When Jeremy Clarkson speaks, people listen. Either that or they risk an encounter with a slab of meat. So when the Sunday Times lists Clarkson’s top 10 drivers of the past year, it’s kind of a big deal.
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If you own one of these motors, the bragging rights are yours when you’re stood at the bar this weekend.
Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport Recaro
Clarkson says: “Because it’s so organic and raw and simple, it feels how a sports car should. It sings and fizzes and jumps about. It always feels eager and sprightly, and that makes you feel eager and sprightly too.”
For 25 years, the Mazda MX-5 has been the default choice for those in search of affordable fun with a retractable roof. The fourth generation picks up where the old model left off and the best news is: the cheaper 1.5-litre engine is every bit as good as the 2.0-litre. Yours for less than £20,000.
Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe
Clarkson says: “It’s a terrible car. And yet I adored it. Every other vehicle, with its perfect refinement and its perfect electrics, cannot help but feel like a machine. Whereas the Alfa, with its flaws and its tendency to go where it wants, feels human.”
Clarkson is speaking for us all when he distances the Alfa Romeo 4C from many appliance-like cars that are on sale today. Like so many Alfas of the past, the 4C might be flawed, but it’s a car you buy with your heart and not your head. And the world needs more cars like that. We’d still prefer a Toyota GT86 or Subaru BRZ, mind.
Mercedes-AMG GT S
Clarkson says: “It’s so wide that someone could land a medium-sized helicopter on it and you wouldn’t even notice. I think I know why. This is a modern-day muscle car. It’s Merc’s Mustang. You sense this when you drive it. It feels raw.”
The GT S is powered by a glorious 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine that produces 510hp – enough to propel this ‘Muscle Merc’ to a top speed of 193mph, rocketing past 62mph in 3.8 seconds. It feels more special than an Audi R8 and less obvious than a Porsche 911. Yours for a whisker under £100,000.
Ford Focus RS
Clarkson says: “With the new Focus RS, you know after about 100 yards that it [Ford] has created something special. Even at James May speeds, on a roundabout in Hounslow, this car feels cleverer than is normal. It feels like a Nissan GT-R.”
The world has gone mad for the Ford Focus RS, a car that has already pulled up a chair at the top table of RS greats. Clarkson has history with the RS badge – he ran a Ford Escort RS Cosworth in the early 90s. Looks like the modern-day equivalent has rekindled some fond memories for Jezza.
Ford Mustang Fastback 5.0 V8 GT
Clarkson says: “What it is, is a muscle car. And you sense that in the second yard. This is a machine that wants to turn its tyres into smoke and go round every corner sideways.”
Few cars costing less than £35,000 offer the sense of occasion quite like the Ford Mustang V8. Drive one of these in the UK and folk with greet you with thumbs up, before reaching for their smartphones to grab a quick snap. What’s more, it has a soundtrack to rival Last Night of the Proms.
Volvo XC90 D5 AWD
Clarkson says: “If you let the driving aids do their thing, it becomes quite relaxing, because the 2-litre engine is far quieter than in the old model, and the ride is pretty good. It’s so soothing you could nod off. And you’d be fine, because it’d wake you up if anything was wrong.”
Jeremy Clarkson owned three previous generation XC90s, so it’s safe to assume he’s a big fan of Volvo’s super-size SUV. In common with anyone who has experienced the new XC90, Clarkson loves the cabin quality and the sheer amount of interior space. Forget rivalling the Germans, the big Swede beats the lot.
Vauxhall Zafira Tourer 1.6 CDTi Tech Line
Clarkson says: “A previous model had a reputation for bursting into flames but as I climbed a mountain what struck me was how brilliant the engine in this Zafira was. Then I went over a bump and didn’t feel a thing. Never have I encountered any car, including the Rolls-Royce Phantom, that’s so good at refusing to transmit road irregularities into the cabin. Which makes it the most comfortable car in the world.”
Wait, what’s this? Jeremy Clarkson including a Vauxhall in his top 10 drives of the year? Surely there’s been some mistake? His love of the Zafira Tourer is a far cry from the days when his review of the Vectra resulted in Vauxhall dealers searching for the valium.
Clarkson says: “It’s not just fast in a straight line. It’s also fast through the corners. And not just fast, but a complete delight. It’s so good that in a few bends I was actually dribbling with joy.”
The motoring world is united in its admiration for the BMW M2. Chris Harris, of the parish of Top Gear, likened it to BMW M-cars of old, while we concluded that it’s the best M-car you can buy. Order one today and you’ll probably have to wait until 2017 to take delivery. It’ll be worth the wait…
Ferrari 488 GTB
Clarkson says: “The old 458 was not as good as a McLaren 12C. But this new car puts the prancing horse back on top. As a driving machine, it’s – there’s no other word – perfect.”
Replacing the naturally-aspirated 4.5-litre V8 with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 was always going to be controversial, but we needn’t have worried. The engine, the chassis, the performance, the soundtrack – all executed with Italian perfection.
Clarkson says: “Given the choice of any supercar, this is the one I’d buy. I admire the McLaren P1. But which would you rather have as a pet: a clever and sophisticated electronic robot. Or a bloody great brontosaurus?”
In a world of hybrid supercars and diesel emissions scandals, the Lamborghini Aventador feels like a thoroughly old-school supercar. And that’s no bad thing. A Lamborghini should be outlandish and outrageous. This is the bedroom wall pin-up car for the next generation of supercar lovers.