1. Mazda RX-8
Critics may say that the RX-8 is a bit of a hairdresser's cars. They may also argue that the styling is too fussy and petrol and oil consumption too high. But they're wrong to complain. The RX-8's front engine, rear-wheel drive layout - not to mention its 227bhp and low purchase price - makes for a very appealing formula. It's also a unique car: at its demise in 2011, the RX-8 was the only production car built with a Wankel rotary engine (1.3 litres in size), which revs to a heady 9000rpm. What's more, the RX-8 will fit two suitcases in its boot and carry four people in comfort. Performance? You bet - the higher output 227bhp RX-8 will hit 60mph from standing in 6.2sec before reaching its 146mph top speed.
2. Aston Martin DB Mark III
In the novel ‘Goldfinger’, James Bond drives an Aston Martin MK III. When it came to making the film adaptation however, the newer, better looking and more powerful DB5 was used. But we're forgetting something - the III created an icon: it was the first Aston to feature the fantastic grille shape that has come to define the brand and besides, it’s hardly ugly, is it? As a result of its lack of fame, MK IIIs can be picked up for considerably less than the extortionate DB5, despite production being limited to around half of the later car. The MK III deserves respect because it is the plucky, unassuming underdog, and supporting the underdog is what being British is about.
3. Audi A2
Granted, while the Audi A2 can hardly be called pretty, it was ahead of its time - it was the first mass-volume car to use an all-aluminium body, an expensive construction process only previously used in the flagship A8. It was fantastically light (under 1000kg), and with very little drag over that rounded body, it was extremely economical too. Thanks to its Susan Boyle looks and the hefty price tag however, sales were poor. The A2 sacrificed itself in the name of progress. Audi could have made it cheaply for mass sales, but chose to make a progressive car instead, which is rather noble.
4. Skoda Superb
Skoda is to VW what Danni Minogue is to Kylie; they both share the same DNA but one is that little bit cheaper. The Superb is great because it means that the phrase ‘luxury Skoda’ is no longer an oxymoron. The Superb's reliable, comfortable, safe and great to drive and can now be picked up for as little as £1400. You used to be considered stupid if you bought one, now you are foolish if you don’t.
5. Hyundai Coupe
If someone who had never seen a car before was shown a Hyundai Coupe and a Ferrari 456, you’d have a tough time explaining why the Italian offering was nearly ten times the price of the Korean car. There’s no denying the coupe is a thing of beauty. For the money it’s very difficult to think of a car that is so well-proportioned. Affordable cars are normally presumed to forfeit good looks and personality, but Hyundai blessed the Coupe with truckloads of both. What it lacks in badge, the Hyundai makes up for by being the attainable alternative to the car that you really want. Performance from its 2.0-litre engine was decent too, and handling very capable.
6. Hummer H1
The Hummer brand has been tarnished somewhat by the uptake from Austrian muscle-men and rappers alike. You get the impression that someone with a Hummer on their drive is overcompensation for what’s in their pants. Don’t forget though that the H1 is a hardcore vehicle of military origin and has some seriously impressive off-road capabilities. With 16 inches of ground clearance, approach and departure angles like nothing else on the road and a track wide enough to span a gorge, the H1 can tackle vertical slopes and formidable terrain with ease. This is an absurdly over-the-top-car which unapologetically forfeits everything which could make it bearable on the road in order to cling on to its die-hard roots and be an off road animal. Large, brash and stupid. But very talented.
7. Lexus IS-F
The Lexus IS-F was always up against tough competition - in a market sector where the BMW M3 still rules the roost, most of us with a brain cell would choose the German. While this choice may be a valid one, there is no denying the Lexus is a lot of car. To the untrained eye this looks like a standard Lexus, but its 5.0-litre V8 made it anything but standard to drive. The great thing about this car is that it’s so unassuming. So, a handsome, powerful and remarkably well built car, which will astonish people at the lights. What’s not to like?
8. Bentley Arnage T
As a sales exercise, the Arnage was never going to fill Bentley’s pockets quite as readily as the Continental. Now seen as outdated, the Arnage is still a proper Bentley. Today, Bentley has the Mulsanne, but the Arnage looks more clean-cut, more defined. To drive, a Continental is a more rounded car, but as a Bentley the Arnage knocks the Conti’s socks off. Encompassed in your own county of leather and wood, a 6.75 litre V8 provides 450bhp and 645lb ft of torque for hooligan antics with lashings of luxury. The old school charm of the Arnage lies in its excess; it is too big, too impractical and has too much power, but you know you want one.
9. Ferrari 575 Maranello
The 575M was never the star of the Ferrari line up - this muscle car of sorts always took a back seat next to the super nimble coupes like the 360 and F430. Despite this, the 575M was no slouch. It could hit 60mph in 4.2 seconds and surge onto the dark side of 200mph. The best thing about the 575M though, is that it is utterly gorgeous. While the headlights haven’t aged well, the side profile is timeless. A long sweeping bonnet met by a stubby, abrupt rear is a recipe that always works. Pininfarina gave a helping hand with the design of the 575M and it shows. The low and sleek bodywork is complemented by tasteful round brake lights, simple side vents and wondrously wide hips. As a result, it looks slicker than a bullet and should be made more of a fuss of.
This post was written by freelance writer George Phillips
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