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The Top Drives of 2008

by Stephen Walker

31st December, 2008

It's a tradition on New Year's Eve ..... name the "Top Drive of the Year".

Since 2005, Next Car, one of the nation's leading automotive news journals has named the "Top Drive". We enjoy motoring, just as we suspect you do! On that basis, after working flat-out all year, we pick what is best and explain why.

But this year we name not one, but two, Top Drives. Using the Australia Tax Office's luxury car tax limit we name a car under the $57,180 threshold and one above the limit. That way an affordable vehicle has a chance and a high priced vehicle, which is beyond the purchasing power of most, has its own segment.

After driving so many cars, some forgettable, some not, we weigh up the good points and the bad.

This year we are delighted to announce the winners are the Ford G6E Turbo (under $57,180) and the Volkswagen Touareg R50 (over $57,180). These two cars are quite different. However, both are full of enticements that make compelling cases towards acknowledging their nominations.

Ford G6E Turbo (copyright image)

Ford G6E Turbo

Released mid-year, the new FG series Ford Falcon has impressed many a motoring journalist. And that includes the team at Next Car. In direct comparison with Falcons of past years a number of distinct improvements are noticeable. For example; improvements to the safety aspects of car design were welcome, whilst improvements in the choice of interior plastic components were long overdue.

However, the Top Drive is not about the 'most improved' or the 'best and fairest'. The Top Drive is all about being a (wait for it) ..... it's about being a top drive!

So what makes the new Ford G6E Turbo a Top Drive?

Sure, having improvements over previous models is good for business and it makes the occupants feel more comfortable about the car (which is a good thing) but it doesn't effect the on-road ability.

And it is the on-road performance that impresses Next Car. The FG series continues Ford's decade long improvement programme with its 'bread and butter' model, the Falcon. Suspension, steering and braking, together with ride and handling, have all been (gradually) improved this decade. And so it is with the FG. But the sharp performance of the XR6 Turbo and G6E Turbo make a nice car even better. The brisk acceleration of Ford's local turbocharged six provides a strong element of safety for overtaking and a particularly joyful experience when you just want to move away promptly from a standing start. Of course the turbo six is good for 110 km/h on any freeway, just like every other car on today's market. But it's the way it gets there that makes the Ford G6E Turbo a Top Drive.

Read our road test on the Ford G6E Turbo here.

Volkswagen Touareg R50 (copyright image)

Volkswagen Touareg R50

This is a big car and it is an expensive car. But this European built SUV placed its maker, Volkswagen, into a new market segment upon the release of the Touareg some years back. Since then, the Touareg has steadily been making progress in the sales charts.

The Touareg is quite an impressive vehicle. In fact, we describe it as an over achiever!

The VW Touareg R50, which was released just a couple of months ago, has more torque than your average "talkback" radio host and it looks more dashing than many of the overrated footie players.

But it is the ease at which this big SUV handles the power, together with the driving dynamics, and the level of comfort that makes this all-wheel drive, air suspended, $134,990 machine a real winner.

Read our road tests on the Volkswagen Touareg R50 here and here.


The year 2007 was a record year for new car sales in Australia. Over 1,000,000 new vehicles hit the road, locally, in that year. But this year the sales rate is down somewhat, especially over recent months. Despite that, the year 2008 will still be a good year for new car sales.

However, an element of disappointment with recent sales amongst some brands has many industry observers uncertain about the coming year. With many new models on the horizon, the car industry is certainly going to be newsworthy once again. Some of the numerous new models expected in coming months include a new Kia Cerato, the new Ford Fiesta, a revised Mitsubishi Colt, the local release of the Volkswagen Passat CC, the launch of the Cadillac brand in Australia (with the CTS), the delayed release of the big Skoda Superb, the little Suzuki Alto from India, the highly anticipated Peugeot 308 CC and Audi's version of the Volkswagen Tiguan (the Q5). There is also a new Kia Magentis due, whilst Kia have their new Soul coming too. Nissan will have the GTR finally. Mid-year will see a revised Skoda Octavia line-up and the new sixth generation Volkswagen Golf, whilst Holden will have GM's new 'world car' and Nissan will release the 370Z. Late in the year (or early 2010) we will see the release of the dramatic new Suzuki Kizashi. For 2009, Next Car will continue to work 'flat-out' and we look forward to the coming year with great anticipation.

In the meantime, we congratulate both Ford and Volkswagen on their achievements during 2008 and, accordingly, express our appreciation that they have presented Australian drivers with the opportunity to enjoy a "Top Drive"!

The "Top Drive of 2007" is: here.

The "Top Drive of 2006" is: here.

The "Top Drive of 2005" is: here.

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