The best cars we drove in 2021

The Mercedes-Benz EQS really impressed us this year.

Mercedes-AMG

We say it every year: We at Roadshow are incredibly lucky to drive in all the newest and best cars. Sometimes we get short stays in exotic places, and other times we have several weeks of testing at home on familiar roads. Every experience is worthwhile, but when we reflect on the past 12 months, some stand out more than others.

These are our favorites from the year 2021, from incredibly practical compact to fun supercars, a concept and a classic.

It was unusually easy to pick my favorite car of the year. It’s not one Rolls Royce or a Porsche or a McLaren, but a 64-year-old Mercedes-Benz with 215 horsepower. The 1957 300SL is mechanical perfection: it has the best manual gearbox I have ever used, impeccable road manners, a phenomenal straight-six engine and an incredible steering feel through its giant ivory wheel. Plus, it looks like to. Piloting this roadster around Pebble Beach on a foggy morning was nothing short of amazing.

– Daniel Golson

While by far the sexiest or most entertaining new vehicle I drove this year, the 2022 Ford Maverick may be the best – or at least the most deserving. Specifically, I’m talking about the cheap XL and XLT hybrid models. I love small trucks and I have been waving my arms and shouting that the industry needs to develop an honest, basic and affordable pickup for a decade. With a standard hybrid powertrain of up to 42 mpg, room for five and a base price of $ 21,490 (supplied), Ford’s Maverick is not just smarter than it deserves to be. It is also more well-rounded.

– Chris Paukert

Read our Ford Maverick review here.

Seriously, is a list of “best cars” ever complete without a version of the Porsche 911? I would say no, for in short, this iconic nameplate is the gold standard in performance vehicles, delivering superb driver engagement, more speed than you could ever need, plenty of technology and even a luxurious (if not terribly spacious) interior.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the new 2022 Porsche 911 GTS, and it was absolutely sublime, a joy to whip on the winding roads of northeast Georgia. Like other GTS models, this sports car follows a fine line and delivers noticeably more powerful performance than less trim without being as exaggerated – and expensive – as the Turbo variants. A rear-mounted flat-six delivers 473 horsepower, 420-pound-feet of torque and a big smile every time you roll the throttle. Go with the available seven-speed manual transmission and you will never get bored. The 911 GTS is an absolute girlfriend, a car I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience.

– Craig Cole

Read our review of the Porsche 911 GTS here.

I’m a sucker for affordable, rear-wheel-drive coupes, but unfortunately the market is not in line with them today. That’s why the second generation Toyota GR 86 is such a treat. It is drastically different from its predecessor from a styling perspective, with more defined and slightly more mature sheet metal, while the interior is clean and straightforward.

But really, it is the performance changes that are very welcome. A larger 2.4-liter boxer-four engine brings 228 horsepower and 184-pound-feet of torque to the party, and it is still available with slick-shifting six-speed manual. Hooray! There is also a vending machine, but do not. Just do not. The 86 also boasts sharper and more complex handling than before with a stiffened body structure and reworked suspension. Oh, and I can not forget that Toyota is finally equipping the 86 with respectable rubber from the factory with Premium equipment levels and getting Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires as standard. Thank you, Toyota (and Subaru), for giving us a fresh 86.

– Jon Wong

Read our Toyota GR 86 review here.

I’ve been lucky enough to run a few prototypes and concepts over the years, but it’s pretty rare you’re invited to, you know, really run things. Porsche not only got me behind the wheel of Mission R weeks after its debut, but gave me a private track where I could really have it. This is Porsche’s vision for the all-electric future of its racing program, 1,000 horsepower aimed at all four wheels. Not only is it exciting and wild to drive, but it shows that the future of motorsport will be very good.

– Tim Stevens

Read our Porsche Mission R review here.

All the Lamborghinis in my youth were wild, unhinged things with wings and vents all over the place and apparently no heck because they were refined or precise or anything but insane and powerful. These cars captured my imagination, and while the Lamborghini has objectively gotten better and better at driving over the intervening years, I have always felt that something was lost along the way: the drama. Huracan STO brings a lot of it back to me. It definitely looks insane with its dorsal fin and giant wing. It’s not very practical or affordable for everyday use like other Huracans, but it’s a really great driver. It’s sharp, violent and exciting – without a doubt the best car I drove in 2021. It’s not a car I’ll probably ever forget.

Kyle Hyatt

Read our Lamborghini Huracan STO review here.

Does the world need a Jeep Wrangler that can drive from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, chirping the tires and emitting a V8 roar like no other? Nix. But heck, it’s fun. Powered by a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with stinking 470 horsepower and 470-pound-feet of torque, the Wrangler 392 is the most ridiculous fun I’ve had all year. It demarcated dunes, conquered cliffs and let me do it with the top down and the doors off. Of course, the fuel economy is awful, and it’s not something I want to commute to on a daily basis, but as an off-road rig, this V8 Jeep is hard to beat.

– Not Hall

Read our Jeep Wrangler 392 review here.

The Rivian R1T hits the road with incredible acceleration and tackles trails with an eerily silent confidence. In addition to boasting plenty of power and range for daily driving (up to 314 miles) with a bit of sloping space for easy towing, the fully electric pickup is also packed with unique features like its Gear Tunnel storage that can be converted into a pull-out camp kitchen . The R1T is unlike any truck I have ever driven, and is an excellent vanguard to the coming wave of electric pickups.

Antuan Goodwin

Read our Rivian R1T review here.

I did not want to stop driving this car. The wailing flat-six engine, the perfect six-speed stick, the agitated thrill that runs up my spine when the tach needle hits 9,000 rpm – driving a Porsche 911 GT3 Touring is an experience I will soon forget. The only car that came close to the excitement of the GT3 Touring this year was the standard GT3. Everything else? Far, far behind.

I have another GT3 tester on the way in January. So if you see a repeat on our 2022 list, you know why.

– Steven Ewing

Read our Porsche 911 GT3 Touring review here.

For the longest time, our experience with high-end luxury electric cars was limited to a single car from a single manufacturer. But now we have finally reached a turning point where old car manufacturers are bringing their know-how to the table to deliver a new generation of electric cars. So it should come as no surprise that Daimler – you know, the people who invented the car – rolled out one of the best in 2021.

The Mercedes-Benz EQS was practically the best car I drove all year. It proved that an electric car can at least be the rolling block of opulence that gas-powered Benzes can be. It runs like a dream and yet delivers more than enough punch when needed The AMG variant certainly sounds spicy, also. And then there’s Hyperscreen, a marvel of a dashboard that incorporates three separate screens to create one component with a whole lot of wow factor. EQS has set the high water mark for all future luxury electric cars, whether they come from start-up or long-term OEMs.

Andrew Krok

Read our Mercedes-Benz EQS450 review here.

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