With the new year upon us, we wanted to squeeze in one last look at the cars we drove last year. And this list is all about the cars that we fell in love with. They might not be the most practical, the best values or the most affordable, but they all have that little something special that really got to us. They’re the cars that delight us for the little things, like steering feel or interiors, or even some of the big things, like just an amazing engine. See if your favorites made our list this year below. – Joel Stocksdale
Lotus Emira V6
Associate Editor Byron Hurd: V6, six-speed, hydraulic steering … is that Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails I hear? Because it feels an awful lot like the 1990s. That decade gave us some of my favorite automobiles — the Dodge Viper, the Acura NSX, the FD RX-7 and the C5 Chevy Corvette, just to rattle off a few. All of them were underdogs in their way, and all magnets for enthusiasts. 30 years later, the Emira feels like an amalgam of those machines. 400 horsepower from a supercharged V6 is pretty “meh” by the standards of today’s six-figure sports cars, but there’s no denying that the Emira offers a six-figure experience. The 718 and Corvette are easier to live with, to be sure, but neither the Porsche’s refinement nor the Chevy’s atavistic V8 makes up for the sheer immediacy of the Emira’s responses. It may be a CRT in an OLED world, but how quickly we forget just how good some things were before pixels entered into the equation.
Acura Integra Type S
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer: If you’d have asked me “what new car would you buy as a daily?” anytime over the past five years or so, the answer would have been Honda Civic Type R. Today, I have a different answer, and it’s the Acura Integra Type S. It’s essentially the slightly more luxurious Civic Type R “Touring” that manages to be nicer to live with on the daily grind while barely giving up an inch of performance. Please do read my Road Test of the Type S for fuller thoughts, but summed up, the Type S is just about my perfect car. There isn’t a better manual transmission on the planet. Its torque steer-defying suspension design is astounding in action; the way that limited-slip differential sling-shots you through corners is something you’ll never forget, and it accomplishes all these wonders in the form of a useful four-door hatchback. Dollar-for-dollar, there isn’t another car I’d put in my driveway over an Integra Type S. It’s that scary good.
News Editor Joel Stocksdale: I was struggling to decide between this and the Integra, and it was all the more difficult with how different they were. But with Zac picking the Acura, I figured I’d go with the BMW. And I don’t regret that at all. Much as I loved driving the Integra, the i7 was the car this year that I really didn’t want to go back to the fleet. That’s wild for me, because I generally don’t like these flagship sedans, as they often seem lazy and disconnected in the pursuit of comfort. But the i7 manages to actually be nimble and eager when you want, while still being incredibly comfortable for cruising. The electric powertrain is perfect for both those characteristics, too. It’s also such a fantastic piece of design on the inside (I’m split about the exterior). It’s like a piece of modern art with lots of unusual materials and bold lines. The cloth interior on our tester was one of the most soft and soothing I’ve experienced in my whole life. It really does everything brilliantly and with style, which is exactly what this kind of car should do.
Senior Editor, Electric, John Beltz Snyder: Joel may have been trying not to duplicate choices, but I won’t refrain. The i7 deserves more voices of praise. This is just such an excellently executed executive electric sedan. It was an absolute pleasure to drive, with plenty of power delivered with rapid smoothness. It was surprisingly willing to rotate and transition between curves. It soaked up every last bit of chop and slop on our Michigan roads.
The interior is spectacular as well. The interesting and luxurious materials, the craftsmanship and attention to detail, and the creative use of lighting really made the i7 feel like a truly special place to spend time – more of a lounge than a machine in feel. I also quite enjoyed the rear seat, and not just because of the gigantic theater screen that drops from the roof and the interesting digital screens that control it. It was just a comfortaing space to spend time. As nice at it is back there, I’d still prever to be the one in the driver’s seat.
Senior Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski: I didn’t drive as many cars this year as Byron, Zac or Joel. But one vehicle I did drive that nobody else on the team has (yet) is the Ineos Grenadier. I’m not going to tell you that this boxy, body-on-frame SUV with solid axles and engines that burn fossil fuels is the future of the automobile, because it isn’t. In fact, it’s firmly rooted in the past, and that’s by design. They don’t make ’em like they used to, we often say, but in some cases I guess they do. The Grenadier sits halfway between purpose-built off-roaders like the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco and pricey luxury ‘utes like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and Range Rover. That it was inspired by the old-school Land Rover Defender is no secret, and it is in fact more of a modern Defender than the actual modern Defender. But more than anything else, it is capable. And in this instance, capable is exactly the bullseye it needs to be to make a mark in this niche segment.
Porsche 718 Spyder RS
Senior Editor James Riswick: Most surprising car of 2023? Buick Envista, hands down, surprisingly excellent. Its platform mate, the Chevy Trax, is arguably the best, most competitive and most relevant new car I drove this year. But we’re talking “favorite” here, which throw out any semblance of relevance. As such, it came down to an extremely rare, range-topping Porsche and the first electric Roll-Royce … both of which can be painted pink. While I walked away from the Roller thinking, “I think that’s the nicest car I’ve ever driven,” I’m going to go with the Porsche 718 Spyder RS that nearly shattered my eardrums. It’ll be hard to top my experience in that car. It’s the perfect Boxster, which itself is one of the most perfect driver’s car.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: I drove a lot of cool cars in 2023, but the Rolls-Royce Spectre cut through the clutter as my favorite, edging out the Maserati MC20. The Roller’s striking two-tone paint, easy-going electric power and decadent cabin were impressive yet also ambitious. Creating an electric coupe is a bit of a risk for Rolls-Royce — perhaps another vehicle segment would have been more obvious — but the Spectre is a strong execution and points a way forward for Rolls-Royce. With a range of 260 miles and power that will carry the Spectre to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, this electric car is fun to drive and still carries the aura of a Rolls.