Stamp duty for cars explained
When you go to buy a new or used car, you will have to pay stamp duty. But what...
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Remarkably, there is a question I’ve been asked more often than “would you like fries with that?” or even “are you George Clooney?” And that question is “what’s the best car you’ve ever driven?”
We should note that this is a very different question from “what’s your favourite car?”, which is actually asked slightly less often.
People want to know what the best is and, if there was a total and utter Arbiter of Things, it would save us all a lot of time, and Googling, if we could be definitive with an answer.
I’m lucky enough to drive a lot of cars, which should mean that my personal best car should be constantly moving, but what is quite remarkable is that it doesn’t. I always tell people that, while the most amazing thing I’ve ever driven is usually the last super car I was in, because they’re all amazing, the best car ever is always the Porsche 911.
Incredibly, every time Porsche unveils a new one, it’s better than the last, so the answer only need change slightly, to include the latest model designation, if you’re a total nerd.
Australia’s best cars at the moment? And how can we possibly decide such a list?
Unfortunately, the fact is that there are a Big Bang-like number of variables, from value to performance to safety to comfort to design, all scored via the intangible prism of personal taste.
The fact is, cars are far more than just numbers and, while I’ve been part of the highly scientific process that is Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year testing (think a whole week of endless driving, followed by endless arguing with shouty, opinionated men), it merely proved that testing cars is a subjective exercise.
Yes, most of the time, most of the judges agree on what the Car of the Year should be, but not all of them, which is why it has to be a majority vote.
The only way we can really come to a definitive top 10 of the best cars is to choose someone authoritarian, and perhaps overconfident enough, to declare his personal, considered list.
That is what I’m going to do for you, but be sure that this isn’t entirely my personal opinion, because it takes into account the rantings of other car testers I respect - ie the whole CarsGuide team - and the endless discussions we have about this kind of thing.
Where they are all simply wrong, of course, I have chosen to ignore them.
The latest and greatest Porsche 911 is the 992 version, which only arrived in Australia in 2019 and is both the best 911 ever, and possibly the best car ever.
Quite certainly, it is the best car that what I like to call “real” money can buy. Yes, that means I’m suggesting that $265,000 is an (almost) reasonable price to pay for an amazing car, while any vehicle over, say, $300,000 is in silly super car territory.
The 911 is, quite simply, about as good as a car can get. No, it’s not practical, the rear seats are stupid and pointless and if you live in Victoria it will atomise your licence in less than three months.
But the fact remains, it is absolutely incredible to drive, has steering so perfectly weighted it will make your hands weep and can corner like a race car, or waft you through traffic in a cabin of refined luxury, as your mood desires.
It is everything you could want, but sadly, with its north of $200K price tag, wanting one is all most of us will ever be able to do.
The only good news is that all the old ones are great, too, so you might be able to afford one, second-hand, eventually.
Tesla Model 3
Look, I didn’t want to get sucked in by all the hype either, and I think Elon Musk is best described as a repeatedly lucky lunatic, but spend a few days with this vision of the future on whees and it’s hard not to be blown into outer space.
It really does make all internal-combustion-engined cars instantly look out of date and a bit boring, like off soy milk.
The interior is magnificently modern, the epicentre of which is obviously the enormous touch screen, which allows you to do previously unthinkable things, like sitting in your garage and playing a driving video game using the actual car’s steering wheel, or engaging “Romance Mode” (think fireplace and cheesy music), or playing with Emissions Testing Mode (fake farts, delivered to whichever occupant of the car you want to accuse).
It is fun and forward-looking all at once. But then there is the way it drives, or in particular, the way it accelerates, which is simply unlike anything you’ve driven before. And fast. Very fast.
Then there’s the silence of EV running, and the simplicity of servicing, and the room in the cabin, and the $66,000 price tag. Most incredibly, though, you can buy the Performance variant for $85,000, which will blow away German machinery that’s twice the price.
It is, of course, an EV, and I, for one, wouldn’t buy it for that reason (more because of our lack of infrastructure and my lack of a garage than a love of petrol engines), but it’s still one of the best cars you can currently buy. Full stop.
Sure, this one is open to debate, and comes with one important caveat - I couldn’t personally buy one because the height of the rear door/window aperture made my kids feel car sick - but I still think it’s the best small car out there.
And if my children would stop being so whiney, I’d probably buy one. That’s because I love how premium it feels and looks, which fully justifies the $24,990 starting price. You simply feel like you’re driving something worth a lot more than that (and once you go to a higher spec, you are).
For a car of this size, it’s involving to drive, and the levels of NVH are commendably low (a big step forward for the 3).
In the past, you had to go German to get this kind of quality, and pay more money. Not any more.
We should probably mention here that some people do, however, prefer the new Toyota Corolla.
BMW 3 Series
Yes, the number of people who actually want a family sedan is decreasing by the day, a fact the BMW 3 Series proves, in fact, because it used to be the biggest seller for BMW globally, and its most important model, but today, in Australia, more than 60 per cent of the cars BMW sells wear X badges.
That hasn’t stopped them making this latest seventh generation of the legendary, and genuinely sporty, sedan, a cracker.
While the previous 3 Series was a bit dull, this one brings back the magic, with a classy interior, a muscularly attractive exterior and a stirring yet economical engine package.
Most importantly, though, it drives like a BMW should, with plenty of sheer driving pleasure on offer for the enthusiast and a real connection between human and machine.
With a starting price of $67,900, it should be able to compete with all those family SUVs, as its lower centre of gravity gives it an instant advantage in cornering joy. But it probably won’t.
There are some cars I really don’t want to like, because I am irascible and unreasonable, but I am at least willing to be won over, and to admit when I’m wrong.
That didn’t mean I had to like them, of course, and I told myself that the Macan would just be a warmed over Audi Q5 (they share a platform, and some bits and pieces), and not much chop. The fact is, however, that the Macan is, at $80,400, quite a cheap way into Porsche ownership. And that the $97,500 Macan S is all the SUV you could ever need.
Go any bigger, like a Cayenne, and you’re compromised on weight, sadly, but the Macan is a Goldilocks of a city truck.
It’s also annoyingly fabulous to drive, properly luxurious inside and great in just about every way. Best SUV ever. Sigh.
I have said it before and shall repeat it again here. When people of ordinary means - non Porsche/Ferrari shoppers - ask me what car they should buy, I always give them the same answer; just get the best Subaru you can afford.
In the modern world, I’m sometimes tempted to change that answer to “Mazda”, but Subaru still has the all-wheel-drive advantage, the ruggedness and the reputation for reliability that puts them out in front.
The best Subaru your money can buy at present is the new Forester. It has long been a dependable family hauler, but the new one changes things up by not being ugly, and is also better to drive and has a more pleasant and modern interior.
Personally, the CVT would be a deal-killer, but for those people who aren’t worried about enthusiastic driving and just want a car they can count on, and one that can take them, and their families, pretty much anywhere in comfort, without obscuring the sun with its bulk, the Forester is a winner, and great value, too, at a $33,490 starting point.
Ford Ranger Wildtrak
The Ford Ranger is one of those rare cars that comes along and just changes a market segment by being so damn attractive. This is a particularly impressive feat when your market segment is giant pick-up trucks, or utes, as we now insist on calling them, perhaps in an effort to make us feel less like victims of Coca-Colonisation.
If you must have a ute as your family car, or workhorse, it’s easy to see why you’d choose this one, as there’s something just… right about its design. It’s over the top yet not offensive. It’s loud and shouty, but not annoying.
People who like this kind of thing also get all doe-eyed when talking about the Ranger and how fabulous it is to drive, although personally I find most pick-up utes agricultural, and too large to be fun.
Incredibly, while it looks like it should be powered by a V8 the size of a small house, the Wildtrak can be had with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel, at a slightly eye-watering price of $60,590.
If you just want an ordinary Ranger, however, you can get one for as little as $27,990. And that is a lot of metal for the money.
Just in case the already very good Mazda CX-5 wasn’t impressive enough, and also as a help to those people who found the Wheels’ Car of the Year-winning CX-9 a little large, Mazda has sliced and diced itself to create the just-so CX-8, which sits between the two.
So it’s a car for those who really want, or need, a large soft-roader-style SUV - a people mover with attitude, basically - but don’t want to drive one. While there’s plenty of room, and an air of quality and no small amount of luxury, inside, it’s just that tiny bit easier to use in big cities than its bigger brother.
As is often the case with modern Mazdas, it’s also something of a style maven, with a surprisingly attractive shape for something of its size.
To be fair, the entire CX range is pretty bloody good, and you can just choose the one that suits your family size, really, but the CX-8 is the latest and greatest. Prices start at $46,490, and the only potential downside is the lack of a petrol option; it’s diesel or nothing.
It strikes me at this stage that we could have found room for the Mazda MX-5 as well, because it is the best affordable sports car in Australia, but hey, you can’t fit them all.
Toyota RAV 4
Once the ugly baby of the Toyota off-roader range, complete with a gross, saggy plastic nappy of grey plastic that cursed its styling, the RAV4 has bloomed into a genuinely attractive little SUV, and is, according to many pundits, one of the best damn things on Australian roads at present.
The fifth generation of a car that’s been around for 25 years, this latest iteration starts at a tempting $30,640 and has been described as “complete” and “segment leading”. You can have it as a hybrid, and there are 11 models to chose from in all.
Being a Toyota makes you feel safe about buying it, in terms of reliability and engineering, but the word on the RAV4 is that it’s more than just a Toyota, it’s something properly special.