We’re leaving this decade on a high note. Ignore the Chicken Littles: the automotive industry is turbulent, sure, but there’s a lot to look forward to in the near future. The biggest reveals of 2019 prove as much.
The past 12 months saw an upheaval of the establishment. Porsche built an electric car. Chevrolet hauled the V8 out of the Vette’s nose and threw it… into the middle of the car. Another sporty American icon gained a lifted, four-door, all-electric variant. Only a few days later the Cybertruck sliced its way onto the scene. Like we said, it was a wild year.
Most of these are already available at dealers. Others preview what we can expect soon. But they all have one thing in common: they sparked plenty of discussion here in the office and amongst you, the AutoGuide.com readers. Here are the 10 most important cars of 2019, in alphabetical order.
Audi RS6 Avant – Superwagon Comes to America
For nearly 20 years North Americans watched from afar as Audi unleashed ever more potent wagons on Europe. The RS6 itself first debuted in 2002, and while that generation did make the trek across the Atlantic, it arrived only as a sedan.
The four-ringed brand changed all that this year by confirming the hot-rod hauler for American consumption. As part of the deal of convincing the beancounters, the delectable RS6 Avant arrives alongside a more sensible long-roof: the returning A6 All-Road.
The combo of nigh-on 600 hp, four-wheel drive security, massive storage space, and proper car driving dynamics is irresistible. Sure, the same drivetrain is available in the RS Q8, a bigger vehicle in that crossover shape the market seemingly can’t get enough of. That’s precisely why, should you find yourself lucky enough to be shopping for either, you should get the wagon: it’s the unexpected choice.
Chevrolet Corvette C8 – Joining the Mid-Engined Ranks
After years of leaks and spy photos, Chevrolet confirmed the industry’s worst-kept secret: the next-generation Corvette would go mid-engined. It’s the biggest change in the model’s basic makeup since the Vette arrived in 1953. The engineering team hasn’t completely rethought America’s sports car: there’s still a small-block V8 in there, it’ll just be singing behind the driver instead of in front.
There won’t be a manual transmission however, a concession to performance that’s sure to rankle just as many fans as those controversial new looks. But what numbers it packs: a $60,000 starting price, nearly 500 hp, and a 0-60 mph time in under three seconds makes this a bargain capable of embarrassing supercars costing multiple times the price. So some things never change after all.
Ford Mustang Mach E – An Electric Pony Car
Oh, you thought the Corvette was a huge break from tradition? Pfffft. Ford pulled the sheets off its long-teased “Mustang-inspired” all-electric crossover to reveal the new EV had taken that name wholesale. The company poured money into a star-studded reveal event, with the likes of Idris Elba and Ken Block talking about how the Mustang Mach E earned the name. Whether you believe the justification or think it’s all marketing puff, it doesn’t matter: everyone was talking about it either way.
Ford recently announced the Mustang Mach E First Edition is already sold out a whole year before owners will be able to silently park them in their driveways. If there’s a mainstream manufacturer that can convince the public to make the switch to all-electric, it’s Ford. After all, it’s the company that put America on wheels.
Hyundai Sonata – Are Sedans Sexy Again?
A strange thing happened in the wake of the (still-ongoing) crossover craze. Some manufacturers like Ford, Chevrolet—and now Buick—straight up jumped ship, abandoning the three-box arena for that sweet, sweet high-rider money. Others, most notably Hyundai and sister company Kia, have stuck to their guns, and in fact are using the opportunity to inject the class with some much-needed style.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Hyundai Sonata Review
Nothing exemplifies this better than the new-for-2020 Hyundai Sonata. Hyundai wowed the sedan crowd with the swoopy, dramatic sixth-gen model at the beginning of this decade, and history has repeated itself at the end. In comes a dramatically different shape under the watchful eye of Belgian designer Luc Donckervolke, with trick illuminating metal strips giving the Sonata a unique face. It manages to look much more expensive than it is, yet also like nothing else on the road. With news of a hotter 290 hp N-Line model coming it will also go like no other Sonata has before.
Land Rover Defender – Reimagining an Icon
The Defender is one of the most recognizable shapes in the automotive world. Talk of Land Rover launching a new one has ebbed and flowed since the turn of the millennium. Here in 2019 it finally happened, with a new aluminum platform yet the same adventurous nature.
About the only thing carried over is the name: the new Defender still comes in 90 and 110 forms, which translates to short- and long-wheelbase models. It packs a modern 2.0-liter turbo four, hooked up to a mild-hybrid system and packing 296 hp. It’ll still tow up to 7,200 lb if given the opportunity, and wade through 35 inches of water—probably not at the same time, we hope.
This glow up comes at a price, with the Defender set to start at just shy of $50k when it touches down here next year. That even includes steelies. On the scale of successful remodeled icons, will the Defender land more towards the MINI or the Thunderbird? We can’t wait to find out.
Nissan Sentra – Compacts Won’t Quit
Remember when the Sentra was interesting? Don’t worry, we had trouble figuring it out too. Maybe the last time the sporty SE-R was part of the lineup, which was *checks calendar* seven years ago?! Oh.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Nissan Sentra Review
The current Sentra is a fleet special, the sort of car you invariably get in beige when there’s nothing else left at the airport rental office. Nissan was tired of that, and gave its North American best-seller a complete rethink for 2020. Like Hyundai, Nissan believes in the long-term future of the sedan market, even down a class size. The new Sentra exemplifies this, with a lower stance, smart looks, and—in top trims—an interior that wows. As crossover ubiquity increases, people will naturally want to stand out, and the Sentra offers a lot of that for a pretty tidy amount of cash.
Porsche Taycan – The Tesla Challenger
It’s an unfortunate fact of the automotive journalism world that we operate on comparisons. Just look at that header: since before it was even officially unveiled, the Porsche Taycan has been dubbed Elon Musk’s biggest threat. The truth is more nuanced. The Taycan doesn’t aim to best the Model S in terms of range or straight-line performance. It certainly isn’t the value proposition either: even the base (for now) 4S rings up as more than a Model S.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Porsche Taycan 4S Review
But none of those have ever been Porsche calling cards. Porsche’s sports cars have been about the full package, the considered balance of the power, handling and feel working together in harmony. That’s alive and well in the Taycan, and it let us breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the electric future won’t be a fun-free zone.
Tesla Cybertruck – Driving a Wedge Into the Industry
Nevermind the stainless steel, the Cybertruck might as well have been made of depleted uranium such was its ability to tilt all talk to itself after launch. The stats almost didn’t matter, as people flocked to put a down payment on the all-electric pickup. In fact, the stats probably don’t matter, since the Cybertruck will need a fair amount of changes should it ever be road-legal.
But it continued the Tesla tradition of getting non-car folks talking about cars. For that, the Cybertruck was easily one of the biggest reveals of the year.
Toyota RAV4 Prime – Plug-In Power for the People
A RAV4 on the list? The most common 2019 vehicle that doesn’t have a pickup bed?
The RAV4 is the shape of the modern vehicle. We can’t even blame it: for most people it does most things mostly well. That is a deceptively difficult goal to achieve. The existing hybrid is our preferred option too: more power than the gas-only model, but also more refined and economical. It is a perfectly functional all-rounder of a vehicle.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review
That’s what makes the 2021 RAV4 Prime so enticing. This will be a 302 hp version of Toyota’s bread and butter, promising a more involving drive and potentially even more fuel efficiency. More fun, with no drawbacks? Sign us up. The Prime will also be the second-fastest model in the Toyota lineup, behind only the Supra. Speaking of which…
Toyota GR Supra – The Sports Car Strikes Back
It seems like ages ago that we first saw the Supra—a testament to how quick this year has gone—but its reveal was only back in January 2019. This is Toyota covering the other end of the spectrum: a halo model two-seater, reviving a storied nameplate that sat dormant for two decades.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Toyota GR Supra Review
The company did it in the only way it saw as possible: working with another brand, just as it did for the 86. Instead of Subaru, this partnership was with BMW, which means the Supra has a Bavarian heart. And chassis. And switchgear.
Our answer to that: so what? If any company can build turbo inline sixes, the traditional engine layout of Supras, it’s BMW. Had the two not teamed up, we would just be living in a world without a Supra, and that frankly sounds like a darker timeline to us. The new Supra isn’t perfect, but it’s relatively lightweight and plenty quick. Most importantly, it’s fun, something that has been spreading across the Toyota range over the last decade. That’s something we applaud.