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Well, that was quite the new-car year, wasn’t it? The wave of electrification continued to wash over the automotive world, China staked its claim as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to EVs, and — on the opposite side of the coin — our favourite supercar makers kept churning out the petrol-burning hits.
So how do you whittle a long list of vehicles down to your favourite five? Well, I don’t know how everyone else is doing it, but for me, it all comes down to the surprise.
Did I think Honda remembered how to build game-changing hot hatches? Or that a Ferrari shaped like an SUV could be anywhere near as good as its smaller, lighter siblings? Or that there would be a Chinese electric vehicle that I could genuinely picture on my driveway?
No, I did not. But I do now.
So, in no particular order, here are my fave five cars from 2023.
The McLaren 750S is, hands-down, the best car I drove in 2023, with daylight second.
It’s not cheap, coming in as $585,800 for the hardtop or $654,600 for the Spider, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a faster-accelerating, harder-braking beast of a machine, and one that balances its aggression with a pared-back purity that truly makes you feel at one with the vehicle.
If you can afford one — and yes, that’s a big if — then buy one, because on a dollar-per-smile basis, the McLaren 750S is a bargain.
Powered by McLaren’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 552kW and 800Nm (fed through a seven-speed automatic), the 750S will dispatch the zero to 100km/h dash in 2.8 seconds, while 200km/h flashes by in 7.2 seconds. Want to push to 300km/h? You’ll need just 19.8 seconds.
Those are bonkers numbers, and yet the McLaren 750S never feels terrifying, owing largely to the control and connection between car and driver.
It’s special, this one.
Yes, much of the motoring media was salivating over the M3 Touring, but for me the pick of the go-fast BMW bunch remains the M2, and this new one improves on everything its predecessors produced, save the price.
See, when I first fell in love with the M2, it was relatively cheap. Way back in 2016 you could get the Pure grade for less than $90K with a manual transmission.
This one, though, lists at $121,700, before on-road costs. Ouch. But on the bangs-to-bucks scale, there’s still plenty that adds up here, including the ‘M TwinPower' 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-six engine, producing a sizeable 338kW and 550Nm.
It’s rear-drive, of course, and only too happy to get a little smokey when you want it to. But it’s more the perfect and potent combination of sound, speed and sensation that gets your pulse quickening.
Ok, so I’ll be first to admit my expectation weren’t sky-high when I climbed into what was then the cheapest EV in the country, the MG4 Excite 51, which lists at below $40k.
But therein lies the magic of this cheap and cheerful proposition, with the MG4 exceeding your expectations in every meaningful way.
But the biggest, and best, surprise is the way the little MG drives, which is not a compliment you can pay many Chinese cars for now. But this one feels composed, competent and confident, and not at all what I was expecting.
It's a game-changer, because this MG4 Excite 51 is about the same price as a mid-range Toyota Corolla Hybrid, delivers more than enough driving range to get almost everyone through their working week, and serves up plenty of space and style, too.
So tell me again how EVs are too expensive?
There’s a reason Ferrari swore it would never build an SUV — in fact, Ferrari Chief Design Officer, Flavio Manzoni told this very publication (albeit way back in 2015) that "Enzo Ferrari would turn in his grave" should the company ever make something other than a two-door sports car — and that’s because on-track performance and high-riding practicality don’t exactly go hand-in-hand.
Until now, that is. Because the Purosangue is everything a Ferrari should be — loud, raucous and powered by a mega V12 petrol engine — only it’s also spacious, practical and comfortable, too.
In truth, that’s the real magic of this vehicle. There are harder, faster Ferraris, sure. But there are few that offer the split personality of the Purosangue, with transforms from fire-breathing performance car to luxurious family hauler at the literal push of a button.
Sure, it’s $728,000 before on-roads. But this isn’t Chesto’s cheapest cars, is it?
Can Honda still build a knife-sharp hot hatch, now that it’s spent so long focusing on more sedate, boring even, automotive options?
You bloody bet it can. Not just a cracking hot hatch, but — in my humble opinion — the best front-drive performance car money can currently buy, the Civic Type R is a glorious return to Honda’s boy-racer roots.
Yes, $72,600 drive-away is a big ask, but you’re getting a Porsche-like experience for not-Porsche money here, so I reckon that’s actually a bit of a bargain.