The 2017 TestDrivenTV “Id Buy It” list rounds up the best of the best for my test drives this year, my version of the ten bests or the cars of the year. They represent the cars I would spend our own money on.
The cheeky Kia Soul has been on our Id Buy It list on two years past in different models, now this year joined by the quick and sporting turbocharged model. I love the Kia soul for is combination of fun styling character, buttoned down handling, and powertrain options from frugal to fooling around.
It’s a well built, comfortable fun car that’s also very practical in that it has the storage and functionality of a small SUV. Its pricing from the base model to the top-end Kia Soul EV is value packed regardless of what model you choose. And this year I came very close to getting one for myself.
Seeing a Volkswagen on this list should be no surprise as I wear my VW love on my sleeve. The Volkswagen Altas was a surprise to many however as it’s arguably not the strongest competitor in its field of large three row crossovers when it comes to spreadsheet comparisons like horsepower and towing.
What I liked about the Atlas is the big picture. It’s a large three row family sleigh that’s comfortable, well built and has a character nothing else in class offers up. It’s got that German feel in its handling with precise chassis feel that I just love in any car. If I was buying one of these three-row things, it would be the Atlas.
Also raising eyebrows this year was the addition of the Toyota C-HR. It’s not fast, it isn’t the best value in its class, and it has a continuously variable transmission. The infotainment system is 10 years ago, it has little cargo capacity and its a crossover not available with all-wheel drive.
But just look at it! I love the character of the C-HR, the styling that just doesn’t give a fuck what anyone says. That compensates for a lot of its aforementioned deficiencies. Add that it’s quite comfortable and enjoyable to use as a daily driver around town and live with for a very reasonable price and it just pushed my buy it buttons.
I love the Toyota 4 Runner for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it remains the last of a kind. Truck frame based SUVs are a rare commodity today and this one itself is a gem. It has genuine tough tool off-road capability that no crossover can touch.
Yes its old, its heavy, and its clunky but it will do anything you ask of it and looks pretty damn buff when you outfit it with the right tires and wheels, a few racks and a snorkel intake. Compare to Jeep Wrangler if you dare, but those are fighting words in most bullrings.
Returning to the Id Buy It list is the Honda Civic Si, now it its eighth generation and now turbocharged. Though it lost its high revving naturally aspirated engine the so many loved, it gained a new drivability in real world living with mid range power and gobs of toque that no longer require 7,000 rpm workouts to enjoy.
Handling and back roads driving fun is every bit as good if not better than before, the interior just as enjoyable place to spend time on long days behind the wheel. And yes the genuine aluminum ball shift handle still burns your palm on a hot day.
While the Volkswagen Altas makes the choice for large three-row crossovers, the Kia Sorento is really more of a midsizer by most counts. That said, I love its well put together interior that has a far more premium feel and collection of features than most of its competition.
Its powertrain in the 3.3 liter V6 is a good combination of powerful and refined, and now in 2018 its even better with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Driven off-road it feels tight and solid, never loosing its edge even in the rough. A nice all-around package no matter which trim you get.
Sentimental feelings may well be at play with the seventh generation Volkswagen GTI in its place here on the Id Buy It list. My first new car after all was a 1984 Volkswagen GTI which I spent many miles ripping and shredding on the very same roads thirty years ago as I did this year testing the new one.
Thirty years later its over twice as powerful, three times the price, and nearly twice as heavy as the one I fell in love with but it has all the same goodness and visceral connection. Still available with cloth sport seats in the base S trim, this will always be my baby no matter how many check engine lights I deal with as it grows up.
Nissan Titan XD Pro 4X
The Nissan Titan XD Cummins returns again to the Id Buy It list as the sole full-size pickup Id buy, period. While I’m all about American brands, Nissan just does it better with a down to business purposefulness the others have lost in the craze of style and brand identity.
Nissan still builds a plain wrapper truck that is solid feeling and durable even when thrown into the rough. Optioned out in top-end trims like the Pro-4X it only gets better from there. I specifically love the 5.0 Cummins V8 as a powertrain option with its just right size and power for this class.
For the Volkswagen GTI lover in me, Audi builds a more mature and conservative grown up option with more room and luxury. The A4 sedan is also a perennial in its arena, a stalwart offering that just keeps getting better with age and each evolution.
The current A4 is for all intents in the same size and power range of the first A8 of yore, even with its base 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Though more power can be had here, I like that you can still option this bad boy with a manual transmission. And this may be the last Audi for a while that still has genuine exhaust tips instead of the fake ones the latest Audis are getting.
This year’s surprise for me was the Ford Focus RS which won me over with its bad ass kick-the-shit out of you driving performance and visual character. I mean just look at this damn thing and try to hate it. If you do, you need to drive it some.
With 350 horsepower to all four wheels that will snap your neck time and again, a race track stiff suspension that will break your back with each tar strip and pot hole, you have a car that you will know you been driving in the morning. It’s kind of like a night of the best sex you ever had, and had to spend a day recovering from yet you would do it again it a heartbeat. Yea that might be TMI but that is what the Ford Focus RS is all about.
So there you have it, the cream of the crop – the select few of all the cars I test drove this year I would actually buy with my own money. That of course is if I had money to spend on new cars. I’m a journalist and therefore I live far more frugally than it might appear to viewers.
On that note, thanks to all of you for a wonderful 2017 of sharing my thoughts and experience with the cars I love.