendering. Almost concept car-ish.
Bold styling, sharp angular lines and creases, a massive jewel-patterned grille and a massively improved interior. Though inside, it feels rather off-putting. Like a continental car made with cheaper materials. But at its price point, no complaints there. And at least Hyundai’s making a massive effort to give this family sedan premium looks. A good effort at too.
Land Rover Defender
The new Land Rover Defender is a departure from the original boxy rugged off-roaders that have been around since 1983. But there are numerous touches that keep the Defender traits alive. The large lettering on the hood, the two-tone paint scheme, and the alpine windows in the roof pillars. Though it’s a bit of a crying shame that the JLR group scrapped the iconic shape of the previous defender, times have changed. And considering the old shape has remained for 37 years, its about time for a refresh.
McLaren has had a history of making performance vehicles designed to smash lap times and post impressive quarter mile times. But the McLaren GT is an exception. You see this car, though it doesn’t look like it, is made for touring. Cross country journeys. In comfort and a lot of style.
The V8 engine is shared with the McLaren 720S, but it has smaller turbochargers than the Super Series car. Power is capped at 612 horsepower, almost a hundred less than the 720S. The suspension system is also lifted off a 720S, though it has been tuned for comfort. But calling the McLaren GT a comfortable version of the 720S is a bit of an injustice. Sure, both cars may share similar components. But at the very core, the McLaren GT does excel at long distance journeys. And you can fit a golf bag in the back. You can’t do that in a 720S.
I know, I know, another McLaren. But this one’s different. I promise. The “longtail” versions of McLaren cars like the 675LT and 600LT are track focused machines with one focus: To get the best lap times. The same can be said for the 765LT. Like the 720S it’s based on, the 765LT has a 4.0L twin turbocharged V8. But McLaren’s engineers have added numerous performance enhancing components such as a high capacity fuel pump, parts from the hardcore McLaren Senna, and the engine now produces 755 horsepower.
The 765LT has gone on a diet too, now weighing 80 kilograms lighter than the 720S. All these upgrades translate to a 2.8 second 0-100km/h time and a reduced top speed of 330km/h (due to the added downforce from the car’s outrageous spoilers and splitters) Only 765 will be made, so owners of this track focused McLaren are guaranteed some exclusivity.
Mercedes-Benz GLA & GLB
Ahh the good old Mercedes compact crossovers. Largely similar interiors, small powerful engines, and reasonable prices for the amount of kit you’re getting. We actually reviewed both the Mercedes GLA and the Mercedes GLB before. And having driven both, I’d say they’re worthy contenders to be included in my highlights list.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Facelift
Granted, this new E-Class isn’t exactly a big change from the pre-facelift model. I actually tested drove this car rather recently (you can find the review here). So I’ll be brief. The facelifted body is more subdued than before, the inclusion of the MBUX infotainment interface is a gem, but to control it from the steering wheel is a hassle. But like I mentioned in my review, it is a joy to use when it works. Or if you have long thumbs.
Nissan Kicks e-Power
This car has one of the smallest engines of any car on this list. But it deserves a spot here. Why? Because of its amazing e-Power drivetrain. Combination of an engine and a fuel tank mated to an electric motor, the best of both worlds. No range anxiety, no delay in power delivery. Put your foot down in the Nissan Kicks e-Power, and its urges forward quicker than your average compact SUV. It may take a while to actually hit a hundred, but between 0km/h and highway speeds, this fun little crossover provides ample amount of fun to an otherwise boring run-off-the-mill SUV. And I daresay I really enjoyed the power delivery in it when I reviewed it here.
The addition of the Opel Corsa into this list may be an odd choice. But I’ve driven the Corsa 1.2 Turbo Elegance model, so hear me out. It’s a tiny city car that’s agile and composed. It’s got a turbocharged 1.2L engine that produces 128 horsepower. It’s got a proper 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. And it weighs just about a ton. And It’s definitely got the bones to be a hot hatch.
Seems like it wasn’t so long ago that Porsche unveiled the Mission E concept car. And here today, we have the production version of it roaming about in the streets. The Porsche Taycan is available in several models with varying power outputs and battery range. Starting with the 402 horsepower Standard Taycan, all the way up to the 750 horsepower Taycan Turbo S. 0-100km/h in the Taycan takes just 2.6 seconds, making It one of the fastest four-door cars ever.
Electrification is the future of the automotive industry. But for the time being while emissions laws permit us to burn fossil fuels in cars, I’ll stick to engines. That being said, the Porsche Taycan gives me hope that electric cars in the future can still be fun. Engineers just have to inject a little more power, and a healthy dose of battery innovation, and us drivers will squeeze the fun out of it.
Porsche 911 Turbo (992)
The release of the new 992 generation Porsche 911 has been hotly anticipated in the recent years. Beginning with the Carrera and Targa models. And then came the Turbo and Turbo S and boy oh boy, these were fast. Boasting a larger 3.8-litre flat-six engine producing and incredible 573 and 641 horsepower in the “standard” Turbo and Turbo S respectively. Both models feature PDK transmissions, and both are able to hit 0-100km/h in just under 3 seconds.
Of course, buyers who would like a more hardcore version of the 911 may wait for the new GT3 that is slated for released soon. But until then, the Turbo S is your best bet. And I actually like it better.
New Rolls Royce Ghost
The Rolls Royce Ghost may be perceived as the “cheaper” Rolls Royce for someone who cant afford a Phantom. But like the new Phantom VIII, its been updated and now fills a niche on its own. The new model is based on the “Architecture of Luxury” platform that is also used in the Cullinan SUV. Like the Cullinan and Phantom, it uses a 6.75L V12 turbocharged engine that produces 563 horsepower and 780Nm of torque. But if you’re in a Rolls, these figures should mean nothing but a smooth effortless ride.
Toyota GR Yaris
It was meant as a homolation model for the WRC (World Rally Championship) so it has a number of race inspired. Powering the GR Yaris is a turbocharged 1.6L three cylinder engine that produces an astonishing 257 horsepower. And the best part, it comes with a stick. Though I’m not sure if Singaporeans would be too keen on driving a manual in the frequent rush hour traffic.
The GR Yaris is built in Toyota’s Motomachi plant, which also produced the legendary Lexus LFA and the stunning Lexus LC. So it’s got the proper pedigree, the proper drivetrain, and I’ll be eagerly waiting for its arrival in Singapore come 2021.