Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2018: how we arrived at the winner

The Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2018 is the Honda Civic Type R. We said as much Monday.

With its combination of exhilarating performance and downright value, you would think it would be a shoo-in for the award. Think again. 

The competition was fast and fierce this year and covered wide ground with worthy competitors, namely the Lexus LC 500, Porsche Panamera, and Kia Stinger GT.

We were ever-diligent in picking a winner this year: we drove and we asked questions, took names, compared notes, asked more questions, fought, made up, and drove some more. Our proving ground was the Atlanta Motorsports Park, temporarily delayed by a plane crash (!) on our first day of testing. We returned the following day to put our four finalists to the test, back-to-back-to-back-to-back style.

By the time we took the vote, our finalists were like family. Our staff drove our four finalists at various times throughout the year, for a few hundred miles during our top-secret Best Car To Buy testing week, and in the spirited manner they were intended on the 2.0-mile Atlanta Motorsport circuit. After driving the cars like we owned ’em and like we stole ’em, we gathered around a dining room table and a campfire to duke it out. The Civic Type R came out on top, but it was a close call with the surprisingly good Lexus LC 500.

The following is what our crew had to say about each of our finalists.

2017 Honda Civic Type R: Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2018 and giggle factory

We all loved the Civic Type R’s engaging performance, razor-sharp handling, power delivery, and surprisingly compliant ride on the road. The Car Connection Senior Editor Andrew Ganz put it best: “This one’s a giggle factory. You can’t help but love its scrappy nature, but unlike most of its rivals, it’s comfortable and compliant around town,” he said. Managing Editor Aaron Cole had a reason why it works so well on the street. “Underneath it all it’s a Civic, after all. And that’s it’s best secret,” he observed. “Drive it to the track, and drive it home. What more can you ask for?”

Our editors noted a few features in particular that stood out, including the driving position and driver’s seat, which even works for larger guys; the clutch, gearshift, and round metal shift knob; and the outward visibility.

We liked the Type R even more when we got it to the track, where it proved to be the most hunkered down, stable, and grippy car of the group. With 306 horses, it was down on power from the competition, but its stability, grip, and light weight let it carry more speed through corners than the others and made it almost as fast at the end of the longest straight. I saw 114 mph at the end of the front stretch compared to 118 mph in the fastest car, the Panamera 4S. That’s with 143 fewer horses. Cars Direct Senior Editor Brandon Turkus felt at home in the Type R on a new track. “Remarkably fun, but more importantly, remarkably approachable,” he said. “I took this car out on a track I’d barely familiarized myself with and felt an unending sense of confidence that the Civic Type R would execute my every wish.”

Interactive Content Manager Joel Feder was a bit more colorful. “It’s like a firecracker you light off and hang onto for the ride,” he quipped.

Editorial Director Marty Padgett praised the handling, but noted it won’t beat the competition on the track. “Flat through the corners. It is not the best-handling car of its kind, and that gives it a limited shelf life,” he said. Turkus felt that doesn’t matter. “I don’t agree with others who say it needs AWD. It’d ruin the tossability, and understeer is only an issue if you let it be,” he argued. Nonetheless, we all agree that a Subaru WRX STI and a Ford Focus RS will beat the Type R around a racetrack.

We also agree that the Type R’s looks are sophomoric. Padgett: “Outrageous in the way it chews into view with scoops and flares and wings and all the things that turn on fanbois. The Type R’s tiring on the eyes after a few hours, but the way it flips from street to track fluency never gets old.” Feder summed up our thoughts on the design: “No self-respecting person over 32 can drive the Type R daily and not feel silly with that rear wing.”

It may look silly, and it may not be as fast as some rivals, but it’s damn fun to drive fast, comfortable enough to drive every day, and its mid-$ 30,000s price tag makes the Honda Civic Type R a bargain. Those are the factors that tipped the scales to make it the Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2018.

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