From EVs to forbidden fruit, car lovers have a lot to be thankful for this year

Thanksgiving is about family, food, football, fall colors, and, if you’re brave enough, great deals. For us, it’s also about cars, the people that make them, the folks who drive them, and the tech that makes them more usable, quicker, or both. Before the carving begins, the members of Digital Trends’ car team are taking a minute to sit down and reflect on the cars and the industry trends we’re most thankful for in 2018.

Nick Mokey, managing editor

Aftermarket car tech

Mitsubishi Delica
Nick Mokey/Digital Trends

We’re living in a golden age of car electronics, and you don’t need to buy a Tesla Model 3 to get in on the action, or even spend very much.

I drive a 28-year-old van, but I added Bluetooth to my stereo for $45, vastly superior front speakers for $23, and keyless entry for $33. The entire van floods in colored light of my choosing thanks to $15 LED strip lights, and I can leave my doors ajar while I camp without killing the battery because I swapped the dome lights to LEDs for $5. Four blinding LED flood lights on my front bumper turn night to day on forest roads, and they collectively set me back $23. It’s only through restraint that I haven’t added a wireless tire pressure-monitoring system for $35 — my $8 digital gauge that’s accurate to a tenth of a PSI will suffice. It’s still fun to ogle the lane-tracking Pilot Assist in the 2019 Volvo S60, or the dynamic air suspension of Audi’s 2019 Q8, but damn, I love my van. And it’s fun to tack on 21st century tech without spending a fortune.

Now, if only there were a cheap way get more than 90 horsepower out of the engine…

Miles Branman

The glorious return of the U.S. market wagon

2018 mercedes amg e63 s 4matic +
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

After falling out of favor with Americans around the turn of the century, station wagons are making a big comeback. Without room to blossom as utility vehicles (SUVs still rule that domain), automakers are positioning their long-roofed models as all-terrain tools (Subaru’s Outback and Volkswagen’s Golf Alltrack), premium accessories (Volvo’s V90 and Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake), and specialized hot-rods (Porsche’s Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo and Mercedes-AMG’s E63 S Wagon).

Booming EV options

2019 jaguar i pace 560a1966
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

The slow trickle of pure electric vehicles is quickly turning into a raging river. Whether you credit Tesla’s market disruption or society’s increasing awareness of global decay, we have some seriously compelling EVs on sale and en route. Chevrolet’s Bolt, Nissan’s Leaf, and Hyundai’s Ioniq Electric will soon be joined by affordable models from Volkswagen, Mini, Ford, and Subaru. In the premium segment, Tesla will face competition from Jaguar, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Audi. Most of these models are due in the next year or two, so if you don’t see something you like already, you won’t have to wait long.

Stephen Edelstein

Formerly forbidden fruits

Best Car of 2017 Honda Civic Type R

U.S. enthusiasts once cast jealous gazes toward Europe and Japan, where many of the hottest performance cars were sequestered. This so-called forbidden fruit is rare these days. Sure, the U.S. misses out on some cool cars, but we now get the majority of the good stuff. Cars like the Honda Civic Type R (pictured), Ford Focus RS, and Nissan GT-R that were formerly out of reach are now within the grasp of U.S. buyers. Plus, we still get homegrown performance cars like the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Electric cars we actually want to drive

2019 audi e tron prototype driving impressions etron extreme power play dust cloud

Tesla figured it out years ago, but now other automakers are catching on. Electric cars are necessary to combat climate change, but if the cars are boring, that’s a tough pill to swallow.  The Tesla Model S proved that people don’t care what a car is powered by, as long as it’s desirable. The Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron, and the upcoming Porsche Taycan show that other automakers are figuring that out as well. Here’s to a future of sustainable performance and luxury.

Ronan Glon

Cars that balance tech, power, and efficiency

2018 porsche panamera 4 e hybrid first drive 864
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

Automakers are realizing electric cars don’t need to be boring, hybrids don’t need to be bloated, and state-of-the-art technology doesn’t need to neuter a car’s performance genes. The Jaguar I-Pace (a model which, unsurprisingly, made almost everyone’s list this year) is an excellent driver’s car in spite of its not-insignificant weight. Many recent additions to the hybrid car segment (like the Audi A6) offer the benefits of a gasoline-electric powertrain without looking or feeling like Toyota’s dowdy Prius. And, while the Porsche Panamera boasts an impressive array of tech features, you can drive it like you’re about to miss your flight (to use a polite expression) and have a blast behind the wheel without feeling you’re piloting a spaceship. It’s purely driver-focused, it doesn’t force its tech on you, but the features are there when you need them.

The proliferation of good sound systems

Volvo V90 sound system
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

As a child of the 1990s, I remember when my family’s driving class used to spend a considerable amount of time and money to customize the sound system in their cars. The standard ones sucked, to put it plainly. Even the stereo in relatively high-end models left a lot to be desired in terms of sound quality. But, in 2018, it’s difficult to find one that’s truly, utterly awful. Hell, even an econobox on the far end of the Hertz lot now boast a setup that’s halfway decent. The best part is that this is how they come straight from the factory; there is no assembly required. Premium companies like Volvo, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz take sound to the next level with intricate systems that, through state-of-the-art technology, turn a car’s interior into the mosh pit at an Offspring concert with more leather and, hopefully, less sweat.

Cars

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.
Cars

Nissan IMs concept teases a future long-range, autonomous electric car

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Nissan IMs is an electric car with a 380-mile range, autonomous-driving capability, and a backseat designed for being chauffeured. Too bad it's just a concept car.
Cars

Cadillac is finally ready to take on Tesla with its own electric car

At the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, Cadillac announced plans for its first electric car. The unnamed model will be a crossover, based on a new platform to be shared with other General Motors brands.
Cars

Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Car companies remained surprisingly quiet during CES 2018. But they spoke up in 2019. From electric hatchbacks you can buy in 2019 to super-futuristic mood-detecting technology, here are the major announcements we covered during the event.
Cars

Hyundai’s Veloster N hot hatchback will prove its mettle on the track

The Hyundai Veloster N will go racing to prove the credibility of Hyundai's new N performance division. Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Veloster N race car will compete in a class with other small cars.
Cars

The 2020 Lexus RC F goes on a diet to run faster and hit harder

The Lexus RC F has been one of the heavier cars in its competitive set since its introduction. The Japanese firm's engineers set out to shed weight as they gave the model a mid-cycle update.
Cars

Lexus LC convertible concept teases a new open-air flagship

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Lexus LC convertible concept adds open-air motoring to the sleek LC's resume. But Lexus won't commit to a production version of the car just yet.
Cars

Fast and Furious fans get revved up: Toyota’s Supra sports car is back

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.
Cars

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Cars

In McLaren’s 600LT Spider, the engine is the only sound system you’ll need

The McLaren 600LT Spider is the inevitable convertible version of the 600LT coupe, itself a lighter, more powerful version of the McLaren 570S. The 600LT Spider boasts a 592-horsepower, twin-turbo V8, and a loud exhaust system to hear it…
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
News

Ford has a plan to future-proof the hot-selling F-150 pickup truck

Worried about the threat of rising gas prices, Ford will add the F-150 to its growing portfolio of electrified vehicles. It is currently developing a hybrid F-150, and it will release an electric version of the next-generation truck.
Cars

Ford’s Mustang-inspired electric crossover will spawn a Lincoln luxury version

Lincoln will get its own version of parent Ford's first mass-market, long-range electric vehicle. While Ford's version will have styling inspired by the Mustang, Lincoln will take a more traditional approach.