When you have well over a hundred cars to choose from, picking some favourites is not easy. Regardless, those of us in TeamCT that spend the most time in new metal have bust our noggins to breaking point, and this is what we’ve come up with.
Editor Matt Robinson, video chief Alex Kersten and contributing editor Matt Kimberley have each chosen two cars, forming the list you see here. Once again, we have a couple of guest picks from Jon Benson of Tyre Reviews, who drives for Car Throttle on most of our shoots.
In previous round-ups we’ve tended to each choose one 2019 debut car plus a wildcard, but since it’s the last year of the decade, we’ve relaxed the rules a little. On this occasion, anything goes.
Let us know what you think of our choices in the comments.
The Flying Spur is here because is does pretty much everything brilliantly, especially taking big chunks out of your current account each time one goes anywhere near the throttle pedal, but hey, we’ll let that one slide - it comes with the territory, and there will eventually be a V8 version.
The Spur is a car we’d have in our fantasy garage not just over other luxury saloons - and yes, I’m including the much more expensive, much more ostentatious Rolls-Royce Phantom - but also most grand tourers of any sort. The related Continental GT is already hugely impressive to drive considering its hefty weight figure, but the Flying Spur takes it one step further with a rear-wheel steering system that makes it bizarrely agile for a car tipping the scales well over two tonnes.
The fact that it’s scarcely more expensive than its two-door cousin despite packing all that extra metal, space and tech for those fortunate enough to be chilling in the back seats makes it - in relative terms at least - a bargain. It’s easily the best luxury vehicle around right now, and ticks more boxes than anything else we can think of in the current market. Bravo, Bentley.
Having very nearly binned a very expensive and utterly unforgiving Porsche 911 GT3 Cup at Silverstone in November, I climbed aboard a purple race-prepped 986 Boxster feeling like a bit of a plum. The 30-minute track session that followed however was one of the most satisfying I’ve ever had, and was just what I needed to build my dented confidence right back up.
Built for the Restoracer championship - a series initially aimed at Porsche dealer representatives - the little Boxster still requires you to pay attention. Like the Cup it has no traction control or ABS, but the 250bhp output of its 3.2-litre flat-six strikes a perfect balance - it still feels punchy, without being so fast the corners are coming up quicker than you can process.
Pirelli P Zero Trofeo Rs give a ridiculous amount of grip and traction, while some choice suspension mods ensure this 22-year-old roadster feels properly sorted. Oh, and with a stripped interior plus a noisy exhaust, this Boxster sounds superb; better, in fact, than the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport I drove later in the day.
The experience has left me wondering if I should live on baked beans for all of 2020 and sell most of my possessions, just to scrape enough money together for a few races in this series. Any car that does that is OK in my book.
Because I’ve been banging around in shitboxes most of the year, I tend not to drive many new cars; when I do, I’m usually left feeling a little cold and uninspired, because most new cars do everything well without being exciting or feeling special.
But all that changed as soon as I drove the Alpine A110, because it’s the most exciting and special-feeling car I’ve ever driven (no wonder why Gordon Murray owns one).
The A110’s light weight, low seating position, responsive 1.8-litre turbocharged engine and stiff chassis make the Alpine feel like a stripped out track car with creature comforts. Add to that fast and wonderfully weighted steering, and you have all the hallmarks of one of the greatest drivers’ cars ever created, and also one of a very few cars I’d ever own new.
The recipe, then, is already perfect, which explains why the updated A110 S doesn’t hit the mark quite as well as the original.
This year, I wanted to find out how much faster we could make a hum-drum family car on track by stripping ALL the weight out. The resulting 300kg weight loss programme transformed our free Mitsubishi Spacestar into an agile, noisy and exciting car, that exceeded our expectations in all the best ways.
What’s more, the car’s 0-60mph reduced dramatically, lap times tumbled, and the Spacestar revealed a willingness to bounce off its redline and attack corners with urgency.
The stripped Spacestar remains one of the most unexpectedly exciting (and probably most sketchy) cars I drove this year, and proves that boring vehicles can be anything but boring when given the chance to shine!
We were late to the party in getting behind the wheel of Jaguar’s secretly vast electric sports SUV. Much like festive pork crackling, though, it was worth the wait. While the real-world range of 200 miles falls way short of the claimed 292 miles, the driving experience is, for anyone whose BEV experience is limited to small hatchbacks and hybrids, a revelation on the scale of Columbus setting foot in the New World.
Here we have a genuinely massive car with 2.2 tonnes to deal with, and yet such is the delicacy and assuredness of the chassis tune that it feels much lighter most of the time. Acceleration is light-switch immediate and Greek opera dramatic, right up to very illegal road speeds. Unexpectedly fast and direct steering makes light of turn-in, the vast tyres and all-wheel drive grappling the road for all the grip and traction it can deliver.
And yet, despite a ravenous appetite for corners and a relative lack of body roll, the i-Pace rides sublimely. Its weight helps but the air suspension is tuned to perfection, absorbing speed bumps and potholes like they’re nothing, all the while maintaining an unerringly stable platform. Getting into it at unsociable hours and rolling out onto deserted roads, Jaguar’s first BEV-SUV is a sweet lullaby softly sung. Until you hit that right-hand pedal and engage warp drive.
I loved all the key points about it, but it’s still badly let down by public infrastructure that’s far too often not working properly (if at all). While insurance will still be expensive – it is a £70,000 car, after all – this is an electric car that drives brilliantly, can out-match almost anything with an engine in a real-world, short-distance rolling drag race and would be affordable to ‘fuel’ even on the minimum wage. Incredible stuff. I had no hesitation in making it my favourite first drive this year.
My second pick, my favourite steer of 2019 that wasn’t launched this year, is the faithful Wrangler. By any traditional measure the Wrangler is still rubbish on the road. The tyres are hideously noisy, there’s nowhere to put your left foot, the steering is only probably connected to the front wheels and fuel economy… well, there isn’t any.
But that really didn’t matter at the time. I loved it. The organic, old-school throttle response, the surprising turn of pace, the slick eight-speed ‘box, and the sheer charm that makes the whole so much greater than the sum of its oddball parts.
It’s also absolutely mega off-road, where it was designed to shine. There’s low-range and differential locks to aid in really awkward axle articulation events, but even left totally alone it manages to handle an amazing array of climbing.
The knowledge that it really will do the kinds of things you imagine it will is enough to convince you, quite rightly, that this is a very cool car. It’s a car that makes you smile just to own it, as long as running costs are no particular barrier. You smile when you drive it, you smile when you see it in a car park, and you smile when it spends every winter pulling fools in hatchbacks out of snow drifts. What a brilliant thing.
The Lamborghini Huracan Evo feels like a car that shouldn’t still be in production. It’s loud, inefficient, and largely pointless when you consider a V10 R8 Performance is £60,000 cheaper and 95 per cent as good. But it’s the five per cent that makes all the difference. The engine is a masterpiece, and thanks to a Performante exhaust with a lack of particulate filters, it’s shockingly loud and dominates the driving experience. The Huracan is also one of the best looking cars Italy has ever produced, but don’t think it’s all show.
The new four-wheel steer system actually works, and combined with the updated electronics package, it feels nimble and accurate on the road in a way the previous generation didn’t. The interior is also suitably Lambo, with only a few parts carried over from the R8, but there is one major disappointment - no scissor doors…
My first experience of the GT2 RS wasn’t what you’d call ‘relaxed’. It was on the launch of the new Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport R and RS at Ascari. We’d spent the morning testing the new tyres on a Ferrari 488 and GT3 RS, with the GT2 RS overlooking the track, no one allowed to drive, or even touch it.
After the program finished at lunch, Goodyear was kind enough to have arranged a few hours in the afternoon on track so I could make a video on the two new tyres, and unknown to everyone else, I had the use of the GT2 RS.
I expected the 700bhp, RWD Porsche to feature a savage ride, but what I discovered was that the GT2 RS feels almost as usable as any 911, meaning that Porsche has made something that should be undriveable - on paper, at least - a surprisingly forgiving track weapon.