10. HONDA CIVIC TYPE R
Despite a 316bhp engine being ridiculously powerful for a front-wheel-drive car, a silkysmooth gearbox now has all new Type R owners grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cats
I’d seen pictures beforehand but nothing prepared me for the sheer unbridled audaciousness of a design department gone gaga when it arrived in the flesh
Few of us could believe this year saw the 20th anniversary of the Honda Civic Type R. And what better way to celebrate than let your design team loose on the M&Ms, see what they come up with and sign it off.
I’d seen pictures beforehand but nothing prepared me for the sheer unbridled audaciousness of a design department gone gaga when it arrived in the flesh. It reminded me of the outrageously unapologetic Lamborghini Countach, the official enfant terrible of Seventies automotive hedonism.
Whether any of its chaotic collage of scoops, intakes or flicks serves a single aerodynamic or engineering purpose is by and large irrelevant. What seems to matter most is that no one should be left in any doubt that if a 2017 Type R flashes past them it’s the most nut-job-looking, road-legal hatchback of all time.
And despite a 316bhp engine being ridiculously powerful for a front-wheel-drive car, a silkysmooth gearbox now has all new Type R owners grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cats.
It’s wide too – very wide – which means cornering and road-holding is that much easier. A real talent-magnifier.
Indeed, as a pure driving experience, there is very little not to like. Disciples who worship at the altar of the hot hatch continue to queue up to test-drive this bonkers 169mph speed demon. Price as tested: £33,520
9. MERCEDES AMG E63
All AMGs nowadays have to scare the old folk and wake the dead, but most importantly plug an emotional wormhole in the flawed soul of their owners.
That’s their job, that’s what they do and here is yet another perfect example. Look at the mouth on this monster, sculpted around the gaping air vents fashioned to feed a pair of very thirsty twin-scroll turbos.
All AMGs nowadays have to scare the old folk and wake the dead, but most importantly plug an emotional wormhole in the flawed soul of their owners
Less engine capacity than its predecessor (4.0 litres down from 5.5) but tons MORE grunt – a breathtaking 612hp, if you will.
Plant the throttle in any gear and be prepared for an explosion of power that refuses to abate all the way to the rev-limiter.
It’s thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. Driving the thing is like being caught in the middle of a civil war, volleys of cracks, pops and bangs coming at you from all sides.
I found myself clinging on for dear life, then I remembered to breathe and suddenly this gorgeous, exquisite feel and feedback began to filter through in between the phenomenal acceleration and deceleration under braking.
It’s by no means the shortest sports saloon the world has ever seen, but it’s so light and well-balanced you just can’t tell – think Scalextric Mini circa 1977. Exciting? Yes. Handsome? Yes. Potential owner’s psychological state questionable? Yes. Price as tested: £99,030
8. ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QUADRIFOGLIO
It was the Quadrifoglio’s misleading profile that foxed everyone at first. Nothing special? Look again at the subtle muscular bulges and that cheeky carbon-fibre hem on the sill, suggesting something more serious may be going on.
It was the Quadrifoglio’s misleading profile that foxed everyone at first. Nothing special? Look again…
Not so much a wolf in sheep’s clothing as a puma in haute couture. I’d go so far as to say this is possibly the most handsome sports saloon in the universe. Such understated sophistication, good looks and exhilarating performance.
An alchemy-soaked 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine pumps out 510hp in a controlled frenzy of snarling firepower with no turbo-lag whatsoever. I love everything about this car – the noise, the grunt but most of all how it drives.
Don’t get me wrong, the little minx will bite you where it hurts if you stick the boot in when she’s not in the mood, but meet her halfway and you’ll have a whale of a time.
An alchemy-soaked 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine pumps out 510hp in a controlled frenzy of snarling firepower with no turbo-lag whatsoever
Every second I spent in this weapon of mass distraction was like sitting in a very comfy, very fancy, very sexy slingshot ready to be pinged in any direction at a millisecond’s notice. Without doubt the most enjoyable road-legal sports car that I have ever driven. Price as tested: £61,000
We have to include a Tesla product at this point. Although when I say ‘a’ Tesla product, what I actually mean is two Tesla products because they came as a package.
I am of course referring to the new Tesla Semi truck and Tesla Roadster. If they are real – and they certainly seemed to be when Elon Musk unleashed them on the world in November – they represent the biggest single advance in motoring development since Karl Benz first fired up his Motorwagen in 1886.
The new Teslas represent the biggest single advance in motoring development since Karl Benz first fired up his Motorwagen in 1886
The truck apparently has a 500-mile range on a single charge and is guaranteed ‘not to break down’ for a million miles.
The 2+2 Roadster, meanwhile, is claimed to have a range of more than 600 miles, hit 60mph in an eye-popping 1.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 250mph.
All the above sounds like pure fantasy, but as Einstein once said, ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’. What the rest of the car industry must think of Musk I dread to imagine.
One very clever bloke recently prophesied to me: ‘Musk will be the world’s major car supplier within ten years. The other manufacturers will still exist but they will have to go to him for everything.’
6. VW GOLF GTi/GTE
What’s better than one hot Golf? How about two, and both are brilliant. First we saw the new petrol-driven GTi, the latest version of the definitive hot hatch, which first appeared in 1974 and I don’t think has ever looked better. But is it quick? Yes it is, bloomin’ quick. Although best when fully wound up, keeping the revs high all the way up through the gears.
Heaps of fun and the most handsome hatchback in the world. A past, present and future classic. What’s not to like? ‘Burning more petrol!’ shouts the polar bear at the back of the class.
Heaps of fun and the most handsome hatchback in the world. A past, present and future classic
In which case, how about the sexy new (almost guilt-free) hybrid GTE, which combines the excitement and looks of a GTi with the moral compass of Sir David Attenborough.
It’s not quite in the same thrills category as its pure petrol-powered sibling, but it sits on its boots quite beautifully compared to a lot of other hyper/hot/warm hatches and has that silent, magic-carpet touch that comes with electric power.
Factor in a £2.5k grant from the Government to help you buy one, plus the £5k VW will refund you if you chop in an old diesel, and this very modern Golf is a veritable bargain. Price as tested: £27,720 (GTi), £30,635 (GTE)
5. ASTON MARTIN DB11
A beautiful, beautiful car. Which it really had to be. Aston had no choice. Looks are one of three priceless ingredients that have kept this mercurial company afloat in much bleaker, more profligate times.
The engine note is also completely, deliciously, fabulous. Good job again, as that’s the second vital ingredient that has kept the wolf from the door over the years.
A beautiful, beautiful car. Which it really had to be. Aston had no choice. Looks are one of three priceless ingredients that have kept this mercurial company afloat
The third being the Aston Martin badge itself, the ultimate get-out-of-jail card for a car manufacturer with more lives than Top Cat, Garfield and Bagpuss put together.
And – stop the presses! – my kids can actually fit in the back without losing all feeling below the knees. Is this, therefore, also the world’s first genuine Aston Martin 2+2? Fancy starting a family, Mr Bond? Price as tested: £181,865
4. FORD RAPTOR
Our most memorable family driving experience this year, out in the desert north of Los Angeles one sunny August morning.
‘Daaad, it’s amaaazing!’ screamed number one son. ‘Daaad, it’s MASSIVE!’ screamed son number two. And they were right. OMG, what a thing! And so huge. It’s over seven feet wide, nearly as tall and sits almost a foot off the ground.
Most impressive of all is how lightly the Raptor wears all its available power, and how well it handles: more Porsche than pick-up, the whole package so un-truck-like
The ‘super crew cab’ is so big a different time zone may well apply for those in the back. But here comes the real news – it’s ridiculously quick.
You hit 60mph in 5.5 seconds, which is simply incredible for a lump this size, thanks to Ford’s revolutionary 3.5-litre V6 EcoBoost engine.
Most impressive of all is how lightly it wears all this available power, and how well it handles: more Porsche than pick-up, the whole package so un-truck-like.
This vehicle is immense in all areas: power, performance, payload and unbelievable prowess both on- and off-road. Worth moving to the US just to own one. If only Ford sold them over here… Price as tested: £53,000
3. MERCEDES AMG GTR
This car shouldn’t be anywhere near as gorgeous as it is. It’s too wide, the nose is too bulbous, it’s too flat and fat all round. But the thing is, it is absolutely stunning. As for the performance, any car in the world that can reach 60mph in under four seconds is as idiotically fast as a car ever needs to be.
This car shouldn’t be anywhere near as gorgeous as it is. It’s too wide, the nose is too bulbous, it’s too flat and fat all round. But the thing is, it is absolutely stunning
Put your foot down and it’s all there, straight from the off, heaps of torque, heaps of everything
In the mental world in which this car was designed to compete and exist, it wipes the floor with anything else when it comes to comparable performance, luxury and value for money
In which case – tick – put this cool cat down for 3.6 seconds. Similarly, once a car surpasses, say, 550hp, all that’s happening after that is a willy-waving competition.
Tick again – the GT-R whips up 585hp effortlessly. Put your foot down and it’s all there, straight from the off, heaps of torque, heaps of everything. And unexpectedly silky handling for such a lump of meat as this. The more gently you caress the chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel, the more the car whispers back all you need to know.
In the mental world in which this car was designed to compete and exist, it wipes the floor with anything else when it comes to comparable performance, luxury and value for money. Nothing even comes close. Price as tested: £162,560
2. FORD GT
To sit in the stunning new Ford GT is like sitting in the 2017 US equivalent of the gloriously austere Ferrari F40 from the late Eighties.
It’s extremely basic, which means it’s refreshingly honest. Everything feels as if it’s been developed for a genuine race car. Honesty from necessity, as opposed to PlayStation fantasy.
To sit in the stunning new Ford GT is like sitting in the 2017 US equivalent of the gloriously austere Ferrari F40 from the late Eighties
There are the mandatory wow factors, like the rear wing that changes shape once deployed, and the super-low suspension setting in V Max and Track mode, which drops the whole car by 50mm.
The driving position is spot-on, X-wing like. It could be Luke Skywalker’s company car. Give it even the slightest blip and the first drops of ecstasy will duly ensue.
Give it the full nine yards and prepare to enter hyperspace with 647hp whistling around your ears.
Once you’ve had enough, slam on the massive anchors with enough stopping power to arrest a rampaging herd of wildebeest late for their Christmas dinner. How to really make America great again. Price as tested: £475,000
1. SKODA SUPERB SPORTLINE
Here she is. My baby. My pride and joy. The car I was so blown away by, I immediately phoned up Skoda and said, please may I buy one. Absolute, total and utter value for money.
Style, comfort, four driving modes, Apple Car Play, ten-colour variable interior lighting, Alcantara everything, massive boot, tons of leg room – especially in the back – I mean tons.
Here she is. My baby. My pride and joy. The car I was so blown away by, I immediately phoned up Skoda and said, please may I buy one
Economical in green mode, exciting and racy in sport mode. Fantastic sound system. Lovely graphics, just altogether wonderful.
I was in Ireland recently – loads of Skodas; Iceland – loads of Skodas; Austria – loads of Skodas. I see more and more every day here too: Yetis, Octavias, Kodiaqs.
Did I mention keyless entry, heated wing mirrors, panoramic sunroof, tinted glass, sporty front grille, 19in black alloys and a three-spoke leather steering wheel, with the most ergonomic gear paddles this side of the pit wall? Lots of people can’t believe my daily drive is a Skoda.
I can’t believe everyone doesn’t drive one. Truly superb. Price as tested: £35,590