Here they are: the 10 biggest motoring stories of 2017
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10. Autonomy goes mainstream
The robots are among us.
This year was the biggest for public testing of autonomous technology. For many countries, it was the first time that self-driving cars shared the roads with civilian normies. That included New Zealand, where Volvo conducted tests early in the year.
Like it or lump it, autonomous cars — going hand in hand with EVs — are going to be a big factor in the direction of 'the car's' future. Mega minds at Apple, Google, Uber, Tesla, and more are all racing against one another for a finite solution. And it's only a matter of time before they find it.
9. Aston Martin, Mercedes-AMG, McLaren commence arms race
So from autonomous cars to some of the scariest, most incredibly quick cars we'll probably ever see in our lifetime.
Yes the hypercar race switched up a couple of notches this year, with Aston Martin, Mercedes-AMG, and McLaren all revealing new war machines.
First was the Valkyrie, a Le Mans shape with a 843kW 6.5-litre Cosworth V12 under the sheets. Then came the Project One, a car self-titled as 'a road legal Formula 1 car'. And lastly was the Senna, the lightest McLaren product since the F1, and the most powerful they've ever made.
The future might be unclear, but the present at least isn't half bad.
8. Kia Stinger and Hyundai i30 N signal Korean arrival
Korea's car manufacturers were once considered poison. Then they started to get good. Good enough to sit next to, and sometimes outsell their primary Japanese competition.
But there was still a stigma from the enthusiast market. Until now, anyway.
The Kia Stinger and Hyundai i30N represent the first properly serious performance machines from Korea's two leading brands (let's just forget about the Hyundai Tiburon/Coupe for a moment...). And both have been welcomed with open arms.
Early reviews of both machines have been glowing. We can't wait to get our hands on them.
7. Waterview Tunnel opens
June saw the unusual sight of thousands of Aucklanders, myself included, walking through a tunnel as if it was some kind of significant historical monument.
It was of course the Waterview Tunnel, a project with planning roots that date back to 2000 — potentially even the '90s. In short, it's something a lot of Aucklanders had been waiting for.
Was its opening the magic bullet for Auckland's traffic woes? Was it worth the wait? That's up for debate. Some seven months on, and traffic from West Auckland to the City is still present.
Nonetheless, nothing else in current construction rivals the scale of Waterview. It will be a long time before the country gets crippled by this kind of concrete euphoria.
6. Attack of the SUV, as Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo join in
There was yet more growth in the SUV segment, primarily at the top end. Following in the footsteps of the Bentley Bentayga and Maserati Levante released last year, Lamborghini and Alfa Romeo revealed limo sports car off roader things of their own.
Alfa Romeo's Stelvio, in Quadrifoglio trim, broke the ice by stealing the SUV lap-time record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. The Lambo Urus meanwhile, a vehicle long prophesied through various concept cars, debuted in Bologna Italy looking little different to the concepts.
Add to that the local launches of the now award winning Skoda Kodiaq and Suzuki Ignis, the traditionalist SsangYong Rexton and funky fresh Hyundai Kona, and a plethora of others ... and you'd be a mad car maker to not be getting in on the action.
5. The Honda Civic Type R makes spiritual world debut
Photo / Richard Opie
We Kiwis don't know how lucky we are sometimes to be so close to Japan.
We get many of their four-wheeled delicacies that the rest of the world can only dream of getting. Nissan GT-Rs, old Mitsubishi Evos and Scooby Rexes, and the humble Honda Civic Type R.
When the new one launched here, the first time it had been offered here new, it was a big deal. But you can just imagine how ballistic they went in the US; a nation that has never seen a Civic Type R ever apart from in movies and video games. And Top Gear re-runs.
Soon enough American Honda dealers were heaping on extra cost for buyers, pricing the in-demand hatches at almost twice their original RRP in some cases.
Needless to say the hype was immense, and the winged Type R delivered too.
4. Mercedes-Benz go rural with X-Class
The only thing weirder than a Lamborghini SUV? How about a Mercedes-Benz ute...
But that was the reality this year. If there's any market that's growing as quick (if not quicker) than the world of SUVs, it's utes. In New Zealand and Australia they dominate the sales charts, and we're just the beginning.
Merc naturally wanted in, and duly announced the X-Class luxury utility late last year in concept form [pictured above]. They then revealed the real thing this year, with Driven's Liz Dobson and Tony Verdon among the first in the world to give it a whirl on and off the beaten track.
3. A Kiwi breaks into Formula 1
It's a ripping yarn isn't it. F1 prodigy loses his spot in the sport, and has to regather himself elsewhere. Then, years down the track, as a two-time Le Mans champion, he gets the call up to come back to where he started — a 'new driver'.
In signing on the dotted line, Brendon Hartley became the first New Zealander to race in Formula 1 since 1984. And, for a brief little moment, motorsport dominated the headlines of this normally rugby-mad nation.
Hartley was impressive on debut, finishing 13th. Those following the sport with a fine-tooth comb were particularly impressed by his speed and consistency on long runs. The rest of the season was mostly underlined by engine (sorry ... 'power unit') failures, but that didn't matter when they confirmed that Hartley would get a full-time drive in 2018.
With a new engine package (admittedly, one that has 'Honda' written on the box), Hartley's 2018 will hopefully result in a more reliability.
2. Tesla Model 3, the good and the bad
Oh buddy what a show it's been, tracing the trajectory of what some consider the most important car ever made.
The Model 3 was first shown off in April last year. Everything was positive, though cynics knew that Tesla would be up against it. This was a first mass-market car for the American company, and a car that they need to be an international success.
With about half a million people putting their names down for one in the snap of a finger, the pressure was on for Tesla to nail the production phase. They'd hoped to be cranking 20,000 Model 3s a month by now.
But "production bottlenecks" stemming from both the Model 3 and Model X put things in doubt. Share prices tumbled, and things got even weirder when the company announced a new Roadster capable of 400km/h and a Semi truck with a revolutionary battery life smack bang in the middle of the saga.
Thankfully for Tesla, it looks like there's light at the end of the tunnel. Production on the Model 3 looks to be on the up.
It could, perhaps even should, still be a revolutionary car.
1. Aussie Commodore dies, new Euro Commodore revealed
The King is dead, long live the King.
Australian car manufacturing, something I think a lot of us are guilty of taking for granted, is gone. The Ford Falcon kicked the bucket last year, and the Australian rear-wheel drive Commodore followed in 2017.
It was an emotional thing, completed with a live stream of the last cars rolling off the factory floor. A sight that was enough for many a gruff, singlet-laden Aussie bloke to tear up.
Of course, there are still quite a few VF Commodores around if you want to nip in and buy your slice of Aussie history. But they won't last long. And soon the only Commodore you'll have to buy one of ... the new ones.
Mmm yes. The new Commodore was revealed too; something that the Holden faithful by and large saw as Holden 'rubbing their noses in it'.
And yet, the rest of the world really like the new Commodore. In America it will be badged as a Buick, Germany an Opel, and Great Britain as a Vauxhall — and each of those markets appeared to respond with glee.
As much glee as someone can show for a front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive mid-size sedan anyway.
Anyway. 2017. See ya later.