Home Cars 20 Cars That Defined The Auto Industry Over The Last Decade

20 Cars That Defined The Auto Industry Over The Last Decade

Vukasin Herbez February 19, 2020

The 2010s were an exciting and dynamic decade in modern car history. During those 10 years, the industry changed dramatically after enduring one of the worst recessions. Also during the past decade, many car manufacturers have introduced a huge amount of modern technology and innovations. It also had its share of bad cars and sales flops,

Yet the industry is responsible for a number of fantastic machines. W decided to chronicle the best cars of the decade. They are the cars that shaped the industry and brought a fresh perspective to the car community. Not all of them were a sales success and some sold below expectations. Not all of them were perfect, either. But all are important and relevant for today’s car buyers. These cars will prove influential for future generations. Here are the 20 most important cars of the last decade.

20. Tesla Model S

The Model S is not the first car Tesla produced, but it is by far the most popular and influential globally. It is the first fully-electric sedan produced in significant numbers. This is the car that singlehandedly created the electric car market. Since they first presented it in 2012, Tesla Model S production has passed the 200,000-car mark. That makes it the most successful electric vehicle in the world.

The Model S is not only famous for its pioneering construction but also for its unusual features. It brought many industry firsts as well as unbelievable performance. A controversial vehicle when it debuted, the Model S is the symbol of progress and forward-thinking. One of its most important features is its AWD system, which is different from its gasoline-powered competitors. Tesla’s AWD consists of four electric motors that independently power each wheel and are controlled by a highly advanced system for the perfect traction and road holding.

Why is it important? This Tesla spurned the dawn of a new era as the most accomplished and best EV on the market.

19. Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86

One of the most prominent small, affordable performance cars is the Subaru BRZ. The sports coupe comes with a signature flat-four naturally aspirated engine that delivers 205 HP out of 2.0 liters. The BRZ is a light and nimble coupe, and the secret is in the position of the engine. Since Subaru uses flat-four engines, the center of gravity is lower than the regular inline four-cylinder type.

A lower center of gravity means the car is strongly planted to the ground, which helps the driving dynamics by allowing the vehicle to handle better. Equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, the BRZ is a pure driver’s car that offers lively performance and engaging drive.

A 0 to 60 mph sprint takes 6.7 seconds while the top speed is 145 mph. With the affordable price and those performance numbers, the BRZ is a highly desirable model. Also, since they developed the BRZ in cooperation with Toyota, it means that the BRZ and Toyota GT86 are practically twins, only with different badges on the grille.

Why is it important? Toyota has introduced a pure, affordable sports car in the era of large and heavy performance SUVs.

18. Ford Fiesta ST

One of the smallest, most affordable, and least powerful vehicles on the list, the Fiesta ST is also one of the most exciting too. The Fiesta ST is one of the few driver’s cars in the compact car class. It gets 197 HP from its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. Best of all, it comes with a six-speed manual for the ultimate driving experience.

Although Ford designed the Fiesta ST primarily for the European market, it has gained a significant cult following in America. That’s due to the combination of compact size with great performance that provides driving fun.

Why is it important? The Fiesta ST is an affordable yet immensely fun and practical driver’s car.

17. BMW i8

As a company on the verge of bankruptcy a couple of times, BMW is well aware of the importance of looking at future trends. The most significant trends in the last couple of years are the hybrids and electric cars, so BMW started producing the “i” Series to offer hybrid drivetrains in most of its models. But the icing on the cake is the BMW i8 sports car.

The i8 makes a lasting impression with its design and futuristic technology. This is a hybrid-powered, mid-engined sports car with fantastic performance and looks, yet it is still environmentally-friendly. When they introduced it in 2014, the i8 was an immediate sales success. The company never anticipated such popularity, which caused waiting lists of at least one year long.

The i8 was something of a rolling experiment in new technology. Also, it paid homage to the BMW 507, M1 and 8 Series, as well as the all-exclusive and forward-thinking models of the past. The i8 shows that BMW’s spirit of exclusivity to present something new is still present.

Why is it important? The BMW i8 may not the first hybrid sports car ever, but it is the most beautiful with perfect engineering.

16. Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio

What do you get when you take a Ferrari V8 engine, remove two cylinders and cover it with a gorgeous Alfa body? You get the Giulia Quadrifoglio. This car is one of the fastest four-door sedans you can own thanks to its 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 with 510 HP on tap. Although it is not an Alfa engine per se, it’s still from a company that was historically connected to Alfa, which is good enough.

Just when you thought the performance sedan market was divided between Mercedes, Audi, BMW, and Cadillac, Alfa Romeo appeared and took its share of the pie.

Why is it important? This car showed that Alfa Romeo is still relevant as one of the world’s greatest brands.

15. Kia Stinger GT

One of the biggest surprises in 2018 was the new Kia Stinger. You are probably wondering how it’s possible for a boring brand like Kia to generate such hype. It looks like the Korean brand introduced a genuinely attractive, fast, powerful, and affordable sports sedan. Basically, Kia has made the perfect BMW since BMW has moved on to more luxurious, heavier, and more expensive models.

The Stinger comes with rear-wheel drive and optional all-wheel-drive, which is new for Kia’s non-SUV models. Under the hood, you have the choice of two engines, a turbocharged four-cylinder delivering 255 HP, and a twin-turbo V6 producing 365 HP.

Why is it important? The Stinger is a bold move from Kia and a declaration of the company’s intentions to shred its economy car image.

14. Ford F-150

For a hundred years, trucks have consisted strictly of steel, and no company ever dared to do it differently. However, as the undisputed king of vehicles, Ford decided to make an all-aluminum truck. Since 2015 up to the debut of the current 13th generation, all F-Series models are made of aluminum, which is as strong as steel yet significantly lighter and more durable.

Although this move was extremely controversial and most truck fans feared that Ford would lose sales and doom its most successful model, sales numbers proved them wrong. The current generation F-150 has remained the undisputed king of the hill when it comes to pickups.

Why is it important? The Ford F-150 is the most crucial innovation in over 100 years of pickups.

13. Porsche 911 R

You may have noticed how sports cars are getting heavier with every generation. They come with the various electronic aids that are slowly taking control of driving. Porsche, as a technical company, was always at the forefront of new technologies and never hesitant to put it in its cars. In recent years, critics have often stated that the 911 has become a driving robot, and lost its driver’s car image, so Porsche decided to introduce the 991 R.

The “R” stands as a reminder of the ultra-rare, lightweight models from the late ’60s, with the same philosophy behind the car. Porsche gave it a lightweight body without any extra luxuries and cloth seats. It has a naturally aspirated engine pumping out 493 HP paired with a perfect six-speed manual transmission.

Basically, the 911 R is the ideal blend of modern technology, and old-school driving feel. But it comes with one flaw. Porsche built only 991 of them, all of which sold quickly, so if you want one today, be ready to pay a cool million.

Why is it important? With the 911 R, Porsche has managed to capture the essence of the 911 and all great sports cars in general. This is a significant car that is extremely expensive as well.

12. Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

If a whopping 707 HP from the Hellcat package is not enough and you want the ultimate modern muscle car and the most potent street Hemi engine ever, the Demon package is just the thing for you. Even with standard fuel, it will deliver an insane 808 HP. The rest of the Demon package is equally insane from the special transmission, suspension, and brakes, to its widebody stance and exterior details.

The acceleration time from 0 to 60 is less than three seconds. Under full power, the Demon will accelerate with a gravitational force of 1.8, which is faster than dropping it off a cliff. The car is capable of covering a quarter-mile sprint in less than 10 seconds straight out of the box. If the reports are accurate and Chrysler is considering discontinuing the Hemi engine lineup, this is the best way to go.

Why is it important? The Demon comes with an insane amount of neck-breaking power.

11. Alpine A110

The Alpine A110 is the epitome of the perfect driver’s car even though it isn’t available in the U.S. If you’re familiar with the classic Alpine, you’ll instantly recognize the shape and the idea behind this fabulous car. It’s a small, lightweight sports coupe with a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. All that makes it capable of providing lots of driving excitement with unparalleled road holding and feel.

That was the exact idea behind the new Alpine A110. This small coupe weighs just over a ton and has a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder powering the rear wheels. The power is more than adequate with 252 HP running through the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The specifications sound fantastic since the acceleration times are under five seconds. They just released this car, but most Americans are afraid it will not come to the states anytime soon.

Why is it important? The Alpine A110 is the lightest and most agile driver-focused car in the last 30 years of the automotive industry.

10. Shelby GT350

For those who want a classic Mustang with Shelby heritage and unbelievable V8 performance, the new GT350R is a perfect choice. Even though Ford based the Shelby GT350 on the Mustang GT, much of the suspension, design, aero package, and engine are new. The most significant single difference is the fantastic Voodoo engine, which has 5.2-liters of displacement, 526 HP, and 429 lb-ft of torque.

The main feature of this high-revving powerplant is flat-plane crank technology. It allows the big V8 to scream to almost 9,000 rpm. It is the same technology that exotic manufacturers like Ferrari use. However, this is the first time a muscle car has had such an advanced engine.

Ford’s investment into the Shelby GT350R paid off since the performance is mind-boggling at 3.9 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. But the numbers don’t do justice to this car. All you have to do is look at it to see how advanced and attractive it is.

Why is it important? The Shelby GT350R pays homage to the dawn of American sports cars with the best of both worlds: a muscle car with European manners.

9. Chevrolet Corvette C8

The revolutionary C8 Corvette debuted in July 2019 as the 2020 model. It’s one of the most important Corvettes they ever made, and for four reasons. First, it has new architecture; a change that hasn’t happened since the early ’80s and the C4 generation. Second, Chevrolet based it on a completely new concept with a mid-engine layout.

Third, this Corvette will have an entirely new design. Last but not least, the car will come with a much-improved engine and an upgraded performance. You can expect that this car will be a Ferrari-beating beast from GM, just as the Corvette has always been.

Why is it important? If GM is going for Ferrari, it finally has the right weapon.

8. Toyota Rav4

The Rav4 has been around since 1994. It’s the quintessential compact SUV/Crossover that’s popular and in demand all over the world. The fourth generation, which Toyota sold between 2012 and 2018, declared itself as one of the best-selling SUVs in the world as well as a true definition of the segment.

That is why the Rav4 is one of the most important cars of the last decade. It perfectly represents the current trends in the industry, and it is a well-designed, intelligent product with a wide range of equipment, engines, and features that appeal to the modern customer.

Why is it important? The Rav4 is the definition of a modern SUV: boring but practical.

7. Jeep Gladiator

Ever since the Gladiator Concept, Jeep fans have been highly vocal in demanding that Jeep produce a pickup version of their favorite SUV. Even some small, independent specialist shops did the conversion. But there was no factory model, at least until now. For 2019, Jeep prepared a new Gladiator truck with an all-new platform, engines, interior and overall design. Jeep enthusiasts around the world are excited. Now they can finally use their Wranglers for work and carrying cargo, instead of only for off-roading.

Jeep based the Gladiator on a longer Wrangler Unlimited chassis, creating the perfect off-road truck that Jeep enthusiast wished for decades. It is rugged yet still comfortable and comes with a wide range of features and equipment.

Why is it important? American as apple pie, Jeep finally offered its customers a proper pickup bed in the form of the Gladiator.

6. Bentley Bentayga

The world of luxurious SUVs has a new king in the form of Bentley’s super-powerful, super-comfortable and terribly expensive Bentayga. The $229,000 premium class SUV has two engine choices, a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 542 HP and 6.0-liter W12 engine that pumps out 600 HP. Both engine choices make this 5,400-pound house on wheels go from 0 to 60 mph in just four seconds.

You may think a vehicle like this is also capable of crossing deserts and climbing mountains, but no. This SUV is not an off-roader. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is an insanely expensive luxury wagon with all-wheel drive and an SUV body.

Why is it important? The Bentayga is the first car with total SUV dominance and the first super-luxury SUV ever.

5. Lincoln Navigator

When the first Navigator rolled off the assembly line in 1998, nobody expected that it would be such a successful, influential model. It wasn’t the first full-size luxury SUV, and it wasn’t the biggest, but its combination of luxury, style, power, and performance was so captivating, it influenced the industry.

Unfortunately, Ford concentrated on the luxury aspects instead of off-road characteristics. Despite the fact that the Navigator has a capable chassis and engine, it was too heavy for off-road driving. But that is perfectly fine since the Navigator has lots of other qualities.

Why is it important? If you think that classic American luxury and opulence is gone, think again. It’s just taken a different form.

4. Ford GT

Ford’s newest and most advanced supercar is the mighty GT. Armed with a strong racing heritage and the latest technology, the GT is one of the best and fastest cars you can buy today.

The engine of the new GT is particularly impressive. It is a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that delivers 656 HP, which gives the car a 0 to 60 mph time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 216 mph. It is a mid-mounted unit that makes the new GT handle like a dream and win races, too.

Why is it important? It is 1966 all over again, and again, and Ford won.

3. Ford F-150 Raptor

The Ford F-150 Raptor has a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 that produces 450 HP and 510 lb-ft. With its 10-speed automatic transmission, it has a sub-five-second acceleration time. Although the impressive figures suggest this is an exotic supercar, in reality, this is a full-size pickup truck. Best of all, it comes with room for five people and has a regular truck bed in the back.

But this is not an ordinary pickup. This Ford Raptor is the closest thing to a full Baja 1000 racing vehicle you can put the license plates on.

Why is it important? Would you like a vehicle that takes you across the desert during the day and then out to a fancy dinner at night? It’s possible with the Ford F-150 Raptor.

2. Dodge Viper ACR

Dodge discontinued the last generation Viper in 2017 due to slow sales. However, a car like the Viper wouldn’t go without a fight, so they presented a special edition Dodge called the 2016 Viper ACR. It is the best and one of the fastest track-ready cars in the world. As you may already know, ACR Vipers were always a car purist’s dream. They are specially-prepared road/track cars with immense possibilities and fantastic performance numbers.

The secret of the ACR Viper is the slightly more powerful engine that produces 645 HP. The car lost significant weight and has a perfectly-balanced chassis, race tires and powerful Brembo brakes. Unfortunately, at $120,000, the Viper isn’t a bargain by any means but is worth every cent.

Why is it important? The Dodge Viper is probably the best American sports thoroughbred and the future classic.

1. Hyundai Veloster N

The standard Hyundai Veloster is an odd-looking hatchback. It has an unusual three-door layout with two doors on the right side and one on the left. Apart from this quirky feature, the Veloster, in its standard guise, is a boring car without any real significance to bring to car enthusiasts. However, the N version is a different story.

The Veloster N delivers 250 to 275 HP thanks to its turbocharged engine. It comes with a trick front differential, a different suspension, and an exterior design package. With all of this, the nature of the car has changed from a boring economy hatchback to one of the best hot hatches on the market.

Why is it important? The Hyundai Veloster N may just save the hot hatch market.

These are the most 20 important cars that have shaped the industry in the past decade. Each of these cars has left a mark on the industry and each car continues to influence future models.

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