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The best new cars we have driven this year

Team MR Greatest Cars 2018

Variety is the spice of life, or so they say, which is why our list of 2018’s greatest hits is far from predictable. There’s something for everything here, including supercars, an electric car and two budget 4x4s. Tuck in to Motoring Research’s very own Christmas pick ‘n’ mix, as we guide you through our favourite drives of 2018.

Tim Pitt: McLaren 600LT

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I’ve already stuck my head above the parapet and declared this the ‘best driver’s car of 2018’ – so logically it earns a place here.The 600LT is a track-oriented take on the 570S, complete with extended ‘Longtail’ bodywork that pays homage to the Le Mans-winning F1 GTR. It has stiffer suspension, beefed-up brakes, stickier tyres and more aggressive aero, plus 30 extra horses (600hp total) and 100kg less weight (1,247kg without fluids).

The net result is nothing short of sensational; the 600LT gives even the Porsche 911 GT3 RS a bloody nose. It’s laser-focused and explosively fast, yet its deep reserves of talent aren’t difficult to exploit. Track toy or roadgoing racer, the McLaren reigned supreme this year.

Tim Pitt: Aston Martin Vantage

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Aston Martins never really did it for me. Yes, they’ve always been gorgeous to look at and sumptuous inside, but the driving experience invariably fell short. So, if you’d told me 12 months ago that I’d have two Astons vying for a place in my 2018 top three, I’d have called Fake News.

Those cars are the Vantage and DBS Superleggera: the former Aston’s new entry-level 911-rival, the latter its Ferrari-baiting flagship. The DBS is sublime, an old-school, V12-engined bruiser with more torque than Oprah Winfrey. However, it was the Vantage – a sucker-punch of dynamic nous and stonking V8 brawn – that arrived first, thus earning it the nod here.

Tim Pitt: Paul Stephens Classic Touring Series II

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This modified, Singer-style Porsche isn’t, strictly speaking, a new car, so I’m bending the rules a bit. That said, the Paul Stephens Classic Touring Series II isn’t nearly as old as it looks. It starts life as a mid-1980s 911 Carrera 3.2, then ends up looking identical to an early-1970s 911S. The air-cooled engine is tuned to 290hp, while the updated interior is beautifully bespoke.

If you subscribe to the cult of 911 (and I do), the Paul Stephens car is a feast of surprise-and-delight details. Many parts are hand-made at the company’s workshop in Suffolk, yet everything looks period-correct or ‘OEM+’. It’s an absolute joy to drive, too: analogue, challenging and richly rewarding. At £275,000, it sure ain’t cheap, but unlike that original 911S, you’d happily drive a Classic Touring Series II every day. If only…

Richard Aucock: Ford Fiesta ST

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I was worried. The old Fiesta ST was a wonder, even in its latter years. It handled superbly and the four-cylinder 1.6-litre turbo engine was a gem. Could Ford build upon the magic – and how would a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine measure up?

But this is Ford. A company staffed by enthusiasts, which takes great pride in delivering brilliant blue-collar drives – Porsches for the people. And the new Fiesta ST is exceptional. It has the dynamic spark of the old one, but also now rides tolerably well. The engine is faster and torquier, and still sounds interesting. The interior is way better, it visually looks the part and clever rear suspension springs add some supercar exotica to this gem of a car. It’s also a true bargain, priced at well under £20k. Just be sure to use the money saved to buy the Performance Pack, won’t you?

Richard Aucock: Jaguar I-Pace

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Jaguar deserves all the praise it’s received for giving us the I-Pace. A luxury five-seat all-electric SUV, it beat Audi and Mercedes-Benz to market with a rival for the Tesla Model X. BMW? Its bespoke electric SUV is still years away. The British engineers absolutely nailed it with this car, an extraordinary 400hp machine with a 300-mile range and a design inspired by the baddie’s Jag supercar in Bond’s Spectre.

Inside, it’s beautiful, and roomy both front and back. On the road, it’s tremendous, with serious but silent performance and feel-good handling that pleases like any good Jaguar should. It rides like a proper Jag as well, and the long-distance comfort is exceptional. It will even off-road, as the firm showed to us on the Portuguese launch. A genuine landmark car, and a first drive I will remember for many years.

Richard Aucock: McLaren Senna

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A car named after Ayrton Senna is surely setting itself up for a fall. The man was a driving god and any car that wasn’t less than epoch-defining would surely be received glumly. Good job this is McLaren, then – a company that didn’t just employ Senna back then, but today builds some of the most incredible supercars and hypercars on the market.

The McLaren Senna transcends anything I’ve ever driven before. It’s an eye-opening road-going track monster with speed and abilities that will leave you breathless – just as the acceleration sucks the air out your lungs and the forces generated in cornering give you a workout like a spinning class. I have daydreamed about this staggering car ever since. The only way they could beat it would be to give us the McLaren Hamilton. What about it, Woking?

Ethan Jupp: Mazda MX-5 2.0

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I’m one of those rare sorts who has given the Mazda MX-5 a wide berth in prior iterations. I value all it stood for, but I never liked the soft looks, nor the slightly soft road manners. An MX-5 isn’t a Caterham or Lotus Exige; it doesn’t present road-rippling performance as a compromise for spartan appointment. It’s actually part of the MX-5’s prerogative to not pack a punch. It’s all about the feel. It needs to counter that, therefore, by being a perfectly amenable roadster most of the time, yet the old cars couldn’t really pull that off. They were plastic-fantastic and unrefined at times when you just wanted a car. I’m weird, I know – it’s a sin not to salute the MX-5 magic.

The new car, though, is a revelation. Firstly, the looks – it’s such a sharp-looking thing. People wonder what on Earth it is. When you tell them it’s an MX-5, they don’t believe you. Then there’s the performance. This new 2.0-litre engine with a solid 180hp is partly what makes it one of my cars of 2018. It provides ample power for you to take the little Miata seriously and really put this classically-trained roadster where you want from the rear. Then there are the toys: cruise control, heated seats, automatic adaptive headlights, Bluetooth for your music. It all helps with making the MX-5 a normal and almost luxurious car, when you’re not looking for MX-5-ness. It’s just an all-round nicer car, having sacrificed none of the magic along the way.

Ethan Jupp: Lexus LC 500

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The Lexus LC 500 is perhaps the bargain coupe of the decade. It trades on those divisive (we think stunning) looks, appearing to be worth twice the price. It’s got an engine to match the LFA supercar-aping aesthetics, a high-revving and howling naturally-aspirated V8 that kicks out an ample 470hp. And the cabin is absolutely gorgeous, despite the iffy ergonomics. The iDrive system in a BMW 8 Series is far superior, but the LC just feels so much more special.

To drive it’s more ‘GT’ than ‘sports car’. The dynamics don’t quite deliver on the promise of the sharp and exciting looks. In our book, however, there’s nothing wrong with making a car look great for the sake of it. And remember, this isn’t a six-figure car. You can have an LC 500 for £90,000 – more or less the price of a base-model Porsche 911. That’s outstanding for a machine that’s capable of showing an Aston Martin DB11 a thing or two.

Ethan Jupp: Jaguar F-Type P300

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From a would-be humdrum coupe that’s been sexed up with supercar looks and a howling V8, to a stately British beauty that, on paper at least, has suffered a downgrade. I don’t know a car enthusiast in the world that wasn’t sceptical when news broke that the Jaguar F-Type – of whining supercharged V8 fame – was getting a four-cylinder base model. A tasteful facelift combined with a loud new colour palette couldn’t hide a shrinking violet under the bonnet – or so I thought.

Then I drove it. It fires up with all the drama of a car with many more pots to its name. Get your foot down and there’s very little real-world performance deficit – the 300hp turbocharged four-cylinder has muscle aplenty. The car is much more wieldy, too, with less engine mass to battle up-front as you traverse bumpy switchbacks. All of that we might have predicted when looking at the spec sheet. What I certainly didn’t expect was that, while it’s not a crackling, growling big-cat V8, it’s tuneful far beyond a lump you’d expect to find in a hot hatch. It’s not exactly artisanal or exotic, but we’re now used to most supercars being possessed of slightly dull, turbo-neutered vocals. The result is that ripping the rev-happy turbo four through its rev-range creates a sound not unlike a McLaren, despite having half the cylinders, turbos, displacement and power of a 720S.

Bradley Lawrence: Audi S1

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I have a love for small and fairly powerful cars. The Audi S1, for me, is the definition of that, with 230hp going through the wheels, aided by the famous Quattro system. I’m forever looking for cars to replace my current Vauxhall Corsa, and the S1 was mentioned to me by Ethan. I gave my local Audi dealer a call and went out for a test-drive. The weather was pretty appalling, but the S1 made light work of the rain. The acceleration was surprising, the torque was ridiculous and the grip was limpet-like.

We were 15 minutes into the test drive and heading down a dual carriageway when it got interesting. I’d come to a stop behind some traffic, attempted to move off and the rear end was dragging. It turned out the rear differential had blown. Oh dear. Despite this, the S1 remains one of my favourite cars of the year.

Bradley Lawrence: Abarth 124 GT

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Abarth invited me to Rockingham Motor Speedway to drive its new 124 GT, essentially the 124 Spider, but featuring a 16kg removable carbon fibre roof. The original soft-top remains hidden under the rear deck, so putting your top on remains an option if you’ve left the roof at home.

I had driven Rockingham once before in a McLaren 570S, although this felt much more rewarding. The professional driver next to me was giving me some excellent tips and pushing me to drive harder – I learnt a great deal from the experience. The 124 GT performed amazingly – its lively steering, snappy gearshift and rev-hungry engine completed the fast and fun package. Let’s not forget the aggressive, snarling sound coming from the quad-tailpipe exhaust either.

Bradley Lawrence: Audi TT RS

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Probably one of the highlights of my year – owned by my best mate, Jake. The Audi TT RS provides supercar performance for a fraction of the price, pushing 400hp from its five-cylinder turbocharged engine. Audi claims that it can do 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds, but it feels slightly quicker than that. The sound is amazing, with the TT letting out a bang on downshifts every now and again. Little wonder some people claim it is a ‘baby R8’.

We headed out to some Berkshire B-roads for a blast with an A45 and a C63. This is where the TT really unleashed its potential; it felt planted on the twisting turns. The way it covers ground is unlike anything else. It skips along so confidently and really makes you want to push it to its limits.

John Redfern: Volvo V60 D4 Inscription

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Maybe I’ve just hit a certain point in my life, but the idea of a new Volvo estate packs some serious appeal. I’ve been majorly impressed by the bigger V90 on previous experiences, and the new V60 manages to funnel all of that same Swedish feel-good factor into a smaller package.

In a world filled with seemingly endless anxiety and chaos, sinking into the familiar feeling of a modern Volvo interior is reassuring and calming. The 190hp D4 diesel engine won’t trouble the quicker stuff on this list, but that’s hardly the point. Although I do look forward to experiencing a T8 Twin Engine version with Polestar bits bolted on…

John Redfern: Maserati Levante V6

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Even now, I can still hear the sound of the Levante’s Maranello-built six-cylinder engine, wailing and woofing along the Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne. This entry-level petrol model might have ‘just’ 350hp, but you still get the same striking looks and Italian charm as you do from the rest of the range.

Viewed objectively, the Levante V6 might not make a compelling argument. German rivals do the £60,000 luxury SUV concept with predictable effectiveness. The Levante is the complete antithesis of those Teutonic brands. Try saying “Oh yes, I drive a Maserati” out loud, and you’ll understand why it manages to be such a seductive draw to buyers.

John Redfern: Dacia Duster

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For years, I had managed to avoid driving a Duster. Maybe it was a subconscious attempt to avoid falling into the pit of motoring writer clichés, or maybe I was just waiting for the all-new Duster in Desert Orange paint to appear. All it meant was that I denied myself the simple pleasure of driving an uncomplicatedly cool car.

Yes, there might be some body-roll in the corners, but unlike the majority of cars on sale in 2018, the Duster rides with some degree of comfort. The interior is a lesson in minimalism, more akin to using a Nokia 3310 than the overly demanding iPad-esque designs of other contemporary cars. Oh, and then there is the price. The Duster is an absolute bargain.

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith: Suzuki Jimny

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I don’t do many car launches. In fact, I covered just one new car launch in 2018. Just as well I made sure it was a good one. Anecdotally, the Suzuki Jimny has generated as much buzz as any supercar over the past 12 months, without so much as a “Hey Guyzzz” from a social media influencer. Little wonder, then, that it has a waiting list longer than a trendy West End nightclub. If your name’s not down…

Admittedly, I approached the launch with child-like excitement, but high anticipations are too often accompanied by an overwhelming sense of anticlimax. Not so in the Suzuki Jimny. It’s far from perfect, but it provides the perfect antidote to the joyless and soulless crossovers that litter our streets. And this tells you all you need to know about why I’m not sent on many car launches.

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith: Hyundai i30N

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I don’t get out much, so I greeted the opportunity to head to Dorset to drive a pair of exciting South Koreans with open arms. The fact that this twin-test with a difference included a chip butty in Shaftesbury’s John Peel café was an added bonus. One day like this a year would see me right.

We spent a good few hours on the B3081, hurtling up and down the famed Zig-Zag Hill more times than a rollercoaster fanatic at an empty theme park. The Kia Stinger GT-S was good – like, really good – but I haven’t give it a second thought since Tim took the keys and headed for home, leaving me in the company of the Hyundai. Meanwhile, the i30N continues to stir my emotions and is just one of two cars that have seen me reach for the finance calculator in 2018. I loved it.

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith: Volvo XC40

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Thinking about it, my three choices could combine to create a near-perfect three-car garage. The Suzuki Jimny for buying milk on the other side of a mountain, the Hyundai i30N for taking the road route around the mountain, and the Volvo XC40 for when you want to do ‘lifestyle’ things on the mountain with the family… before buying a pint of milk on the way home. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of the compact SUV genre – give me a Volvo wagon – but the XC40 is close to perfection.

The styling manages to look elegant and tasteful, while the interior retains all of the hallmarks of the XC90. Meanwhile, cliché it might be, but there’s something reassuring about transporting your family in a Volvo. It just feels like the right thing to do. I’ll take mine with Lava Orange carpets, ta.

Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) changes, set to be introduced at the beginning of April, will mean that running a car will be more expensive for the majority of motorists.

With this in mind, we’ve selected two cars for each tax band and calculated how much you’ll pay in car tax before and after the changes. Spoiler alert: you’re probably going to be out of pocket unless you register a new car before 31 March 2017.

0g/km: Renault ZoeCar tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £0/£0
Five years (before/after): £0/£0

There’s good news if you’re thinking of buying an electric car in 2017: it will remain tax exempt. Which means you’re free to buy a Renault Zoe before or after the introduction of the new VED changes. However, the same rule doesn’t apply to all electric vehicles…

0g/km: Tesla Model SCar tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £0/£620
Five years (before/after): £0/ £1,240

If a car’s list price is over £40,000 at first registration, it will be subject to a new £310 surcharge for five years after the end of the first licence. So while the Tesla Model S is tax exempt in the first year, you’ll be out of pocket to the tune of £620 after three years, or £1,240 after five years.

1-50g/km: Volkswagen Golf GTE (39g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £0/£290
Five years (before/after): £0/£570

The new rules mean that, while a Volkswagen Golf GTE emits a full 39g/km more than a Tesla Model S, it’s actually cheaper to tax, at least in the short-term. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s no longer tax exempt. Indeed, you’ll pay £570 over five years.

51-75g/km: Toyota Prius (70g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £0/£305
Five years (before/after): £0/£585

You’ll soon discover that low emissions cars are the worst affected by the changes. The penguin-loving Toyota Prius might be one the greenest cars you can buy, but it’s subject to a £25 ‘showroom tax’, along with a £140 standard rate from year two.

76-90g/km: Mercedes-Benz GLE 500e (78g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £0/£1,000
Five years (before/after): £0/£1,900

The carrot of free car tax makes the Mercedes-Benz GLE 500e plug-in hybrid a tempting proposition, but all that is set to change. The combination of the ‘premium’ surcharge and £100 ‘showroom tax’ means that you’ll be £1,000 worse off in just three years.

91-100g/km: Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi (99g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £0/£400
Five years (before/after): £0/£680

We’d say the same about the nation’s favourite crossover, which, when powered by the popular 1.5 dCi diesel engine, is £400 more expensive to run in the first three years.

101-110g/km: Vauxhall Viva (104g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £40/£420
Five years (before/after): £80/£700

You buy a car like the Vauxhall Viva to save money. And, sure enough, with prices starting from £129 per month, it’s a frugal way of getting from A to B. All of which means the three-year tax increase might be a little hard to stomach. The tax man will be asking for an additional £380 over three years.

111-130g/km: Lexus RC 300h Premier (116g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £60/£1,060
Five years (before/after): £120/£1,960

Buy a Lexus RC 300h Premier in March 2017 and you’ll pay a token £60 in car tax over three years. Buy the same car in April and you’ll need to find an additional £1,000. Ouch.

131-150g/km: Ford Fiesta ST (138g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £390/£480
Five years (before/after): £520/£760

There’s a new Ford Fiesta waiting in the wings, which means you’ll need to be quick if you fancy a slice of Britain’s best hot hatch. But don’t worry if you can’t beat the 31 March deadline: the rate of increase is a modest £90 over three years.

151-170g/km: Subaru BRZ (164g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £555/£780
Five years (before/after): £925/£1,060

The Subaru BRZ, along with its cousin, the Toyota GT86, is a car you buy with your heart and not your head. With the VED front loaded, it makes sense to buy a BRZ after the rate change, that’s if you intend to keep your weekend toy for seven years plus.

171-190g/km : Vauxhall Corsa VXR (174g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £720/£1,080
Five years (before/after): £1,140/£1,360

Bad news for Corsa VXR buyers: the first-year rate skyrockets from £300 to £800, making it a more expensive in the showroom. Meanwhile, the standard rate drops from £210 to £140, making it more cost effective in the long term.

191-225g/km: BMW M3 (194g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £1,040/£2,100
Five years (before/after): £1,580/£3,000

The rate of tax will almost double for BMW M3 owners, so you really ought to place an order before the end of March. Remember, the ‘premium’ tax kicks in at the end of the first year and expires at the end of the fifth payment, at which point it drops to £140.

226-255g/km: Nissan 370Z (248g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £1,885/£1,980
Five years (before/after): £2,885/£2,260

Finally, some good news! If you register a Nissan 370Z after 1 April 2017 and intend to keep it for more than three years, you’ll be quids in. That’s because the annual rate drops from £500 to £140, although the £1,700 ‘showroom tax’ might hurt a little.

Over 255g/km: Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 (299g/km)Car tax 2017: buy now or after April?

Three years (before/after): £2,150/£2,280
Five years (before/after): £3,180/£2,560

Ford Mustang 5.0 V8 buyers: wait! Order a car today and you’ll pay £3,180 over the course of five years. Wait until April and you’ll save a hefty £620. You can spend that on premium unleaded.

Clarkson favourite cars

Jeremy Clarkson’s top 10 cars of the past year

Clarkson favourite carsWhen 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.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

10_Clarkson_favourite_cars

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

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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

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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.

BMW M2

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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

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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.

Lamborghini Aventador

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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.

J.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

J.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

J.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016The J.D. Power 2016 UK Vehicle Dependability Study named Skoda as the country’s most dependable car brand. The study, which is based on the responses of over 13,000 motorists, measures problems experienced during the past 12 months after 12-36 months of ownership. What model should you buy if you’re after something you can rely on?

City car

Highest ranked: Kia PicantoJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

J.D. Power examined 177 problem symptoms across eight categories: engine and transmission; vehicle exterior; driving experience; features/controls/displays; audio/communication/entertainment/navigation; seats; heating; ventilation and cooling; and vehicle interior. The little Kia Picanto drives away with the award for the most dependable city car. Looks like you won’t be needing that seven-year warranty.

Second place: Suzuki AltoJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

The Suzuki Alto is no longer available, having been replaced by the Celerio. But a second place finish suggests it could make for an excellent second-hand buy. In the Vehicle Dependability Study, overall dependability is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, with a lower score reflecting higher quality. Suzuki finished second overall, with a score of 79 problems per 100 vehicles.

Third place: Volkswagen UpJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

The Volkswagen Up is one of our favourite new cars at any price, so it’s good to see it scooping third place in the city car category. The Up has been updated with a subtle facelift and a new 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

Compact car

Highest ranked: Toyota AurisJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

Moving up a segment, the Toyota Auris is the highest ranked compact car in the J.D. Power survey. It’s not the most exciting car in its class, which explains why it is often overlooked, but the Auris is available as a hybrid and Touring Sports estate. Prices start from £14,995. What price dependability?

Second place: Skoda OctaviaJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

The Octavia’s space and value for money give it an edge over the Volkswagen Golf upon which it is based. Skoda topped the overall study, with a remarkably low score of 66 problems per 100 vehicles putting it streets ahead of the pack.

Third place: Hyundai i30J.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

Overall, Hyundai finished a lowly 18th, so this is an impressive result for the i30. Prices start from £12,995 and it’s offered with Hyundai’s excellent five-year warranty.

Compact SUV

Highest ranked: Skoda YetiJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

The Skoda Yeti is the compact SUV that can do no wrong, making regular appearances in studies such as this. The Yeti arrived in 2009 and has been an incredibly successful car for the Czech firm. Next year it will be joined by the Kodiaq – a new seven-seat SUV.

Second place: Volkswagen TiguanJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

There’s a new Volkswagen Tiguan on the block, but the J.D. Power survey will be based on the outgoing model. The new Tiguan faces fresh competition from the cheaper SEAT Ateca.

Third place: Vauxhall MokkaJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

Vauxhall finished fourth overall, assisted in no small part by an impressive performance from the Mokka. A facelifted Mokka X will go on sale in October with prices starting from £17,590, which is about £800 more the current Mokka.

Large and luxury

Highest ranked: Mercedes-Benz E-ClassJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

No surprise to find the E-Class wafting away with the large and luxury award. That said, Mercedes-Benz will be disappointed to finish 20th in the J.D. Power UK Vehicle Dependability Survey.

Second place: Jaguar XFJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

We love the Jaguar XF, but have to admit the E-Class just manages to top it in the luxury department. But if you’re after stylish good looks, a gorgeous interior and keen driving dynamics, it’s hard to ignore.

Third place: BMW 5 SeriesJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

BMW finished 21st in the overall study, so in this respect the 5 Series is bucking the trend. Begs the question: how badly did the other BMW models perform?

Mid-size car

Highest ranked: Vauxhall InsigniaJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

Boom! To all those who dismiss the Vauxhall Insignia, this is a kick in the teeth. While it’s hardly an exciting choice, it’s wonderfully adept at covering great distances in comfort and efficiency. In fact, its biggest crime is arguably its ubiquity.

Second place: Mercedes-Benz C-ClassJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

It’s official: if you want a mid-size car you can rely on, don’t buy a C-Class, buy an Insignia. In fairness to the C-Class, it is a class above in terms of image, quality and tech. And a second place finish is a solid result.

Third place: Ford MondeoJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

The Ford Mondeo is much better than many people give it credit for. Not only does it offer excellent value for money, it’s also incredibly spacious and loaded with a fair amount of kit. It’s just a shame cars like these are being forgotten in favour of SUVs and crossovers.

Small car

Highest ranked: Skoda FabiaJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

A victory for common sense. The Skoda Fabia is based on the Volkswagen Polo, but offers better value for money. Prices start from £10,750 for the hatchback and £12,630 for the estate.

Second place: Volkswagen PoloJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

The Volkswagen Polo, on the other hand, starts from £11,525, and while there is a subtle increase in quality, you have to question whether it is worth the extra expense. On the flip side, the Polo should be worth more on the second-hand market.

Third place: Peugeot 208J.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

The Peugeot 208 has been on the market a while, but its i-Cockpit still sparks debate. Some love the raised dials/small steering combo, while others loathe it. Whatever, the 208 should be dependable.

Third place: Vauxhall CorsaJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

Tied on third place is the Vauxhall Corsa. While it has to play second fiddle to the Ford Fiesta in terms of sales, the J.D. Power study suggests the Corsa should be more reliable. It’s also a thoroughly good supermini.

Small MPV

Highest ranked: Ford B-MaxJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

And so to the final category – small MPVs, otherwise known as the cars guaranteed to slow your progress on a B-road. In fairness, the B-Max is surprisingly good fun to drive, whilst delivering practicality and the convenience of sliding doors.

Second place: Nissan NoteJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

Part-supermini, part-small MPV, 100% Nissan. The hugely-successful Qashqai and Juke are conspicuous by their absence, leaving the Note to fly the flag for Nissan.

Third place: Honda JazzJ.D. Power reveals the most dependable cars of 2016

There’s an unwritten rule that says a Honda Jazz must appear in surveys such as this. As it happens, it just manages to scrape into the J.D. Power UK Dependability Study, bringing joy to lawn bowls clubs across the land.

Chris Evans' Top 50 Cars

Chris Evans’ top 50 cars of 2016

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsIn case you’ve missed the hype, the new series of Top Gear is set to start on Sunday 29 May, created under the watch of lead host Chris Evans. Ahead of the show, Evans, who’s a regular columnist for the Daily Mail, has picked his top 50 cars of the year so far. It’s an interesting mix of stuff, listed in no particular order (although categorised into car segments), with one car selected as his car of the year…

Family hatchback: Skoda Fabia

So, we start with the family hatchback category, kicking off with the three-star Skoda Fabia. It’s surprising to see it make the cut, as Evans concludes his review by describing it ‘by no means great’. But he raves about the three-cylinder engine and auto gearbox combo of his test car.

Family hatchback: Citroen C4 Cactus

Everyone loves the quirky Citroen C4 Cactus. Evans describes it as ‘funky’, and we’ll go with that. From its retro interior to its trolley-bouncing ‘air bumps’, the Cactus is well worthy of Evans’ four-star review.

Family hatchback: Vauxhall Astra

The new Vauxhall Astra came a bit of a shock when we first drove it in September. Despite its fairly anonymous looks, it’s so much better than its predecessor. Although Evans says he wouldn’t go as far as comparing it to the Volkswagen Golf, it’s good enough to make his top 50 cars of 2016.

Family hatchback: Fiat 500X

Er, we’d class the Fiat 500X as a crossover rather than a family hatch, but we’re big fans of the beefed-up 500 – so it’s no surprise to see it in the Daily Mail top 50. Only, Evans gave it one star in his review, describing it as ‘the ultimate car by committee’.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsFamily hatchback: Mazda 3

The Mazda 3 is often overlooked by those shopping for a Ford Focus-sized car, but it’s actually quietly good. Evans says the steering wheel and dials set-up is ‘almost identical to the McLaren 650S’. Why haven’t we noticed that?

Family hatchback: MINI Clubman

This is the car that gets the family hatchback crown, according to Evans. The five-star MINI Clubman, in sporty Cooper S guise, is ‘much more credible than the silly-shaped modern MINI Countryman’ and proves ‘an excellent driving experience’, says the Radio 2 DJ.

Family hatchback: Hyundai i20

The Hyundai i20 is more supermini than family hatch, but who’d argue with the new Top Gear presenter? ‘As dull as ditchwater’, he says, ‘but fairly solid, fairly good-looking and the perfect dog-and-kids, A-to-B mobile’.

Supercars: Lamborghini Huracan

And now for the juicy stuff. The supercars. Of which three make the grade.The first is the £182,400 Lamborghini Huracan, which can hit 62mph in 3.2 seconds and is good for a top speed of 202mph. Although Evans says ‘a pleasure-bomb will explode inside you every time you turn the wheel or dab the throttle’, he complains that the sound system isn’t good enough for a car of this price.

Supercars: Mercedes-AMG GT S

Because of that, perhaps, Evans’ supercar pick of 2016 is the Mercedes-AMG GT S. Although many would rave about the GT’s performance, Evans is bowled over by its looks, finding it hard to believe that it’s a Mercedes. ‘Go online to see how many tyres she can eat in a minute and all the other insane stuff,’ he says.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsSupercars: Dodge Viper ACR

The Viper has never been as technically as accomplished as European rivals, but the latest 8.4-litre V10 ACR ticks all the right boxes for Evans. He gives it five stars, saying ‘she snaked and smoked in all the right places, right up to 167mph’.

Saloon: Tesla Model S

Although Evans complains about struggling to get more than 180 miles out of the Tesla Model S (despite its official range of 240 miles), he says he loves the ‘Starship Enterprise vibe’, while it remains his son Noah’s favourite test car ever. He gave it four stars, but it wouldn’t be his saloon car choice…

Saloon: Ford Mondeo

Where else would you find a Ford Mondeo competing with the likes of the Tesla Model S? Evans states ‘this Mondeo costs less than £25,000 yet does the job of the Mercedes S500, Jaguar XFR, Audi RS6…’. Bold statement.

Saloon: Skoda Octavia vRS 230

This is the saloon that grabs the title of Chris’s pick. Even though it’s technically a hatchback. The Skoda Octavia, in hot vRS 230 trim, offers performance to take on the Volkswagen Golf GTI, hitting 62mph in 6.7 seconds.

Saloon: Jaguar XE

Despite driving ‘a lot better than [he] thought it would’, the Jaguar XE only takes three stars from the scathing Evans. He describes it as ‘trying to be a bit too German’, but not good enough to have Audi, Mercedes or BMW trembling in their boots.

Sports: Ford Mustang

There are three things Evans doesn’t like about the Ford Mustang: the fuel economy (‘20mpg was the best average I could achieve’), the location of the drink holders (‘put any beverage in there and it will render changing gear nigh-on impossible’), and the boot space. Despite that, he gives the Mustang four stars, describing it (with the 5.0-litre V8) as ‘as exciting as 99.9% of any of the cars I’ve ever driven’.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsSports: Porsche 911

OK, this isn’t exactly a car of 2016 – not in naturally-aspirated GTS spec, anyway. But as a car Evans tested in 2016, it makes the cut. One of the last N/A entry-level 911s before they went turbocharged, Evans is a huge fan of its Sport Plus setting, which blips the throttle on downshifts.

Sports: Audi R8

Despite slating the cost of options (£2,400 for Alcantara headlining and £2,950 for gloss-carbon engine bay trim), Evans is a huge fan of the new Audi R8 – giving it the title of his sports car pick. ‘Five stars all the way,’ he says.

Estate: Audi A4

Although Evans is a big fan of the Audi A4’s strobing indicators, along with its ‘punchy engine’, he describes it as a ‘mid-range, mediocre family estate car’, and criticises it for being too expensive. Although it’s not cheap, we think his three-star review is perhaps a little harsh.

Estate: SEAT Leon X-Perience

Despite its silly name, the SEAT Leon X-Perience is actually quite a sensible family car. Essentially a jacked-up Leon estate with four-wheel-drive (ideal for those who regularly drive in the snow or across muddy fields), Evans seems to be quite a fan of the X-Perience. So why only three stars? It’s nearly £30,000…

Estate: Volvo V60 Cross Country

We do hope Evans stops describing cars as females in the new series of Top Gear. Writing about the Volvo V60 Cross Country, he says ‘her charm crept up on me, as did her grunt – she loves a quick run’. Hmm. It’s enough to bag the V60 Cross Country the honour of being Chris’s estate pick.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsEstate: Volkswagen Passat

The anthropomorphism continues with the Volkswagen Passat. ‘I was taken with the VW Passat GT the moment I set eyes on her,’ says Evans. ‘I find her quite alluring’. Slightly creepy review aside, we agree with Evans’ inclusion of the Passat in his top 50 – it’s a commendable estate car.

City cars: Smart Fortwo

It would seem that Chris Evans doesn’t test many city cars. That’d explain why only two make his 50 cars of 2016. The first, and indeed the DJ’s pick of two, is the Smart Fortwo. His wife described it as ‘so cool and so fast’, but also praised its incredible turning circle.

City cars: Vauxhall Adam Grand Slam

Powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine producing 150hp, the Grand Slam is the hottest Adam you can buy. It brings out Evans’ yobbish side, apparently, launching into a ‘full-on front-axle wheelspin’ after letting out the clutch.

Luxury: Porsche Panamera

‘Like all Panameras before her, she looks stupidly big.’ We wonder how Evans has been married three times with lines like that. He complains that the Panamera has three clocks and three windscreen-washer clusters, but no reversing camera. However, he still gives the four-seat Porsche four stars.

Luxury: Rolls-Royce Ghost

As the previous owner of a first-generation Rolls-Royce Ghost, Evans claims he’s more qualified than most to write about the new model. Only, he struggles to tell the difference. Once his local dealer explains that’s all about evolution rather than revolution (why mess with a winning recipe?), Evans warms to the Series II Ghost.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsLuxury: Range Rover

It’s no ordinary Range Rover tested by Evans. It’s a £156,000 SV Autobiography, produced by JLR’s Special Vehicles Operations department. For that money, you get super-soft leather, crystal-effect tail lights and unique 21-inch alloys. Evans is a fan, giving the pricey Range Rover a four-star rating.

Luxury: BMW 7 Series

‘I have no idea what this car is actually like to drive,’ admits Evans, ‘because I got my mate Tim to chauffeur me around for a morning while I sat in the back.’ Only Evans could get away with writing car reviews without actually driving them, but it kind of makes sense for the luxurious BMW 7 Series. He gave it five stars, and awarded it his luxury pick.

Coupe: Nissan 370Z Nismo

The Nismo 370Z looks like something out of Gran Turismo but, as Evans points out, it’s a bit disappointing. The 3.7-litre V6 doesn’t sound particularly special, and the performance doesn’t live up to its looks. We’re not sure why it appears in Evans’ top 50 cars, either…

Coupe: BMW M4

It sounds like Evans is a fan of the BMW M4, comparing it with the Ferrari 488 at four times the price. His mate Tim (the chauffeur of BMW 7 Series fame) described it as the ‘best burnout island doughnut car I’ve driven so far’. Evans gave it five stars, but it’s not his pick of the coupes…

Coupe: Volkswagen Scirocco

“There’s no better-looking coupe – or hatchback – in the world’, writes Evans. Bold statement. Justified, looking at the Scirocco in hot GTS trim? Hmm… we’re not so sure. Evans likes it, though, giving it five stars and awarding it the title of Chris’s coupe pick.

Convertible: Audi TT

The Top Gear presenter reveals that he feels sorry for the new Audi TTS Roadster. Why? ‘TTs will always be perceived as too personal trainer and hairdressery’. He has a point. We were similarly impressed when we drove the new TTS Roadster, which can hit 62mph in 4.9 seconds. It’s a bold look, but if Evans can pull it off…

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsConvertible: Mazda MX-5

The 2016 World Car of the Year, but not according to Chris Evans. ‘She feels a bit all out front’, he says, ‘like the car is taking you where it wants to go, instead of the other way around.’ That seems at odds to most reviews of the new MX-5, but who are we to argue?

Best of British: Aston Martin DB10

We’re on to the ‘Best of British’ category now, and approaching Evans’ car of 2016. First we have a supercar fit for Bond, the Aston Martin DB10. Chris admits he ‘didn’t really drive it’, leaving the lion’s share of the driving to Spectre’s chief stunt driver Mark Higgins. The experience from the passenger seat alone was enough to justify five stars.

Best of British: Zenos E10 S

We really rated the Zenos E10 S when we drove it last year, awarding it five stars in the Motoring Research review. Chris Evans isn’t a fan, however, criticising its lack of visibility, complaining about the flimsy roof and awarding it three stars overall. We kind of feel he might have missed the point…

Best of British: Ariel Nomad

The lack of practicality doesn’t seem to concern Evans when it comes to the bonkers Ariel Nomad, however. ‘At times it felt like I was strapped to the wing of a jumbo jet during take-off’, he said.

Best of British: MG Abingdon Edition

The best of British in 2016, according to Evans? A modern-day MGB, the Abingdon Edition is built by Frontline Developments. Powered by a 2.5-litre Mazda engine, it hits 62mph in 3.8 seconds and costs a whopping £95,400.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsBest of British: Twisted T80 Land Rover Defender 110

Production of the Land Rover Defender as we know it finally came to an end earlier this year. Tuning companies love to modify the old British workhorse, bizarrely, with Twisted Automotive being one of the biggest. The T80 costs an incredible £93,416 and, in Evans’ words, ‘smells of leather as opposed to actual cows’.

SUV: Honda HR-V

We ran a Honda HR-V for six months and found it a likeable crossover, but Evans isn’t much of a fan. He gave it one star, saying: ‘frankly, the car bored the pants off me’. Unsurprisingly, the HR-V isn’t Evans’ pick of the SUVs…

SUV: Land Rover Discovery Sport

This, however, is. Evans tested the Discovery Sport with the original Freelander-borrowed 2.2-litre turbodiesel, rather than the newer (and better) 2.0-litre Ingenium engine. That didn’t seem to put him off, despite him saying ‘she sounds more like a Land Rover than I expected’.

SUV: Kia Sportage

‘The Sunday Dullster, and then some’. That’s how Evans reviews the Kia Sportage, but he does admit to driving it after reviewing a pair of Rolls-Royces for Top Gear as well as a power test of the Audi R8. He gives the Sportage three stars.

SUV: Volvo XC90

Evans likes big boots and he cannot lie. The XC90 has a boot ‘the size of Perthshire’, as well as legroom, which ‘is more Airbus than omnibus’, he writes. The Volvo XC90 was one of our favourite cars from last year, and a huge improvement over its ancient predecessor.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsSUV: Audi Q7

Finally for the SUVs, is the five-star Audi Q7. Five stars because ‘the pin-sharp, colourful graphics… were glowing BBC Radio 2 from the moment [he] started her up’, perhaps?

Hot hatch: Honda Civic Type R

The Honda Civic Type R has gone down a storm, with some reviewers even rating it above Ford’s stonkingly good Focus RS. Evans describes it as ‘a pensioner’s shopping trolley transformed into a marauding beast’, which sounds fairly accurate to us.

Hot hatch: Vauxhall Corsa VXR

Evans describes the Corsa VXR as an ‘Essex boy’s cruiser’, which makes us think more of the Fiesta ST than this hot Vauxhall. But there’s one thing he’s definitely right about: ‘those with a heavy right foot could be heading for the hedgerow’.

Hot hatch: Peugeot 208 GTI

Chris’s hot hatch pick is this modern day 205 GTI, the 208 GTI. He describes it as an ‘absolute zinger’, and claims ‘no one can deny Peugeot has recaptured a sense of what made the original Pug hot hatch the catch of the Eighties and Nineties’.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsFamily crossover: Nissan Juke Nismo RS

Back down to earth with family crossovers. Oh, maybe not – as this is the 215hp Juke Nismo RS. Evans gives it five stars for performance but just one for design, describing as ‘the aesthetic motoring equivalent of the entire cast of TOWIE’.

Family crossover: Renault Kadjar

Evans reveals that, once Top Gear finally airs, he’ll have a lot more time for a ‘normal’ life. But, he says, hopefully not more ‘normal’ cars like the Renault Kadjar. To try and make the review for Renault’s two-star Kadjar more entertaining, he slipped in random automotive facts. Did you know that, if a car in Malaysia is too successful, competitors can have its price raised?

Family crossover: Mazda CX-3

Chris Evans takes up about a third of his review of the Mazda CX-3 complaining that it’s not really a ‘supermini’. But we’re not sure why he expected it to be a supermini. Mazda doesn’t claim it’s a supermini. Still, he gives it four stars and the title of his crossover pick.

Family crossover: Infiniti Q30

The final car before revealing Evans’ car of the year. This time it’s the not-really-a-crossover Infiniti Q30, which he describes as ‘a natty-looking motor car’. He admits, like us, he doesn’t really see the point of the Q30 – the car Nissan’s premium brand Infiniti is hoping will be a game-changer.

Chris Evans' Top 50 CarsCar of the Year: McLaren 675LT

So Evans’ favourite car of 2016? That’ll be the Woking-built McLaren 675LT. Praising McLaren for establishing itself as a serious player in a market dominated by Italian rivals Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini, Evans questions: ‘How is that even possible?’

Lexus LC 500

7 cars from the Detroit Auto Show that are like so totally awesome

Excuse us – we seem to have got a little bit too into the American spirit here at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. The first press day is over – a day of surprise unveilings, more VW apologies and so much weird candy that it’s probably not healthy. OK, it definitely isn’t healthy.

But there’s a clear shortlist of cars that are unanimously turning heads. We’d like to take these ones home with us. Please.

Volvo S90

1: Volvo S90

It’s Volvo’s alternative to the BMW 5 Series. And, just like our hearts panged for the XC90 when we first saw it way back at Paris 2014, we really want an S90.

You see, for years, manufacturers have been coming up with cars that they reckon could give the Germans a hard time. But Volvo got the XC90 so right – and it’s seemingly on track to do the same with the S90.

As well as looking fantastic, with an upmarket yet unique interior to match, the S90 also has a host of new technology to boast about. This includes its semi-autonomous driving system, Pilot Assist. This gives gentle steering inputs to keep the car within the lines on a motorway at speeds of up to 80mph. It works with the adaptive cruise control to practically drive itself (as long as you do the difficult bits).

Like the XC90, the S90 will also be available with the T8 twin-engine plug-in hybrid drivetrain. This combines 410hp with decent fuel economy and a feel-good factor you just wouldn’t get with a German diesel.

Infiniti Q60

2: Infiniti Q60

It’s perhaps unfair to say that Infiniti has an image problem in the UK. It’s more the case that Infiniti doesn’t really have an image.

If Infiniti is new to you, it’s Nissan’s premium brand – like Lexus is to Toyota. It’s much bigger in the US, but sales in the UK have been slow. And the reason for that? Well, it’s cars have been mostly bland and undesirable.

Sure, quirky people have bought them because they’re not a BMW. But they don’t excel in any particular area. And, as in the case of the Q50’s drive-by-wire steering, Infiniti really bombs in certain areas.

The brand tried to fix that with its Q50 Eau Rouge in 2014. That took the powertrain from the Nissan GT-R and put it into the body of the Q50. Its 560hp 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged engine meant it was seriously rapid. But costs just didn’t add up and the Eau Rouge faced the axe after just one prototype was made.

So what now? Well, Infiniti has revealed the Q60 coupe at the Detroit Auto Show and it looks fantastic. Much like the concept version that was unveiled at last year’s show, the Q60 combines a not-unpleasant Q50 front end with a very attractive rear.

And the best news? Downsizing isn’t on the agenda: its engine line-up is all about six-cylinder engines, with a 400hp twin-turbo heading the range. This is an Infiniti that genuinely excites us. Will it tempt BMW 4 Series buyers? Hmm…

BMW M2

3: BMW M2

So, with all this talk of stealing BMW buyers, you could say we had to include a Beemer. But we can 100% say the decision to include the BMW M2 was made with the heart well as the head.

It’s like a mini-M4 – it packs 44hp more power than the M235i, and can hit 62mph in 4.3 seconds if you opt for the dual-clutch auto ’box (that’s the same as the BMW M4).

With its flared arches and extra intakes, the BMW M2 looks frankly awesome under the bright lights of Detroit’s Cobo Centre. But these aren’t just for aesthetics, insists BMW, they help reduce drag by 5% over the model on which it’s based.

But impressive performance figures alone do not qualify a car for this list. Oh no. The BMW M2 makes it for offering potentially the coolest function ever offered on a (fairly) affordable rear-wheel-drive performance car: a ‘smokey burnout’ button. How ace is that?

VW Tiguan GTE Active Concept

4: Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active Concept

Look, dieselgate was so last year. Now Volkswagen is unveiling a rough-and-tough plug-in hybrid SUV, based on its Tiguan.

There are lots of sensible reasons why we’d like to take the Tiguan GTE Active Concept home with us. Yeah it’s green and eco-friendly and all that, but really we want it because it looks really badass.

The good news is, Volkswagen has hinted strongly that you’ll be able to buy accessories for your 2016 Tiguan that make it look like a proper off-roader. OK, you’ll look a bit of an idiot driving around Surrey in a Tiguan adorned with rock sliders, but that doesn’t stop members of the South East Mud Enthusiasts Club.

If you’re interested, the GTE Active Concept features a 225hp hybrid powertrain, made up of a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine combined with an electric motor. It can cover 20 miles under electric power alone, reaches 60mph in 6.4 seconds and uses its rear-mounted motor to act as an electric propshaft. Proper 21st century off-roading.

Lexus LC 500

5: Lexus LC 500

Lexus. It’s Toyota’s premium brand that produces sensible (if a smidgen dull) cars such as the hybrid CT 200h, and RX SUV. Then occasionally they come up with an absolute corker – such as the V8-engined LC 500, revealed at Detroit.

It’s essentially a production version of the 2012 Detroit Auto Show LF-LC concept, and it looks amazing. Never before has the company’s trademark spindle grille looked so right. And behind it lurks a 467hp 32-valve engine, as found in the RC F and GS F.

It’ll hit 60mph in ‘less than 4.5 seconds’, and look utterly fabulous while doing so. Pleasingly, it’s rear-wheel drive, although power is transmitted to the wheels through a 10-speed auto ’box. It’s not awful, promises Lexus.

Order books are opening later this year, and it’s definitely coming to the UK. Whoop!

Kia Telluride

6: Kia Telluride

This is a big-ass SUV that we’re unlikely to ever see in the UK. But that’s OK, because I’ll grey-import one – just for the fun of telling people “Oh this thing? It’s a Kia,” as I clog up the roads and intimidate other motorists in their little Audi Q7s.

Unfortunately it’s just a concept, for now, but if it previews where Kia’s design is heading in the future, I’m alright with that.

Despite being a huge SUV, it’ll also make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Kia says the Telluride will ‘care’ for its passengers. It uses sensors to ‘capture a passenger’s vital health information’, then a Light Emitted Rejuvenation system to display patterns of therapeutic light.

The powertrain? That’s a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine combined with an electric motor to produce a total of 400hp. It’s four-wheel-drive, natch, and would be good for ‘more than 30mpg’ if it ever makes production.

Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew

7: Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew

Let’s end with something that’s totally bonkers: Ford’s new F-150 Raptor SuperCrew. First revealed at last year’s Detroit Show, for 2016 the Raptor has sprouted an extra pair of doors and even more power than its predecessor.

It’s lighter than ever before, weighing around 225kg less thanks to its aluminium construction. And even this big, brash pick-up hasn’t avoided Ford’s Ecoboost programme. Power comes from a 3.5-litre V6, said to pack more punch than the 411hp 6.2-litre V8 it replaces. Performance figures are to be confirmed, but expect it to be just as capable off-road as on it. At speed, too.

Word on the street is that, if the Ford badge on the front of the Raptor was any larger, you’d be able to see it from space.

Read more about the highlights of the 2016 Detroit Auto Show on MSN Cars