If there’s a more audacious new car this year from a major automaker, we have yet to drive it. The 2018 Stinger is a marked departure for Kia, packing both emotive design and genuinely scintillating grand-tourer performance. The Stinger is stylish, yet with its five-door configuration, it’s as capacious as some crossovers. Add in abundant power, capable dynamics and a strong complement of easy-to-use tech, and the Stinger graduates from being merely a “good buy” to a truly enviable automobile. That it’s also an impressive value is merely icing on the cake.
Under Håkan Samuelsson’s leadership, Volvo has not just been revitalized, it’s become a company to watch. Samuelsson has led the embracing of new technologies like electrification and automated driving, and Volvo is eagerly investigating new business models like car-sharing and subscription-based service. Samuelsson knows that Volvo can’t go it alone -- that’s why he’s partnered with Uber, spearheaded spinning off Polestar into an electrified high-performance brand, and even launched the promising new Lynk & Co. EV brand out of China. Volvo’s name may have long be synonymous with “safety,” but when it comes to pursuing new technologies and business opportunities, it’s become one of the most daring automakers extant.
Cadillac has emerged at the forefront of the industry’s drive for automated-drive technology thanks to Super Cruise. As a Level 2 system on the CT6 sedan, Super Cruise is streets ahead of most rivals because it strikes a smart balance between convenience, ease-of-use and safety. GM has gone to the trouble of 3D lidar-mapping over 130,000 miles of limited-access freeways to ensure a safe operational domain, plus the vehicle itself does a particularly admirable job keeping the driver informed of the system’s status (using in-cluster and steering wheel alerts) while simultaneously keeping tabs on who is behind the wheel with a driver-facing camera.
In a day and age where most powertrain advancement seems to come from electrification, the 6.2-liter Hemi V8 powertrain in the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon might seem like an unlikely award winner, particularly for a tech-minded publication. And yet, the crafty engineers at FCA have demonstrated that there’s plenty of innovation left to be found in conventional gas engines -- especially if you’ve got a single-minded focus like drag racing. The Demon’s drivetrain is impressive not just for its stupendous output, but for the myriad different ways in which company engineers realized that power and get it to the ground. From its clever Power Chiller refrigerant cooling loop to its race-gas ECU and transbrake function, the Demon is surprisingly innovative.
Distracted driving is not a new problem -- just ask anyone with small children. Honda's CabinWatch allows parents to keep tabs on their kids with a clever second- and third-row camera on the infotainment touchscreen. Not only does the system allow for pinch-to-zoom, it has infrared LEDs for clandestine nighttime viewing.