AA DRIVEN COTY: The best Luxury and Sports/Performance cars of the year
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
This week, we continue our rollout of the category finalists for the AA DRIVEN New Zealand Car of the Year award.
We’ll be awarding wins in 10 different categories: Small SUV, Medium SUV, Large SUV, Passenger, LCV, Clean & Green Hybrid/PHEV/BEV, Sports & Performance, Luxury and Safety, not to mention the outright AA DRIVEN NZ COTY.
The focus is on cars launched in the last 12 months, but in fact we have considered all cars on sale as long as they have a five-star crash rating. Let’s take a look at the finalists for the Luxury and Sports/Performance categories.
SUVs are a natural platform for luxury models, with their commanding seating positions and generous cabin space. The Audi Q5 has always been a highly polished example of the premium-SUV genre and the very latest ups the ante on equipment and technology, including mild hybrid technology. In age of EVs we also still rather enjoy the option of diesel power in the Q5 – especially the all-new, very powerful and very clean V6 unit in the high-performance SQ5. It now also offers the choice of conventional SUV or svelte Sportback body shapes.
Hyundai is rapidly gaining traction as a premium brand in NZ: think top-level Santa Fe and the Palisade. The radical-looking Ioniq 5 advances the cause in a big way, with the very latest in Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) technology, stunning design and a truly premium interior that more than justifies the $100k-plus price of the top variants.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC also joins our list of Luxury finalists. It’s not a new car (launched back in 2019), but we reckon it’s still a sublime premium BEV and a plug-in that truly encapsulates what’s great about this marque.
Sports & Performance
Any genre of car can qualify as a Sports & Performance contender – as long as it puts driver appeal at the top of its priorities.
The Audi e-tron GT (and of course its sister car, the Porsche Taycan) is proof-positive that a BEV can stir the soul of the enthusiast. It’s dramatically fast in a straight line, especially the top RS model, but that’s not such an achievement with a pure-electric model. What is remarkable is the engaging way that performance is delivered, with a two-speed transmission on the rear axle, and the highly entertaining chassis dynamics. It works on every level.
BMW’s new M3 (sedan) and M4 (coupe) paternal twins could be considered more traditional performance machines: powerful front-mounted petrol engines, rear-drive (although an AWD option is coming) and easy oversteer when you want it. On a track day, of course! We’ve been blown away by the combination of high technology and old-school appeal in these M-cars.
Toyota’s GR Yaris is not really a Yaris at all. The only parts it shares with the standard five-door hatch are headlights and door mirrors. It’s actually a purpose-built hot hatch, with a 200kW three-cylinder engine, manual transmission and wonderfully capable AWD system. And it truly is a motorsport-inspired car, created as a homologation model for the World Rally Championship.