Be more active. Meet new people. Watch less TV. How to fulfill such New Year’s resolutions but skip all those crowds at the gym? Take a ride on the wild side in one of our top picks for 2018.
Mpg: 27 city/31 highway
0-to-60 mph: 11 seconds
Fun rides lure you behind the wheel. That’s true with Toyota’s all-new C-HR, which was developed on the Nurburgring, the renowned motorsports complex in Germany. Handling and braking are sportier and more responsive than expected.
There is a manumatic shifter, which helps bolster the languid acceleration in lower gears. And the Transformer-like styling is eye-catching, with jutting angles and rear-door handles hidden at the roofline. The slew of standard safety gear includes automatic high-beams, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, backup camera and emergency braking that can detect cars and pedestrians.
For just $2,000 more, the Premium model adds keyless entry and ignition, power-folding mirrors, heated seats and blind-spot monitoring. Sure, the cabin can be a tad noisy, and (gasp!) there’s no smartphone integration. But the seats are snug, the space-age dash looks smart and those audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel are a nice touch.
Mpg: 22 city/29 highway
0-to-60 mph: 5.9 seconds
For autobahn purists, it doesn’t get much better than an Audi A5 Sportback or BMW 330i Gran Turismo. But those hot hatchbacks begin at $45,000 and skyrocket from there. Now Kia, a newbie in the high-performance game, is nipping at their heels.
The all-new Stinger is $10,000-15,000 less than those Teutonic titans yet boasts more horsepower. And the premium model, the Stinger GT, rockets from 60 mph in a blistering 4.6 seconds. But pricing and power aren’t the only reasons to take a chance here. The elegant interior is one of Kia’s best, with low-slung seats, spoked air vents and plenty of room for passengers and cargo.
There’s also a head-up display on the windshield, a floating touchscreen and a wireless phone-charging pad in the center console. Options include 15-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo with subwoofers under the front seats. But it’s the sound of the Stinger’s fast and furious engine that really brings music to your ears.
RANGE ROVER VELAR
Mpg: 26 city/30 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
With crossovers and SUVs multiplying like rabbits, Range Rover found a way to cut through the clutter: build the Velar, the automaker’s best vehicle ever. Less severe than the Evoque and not as hulking as the Range Rover Sport or HSE, the Velar’s design is just right.
Ditto the $50,000 base price, which, for a Range Rover, is affordable, considering the high level of luxury, engineering and tech features. You know you’re in for a treat when the electronic door handles (which are flush against the exterior) magically emerge when pressing the key fob. Slip into the 20-way driver’s seat — outfitted with heating, cooling and massage functions — and savor the dash, a lesson in minimalist chic.
The trim and materials are first-rate, of course, and most controls are on two large, futuristic-looking touchscreens. But press the ignition button to really get the party started. The Velar roars to life, and scoots around corners like a two-door sportster. That’s because this crossover is much lighter than expected, a nod to the new, high-strength aluminum chassis. Range Rover really did its homework here and it shows.