Video Games, 911s, and Demonizing the Demon: My Top 5 Stories of 2017
A look back at the last 12 months in the fun, fancy, and obscenely fast.
As 2018 approaches, we thought it'd be a nice idea to put together a year-in-review of sorts, compiling our favorite stories from the last 52 weeks in cars and tech. In an automotive year characterized by a slew of new crossovers, so-called autonomy, and the electrification of absolutely everything, let's take a break from all that and instead look back at the last 12 months in the fun, fancy, and obscenely fast.
Before we all resign ourselves to our self-driving, electric RAV4 future, here are five of my most significant automotive moments and stories of 2017, in chronological order.
While some may scoff at the very idea of kicking off a list like this with a video game story, of all things, the Gran Turismo franchise (despite all of the missteps that characterized the series in the PS3 era) holds a place near and dear to my heart. As a seven-year-old with wide-open Saturday mornings, the very first GT game served as a gateway to the wonderful world of direct port nitrous injection, four-core intercoolers, ball bearing turbos, and titanium valve springs.
When the opportunity arose back in April to sample the beta for the then-upcoming Gran Turismo Sport and share my findings with The Drive, I pounced at the excuse to spend a weekend glued to PS4's latest racer.
GT Sport has since been released in its full, online-focused retail form. While competitive online play isn't usually my idea of fun, developer Polyphony Digital just released a significant, singleplayer-focused update on the Friday before Christmas. Should make good fodder for a solo-player-centric, post-release follow-up review of some kind, no? Watch this space.
Oh, the controversy this stirred up. Back in the spring, the folks over at Automotive News dropped a then-anonymous editorial with the headline, "Keep the Dodge Demon Off our Roads" (the author has since been revealed to be AN's resident FCA and Volkswagen reporter Larry P. Vellequette). In it, Vellequette calls into question the road-legal status of one of 2017's most talked-about automobiles, damning it as "the result of a sequence of misguided corporate choices that places bragging rights ahead of public safety."
Predictably, the enthusiast community along with much of the automotive press did not react kindly. Evidently, the abuse got so bad that AutoNews felt obligated to tack this above the comment section on every single one of its articles since.
At a glance, it looks like the sort of label that belongs on a carton of cigarettes.
In June, Porsche threw us a curveball and took the wraps off of its hotly-anticipated 911 GT2 RS, not at Geneva, Frankfurt, or Detroit, but onstage during Microsoft's press conference at L.A.'s E3 video game trade show. Serving as the cover car for Forza Motorsport 7 (essentially the Xbox answer to Gran Turismo), the new, 650-horsepower GT2 RS is the most powerful production 911 Porsche's ever made.
For an auto-obsessed gamer like myself, watching Forza creative director Dan Greenawalt introduce the world to Stuttgart's latest and greatest was a cool moment to witness. It sort of felt like if two of my favorite TV shows of all time spontaneously got together for a crossover episode, no matter how unrelated they may have seemed initially.
In another 911-related move that nobody really saw coming, Porsche announced the Carrera T. Capitalizing on the seemingly insatiable demand for Porsches that deliver simple driving pleasure over outright pace, the Carrera T apes the minimalist hardware and back-to-basics attitude of the desirable AF 911 R, baking it onto the relatively pedestrian Carrera. Throwing in lightweight glass, PASM, sports exhaust, fabric door straps and a decidedly distraction-less dashboard, the 911 Carrera T is shaping up to be a bona fide Toyota 86 for the 1 percent.
Signifying the company's willingness to build 911s for the purist outside of the well-heeled GT3 set, the Carrera T simultaneously earns a spot as one of 2017's most significant reveals and 2018's most anticipated machines.
And now for something slightly different. In a show of all-dominating outright pace, the mad Swedish scientists at Koenigsegg shut down a stretch of Route 160 in Pahrump, Nevada back in November and broke the record for fastest production car ever made. Posting a two-way average top speed of 277.9 miles per hour, the hypercar maker's Agera RS ended a 12-year Bugatti dynasty of speed. The last non-Veyron to wear the "fastest production car" crown was the McLaren F1.
With usual speedo-busting suspects Bugatti and Hennessey both preparing to topple Koenigsegg's record with the Chiron and upcoming Venom F5, expect the top speed wars to wage on well into 2018 and beyond.