What a unique year it has been! As I reflect back on 2020, there have been many ups and downs. A global pandemic has reshaped our daily lives. For many, the world has gotten smaller around them. But it has been both an isolating and unifying human experience. We’re all in this together. And now, at the close of the calendar year, cutting edge human innovations in science are fighting back with therapeutics and vaccines. This, too, shall pass and the world can return to some new normal. We here at Limited Slip Blog are privileged to have continued reviewing cars through the year, but we haven’t put together a 5 Best/Worst list since last year’s New York International Auto Show. Allow me to quote one of my favorite TV shows. It was Doctor Who that said, “… the good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.”
What better way to look back on the year than through that lens, recognizing the bad things for what they were and celebrating the good things. So here, then, are my top 5 Best and 5 Worst reflections on 2020 at Limited Slip Blog.
1. Things We Lost
There will always be a specter cast over the memories of 2020. We all collectively suffered loss in one way or another. But reflecting back on the year, one thing for me stood out quite clearly. The Silverado Trail Boss represents something we as automotive enthusiasts are losing…the affordable pickup truck. In my review, I posited that the $47,665 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss delivers everything you could possibly want in a pickup truck. And in an year where the average new truck price is almost $52,000, that represents quite value proposition. What happened to the affordable truck? But the Silverado took me on a camping trip to Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks where I lost something very close to me. That will be my biggest regret of 2020. So personally, there’s a specter over the Trail Boss, even though it was a damn good truck in its own right. But the things we lost is collectively the #1 worst thing about 2020.
2. Cancelled Auto Shows
With large social gatherings becoming high risk events, travel restrictions in place, and convention centers being converted to field hospitals, 2020 was not a year for auto shows. That meant we couldn’t get our hands on many of the new models until they arrived at local dealerships or into the press fleet. And for us as car enthusiasts, that was a disappointment. For the first time ever we didn’t trek to Detroit or New York City. But it did give automakers more freedom to launch products in their own way. The shift to livestream events broadcast directly to the public might change the was auto shows work forever. And change can sometimes be a good thing. Especially if it brings an interest in cars to more people. But not being able to do a 5 Best/Worst for each show is the #2 worst thing about 2020.
3. Manufacturing Delays
Have you heard of the all-new Ford Bronco? I can’t tell you how many car people and non-car people in my life asked me that question after Ford’s debut. But we won’t get to see it this year. Not only did the coronavirus pandemic limit the movement of people, it disrupted global supply chains. Ask me how I know. Factories shut down, ports closed, and shipping lanes narrowed. Building automobiles is a global endeavor and there isn’t a single factory that can build a car from scratch or a single automaker that is vertically integrated from the smallest component casting to the dealership door. So we’ll have to wait patiently for the Bronco and other new models to join us in 2021.
4. Phoning It In
2020 brought plenty of surprises, like how much time we’d all spend on conference calls, but nothing quite like the 2020 Volkswagen Passat. The car arrived on June 19th, but I didn’t publish my review until July 20th. It took me a full month to gather my thoughts…and that’s sort of this entire thing! But even though I tried to find some merit in the Passat’s value, I’m here to tell you VW totally phoned this one in. This effort is akin to jumping on an 8am Zoom with your pajama pants on. Bland styling, poor ergonomics, and a lousy driving experience left me nearly speechless. On my personal list of worst vehicles of 2020, the Passat sits at the top. VW can do much better.
5. Blue Days
Its not hard to have a blue day attributed to 2020 in some way. But one of the brightest blue days of 2020, metaphorically speaking, was my time with the Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition in Voodoo Blue. Despite the team’s initial excitement for this famed color, it was better in theory than in practice. The Tundra is such a massive vehicle and Voodoo Blue is so shockingly blue, it stuck out like a Smurf thumb. I’ve never been self conscious about a vehicle’s color until that week. Voodoo Blue might be fine on a 4Runner, but the Tundra is just too much. So in a lighthearted way, it was the best Worst thing about 2020.
5. Last Travel
In mid-February, before travel restrictions were imposed across the US, I was invited to San Antontio, Texas to check out a new compact SUV from Kia. I was lucky to travel with fellow journalist and friend of the blog, Steve Hammes, to help him film his video segment. The Seltos made a splash with its styling and technology, and I praised it for its roominess and all-weather capabilities. But it was the chance to briefly be a tourist in a new city that I remember fondly. We hopped into a canal boat and headed downtown to tour the Alamo. That far-from-home experience is something I won’t replicate for some time, even if the return flights home were a frustrating adventure in their own way. But in a year where we couldn’t travel, the last opportunity to do so made the list as the #5 Best of 2020.
4. The Little Things
When working from home became the norm, I began to go out and explore my local community. The 2020 Lincoln Corsair arrived to us on the cusp of winter, a time when I was dreading the cold, short days when walking and hiking locally would become impossible. The luxury and serenity it offers provided me a safe escape from my own home. Historically, the car has been a symbol of American freedom. It meant you could leave your town and travel the vast open landscapes. Over the years, that mindset has shifted with improvements in public transport, car sharing opportunities like Zipcar and Turo, and the privatization of ride sharing with Uber and Lyft. 2020 could put automotive freedom back in the spotlight. I, for one, welcome it because those daily escapes from home were one of the Best parts of the year.
3. Fresh Air
Getting out and driving in 2020 was, at one point,a privilege. But dropping the top and going on a long drive was one of 2020’s best experiences. Some of the Limited Slip crew have their own drop-tops. But we also spent weeks with the Mazda Miata, Lexus LC500, and Mercedes-AMG C63 S convertibles. That provided ample opportunities for long drives or weekend roadtrips. From the safety and isolation of the cars, I could go exploring to find new roads and scenic vistas. I got the sense of being out and about in the fresh air without worrying about washing my hands, wearing a mask, or being to close to anyone else.
2. Social Distance
The car in 2020 is both freedom and isolation. Freedom to move from where you are, but isolation from wherever you might go; a safe space to be without being stuck in one place. We often use local parks and state lands as photography sites for the blog but many of them filled up daily with people safely socially distancing. It forced us to find even more remote and desolate locations to shoot. And that challenge has brought a sense of adventure to our weekly outings. It has also given me a change to be more creative in capturing the cars we test each week. To celebrate the #2 best part of 2020, here’s two of my favorites; bringing the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition deep off-road and driving to the top of Mt. Equinox in Vermont in the 2020 Subaru STI Series.White.
1. Friends Along the Way
Automotive enthusiasts might disagree on a lot of things, but its all superficial. At the core, we all derive enjoyment from some aspect of the automobile. So while 2020 tried to isolate us, we responded by coming together in cars. Socially distant car shows, car parades for any occasion, and the weekend cruise with no destination allowed us to connect with friends and make a few new ones throughout the year. Most memorable for me was our return to Mt. Greylock, where we tested the all-new 2020 Toyota Supra and Mercedes-AMG C63 S Convertible. Behind the scenes, a few friends of the blog decided to join us for the drive. We spent the better part of the day on roads somewhere between Upstate, NY and the summit of Mt. Greylock. It was one of the best days of the year, and what solidified the friends along the way as the #1 Best thing about 2020.