Welcome to the annual paultan.org Top Five cars list, where each author picks the vehicles that have impressed them the most over the past 12 months. We’ve switched up the formula this year – we’re breaking up the usual big roundup post to give the individual writers the space to go into greater detail with regards to their selections, and some of them also get to be on camera. Enjoy!

Time flies when you’re having fun, and in the case of this year’s Top 5 list, it’s been aided by a very generous helping of torque, and for four out of the five here, horsepower. For yours truly, this list is one that has been compiled with both eyes fixated upon driver engagement, though we can be reasonably certain that these wouldn’t fare badly in the daily grind; you’d likely have to look very, very hard to find a bad car on sale today.

Such is the ubiquity of SUVs now that even with the aforementioned sportiness proviso, they make up the majority of this quintet. Where powertrain configurations are concerned, three entrants in this list are also graced by two unusual engine layouts that aren’t of an inline-four turbo or a V6, though those are attendant here as well.

5. Mazda CX-5 2.2 D

As an ownership prospect, few may top a Japanese family car for dependability and ease of use, and with these in mind the Mazda CX-5 2.2 litre diesel tacks on a generous dose of involving the driver in the rudimentary processes of operating an automobile – steering, braking, accelerating, and the tactile qualities associated with each.

The competing Honda CR-V has it beaten for accommodation of both human occupants as well as material objects large and small, while the equivalent Mazda here counters with the aforementioned driver involvement qualities. The six-speed automatic transmission in the CX-5 plays no small part, as it represents a satisfyingly interactive access point to the effective and refined 173 hp/420 Nm oil-burner which, together with the gearbox, make light work of propelling the SUV.

Engaging as the powertrain can be for a diesel setup, it is the chassis that is the CX-5’s trump card, and it helps perpetuate the well-worn stereotype of a reasonably large vehicle that handles like a car at least a size smaller. Trivial and maybe even not very relevant for those who view their SUVs as pure workhorses, though for owner-drivers who will likely spend most of their seat time behind the steering wheel, the Mazda’s dynamic, tactile qualities are a welcome addition to good old cabin habitability.

4. Bentley Bentayga

This side of a Cullinan, the Bentley Bentayga is about as far a departure from cost concerns as anything in the SUV realm can be. It truly is a riot of numbers for something wearing the basic silhouette of what is now the tall, prevailing shape of a family car.

Outputs of 600 hp and 900 Nm of torque laugh in the face of its 2.4-tonne kerb weight, and the Bentayga’s disdain for its own mass continues when the road is no longer straight; active roll control corrals the inertia when directional changes are summoned with a deftness one can scarcely credit, and one does wonder how much energy is expended each time a Bentayga is brought to a halt in a hurry.

The Bentayga continues to impress with its accoutrements and aesthetic detail, not least with the ornate grille which will be the work of not a few minutes come detailing time. What of its fourth placing in this company, given its luxury appointments and apparent defiance of physics on the move? Well, it’s brilliant, but… is it starts-from-RM2 million brilliant? No matter; luxury has never been about sense, anyway.

3. Porsche Macan S

There’s decidedly less hesitation with the placement of the facelifted Porsche Macan S on this writer’s Top 5 ladder. Revised for 2019, the Macan goes into its latest iteration with a more evolution-than-revolution approach, which sees its overall shape largely unchanged save for the new light bar at its rear for a common family look worn by the latest Porsches.

The cabin offers the driver an environment that is as natural as can be expected for the business of driving. Its front seats are all-day comfortable, the relative positioning of driver’s seat, steering wheel and pedals feel instantly natural, and in the centre console’s update to the new, larger touchscreen that still keep conventional buttons in place of the Cayenne’s Direct Touch Control surfaces, easier to learn as well.

Relative to the Cayenne, the Macan’s more modest dimensions unsurprisingly make it the more wieldy device on narrow country roads, and the chassis yields a pleasant surprise that is a very agreeable ride quality, even when shod with 21-inch diameter wheels in S guise. As for the rest of its driving experience, it sets the bar for SUVs in terms of composure, response and consistency. It could well also do for some sedans, in fact.

2. Bentley Continental GT

Change is the only constant, many have opined. That being said, certain automotive traditions hold more steadfastly than most, and the large, very powerful luxury coupe is one of them. Bentley’s introduction of the Continental GT nameplate at the turn of the century heralded a change for the Crewe marque, though the formula remained largely familiar – be sportier than its Rolls-Royce contemporaries, though at no perceived cost to luxury.

Sportiness and luxury have both been fortified in the latest generation of Continental GT, and its sharing of bones with VW group stablemate the Porsche Panamera is entirely favourable to the big Brit. If luxury is about have choices, the Continental GT offers plenty, be they from various drive modes or the three-way rotating display.

The aforementioned reservation yours truly had registered with the Bentayga is a non-issue with this 6.0 litre W12 biturbo coupe, where the materials used in the two-door feel richer, and more ornate. Here, a RM2 million price tag seems more fitting.

On the move, there is really no cheating physics; the GT undeniably feels the more effortless vessel for harnessing that gargantuan-feeling engine with an even stronger set of figures; 626 hp and 900 Nm of torque, to name them. Truly, 2,000 rpm is all you need to be the quickest (law-abiding) thing on four wheels. It is that effortlessness that helps define the GT’s take on luxury, adding to its occupants’ sense of wellbeing, which in the end, is what luxury is all about.

1. Porsche 911 GT3

Unique in this lot for being the only naturally-aspirated car, the Porsche 911 GT3 is as proud of its motorsport roots as ever in this facelifted 991-generation guise. Just as well that our sampling session was within the expanse of the Sepang International Circuit; it would have been a shame to not fully stretch its legs.

This GT3, like the pre-facelift edition and the generations before it, trades on tactility towards the extraction of on-track performance. It amplifies all that is desirable about the base 911: well-sighted forward extremities thanks to its headlamp protrusions, a relatively upright windscreen and A-pillars, as well as controls that are just about perfectly positioned. Add to that a set of very well-judged control weights, and we have what can be described as a confidence car; the car is ready to be pushed hard as for a start, the driver is ready to push hard.

Cheques written by the ergonomics, the GT3’s powertrain and chassis are more happy to cash. In this facelifted guise, this track-honed Neunelfer continues to flaunt what is likely the most confidence-inspiring steering to have moved on from hydraulic assistance. That the engine is mounted beyond the rear axle adds to its appeal; just a hair more latency in the turn-in phase compared to, say, a Cayman, and then pinning the driven wheels down for leaping off the apex.

Then there’s that powertrain. There are more prolific, more dramatic engines on sale, however the 4.0 litre flat-six more than holds its own, with 500 hp delivered en route to a 9,000 rpm limiter. The paddle-shift controlled seven-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox is magical, and when paired to that marvellously keen engine, brews a compelling mix of forward thrust and multi-layered mechanical music.

Sure, if my numbers came up, the hunt will be on for a manual GT3, as the rest of the 911 recipe largely remains; relatively unobstructed sight lines that will prove helpful on road, as on track, while its still-modest dimensions should aid in getting around other road users with relative ease.

For yours truly, a 911 GT3 driven hard is a memory eternal.