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The best new hybrid cars 2017

The best new hybrid cars 2017

The best new hybrid cars 2017

Conventional petrol and diesel cars will be banned from sale in the UK from 2040. Therefore, electrified hybrid cars will be the only models available that still feature some sort of internal combustion engine. The choice of these electrified ‘mild hybrid’ and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) is now wider than ever, as our selection here shows. All quoted ‘on the road’ prices include VAT, but do not include the government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) – where applicable.

Volkswagen Golf GTE: £30,635 – £32,135The best new hybrid cars 2017

The Golf GTE is Volkswagen’s idea of a fleet-friendly electrified performance Golf in the vein of the legendary GTI. With a combined output of 204hp from its 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine and 75kW electric motor, the plug-in hybrid Golf does the 0-62mph dash in 7.6 seconds, yet has CO2 emissions from just 38g/km. Electric-only range is 31 miles, while five electric and hybrid modes allow the plug-in Golf to be tailored to the prevailing driving conditions for the best performance or economy.

Hyundai Ioniq HEV: £20,585 – £24,185 / Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid: £27,495 – £29,295The best new hybrid cars 2017

The Ioniq is Hyundai’s new flagship range of electrified cars. Available in all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and ‘mild’ non-plug-in hybrid versions, the latter car has an official total range of 700 miles. With a low drag coefficient figure of 0.24, the plug-in version of the hybrid Hyundai boasts a combined economy figure of 256.8mpg and CO2 emissions from 29g/km. The interior is a step up from Hyundais of old, while blue accents inside and out point to the hybrid version.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: £34,305 – £46,055The best new hybrid cars 2017

Want a hybrid more suited for the rough and tumble? The 41g/km Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV and has proved very popular in the UK thanks to its low company car tax costs at launch. As well as more than enough space for families, the big SUV from Japan mates a 2.0-litre petrol engine to a pair of electric motors for up to 166mpg, and has the extra option of four-wheel-drive capability.

BMW 330e iPerformance: £35,620 – £39,720The best new hybrid cars 2017

BMW’s ubiquitous but very popular and business-aimed compact executive car is now available as a plug-in hybrid. The 330e iPerformance combines a 184bhp four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine, a 65kW electric motor and a 7.6kWh battery to give 251hp. There’s also a 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds, CO2 emissions as low as 44g/km, an electric-only range of around 25 miles, and all the dynamism the 3 Series is known for.

Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4 Plug-in Hybrid: £31,575The best new hybrid cars 2017

Enjoying its debut at the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed, the first electrified series production Mini can travel up to 26 miles with zero emissions. When combined with a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine, the plug-in hybrid has a total range of 310 miles. Three switchable driving modes help to get the maximum range in any situation, as well as up to an official 134mpg on the combined cycle. All with that standard Mini desirability, too.

Toyota Prius: £24,115 – £28,200 / Prius Plug-in: £31,695 – £33,895The best new hybrid cars 2017

The fourth generation of Toyota’s original pioneering hybrid has fuel economy of up to 94.1mpg and emissions from 70g/km. On the move, the Japanese ‘mild hybrid’ shuffles power between its 1.8-litre petrol engine, 53kW electric motor and 6.5Ah battery depending on the driving conditions. A new plug-in version boasts economy of up to 283mpg, and has the option of a solar panel roof for an easy three miles of additional electric range.

Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid: £81,141 – £146,545The best new hybrid cars 2017

The second generation of Porsche’s super saloon features an ‘E-Performance’ powertrain with a minimum of 468hp, yet is capable of a quoted 113mpg. The entry-level 56g/km Panamera 4 E-Hybrid boasts 335hp from its 2.9-litre V6 and 100kW electric motor, but all, including the full-fat 558hp Turbo S E-Hybrid, have an all-electric range of 31 miles. Offering typical Porsche performance, but with an economy slant, the lime green brake callipers are the most obvious giveaway.

Kia Niro: £21,635 – £27,385The best new hybrid cars 2017

The Niro is Kia’s first dedicated hybrid model. Emissions start at 88g/km, while the South Korean company quotes fuel consumption of up to 74.3mpg. The 105hp 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine and 1.56kWh lithium-ion battery are wrapped in a fashionable crossover body. There’s no plug-in option here, as the Niro is a ‘mild hybrid’, and thus decides which part of its powertrain to use depending on driving conditions.

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Hybrid: £61,715 – £69,615The best new hybrid cars 2017

The latest XC90 was Volvo’s first push further upmarket, and the reinvented SUV really looks the part from its ‘Thor’s hammer’ headlights to its plush and beautifully-executed cabin, complete with its portrait-orientation nine-inch colour touchscreen and Orrefors Crystal gear knob. While it may be pricey, the 49g/km plug-in hybrid Volvo’s 324hp 2.0-litre petrol engine is both supercharged and turbocharged for prodigious performance, while it can travel up to 78mph on electric power alone thanks to a 68kW electric motor. A host of standard ‘IntelliSafe’ technologies and all-wheel drive help maintain Volvo’s reputation for safety.

BMW i3 94Ah AC REx: £36,220The best new hybrid cars 2017

BMW claims its carbon-fibre-reinforced-plastic i3 ‘is the world’s first mass production model to be designed for sustainability at every stage’. The avant garde small car was launched in 2013 and added a fashionable twist to EV motoring. Updated with a larger-capacity 94Ah battery last year, the 12g/km Range Extender (REx) model sits alongside a 0g/km pure-electric version. The latter has a 125-mile range, while the i3 REx’s 649cc two-cylinder petrol engine generates electricity to charge the battery, increasing range to 206 miles.

Toyota C-HR Hybrid: £23,685 – £28,085The best new hybrid cars 2017

C-HR means ‘Coupe High Rider’ according to Toyota and is what it calls its striking new crossover. A daringly-styled compact SUV, the C-HR marries the latest Prius’ advanced platform, hybrid powertrain and CVT automatic gearbox to a more interesting family-friendly silhouette. There’s a definite Lexus-like feel inside, with emissions as low as 86g/km – as well as claimed 74.3mpg fuel economy.

Audi A3 Sportback E-tron: £36,040The best new hybrid cars 2017

With CO2 emissions of 38g/km and a 1.4-litre engine, the Audi A3 Sportback E-tron is the Ingolstadt manufacturer’s answer to the Volkswagen Golf GTE. Only available in one trim level and with five doors, the plug-in hybrid Audi can travel up to 29 miles on electric power alone, while the ‘Audi Drive Select’ mode offers a choice of hybrid or electric-only power. An Audi app allows for charge level, electric range and car location monitoring, and LED exterior lighting makes sure the Sportback E-tron stands out from other versions of the German premium family hatchback.

Suzuki Ignis SZ5 1.2 Dualjet SHVS: £13,499The best new hybrid cars 2017

The dinky little Ignis has a cheeky look and character, plus, perhaps surprisingly, the option of a hybrid powertrain. The 1.2-litre engine develops the same 90hp as the other models in the range, but the SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) model’s uprated starter motor ensures faster scampering away from the traffic lights, while emissions drop from 106g/km to 97g/km. Fuel economy is an official 66mpg, and it’s all wrapped up in a stylish small SUV body. There’s even a 4×4 version.

BMW i8: £106,310 – £116,305The best new hybrid cars 2017

The slinky BMW i8 was arguably the world’s first ‘mainstream’ electrified sports car. From its impressive dihedral doors to its air-cheating sculpted rear wings and distinctive blue exterior highlights, the i8 looks every inch the performance car it is. The front-mounted 133hp electric motor and rear ‘TwinPower Turbo’ 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine combine to send the low-slung Bee-Em from 0-62mph in just 4.4 seconds, while emitting 49g/km and achieving a claimed 134.5mpg.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid: £16,195 – £19,295The best new hybrid cars 2017

Recently refreshed, the Toyota Yaris has the small hybrid market to itself. The only supermini to be fitted with a petrol-electric powertrain, the Yaris has a 101hp 1.5-litre VVT-i engine, which produces emissions between 75g/km to 82g/km, depending on trim. Aided by its 45kW electric motor and 6.5Ah nickel-metal hydride battery, Toyota claims its smallest hybrid can deliver fuel economy of between 78.4mpg and 85.6mpg. All petrol-electric Yaris models come with dual-zone automatic air conditioning and a push-button start system.

Ferrari LaFerrari: £1 millionThe best new hybrid cars 2017

OK, we’ve cheated a bit here. While the Toyota Yaris Hybrid sits at one end of the scale, at the other is the £1 million Ferrari LaFerrari. And while the Ferrari website still lists it, all 499 examples have been sold. Dubbed the Marenello maker’s ‘most ambitious project’, the Italian supercar hybrid takes technology from F1. Its 6,292cc V12 engine produces 800hp, while the electric motor produces an addition 163hp (120kW) for a combined system output of 963hp. That means up to708lb ft of torque and 0 to 62mph in ‘less than three seconds’.

Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid: £33,995The best new hybrid cars 2017

Unlike its Niro stablemate, the Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid, as its name suggests, can be ‘refilled’ with electricity by plugging it into either a home or public charge point, as well as a domestic socket. With emissions of 37g/km and claimed economy of up to 176.6mpg on the combined cycle, the Optima offers executive car comfort and sustainability thanks to its 2.0-litre GDi petrol engine and 9.8kWh battery.

Volkswagen Passat GTE: £37,015 – £40,670 (saloon), £38,615 – £42,270 (estate)The best new hybrid cars 2017

A rival to the Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid, the Volkswagen Passat GTE is the German manufacturer’s petrol-electric executive car. Emissions are 40g/km for both the GTE and higher-specification GTE Advance models, while the 156hp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and 85kW electric motor powertrain is good for 218hp. The benchmark 0-62mph sprint takes 7.5 seconds, while economy is a stated 156.9mpg. As with the Golf GTE, five driving modes allow a balance between performance and economy.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class C300h: £36,760 – £40,250 / Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350e: £39,480 – £40,990The best new hybrid cars 2017

One of the UK’s top 10 most popular cars, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class features two hybrid models in its range. Marrying a 204bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine to a 20kW/27hp electric motor, emissions for the C300h start at 94g/km in SE trim. However, the plug-in hybrid C350e beats that, its 214hp 2.0-litre petrol engine and 60kW/83hp electric motor good for just 48g/km. With 17-inch wheels, the C350e also qualifies for the government’s Plug-in Car Grant, which deducts up to £2,500 from its list price. There are estate versions of both diesel and petrol hybrid models, too.

Lexus RC 300h: £37,145 – £42,645The best new hybrid cars 2017

Lexus bills the RC 300h as the ‘world’s first luxury coupé powered by a full hybrid powertrain’. Developed on the fearsome Nürburgring racing circuit by the team behind the LFA supercar, its 2.5-litre petrol engine is allied to 105kW electric motor to deliver 226hp. Start/stop technology and exhaust heat recycling bring emissions and fuel consumption as low as 113g/km and 57.6mpg. Four driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ – mean the hybrid Lexus two-door can be both an economic cruiser or a modestly powerful performance machine.

New Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

New Ford GT – and other great cars that share its nameGT: two letters that mean so much in the car industry. The badge is primarily used to designate a grand tourer, but has been put to good use on mildly warm hatches or for when a GTi badge would promise something a car might not be able to deliver.

So, with the new Ford GT hitting the headlines, we trawled the archives in search of other famous GT cars. Note, this is a not an exhaustive list and we’ve steered clear of badge extensions, meaning you won’t find a GT-R, GTi, GTS or GTE here.

Porsche Carrera GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

When production of the Carrera GT ceased in 2006, Porsche concluded – with a certain degree of bravado – that it was “ the most successful supercar in history”. Its point was that, at 1,270 units, more Carrera GTs rolled out of the Leipzig production facility than the McLaren F1, Ferrari Enzo and Pagani Zonda combined.

OK, so 605hp and a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds might not seem like a big deal in an age of the Dodge Demon, but it was the way in which the Carrera GT went about its business that made the difference. The race-honed V10 engine makes a noise rivalled only by Thor gargling on a single malt Scotch.

Citroen AX GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The Citroen AX GT is unlikely to win a game of Top Trumps, unless the chosen category is ‘lightness’ or ‘risk of death in the event of an accident’. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fit to wear the GT badge, because the featherlight Citroen was one of the most exciting cars of the late 80s and early 90s.

Power was sourced from a 1.4-litre engine developing just 86hp, but it was mated to a body that tipped the scales at a mere 722kg. It meant that the AX GT could punch well beyond its weight, especially on a twisty B-road, where it could hold its own against more illustrious competition.

Ferrari 456 GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The GT badge is part of the furniture at Maranello, albeit more commonly with the addition of an extra letter. The 250 GTO, F355 GTS and 348 GTB are just three examples.

The 456 GT saw Ferrari return to the front-engine layout for the first time since the 365 GTB4 of 1968 and was, perhaps, one of the greatest grand tourers of the 1990s. A 2+2 coupe with the beating heart of a 5.4-litre 12-cylinder engine isn’t a bad form of transport for crossing a continent or two.

Opel GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

“Only flying is better,” proclaimed Opel when it launched the achingly beautiful GT. That it looked like a European Corvette was no accident, because the styling of contemporary Opel cars was heavily influenced by its American owners.

Underneath the GT you’d find the floorpan of a humble Kadett, while the fastback coupe body was built in France. The rotating headlights are superb, but although more than 100,000 GTs were built, none were right-hand drive. Shame.

Lamborghini 350 GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

For Lamborghini, this was where it all began. The 350 GT was an evolution of the earlier 350 GTV and was the first Lamborghini to be mass-produced. If Ferruccio Lamborghini’s sole aim was to stick a metaphorical two fingers up at Ferrari, he well and truly succeeded.

Carrozzeria Touring built 120 units, the majority of which were powered by a 3.5-litre 12-cylinder engine. Two Spyder versions were also built by the famous Italian coachbuilder. A 400 GT followed in 1966 and was the first proper 2+2 four-seat Lamborghini.

Toyota 2000GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

Is this the most beautiful car to emerge from Japan? You’d struggle to find anything better than the Toyota 2000GT, which was completed in prototype form by Yamaha in 1965. With Japan’s wealthy elite quick to open their wallets – shouting the equivalent of “take my money” – Toyota got involved with the next stage of development.

Yamaha was entrusted to tackle the production, with the first of these hand-built supercars arriving in 1967. Two open-top versions were created for use in the Bond movie, You Only Live Twice.

MGB GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The MGB was launched in 1962, but the Pininfarina-penned GT fastback wouldn’t arrive in 1965. It retained all of the handling characteristics of the roadster, with a raised windscreen height ensuring there was ample room in the cabin, at least in the front.

The MGB GT V8 arrived in 1973, right in the midst of the energy crisis. Timing is everything.

Audi Coupe GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The common or garden Audi Coupe arrived six months after the launch of the iconic Quattro and offered some of the styling for much less cash. OK, so the wide arches and ‘bahnstorming’ performance were absent, but the Coupe managed to cut a mean figure on the Audi forecourts of the land.

Select a Coupe GT with a five-cylinder engine and you could at least pretend to be Hannu Mikkola or Michele Mouton as you made your way home from the office.

Alfa Romeo GTNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

It’s a modern Alfa Romeo, so you know you’ll have to make one or two sacrifices in order to live with the GT, but it’d be worth it just to stare at it on your driveway.

When powered by the 3.2-litre V6 engine, the Alfa GT is more than capable of living up to the promise of both badges. A proper Alfa and a proper GT.

Renault 5 GT TurboNew Ford GT – and other great cars that share its name

The Renault 5 GT Turbo was a true hot hatch hero of the 1980s, able to hold its own against the might of the 205 GTi and Golf GTi. Key to its brilliance – aside from the turbocharged engine – was its lightness, with the GT Turbo tipping the scales at just 850kg.

Today, Renault uses the GT badge to denote its flagship models, as demonstrated by the Megane and Twingo. In truth, they can’t hold a candle to the French GTs of yesteryear.

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

From a slice of retro Japanese heaven for £500 to an Aston Martin for £1.25m, we’ve got a classic car to suit every pocket. Having scoured the online pages of Auto Trader, we’ve selected two cars per price bracket, providing an overview of what’s available to buy right now.

As usual, inclusion doesn’t represent an endorsement and cars are available at the time of writing.

Under £500: Mazda 323F – £499

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

While we accept that a 1989 Mazda 323F won’t be many people’s idea of a ‘dream car’, at this end of the market beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, it has pop-up headlights, which, being a Mazda, probably work.

The car has covered a mere 31,000 miles and, as the seller points out, there’s very little to go wrong. Stop dreaming, start driving.

£500 – £1,000: Toyota Celica – £999

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

Ah, this is more like it. The sixth generation Toyota Celica (ST200) was introduced in 1993 and is likely to be one of the most reliable coupes you can buy for £1,000. It might have been front-wheel drive, but in 2.0 GT guise it remains a thoroughly decent driver’s car.

This one has covered 169,000 miles, but the previous owner bought it brand new from Toyota.

£1,000 – £2,500: Audi Cabriolet – £1,695

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

If it’s good enough for Princess Diana…

In truth, this 1995 Audi Cabriolet doesn’t look as polished as Lady Di’s 2.3E, but then it’s not being offered with a royal price tag. In fact, about a grand and a half should secure this timeless – and classless – classic.

£2,500 – £5,000: Renault 4 – £3,250

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

Renault’s answer to the 2CV was actually more successful than the Citroen, thanks mainly to its practicality and huge opening tailgate. More than eight million Renault 4s were built before production ceased in 1992.

The fact that this 1984 example is accompanied by almost every invoice from new makes it rather appealing, as is the fact that it’s not immaculate. This means you can use it every day, safe in the knowledge that you’re simply adding to its patina.

£5,000 – £10,000: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III – £7,995

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

In 1995, Mitsubishi introduced the Lancer Evolution III, complete with a new 16G turbocharger. This meant the Evo III could call upon 270hp and 228lb ft of torque.

This GSR looks in great shape, although the MOT history suggests that it was off the road from 2011 until 2016. That would be worth investigating.

£10,000 – £15,000: Mercedes-Benz 350 SL – £14,990

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

R107 SL prices are only going one way, so now is the time to buy. Introduced in 1971, the R107 lived on until 1989, making it the second longest single series Mercedes-Benz ever built.

The yellow paint and brown interior is a classic 1970s combination, while the 3.5-litre V8 engine will provide effortless cruising potential.

£15,000 – £20,000: Bentley Turbo R – £14,950

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

The Turbo R was introduced in 1985, with a new Bosch fuel injection system helping to deliver more power than the outgoing Mulsanne Turbo. The Turbo R was also more of a driver’s car, encouraging owners to sit in the front, rather than relaxing in the back.

As a 1995 car, this Turbo R is one of the last off the line and benefits from the facelift of 1992. The 6.8-litre long-wheelbase Bentley is yours for little more than the price of an entry-level Kia Cee’d.

£20,000 – £25,000: Aston Martin DB7 – £24,995

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

If you’re looking to spend £25,000 on a good, useable Aston Martin you have two choices. Either buy a Cygnet or invest in a DB7. We know which option we’d take.

This 1995 DB7 benefits from a full Aston Martin service history and a manual gearbox.

£25,000 – £50,000: Ferrari Mondial 8 – £34,995

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

From a £25k Aston Martin to a £35k Ferrari. OK, so the Mondial 8 won’t top the shopping lists of many lottery winners, but it represents an affordable point of entry to the world of Ferrari.

We think that time has been kind to the much-maligned Mondial 8, not least because the Pininfarina styling is so of its day. This 1982 example comes complete with receipts totalling £30,000, which may or may not be a good thing.

£50,000 – £100,000: BMW 3.0 CSi – £59,995

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

The first of the BMW E9 coupes was the 2800 CS, but the model came of age in 1971 with the arrival of the fuel-injected 3.0 CSi. With 200hp on tap, the CSi could boast a top speed of 135mph and a 0-60mph time of sub eight seconds.

This looks like a fresh import, with the number plate surround suggesting that it has arrived from its native Germany. We’ll readily admit that we’re a little in love.

£100,000 – £250,000: Porsche 993 Turbo – £179,950

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

The Porsche 993 Turbo was a line in the sand moment for the 911, being the first of its kind to use twin-turbochargers and the first Turbo model to feature all-wheel drive. At launch, the 3.6-litre twin-turbo engine developed 408hp, although this was increased to 430hp in 1995 and 450hp in 1998.

This 1995 example has just 27,700 miles on the clock and has been owned by the same person since it was delivered new via Road Range in Liverpool. This is probably one of the most sought-after cars for sale on Auto Trader.

£250,000 – £500,000: Ferrari 512 BB – £349,950

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

The Ferrari 512 BB of 1976 was an evolution of the 365 GT4 BB, with a number of small details marking it out from its predecessor. There was also the small matter of a 4.9-litre 12-cylinder boxer engine developing 360hp.

The 1981 example for sale here is one of the last 512 BB models built before it made way for the less powerful 512 BBi. It has covered 21,000 miles and is available for just shy of £350,000.

£500,000 – £1,000,000: Ferrari F40 – £925,000

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

It needs no introduction, does it? This Ferrari F40 was the pin-up for a generation and remains one of the most important supercars of the 20th century.

None other than Eric Clapton owned this 1991 example, which has covered the equivalent of 6,750 miles.

£1,000,000+: Aston Martin DB4 – £1,250,000

Classics in the classifieds: dream cars for every budget

In this age of super-expensive cars, we’re a little surprised to find just one £1 million car on Auto Trader. And it’s this: a 1963 Aston Martin DB4.

The DB4 convertible was unveiled at the 1961 London Motor Show and only 70 were ever built.

The 20 most literal car names

The 20 most literal car namesThe history of the car is littered with car names of varying degrees of success. For every Interceptor and Thunderbird there’s a Grandland X and Probe.

But what about the most literal car names ever to grace a bootlid? We’ve assembled a list of 20 for your pleasure.

Skoda SuperbThe 20 most literal car names

“The name Superb has to be earned,” proclaimed Skoda in the book to accompany the launch of its third generation flagship model of the modern era. The Superb, you see, dates back to 1934, when its name reflected its class, sophistication and a wealth of technical innovation.

It’s fortunate that the current Superb is able to live up to its name. The alternatives, such as ‘Skoda Merely Adequate’ or ‘Skoda It’s Really Good But Some Folk Will Still Buy An Audi’, don’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Aston Martin RapideThe 20 most literal car names

Ah, the Rapide: a non-stop coach service – predominantly to London – with fewer seats, a hostess service and – wait for it – a toilet. Passengers had never had it so good on the National Express.

In truth, the Aston Martin Rapide would probably get to London Victoria faster than an MCW Metroliner, but you’d have to take your own jolly hostess for crisps and tea. The name dates back to the Lagonda Rapide of 1961.

Renault EspaceThe 20 most literal car names

The Renault Espace wasn’t the first MPV – rivals from America and Japan got there first – but it had the most influence on this new segment. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that Matra struggled to convince carmakers that a car-like people carrier had genuine potential.

With Peugeot and Citroen failing to see the light, Matra turned to Renault who accepted the idea. After a slow start, the Espace – which is French for ‘Space’ – struck a chord with European buyers and inspired a number of imitators. Twenty-three years on, the MPV seems to have had its day, as motorists turn to crossovers for their practical kicks.

MiniThe 20 most literal car names

The ‘Swinging Sixties’ was the decade of the mini. Opinions vary on who invented the miniskirt, but London designer Mary Quant did more than anyone to thrust the short skirt into the mainstream of popular culture. Then there’s the Mini, first introduced in 1959.

Alec Issigonis’ creation was a triumph of packaging and marketing, helped in no small part by the name. Mini is little more than a shortened ‘miniature’, ‘minimal’ or ‘minimum’, but it became the accepted word for anything small or reduced in size. Genius.

Austin MaxiThe 20 most literal car names

You could write what we know about fashion on the side of a Boden clutch bag, but we know that the maxi skirt reaches down to the ground. The floor length skirt became fashionable in the late 60s, embraced by hippies who shunned the more revealing miniskirt. Or maybe they didn’t have the legs for it.

Whatever, the Austin Maxi arrived in 1969 and was the final car designed by Alec Issigonis. Once again, the emphasis was on interior packaging, with the Maxi blessed with a commodious boot and rear seats that could fold in both directions. Issigonis’ final car was British Leyland’s first and it set the tone for a decade of mismanagement and missed opportunities.

Lamborghini CountachThe 20 most literal car names

Forty-six years since the Lamborghini Countach wowed the crowds at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, it still has the ability to turn heads and send jaws plummeting to the floor. While it couldn’t compete with the Miura in terms of beauty, it blitzed its predecessor in terms of theatre.

And that name is the work of brilliance. Countach, you see, is a Piedmontese expletive meaning “wow”, or perhaps something a little stronger.

BAC MonoThe 20 most literal car names

Mono is derived from the Greek mónos, meaning “alone, only, sole or single”. The perfect name for a track-focused single-seat car, then?

Briggs-Automotive Company – better known as BAC – certainly think so, which is why its lightweight race-car for the road is so-named. Other single-seat cars include the Lamborghini Egoista and Dodge Demon. Neither of which can claim a literal name.

Ferrari 812 SuperfastThe 20 most literal car names

Matchbox created the Superfast line in direct response to a new breed of free-wheeling rivals, most notably Hot Wheels. Keen to retain its crown as the king of the living room carpet, Matchbox introduced super-quick low-friction wheels and new, ‘faster’ colours.

The Superfast name works well when it’s attached to a brand of diecast models, but the jury is out when it comes to the Ferrari 812 Superfast. Not that the name is anything new – the 500 Superfast was introduced in 1964. How fast was it? Superfast…

Maserati QuattroporteThe 20 most literal car names

It’s universally accepted that everything sounds better in Italian. Monica Bellucci might be telling you that her drain is blocked with raw sewage and it’ll sound like she’s inviting you to play beach volleyball with her best friend Sophia.

“Il mio scarico è bloccato con acque reflue grezze” just sounds more alluring. Then there’s the Quattroporte, which is little more than Italian for ‘four doors’. Mi piace!

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport VitesseThe 20 most literal car names

The Vitesse name – which is French for ‘speed’ – rose to prominence in the 1960s with the go-faster version of the Triumph Herald. The name was reintroduced in the 1980s with the launch of the Rover SD1 Vitesse: an aggressive brute of a machine.

But if any car is able to live up the Vitesse tag, it has to be the Bugatti Veyron. In the Grand Sport Vitesse, Bugatti created the fastest and most powerful production roadster in the world. Top speed: 254.04mph.

Ferrari LaFerrariThe 20 most literal car names

Opinions vary as to whether or not LaFerrari is a good name, but you have to admire Ferrari’s bold approach. By calling it ‘The Ferrari’, Maranello is essentially saying that it has reached a peak – this is as good as it gets.

The question is, where does Ferrari go from here? When the LaFerrari is eclipsed – which it will be – what will it be called? ‘The Ferrari: Remastered’, perhaps. ‘The Ferrari: Reprise’, maybe. Then again, perhaps not.

Nissan S-CargoThe 20 most literal car names

The Nissan S-Cargo paid homage to the Citroen 2CV Fourgonnette and included a number of subtle references to the classic van. A single-spoke steering wheel and roll-back roof were just two of the references to the French utility vehicle.

Then there’s the name. Officially, S-Cargo is short for Small Cargo, but it sounds like escargot, which is French for snail. And ‘Tin Snail’ was the nickname given to the Citroen 2CV. Clever thinking, Nissan. And a neat van, too.

Toyota Land CruiserThe 20 most literal car names

Land Rover has a good track record of conjuring up cool names, with Defender, Discovery and Range Rover the most impressive. In terms of setting a scene, these cars score highly, but they’re eclipsed by the Toyota Land Cruiser.

The name was introduced in 1955, but the Land Cruiser’s origins lie in the Jeep BJ of 1951. The most capable model available in the UK is the Invincible. Toyota must have incredible faith in its product to label it such. No pressure…

Smart FortwoThe 20 most literal car names

In 2013, Bernstein Research produced a list of the most loss-making European cars of modern times. Sitting pretty at the top of the table was the original Smart Fortwo, which delivered a €3.35 billion loss for Mercedes-Benz, almost double that of the A-Class.

It’s fair to say that Mercedes-Benz won’t remember 1997 with a great deal of fondness. On the plus side, the Fortwo was and remains a great name. A small car for two people, joined by the Forfour: a larger car for four people. Bravo. Doesn’t help with those lost billions, mind.

Citroen DSThe 20 most literal car names

These days, carmakers are unable to launch new cars without a series of teaser images, carefully-worded press releases and a huge dollop of hype. Citroen did things differently, and the DS was kept under wraps until its debut at the 1955 Paris Motor Show.

Unquestionably, the Citroen DS was one of the most significant cars of the 20th century, but it was also blessed with one of the most inspired names. DS is a pun based on ‘Déesse’, which is the French word for ‘Goddess’.

MG MidgetThe 20 most literal car names

Times change, and while Midget might have been a perfectly acceptable name for a sports car in the 60s and 70s, the same wouldn’t be true today. Indeed, according to Little People of America, “the word ‘midget’ is considered a derogatory slur”.

We had a look through the archives for alternatives, which include ‘Hop-o’-My-Thumb’ and ‘Dandiprat’. Whilst not great, they’re preferable to Grandland X, Kadjar and F-Pace.

Hyundai CoupeThe 20 most literal car names

When all else fails and the ‘Generator-o-Names’ refuses to play ball, it’s time to throw caution to the wind and chuck any creativity out of the window. Which is how Hyundai must have stumbled upon Coupe for its, er, coupe.

In fairness, the Coupe was known as the Tiburon and Tuscani in other markets, but it’s hardly the most appealing name. That said, the earlier model was known as the Scoupe: a combination of ‘sporty’ and ‘coupe’. And nothing at all to do with portions of ice cream.

Ferrari TestarossaThe 20 most literal car names

The 250 Testa Rossa, which completed its first race in 1957, was one of the most successful competition Ferraris in the history of the company. The name, quite literally, means ‘Red Head’, a reference to the red-painted camshaft covers.

In 1984, the name reappeared, this time in the form of the Testarossa, which once again featured the red-painted covers.

Mitsubishi MinicabThe 20 most literal car names

The Mitsubishi Minicab is a range of light commercial vehicles sold in Japan since 1966. As kei trucks, they’re powered by small engines housed in very small cabs, hence the Minicab name.

In 2011, Mitsubishi introduced an electric version, known as the Minicab MiEV.

Renault Le CarThe 20 most literal car names

The Renault 5 made its North American debut in 1976, marketed as Le Car by Renault. Contemporary ads positioned it as the ‘Le City Car’, whilst claiming that, “In Europe, nearly two million people drive Le Car with passion.”

As for the name, ‘Le Car’ means ‘The Bus’. We’re not sure ‘La Voiture’ would have caught on in America.

20 seriously cool family cars

20 seriously cool family carsBeing practical doesn’t necessarily mean having to give up your street cred. When the time comes to transport a growing family, there are ways and means to resist the slide into blandness. These 20 cars prove that you can achieve domestic bliss, yet still gain envious glances in the supermarket car park.

1982 Peugeot 505 Familiale20 seriously cool family cars

Notable for being Peugeot’s last rear-wheel-drive production car, the 505 was produced in various forms between 1978 and 1999. With more than 1.3 million sold, it must have done something right, but the version we’re interested in is the ‘Familiale’. Introduced at the 1982 Geneva Motor Show, this estate offered seating for up to eight thanks to a folding third-row bench. Oh, and the styling was a collaboration with Pininfarina, which clearly ratchets up the cool points.

1984 Renault Espace20 seriously cool family cars

Often cited as being the first real MPV, the original Espace landed in 1984 after a lengthy and tumultuous gestation period. Designed by Chrysler UK to replace the uncool Talbot Rancho, it then ended up in the hands of PSA Peugeot Citroen. Finally, via Matra, the Espace went on sale badged as a Renault. Its fibreglass body was novel, but customers took time to warm to the radical styling. Today, if you can find one, it would make a suitably leftfield family transporter.

1986 Mercedes-Benz W124 E-Class Estate20 seriously cool family cars

Get ready to tick off the typical Mercedes-Benz list of clichés with the W124 E-Class. Yes, this estate is from the time when Mercedes models were associated with ‘vault-like’ build quality and ‘bulletproof’ reliability. Most significant was the option of seven seats, courtesy of a rear-facing third row that folded flat into the boot floor. This combination of space, plus the ability to rack up galactic mileage, means the W124 wagon still commands strong prices.

1957 Chevrolet Nomad20 seriously cool family cars

Proving that family transportation was cool more than six decades ago, the Nomad was related to the iconic Chevy Bel Air. Featuring a two-door shooting brake design with a split two-piece tailgate, the Nomad offered practicality and good looks. For 1957, it gained the option of the wondrously named ‘Super Turbo Fire V8’ with 283hp from this cutting-edge fuel-injected engine. Only sold for three years, you’ll need at least $45,000 (£35,000) to rock this retro-cool look.

1959 Ford Country Squire20 seriously cool family cars

Proving that car manufacturers were doing ‘lifestyle’ photoshoots long before the Lycra-clad 1990s, it’s the 1959 Ford Country Squire. This particular car featured push-button lifestyle accessories, with a roof-mounted boat that flipped over to reveal a tent beneath. There was even an electric fridge in the boot. The Country Squire soldiered on as part of the Ford range until 1990 when America fell out of love with the station wagon. In case you’re wondering, the woodgrain trim was fake – and had been since 1953.

1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer20 seriously cool family cars

Another car guilty of the fake veneer treatment was one that can legitimately claim to be the first premium SUV. Introduced in 1963 by the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, the Wagoneer had an upmarket interior that set it apart from other 4×4 models at the time. By 1991, and under the control of Chrysler, the last few Grand Wagoneers were even more luxurious and better equipped. Accordingly, they attract premium prices from collectors.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk20 seriously cool family cars

Jeep hasn’t forgotten how to produce cool family machines since the Wagoneer, although the brand-new Trackhawk is desirable for slightly different reasons. Taking the 707hp 6.2-litre supercharged V8 engine from the Dodge Challenger Hellcat and mating it to a 4WD system means 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds. Top speed is an equally ridiculous 180mph.Plus, you can set the suspension and gearbox to ‘Track mode’ should you want to get impress at the race circuit. Sick bags don’t appear on the options list, but at least the leather upholstery will be wipe-clean.

1998 Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon20 seriously cool family cars

Cool doesn’t necessarily mean fast or stylish. In fact, for family transport, automotive chic can be as simple as dependability in the most extreme situations. With a lineage that stretches back to 1951, the Land Cruiser has built a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness. Just ask Land Rover what it did for their export sales in places like Australia. The J100 Amazon, introduced in 1998, could be had with a 4.7-litre V8 engine, and offers a sense of quiet confidence when tackling the school run.

2000 Volkswagen Sharan 2.8 VR620 seriously cool family cars

Much like this decade has been defined by the SUV, the 1990s were the era of the MPV. Offerings like the Sharan – and its Ford Galaxy/SEAT Alhambra sisters – were the answer to almost every family problem. Even the need to drive a seven-seater MPV, with a 2.8-litre 201hp narrow-angle V6 engine, was covered. Picking the VR6 still only meant 0-60mph in 10.6 seconds, but fuel economy dropped to a faintly ridiculous 22mpg. A small price to pay for transporting your kids with a six-cylinder soundtrack?

2001 Vauxhall Zafira GSi20 seriously cool family cars

The first-generation Zafira suffers from something of an image problem, perhaps not helped by Vauxhall’s TV adverts with Griff Rhys Jones. But in 2001, Vauxhall launched the sporty GSi version, with a 189hp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine from the Astra. A 0-60mph sprint of 7.5 seconds, combined with relatively subtle styling, make this something of a Q-car. If you can cope with the badge snobbery…

2006 SEAT Altea FR TFSI20 seriously cool family cars

Rarer and even more random than the Zafira, the Altea FR TFSI offers a fleeting chance that buying a compact MPV doesn’t mean giving up completely. Not only does it feature styling by Walter de Silva – he of Alfa Romeo 156 fame – but the FR had the option of a 197hp 2.0-litre TFSI engine. That’s the very same engine that powered the Mk5 Golf GTI, to much acclaim from journalists and enthusiasts alike. FR spec also means sports suspension, meaning this Altea handles better than you might imagine.

2006 Ford S-Max 2.5 Titanium20 seriously cool family cars

However, the title of ultimate performance MPV must go to the original Ford S-Max. Using the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine from the Focus ST, its 216hp output means 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds and top speed of 143mph. Add a five-cylinder warble, seven seats and impressive handling, and the S-Max becomes quite a desirable package. It also proved popular with numerous police forces, adding an extra layer of coolness.

1995 Volvo 850 T-5R

20 seriously cool family cars

Also beloved of the constabulary, the 850 T-5R was a worrying presence in the rear-view mirror of many motorway drivers. Created as Volvo went through a period of reinvention, the T-5R was a limited edition that used a 245hp 2.3-litre turbocharged engine. Although offered in estate and saloon body styles, the wagon was infinitely cooler – not least because of the 850 estate campaigned in the British Touring Car Championship.

2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX Wagon20 seriously cool family cars

Not officially sold outside of Japan, and created in limited numbers, the Evo IX Wagon is an opportunity to transport your family in a unique machine. Only 2,500 were built, melding the Evo IX saloon chassis to bodywork from the regular Lancer estate, with extensive additional welding and strengthening. Power was unchanged at 276hp, as was the full-time 4WD system with active centre differential. Tracking down an import might not be easy, but will be worth it.

2006 Audi B7 RS4 Avant20 seriously cool family cars

Flared wheelarches, Audi build quality and a 4.2-litre V8 engine that also saw service in the original R8 supercar. Not a bad place to start for a five-door estate, and such qualities made the RS4 a genuine challenger to the BMW M3. A rear-biased Quattro drivetrain offered slip and security in equal measure, while 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds is more than fast enough for a family wagon.

2007 BMW E60 M5 Touring20 seriously cool family cars

In the early 2000s, BMW established a reputation for building the most powerful V10 engines in Formula 1. Although they never took a World Championship against a dominant Ferrari team, BMW still won plaudits for its 10-cylinder powerplant. Seeking to capitalise on this, it equipped the E60 M5 with a 5.0-litre V10 producing 500hp. A semi-automatic gearbox allowed drivers to live out their inner Juan Pablo Montoya fantasies, with launch control offering lightning-fast getaways from a standing start. Today it looks almost subtle but, to those in the know, this is an achingly cool machine.

2017 SEAT Leon ST Cupra 30020 seriously cool family cars

Despite the love for crossovers and SUVs, compact estate cars have seen a renaissance in recent years. The SEAT Leon ST has proven to be very popular, not least because of striking good looks, strong equipment levels and decent value. Top of the tree is the Cupra 300, which makes, as the name suggests, 300hp from its 2.0-litre turbo engine. Consider the Cupra 300 a cut-price version of the Golf R Estate and it makes a surprising amount of sense, with even the option of 4WD on the cards.

2004 Subaru Forester STi20 seriously cool family cars

If 4WD really is a necessity for your family needs, how about another import-only Japanese creation? With the 2.5-litre flat-four boxer engine from the Impreza WRX STi, this second-generation Forester made 265hp. That’s good enough for 0-62mph in around 5.0 seconds, with Brembo brakes and tuned suspension to keep everything in check. Fuel economy might not be family-friendly, at 25mpg or less, but just remind yourself that you’re buying a practical estate with rally pedigree.

2016 Audi RS Q3 Performance20 seriously cool family cars

Should you want retro-rally ancestry in your family car, the RS Q3 could be the choice for you. The five-cylinder turbocharged engine sounds like those used in the wild Group B Quattro rally cars of the 1980s, even if the RS Q3 has to make to do with only 362hp. Performance specification brings cool-looking titanium alloy wheels and blue Alcantara seats. But ultimately you’re buying it for the noise made by the giant oval tailpipe.

2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI five-door20 seriously cool family cars

If a hot hatch is meant to be all things to all people, the Golf GTI is surely the ultimate expression of that. It’s classless yet classy, desirable but affordable, and as practical as a regular Golf hatchback. Does family motoring get cooler than this? The latest GTI is an absolute corker, with 230hp on tap from its 2.0-litre turbo motor. Make sure you keep it five-door and you’ll have a car that’s as usable as any normal family hatchback, but with a badge that truly means something.

Auction specialist names top 6 best-investment cars

Best investment carsWithout the benefit of hindsight and a crystal ball, it’s almost impossible to predict which classic cars will rocket in value in the coming years. However, a little specialist advice can go a long way, which is why we turned to expert Michael Squire for help.

As car specialist at RM Sotheby’s, Michael sees some of the world’s most prestigious vehicles pass through the auction houses of Europe. So he’s well placed to spot the latest trends and emerging classics.

Modern classics are certainly the order of the day, as highlighted by the prices being achieved by certain fast Fords, selected Porsche models and the Peugeot 205 GTI. Michael expects this trend to continue.

“The outlook is generally good, low-production models of the 80s and 90s continue to set world records, while cars of earlier periods have taken a breath. This is very much a continuing trend of the past year or so.

“As buyers have become more informed they’ve also become more astute in terms of buying quality examples and being prepared to pay for them. In contrast to this, average examples have become a little less saleable, and the value gap between the two will continue to grow.”

We asked Michael to name his top six cars for investment potential, with different price brackets to ensure there’s something to suit all pockets.

Up to £25,000: Lotus ElanBest investment cars

The original Lotus Elan of 1962 was a revelation and a revolution. Of all the cars to roll out of the Hethel factory, the Elan is perhaps the one that is most faithful to Colin Chapman’s ‘Simplify, then add lightness’ philosophy.

It was lightweight, meaning Lotus could extract the maximum potential from the Ford-sourced 1,558cc twin-cam engine, while the race-spec wishbone suspension was a huge leap forward in an age of live rear axles.

In so many ways, the Lotus Elan provided the blueprint for all future roadsters, to the extent that Mazda based the original MX-5 on Norfolk’s finest. Even today, few sports cars are as pin-sharp and responsive as the tiny Elan.

The £25k budget won’t stretch to a standard Elan or a Sprint, but you should be able to find the larger, but no less engaging Elan Plus Two.

£25,000 – £50,000: Mitsubishi Evo VI or Subaru Impreza P1 or RB5Best investment cars

Homologation specials have always been in demand, but Michael Squire believes two Japanese icons are set for a surge in value.

Available for just two years at the turn of the millennium, the Mitsubishi Evo VI was powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine producing 276hp, although it was incredibly easy to extract a monster amount of power with the help of aftermarket tuners.

As Michael points out, the key to wise investment is to find an original car, especially if it’s a Tommi Makinen edition, considered by many to be the holy grail of Evo specials.

The Evo’s arch-nemesis is, of course, the Subaru Impreza, with Michael referencing two special editions as being good investments. The P1 was the UK’s first official two-door Impreza, with Subaru turning to Provide to produce 1,000 units.

Alternatively, Michael points to the RB5 as another Impreza with investment potential. A mere 444 models were built to celebrate the return of Richard Burns to Subaru’s rally team. Exclusivity, and the link to a British motorsport legend, should ensure prices start to rise.

£50,000 – £100,000: Sunbeam Tiger (preferably MkII)Best investment cars

More than a few eyebrows were raised when Rootes decided to squeeze a 4.2-litre Ford V8 engine into the Sunbeam Alpine. Even taking into account the success of the AC Cobra, this seemed like an unlikely pairing.

The result was the Sunbeam Tiger, which looked like a standard Alpine, aside from the wider wheels and Tiger badges. Although the suspension and steering were modified, this wasn’t enough to create a razor-sharp sports car.

An improved MkII version arrived in 1967, complete with a larger 4.7-litre engine, by which time Chrysler had taken control of the Rootes Group. The writing was on the wall for the Tiger, with Chrysler unable to replace the Ford engine.

Only 12 right-hand-drive MkIIs were ever built, which is why the investment potential for this model is so strong.

£100,000 – £250,000: Porsche 996 GT3 RSBest investment cars

“Porsche is the most discussed of all the marques at the moment. RM Sotheby’s in particular has produced some extraordinary results for the marque recently, especially for rare and very original examples of the 90s,” said Michael.

The 996 GT3 RS arrived in 2003 with a price tag of £84,230. It used the same 3.6-litre flat-six engine as the 911 GT3, but while the power output was the same, the difference between the two was kreide und käse.

It was 50kg lighter – 70kg if you opted for ceramic brakes – while a host of homologation touches and a white-tube rollcage meant that it felt every inch the track-day car for the road. Only 682 were ever built, making it one of the most sought-after and rarest 911s in the world.

£250,000 – £500,000: Ex-Le Mans Ferrari GTsBest investment cars

We’re entering deep pocket territory here, with Michael Squire suggesting that ex-Le Mans Ferrari GT cars are likely to go up in value.

This includes cars such as the Ferrari F430 GT2, which was based on the road car and designed to compete in international GT2 class competition, such as Le Mans, American Le Mans and the FIA GT Championship.

Alternatively, assuming you have the funds, you might wish to consider the 360 GTC. It was developed in collaboration with Michelotto Automobili, with composite bodywork helping the it tip the scales at just 1,100kg. Power was sourced from a 3.6-litre V8 developing 450hp.

£500,000+: Pagani Zonda – any of them, if you can find oneBest investment cars

The Pagani Zonda doesn’t appear in too many auction catalogues, hence Michael’s remark about finding one. Annoyingly, when a Zonda is for sale via a dealer, it’s usually accompanied by a ‘POA’ notice. If you have to ask the price…

But what advice does Michael have for anyone hoping to attend a classic car auction for the first time? Whether you’re after an Elan or a Zonda, the same principles apply.

“If you’re interested in buying at an auction and you’re unsure as to the process then contact the auction house, especially if you have questions about a car. In order for you to bid, you will need to register beforehand so give yourself plenty of time to do this, and most of all read the terms and conditions,” advises Michael.

RM Sotheby’s next auction is Villa Erba on 27th May, held in association with the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como. So far, none of the cars listed by Michael appear in the catalogue, although a 2014 LaFerrari is set to go under the hammer.

21 great 21st century car designs

21 great 21st century car designsWe might be less than two decades into the new millennium, but automotive design has already moved on apace. We’ve picked out 21 cars that demonstrate truly great design since the year 2000. Not every car here is conventionally beautiful, but each showcases innovation, creativity, or the ability to tap into what buyers really desire. Of course, some are also here because they look too good to ignore.

2000 MINI Cooper21 great 21st century car designs

Remember the year 2000? The future was here, everything seemed to be painted silver and BMW had rid itself of the Rover brand. But it kept hold of the jewel in the crown: MINI. Setting the scene for design trends to follow, the R50 MINI Cooper was unashamedly retro, taking elements of the Alec Issigonis original to create a bigger, more modern machine.

Frank Stephenson was responsible for the design, and used classic Mini features such as the chrome grille, white wheels and contrasting roof to make the new car instantly recognisable. A central speedometer, combined with toggle switches, ensured the interior was equally retro-influenced. Although it didn’t push packaging boundaries like the original, it did prove to be hugely successful (and profitable) for BMW.

2001 Renault Avantime21 great 21st century car designs

At the turn of the millennium, Renault was in a buoyant mood, pushing its brand towards cutting-edge modernism. Along with the slightly more conventional Vel Satis, the Avantime was Patrick Le Quément’s vision of where Renault should go. But buyers weren’t really interested in making that journey, and only 8,500 were willing to buy one.

With a name that means ‘ahead of time’ the Avantime was just too leftfield, and lasted less than three years in production. Yet its pillarless one-box construction was ingenious, with special double hinges for the giant doors and a button that would retract all the windows and sunroof at once. Good design pushes boundaries, and there is no denying the Avantime did that.

2002 Ford GT40 concept car21 great 21st century car designs

Current focus is on the new Ford GT, but travel back 15 years and the 2002 Detroit Auto Show saw the launch of a special GT40 concept car. Intended to celebrate Ford’s centenary, the design was slavish in recreating the GT40 racer from the 1960s, albeit taller than the 40-inch height of the original. Public reaction was overwhelming, and a production version was prepared virtually unaltered.

Ford was unable to agree terms with the owner of the GT40 name, meaning finished versions would simply be titled ‘GT’. Other changes for the production cars included the addition of a rear bumper to meet impact tests, plus only one fuel filler cap instead of two. While it may have borrowed wholesale from the original GT40, the 2002 concept was unquestionably beautiful.

2003 BMW E60 5 Series21 great 21st century car designs

It might seem a little hard to believe, but maybe we were all wrong about Chris Bangle and his tenure as BMW’s chief of design. The E60 5 Series was met with scorn and derision by many, appearing far too radical in looks compared to the previous E39 version. Sharp creases, wraparound headlights and that tailgate all seemed to be very un-BMW like.

But look at the E60 now. This design is almost 15 years old, yet still manages to look modern and, whisper it, actually quite handsome. Over 1.3 million examples were sold between 2003 and 2009, suggesting buyers couldn’t have hated it as much as we were led to believe. Chris Bangle, we’re sorry – you got this one right.

2003 Porsche Carrera GT21 great 21st century car designs

The Carrera GT was the fortunate by-product of Porsche finding itself with a race-spec V10 engine, but no suitable home for it. The motor made its way into the Carrera GT concept car, shown at the 2000 Paris Motor Show. Following a positive reception, Porsche planned a limited production run for the Carrera GT, featuring a 612hp version of the 5.7-litre V10.

With a monocoque chassis built from pure carbon fibre, carbon ceramic brake discs and carbon fibre body panels, the Carrera GT was primarily a lesson in lightweight construction. Styling was dictated by the need to resemble the rest of the Porsche model range, but also incorporate the cooling needs of the V10, along with aerodynamic stability and performance. The result was a hypercar that looks relatively subtle compared to more recent creations, but it was brutally effective.

2004 Alfa Romeo 15921 great 21st century car designs

Everyone remembers the Alfa 156. It won European Car of the Year in 1998, gained praise for the clever hidden rear door handle, and featured a distinctive off-centre number plate. This made life hard for the 159 that had to follow it in 2004. Famed Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro was the man tasked with the styling job, and he was clearly undaunted by the task at hand.

With direct influences from the Brera concept car of 2002, the 159 retained the central V-shaped grille and off-centre number plate from the 156. Giugiaro produced a cohesive and distinctly Alfa design, while also incorporating the need to make the car larger. Platform development squabbles between Fiat and General Motors would hamper the finished product, but the 159 remained an elegant saloon – on the outside at least.

2004 Aston Martin DB921 great 21st century car designs

If you have ever complained that all new Aston Martins look the same, then the DB9 is the genesis of that design philosophy. Henrik Fisker’s work would go on to also inspire the V8 Vantage, Rapide, and various other cars also derived from the DB9. That the design was able to continue virtually unaltered until 2016 testament to how right Fisker was in the first place.

The DB9 did without aggressive spoilers and wings, reflecting its GT car nature. Classic Aston Martin elements like the front grille were incorporated into an elegant body. The car gained a unique ‘Sub Zero’ spot on the Top Gear ‘cool wall’, helping cement its place as a design icon.

2004 Chrysler 300C21 great 21st century car designs

Channelling the ‘Forward Look’ styling language of the Chrysler 300 range from the 1950s, the 300C was another unashamed retro recreation. A huge grille, shallow glasshouse and slab sides endowed the 300C with imposing street presence. More impressive was that it managed to be accepted on both sides of the Atlantic – something American cars have rarely achieved.

So popular was the 300C when launched that it racked up a range of celebrity endorsements. Famous 300C owners included Barack Obama, Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre and Ice Cube, and the car became a staple of hip-hop music videos. We’ll gloss over the trend for owners to replace the regular grille with a Bentley-badged one, however.

2004 Volkswagen Mk5 Golf GTI21 great 21st century car designs

After the criticism of the Mk3 and Mk4 versions of the Golf GTI, Wolfsburg hit back in 2004 with a car that truly lived up to the legacy of the original hot hatch. A comprehensive mechanical overhaul underneath the bodywork helped the Mk5 GTI drive as it should, but the intelligent design changes made it look like it belonged. Honeycomb mesh filled the bumper inserts, while a red stripe paid homage to the grille of the iconic Mk1.

Standard fit 17-inch Monza alloy wheels, along with black plastic side skirts, sharpened up the side profile, while the rear bumper featured twin exhaust tailpipes and a subtle spoiler. Inside, the return of tartan cloth trim made certain there was no confusing the GTI for a lesser Golf.

2006 Audi R821 great 21st century car designs

What makes the Audi R8 an iconic design? The fact it shows the confidence of the brand to produce a mid-engined supercar, capable of taking the fight to established rivals like Ferrari and Porsche. The R8 borrowed heavily from the Audi RSQ concept, featured in the 2004 film I, Robot, although obviously it lacked the spherical wheels used in the movie…

Most notable in the design of the R8 were the ‘side blades’ fitted behind the trailing edge of the doors. Offered in a number of finishes, they broke up the flank of the supercar and stopped it appearing like a generic mid-engined machine. They also served a functional role as air intakes for the V8 or V10 engines. Now into its second-generation, the R8 cemented the premium market position of the Audi brand.

2006 Dodge Challenger concept21 great 21st century car designs

Many cars since the turn of the millennium have used retro touches and influences. However, for the Challenger concept, Dodge went all-out, recreating the classic 1970 R/T model in an almost exact likeness. From the overall shape of the body to details like the quad headlights and front indicators, this was a slavish reproduction. Yet reconstructing one of the most iconic muscle cars can hardly be considered a bad idea.

After being shown at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show, Dodge released the production Challenger in 2008, with minimal alterations from the concept machine. The Challenger Concept was also important for playing a part in the muscle car revival of the late 2000s. With Ford and Chevrolet releasing ‘retro-futuristic’ interpretations of classic muscle cars, a previously dormant segment was recreated for those who could previously only dream of owning an original from the 1960s.

2007 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione21 great 21st century car designs

This may well be the most achingly beautiful car on our list. Long of nose, short of tail, and wearing a classic Alfa V-shaped grille, we’ll forgive you if you linger over images of the 8C Competizione for a little longer than most. Originally shown at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show, it took until 2007 for the 500 lucky customers to start receiving their completed cars.

Despite the Italian style, the 8C Competizione was actually created by a German designer – Wolfgang Egger. Under its lengthy bonnet was a Ferrari/Maserati 4.7-litre V8 engine, producing 450hp and an incredible sound. In all honesty, it could have been powered by a 1.0-litre diesel with 50hp and we’d still be begging to have one.

2007 Fiat 50021 great 21st century car designs

More than 1.5 million Fiat 500s have been sold globally, 250,000 of them in the UK alone. Yet dismissing the new 500 as an obvious choice ignores the fact it has been significantly responsible for propping up the Fiat brand, through faithfully copying the original 1957 car. It’s worth noting that Frank Stephenson, he of MINI Cooper fame, was responsible for creating the finished production version.

The design of the new 500 is not without merit, picking up the city car prize for the World’s Most Beautiful Automobile in 2007, along with the European Car of the Year award in 2008 and World Car Design of the Year in 2009. Whatever your opinion on the 500, that is a substantial set of awards for a car that shares underpinnings with the humble Fiat Panda. It does mean owners should probably stop adding eyelashes to the headlights, though.

2007 Maserati GranTurismo21 great 21st century car designs

The mid-2000s clearly experienced something of an Italian design renaissance, as we notch up another car from bel paese. Styled by American Jason Castriota while he was working for that most Italian of design houses, Pininfarina, the GranTurismo melded modern and classic styling features. Most notable is the gaping front grille, which wears the Maserati trident emblem.

Beneath a curvaceous design that hides the sheer size of the GranTurismo, the four-seater coupe shares many of its mechanical parts with the fifth-generation Quattroporte saloon. That includes its V8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, helping the GranTurismo tip the scales at nearly 1,900kg.

2009 Ferrari 458 Italia21 great 21st century car designs

Following on from the F430, which looked a little soft, the 458 Italia was Ferrari at full modern aggression. With design elements like the extended headlights that appeared to take influence from Japanese machinery, the 458 Italia brought the mid-engined supercar bang up to date.

That said, features like the exhaust system with three tailpipes paid homage to the F40, while round taillights continued a mid-engined Ferrari styling feature present since the 1975 308 GTB. Unlike its historic predecessors, the 458 Italia also had to contend with the need for advanced aerodynamics. Deformable winglets inside the front bumper would reduce in size to cut drag at high speed, helping the 458 achieve more than 200mph.

2010 Lexus LFA21 great 21st century car designs

Created by a single-minded desire to produce a halo model to demonstrate the abilities of the Lexus brand, the LFA had free reign to achieve iconic status. Performance was the key factor in shaping it, but the devotion to speed created a car with uniquely stunning looks. Carbon fibre was used extensively, allowing shapes that would not have been possible with metal construction.

Like the Ferrari 458, the LFA also featured three exhaust tailpipes, but stacked vertically. Hidden door handles kept the sides smooth, while even the wing mirrors were designed for aerodynamic optimisation. Lexus admits that a replacement for the LFA is unlikely in the near future, cementing the uniqueness of it as a 21st century design.

2011 Range Rover Evoque21 great 21st century car designs

As the smallest model in the Range Rover line-up, the Evoque had a tough brief. It needed to appear a premium product, but be accessible and affordable for urban buyers. A clamshell bonnet and floating roof were key styling elements borrowed from the bigger Range Rover. The use of lightweight aluminium and composite construction helped the Evoque retain a respectable kerb weight for a crossover SUV.

Even before going on sale, Land Rover had attracted some 18,000 pre-orders for the Evoque. Being crowned ‘Best Production Car’ at the 2010 Car Design News awards, along with the 2012 World Car Design of the Year prize, demonstrates how the Evoque was loved by industry critics as well as customers. Despite being some six years old, the Evoque still looks cutting-edge. Although let’s not talk about the convertible version…

2011 Volkswagen Up21 great 21st century car designs

Volkswagen learned a hard lesson after replacing the much-loved Lupo with the Brazilian-built Fox. Whilst buyers might want a VW city car to be affordable, they also want it to at least look expensive. The Up achieved that, with strong lines and a tailgate made from a single piece of glass – a feature borrowed from the Up concept first shown in 2007. This would also mark the Up out against its badge-engineered SEAT and Skoda brethren.

In fact, the Up’s styling replicated the concept car almost unchanged. Underneath, however, it ditched the rear-mounted flat-four engine for a conventional front-wheel-drive setup. The finished Up would take the 2012 World Car of the Year prize, beating both the BMW 3 Series and Porsche 911 in the final round of voting.

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus21 great 21st century car designs

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche is quoted as saying that “design is not simply art, it is elegance of function” and as the man responsible for the shape of the 911, he knew a thing or two about styling. Such a notion also justifies the inclusion of the C4 Cactus on this list. No, it may not be the most conventionally attractive car here, but a devotion to practicality means it stands out in a crowded crossover market.

Cactus buyers are rewarded with clever features like the Airbumps found on the side panels, which not only look cool, but also absorb impacts from shopping trolleys and other car doors. Citroen has also built the Cactus with low weight in mind, making it more fun to drive than you might expect from a utilitarian family machine. It might upset your neighbours in some colour choices, but it lives up to the idea of being elegantly functional.

2015 Jaguar F-Pace21 great 21st century car designs

The lure of the SUV is inescapable for contemporary car manufacturers, but there is still a need to ensure it looks like it’s part of the family. Many have tried, but it isn’t an easy task. Just try recalling the first-generation Porsche Cayenne… Thankfully, Jaguar possesses a truly talented designer in Ian Callum, meaning the F-Pace had the best possible start in life. So not only does it look like a Jaguar, but it looks good full-stop.

Ian Callum has led the transition of Jaguar from stuffy traditionalism to contemporary modernism, being responsible for cars such as the XF, XE and the F-Type. The F-Pace borrows features from those three models, with rear lights inspired by the F-Type being the most obvious element used. Becoming the fastest selling car in the history of the Jaguar brand suggests Mr Callum got it right with this one.

2016 Volvo V9021 great 21st century car designs

In a world where everything seems to be an SUV or crossover, there is something reassuring about a big estate car. Combine that with ideas of Scandinavian cool and Volvo safety, and the V90 becomes really rather desirable. Having it on your drive means you can pretend to have watched Scandi-noir dramas like The Bridge and Wallander without suffering hours of subtitles.

The S90 saloon version came first, but that somehow isn’t as chic or stylish as the big wagon. The V90 isn’t, admittedly, as practical as previous giant Volvo estates, trading boot space for style. But that’s hardly a Scandinavian crime, and means the V90 can rightfully take its place here as truly great 21st century design.

Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Star-spangled, no bangers: 25 important American cars

Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American carsAlthough America may not have invented the car, nevertheless the country embraced it as if it had. We’ve picked 25 cars that celebrate what the United States has proudly contributed to the world of motoring.


More American cars on Motoring Research:


1908 Ford Model TStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Produced for 19 years, and with 15 million examples built, the Ford Model T still remains one of the best-selling cars of all time. It also represents one of the few cars that became cheaper as time passed, dropping from $825 in 1909 to just $260 in 1925.

What made the Model T significant, and cheap, was Henry Ford’s adoption and refinement of the modern assembly line. Efficiency savings meant the time needed to build a Model T reduced from some 12.5 hours, to just 90 minutes. Passing on the savings to customers opened up the potential for car ownership to become an affordable reality.

1932 Ford three-window coupeStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Ask any hot rodder which is one of the most sought after cars to customise, and the 1932 Ford will be guaranteed to be top of the list. In particular, the clean lines of the rarer three-window coupe are the most desirable – note that the front windscreen isn’t included in the window count.

The Beach Boys song and album ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ was named after the three-window Ford, whilst it also made an appearance in the iconic street racing movie ‘American Graffiti’. Despite a short production period, the 1932 Ford models made a big contribution to car culture.

1941 Willys MB ‘Jeep’Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

For those who don’t care too much about cars, the word ‘Jeep’ is virtually synonymous for any kind of four-wheel drive off-road vehicle. Although the US Army had developed 4WD vehicles before, the MB was born from the urgent demand created by World War II for large numbers of lightweight utility vehicles.

Although produced by both Ford and Willys during wartime, after the conflict Willys retained rights to the Jeep name. This allowed them to produce civilian models, and create a brand that still endures today, despite several changes in ownership.

1953 Chevrolet C1 CorvetteStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Intended to compete against sports cars like the Nash Healey, the original Chevrolet Corvette was rushed to production just six months after being shown to the world in 1953. Although fibreglass bodies had been used previously for limited production, the C1 Corvette marked the first time the material was put into mass manufacturing.

The first Corvettes were low on power – with just 150hp from a straight-six engine – and suffered from poor build quality. Yet 65 years later the model still endures, and represents a slice of the American dream.

1955 Ford ThunderbirdStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Whilst it entered the market at a similar time to the Corvette, and looked similar, Ford was careful to market the Thunderbird in a different direction. In doing so, Ford created the uniquely American ‘personal luxury car’ segment. This meant an emphasis on comfort and convenience, powerful V8 engines, and high levels of standard equipment.

The Thunderbird would grow ever larger and more gauche over time, culminating in the wallowing land yachts of the 1970s. However, the original Thunderbird of 1955 at least showed the simplicity of a two-seater convertible body, with a 292-cubic inch (4.8-litre) V8 engine.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado BroughamStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Self-levelling air suspension is still today mainly the preserve of luxury cars, but this is a tradition which Cadillac started all the way back in 1957. The Eldorado Brougham featured a complex air system, intended to give a smooth and comforting ride, although it proved to be untrustworthy.

Air ride was just one standard feature on this high-end personal luxury car. Cruise control, air conditioning, electric door locks, automatically dimming headlights, and electric windows were also part of the package. This pushed the price tag to more than that of a contemporary Rolls-Royce.

1957 Ford Fairlane 500 SkylinerStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Think the idea of a retracting hardtop roof was something invented by Mercedes-Benz in the late 1990s? Think again – Ford had been doing it some four decades earlier with the Fairlane 500 Skyliner, marking one of the first mass-produced car to feature a folding metal roof.

Requiring seven electric motors, six locking mechanisms, and almost 200 metres of wiring, the Skyliner was a complex piece of engineering. It also took over much of the luggage space in the trunk, and added additional weight and cost.

1960 Ford Country SquireStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

To understand the path to the modern crossover SUV, you need to look back at the American family station wagon of the 1950s and ‘60s. A full-size wagon like the Country Squire featured acres of – fake – woodgrain trim, lots of luggage space and seating for up to eight passengers.

The Country Squire managed to cling on to production from 1950 to 1991, and became a key piece of suburban America. Whilst the association with staid middle class life damaged the Country Squire’s image at the time, today it has developed a cult following.

1961 Lincoln ContinentalStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Designed to save the Lincoln division money, the fourth-generation was based around a single four-door design offered in sedan, hardtop and convertible forms. It was also considerably smaller than its predecessors, even if it still managed to weigh more.

What makes the 1961 Continental significant, and undeniably cool, was the use of rear-hinged ‘suicide’ doors. Intended to make access to the rear seats easier, they also gave the Continental a unique profile. Notably, a ’61 Continental was the basis for the SS-100-X Presidential State car, used by President John F. Kennedy on his fateful 1963 trip to Dallas.

1962 Oldsmobile F-85 Turbo JetfireStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

The 1973 BMW 2002 Turbo is often seen as the first turbocharged production car, but General Motors took that triumph over a decade earlier. For a country obsessed with naturally aspirated V8 engines, the Jetfire version of the pretty Oldsmobile F-85 must have been something of a shock.

Producing 215hp and 301lb-ft of torque, the 215-cubic inch (3.52-litre) turbo V8 also featured water and methanol injection. Performance was on par with engines twice the size, but this was new technology and buyers were understandably cautious. Less than 4,000 Jetfires would be sold, and GM would shelve turbo petrol engines for another decade.

1964 Pontiac GTOStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Defining the original American ‘muscle car’ is harder than you might think. Some argue that the 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 deserves the prize, whilst others cite the 300hp Chrysler 300-C. However, the 1964 Pontiac GTO embraced both the mechanical definition of having a large V8 engine in a two-door body, but also the ideas of low price and desirability.

With a 389-cubic inch (6.4-litre) V8 producing 325hp, the GTO also came with a standard three-speed manual transmission and stiffer suspension. In common with muscle cars to follow multiple options were offered, including a Tri-Power carburettor boosting power to nearly 350hp. This would set the benchmark for other manufacturers to follow.

1966 Ford GT40 Mk2Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Winning the Le Mans 24 Hours outright is a major achievement. Doing so to spite another manufacturer is even more impressive, but that’s exactly what Ford achieved with the GT40. Born from Henry Ford II’s frustration at Enzo Ferrari reneging on an agreement to sell him the Ferrari company, the GT40 would take victory at Le Mans four times.

After an initial troubled development, it was the Mk2 GT40 version with a 427-cubic inch (7.0-litre) V8 engine – and the help of Carroll Shelby – that would take Le Mans victory in 1966. Three more wins would follow, along with creating the lineage for the current Ford GT supercar.

1966 Jeep Super WagoneerStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Forget the Range Rover – this was the first premium SUV. Built by the Kaiser Jeep Corporation between 1966 and 1969, the Super version intended to bring even more luxury and comfort to the existing Wagoneer 4×4.

That meant a more powerful 327-cubic inch (5.4-litre) Vigilante V8 engine with 270hp, air conditioning, a push-button radio, tinted windows, and a power-assisted tailgate. With only around 1,500 produced, today Super Wagoneers are highly prized by Jeep collectors.

1969 Dodge Charger DaytonaStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

NASCAR in the late 1960s was ultra competitive, with manufacturers looking to exploit loopholes in the rules to gain an advantage. This gave rise to the Aero Cars, which used limited homologation requirements to build cars optimised for high speed on the superspeedway circuits.

With a giant 23-inch tall rear wing, extended nose cone, and vents above the front wheels the Charger Daytona was the first NASCAR to break the 200mph barrier on track. Today, of the 503 homologation cars sold for road use, the versions fitted with the 426-cubic inch (7.0-litre) Hemi V8 with 425hp are the most collectible.

1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘CudaStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Size matters in America, and even more so in the muscle car wars of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Whilst the 440-cubic inch (7.2-litre) Hemi V8 offered in the Plymouth ‘Cuda might not have been the most powerful, it was one of the biggest. It’s also fair to say that 390hp and 490lb-ft of torque were still more than sufficient, too.

The 1971 ‘Cuda represented the peak of the muscle car era, with paint options like Lime Light green, Vitamin C orange, and Moulin Rouge pink epitomising the outrageousness of it all. Emissions standards would result in less power the following year, and the ‘Cuda would be gone by 1974.

1974 Buick Electra 225Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Not only was the Buick Electra one of the biggest American land yachts ever created, stretching the tape measure to some 231.5-inches (5.8-metres) in length, it also contained safety features commonplace today. Much like with turbocharging, General Motors experimented with airbag technology several years before it was introduced in Europe.

The Air Cushion Restraint System was offered across Buick, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile models in 1974, protecting both driver and passenger in the event of an impact. This was combined with lap seat belts, as GM believed the airbag system would replace the need for full three-point belts.

1980 Ford F-150Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Admittedly the history of the Ford F-Series of pickup truck stretches all the way back to 1948, but the seventh-generation truck introduced in 1980 is especially significant. A year later in 1981, the F-150 would become the single best-selling vehicle in the United States, and maintain that position for every year since.

In 2016 Ford sold over 820,000 F-150s, representing a 5.2% increase from the previous year, and adding to the total of over 35 million sold since the range was first introduced. Contrast that to the 21.5 million Volkswagen Beetles sold, and that’s the reason the Ford pickup truck seems so common in the USA.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

History has not always viewed the DeLorean DMC-12 kindly, tarnished by the bankruptcy and drug trafficking charges brought against company founder John DeLorean. That it was powered by a 2.85-litre V6 with a modest 130hp certainly did help win approval either.

Now the DMC-12 has a legendary status, thanks to featuring as the ‘time machine’ in the Back to the Future movie franchise. There is more to it than just film prop though, with stainless steel body panels and gull-wing doors making it extraordinary. John DeLorean was also ahead of the time in trying to appeal to the super-rich, with a gold-plated limited edition.

1984 Dodge CaravanStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Beating the Renault Espace to production by a matter of months, the Dodge Caravan (and related Chrysler brethren) became the first MPV on sale. Ruthlessly killing off the station wagon overnight, the minivan did at least hold on to that fake woodgrain trim.

Families loved the sliding rear door, the potential for three rows of seating, and the low cost from being built on a front-wheel-drive platform. The Chrysler Corporation sold over 200,000 minivans in 1984, and was selling more than 600,000 per annum by the late 1990s. Then came the crossover SUV; making the minivan instantly uncool, just as it had done to the station wagon.

1996 Dodge Viper GTSStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Being both achingly beautiful, and terrifyingly fast, would warrant the inclusion of the Dodge Viper here on merit alone. However, having one of the largest engines ever offered in a production car helps guarantee it making the cut.

With ten-cylinders displacing 8.0-litres, the Viper GTS was even more powerful than the RT/10 roadster introduced before it, making 450hp and 490lb-ft of torque. Later Vipers would have even more displacement and power, but the original GTS is just too pretty to ignore.

2002 Hummer H1Star-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Initially offered to the public after its success in Operation Desert Storm, the Hummer really was just a military vehicle with the faintest trimmings of civility. General Motors bought the brand name in 1999, and continued to market the original H1 alongside smaller SUV variants.

With a huge turbo diesel V8 engine, wide track suspension, and the ability to ford 30 inches (56 cm) of water the H1 was able to take on anything. But only a few people needed such capability at the best of times, and the economic rationale for improving the H1 to meet new emissions regulations meant GM abandoned it in 2006.

2006 Ford Crown VictoriaStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Imagine any typical American cop car or taxicab, and the Ford Crown Victoria is likely to be the image that appears in your head. Using the Panther platform body-on-frame construction gave the Crown Victoria dependability, and ease of repair should it be involved in a collision.

These qualities were desired by fleet operators, and saw almost 10 million Panther platform cars produced between 1979 and 2011. Ultimately the market for big, thirsty, rear-wheel drive sedans diminished, but the Crown Vic still remains an icon of car chases and movies.

2008 Tesla RoadsterStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Tesla and Elon Musk might not have invented the electric car, but with the pioneering use of lithium-ion batteries EVs became both practical and desirable. The Tesla Roadster is the genesis for current Model S and Model X, along with the forthcoming Model 3.

Adding an 185kW (248hp) electric motor to a chassis derived from a Lotus Elise resulted in 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, and a top speed of 125mph, silencing those who criticised EVs for being slow. A theoretical range of over 240 miles on a single charge was the nail in the coffin for the haters.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 MustangStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

Having been in production since 1964, picking a Mustang that exemplifies it the best is not easy. The Boss 429, the ’67 Shelby GT500, and even the newest GT350R all have considerable merit. Choosing which not to include is simpler, with the debatable second and third-generation cars best left alone.

Ford rediscovered Mustang greatness with the fifth-generation, and the 2013 Shelby GT500 marked a milestone with a top speed in excess of 200mph. It is still the fastest street Mustang, and the fastest muscle car ever built to date. Easily done with a 5.8-litre supercharged V8 engine producing 662hp and 631lb-ft of torque.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT DemonStar-spangled, no bangers – 25 important American cars

World’s fastest production car 0-60mph (2.3 seconds), world’s fastest quarter-mile production car (9.65 seconds), most powerful production V8 engine (840hp), first production car with the front-passenger seat deleted… Yes, the Challenger SRT Demon has set quite a lot of world firsts.

Being little more than a road-legal dragster, the SRT Demon encapsulates the craziness of a place where a Guinness World Record for the first front-wheel lift in a production car is a thing. As incredible as it is ridiculous, the SRT Demon is testimony to the American car industry catering to the most extreme of customer needs.

20 embarrassing car publicity photos

20 embarrassing car publicity photos

50 embarrassing car publicity photosWe often stumble across awkward, dodgy and slightly embarrassing press photos. Now, for the first time, we’ve assembled a collection as some kind of press office rogues gallery. Get ready for cheesy grins, awkward poses and images that shouldn’t be taken out of context.

Audi 10050 embarrassing car publicity photos

One to be filed under ‘embarrassing holiday snaps’? Not exactly, because this happens to be an official Audi press photo, from the days when the German company required the help of ladies to promote its brand.

Skoda Felicia50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Mate, you really ought to think about moving your Skoda.

Daewoo50 embarrassing car publicity photos

How do you celebrate the opening of a new dealership? By asking the company’s MD and dealer’s aftersales manager to clamber into the boot, of course.

Citroen Saxo VTS50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Ah yes, the good old days. When the Citroen Saxo VTS ruled the streets – or at least the McDonald’s car park – and Katie Price was still known as Jordan. Some might say the car has aged better than the lady…

Peugeot 207 CC50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Here’s Britain’s favourite pantomime dame, Christopher Biggins, out enjoying his Peugeot 207 CC. Check out the motion blur on his hand. Jazz hands, Biggins?

Fiat Panda50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Here’s the cast of the Italian version of Fame demonstrating how many people you can’t fit in a Fiat Panda. Probably.

Citroen XM50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Back in the day, nothing said business car quite like the Copthorne Hotel and a huge mobile phone…

Daihatsu Charade50 embarrassing car publicity photos

The child is wearing a look that says “Daddy, do we have to downsize from the Range Rover?” Mum’s response: “If it means we get to keep the cottage in the country, Tabitha, then yes.”

Renault Twingo50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Here we find two sumo wrestlers about to demonstrate the flat-folding seats in the Renault Twingo. We’re pretty sure they managed to get in, although getting out again was a different matter.

Chrysler PT Cruiser50 embarrassing car publicity photos

In 1998, Michael Owen had the world at his feet following an outstanding goal against Argentina. He was also given a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Life is all about pleasure and pain, Michael.

Ford Focus50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Some photos need a little context. In reality, Ann Widdecombe was demonstrating Ford’s self-parking technology. Taken out of context, it looks like she’s been left horrified by the Ford Focus.

Rover 100 Ascot SE50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Hats off to you, Rover, that’s not a bad way to promote the Ascot special edition. The hat shop is still there. The Rover, we suspect, has long since retired.

Suzuki Vitara50 embarrassing car publicity photos

That look might work on the American West Coast, but at a British marina, we don’t think so. We wouldn’t like to say how many dogs have cocked their leg on that lamp post.

Proton GEN-250 embarrassing car publicity photos

Des looks delighted to have won a Proton GEN-2, although he quite fancied a Jumbuck.

Renault Clio50 embarrassing car publicity photos

We’ve got absolutely no idea what’s going on here, but we really fancy a Renault Clio Baccara.

Citroen Xantia20 embarrassing car publicity photos

Glynis Barber, is that you? And is that Boris Becker? Not, it’s another period press photo.

Volkswagen Derby20 embarrassing car publicity photos

She could have dressed for the occasion. It’s not everyday you’re asked to stand alongside a Volkswagen Polo saloon.

Saab Sonett50 embarrassing car publicity photos

Don’t start stripping off now, for goodness sake. You’ll catch your death in rural Sweden.

Coolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

Geneva Motor Show: the coolest concept cars

Coolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor ShowIt wouldn’t be a motor show without an array of wild and outlandish concept cars. The 2017 Geneva Motor Show is no different, as this gallery of concept cars proves. Some will never see the light of day, while others provide a hint of potential new models. Pick your favourite from this lot.

Mercedes-AMG GT ConceptCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

The Mercedes-AMG GT Concept: a glimpse into the future with one eye on the past. The concept has been unveiled as part of the 50th anniversary of Mercedes-AMG, but is designed to give “an indication of the alternative drive configurations AMG is designing”. To this end, the GT Concept is powered by a 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbocharged engine and an electric motor to provide a total system output of 804hp.

According to Mercedes-AMG, the GT Concept will sprint to 62mph in “less than three seconds”, but it hasn’t confirmed a top speed. Whether the four-door coupe makes production remains to be seen, but with the new Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo unveiled in Geneva, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this becoming the third member of the AMG GT family.

Infiniti Project Black SCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

Infiniti is certainly talking a good talk with the Project Black S. Referencing a new Infiniti ‘performance grade’ and a close collaboration with with Renault Sport Formula One Team is guaranteed to pique the interest of any self-respecting petrolhead. And besides, it’s high time Infiniti delivered a car we can all get behind.

Nissan’s posh arm is investigating the potential for F1-style hybrid technology in a production car, with an energy recovery system (ERS) that could contribute a 25% increase in power for the new 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbocharged engine. As a bonus, the ERS could improve acceleration and eliminate turbo lag. An F1-inspired coupe: where do we sign? Infiniti, do the right thing.

Citroen C-AircrossCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

Dare we suggest that we’re a little underwhelmed by the Citroen C-Aircross. It’s not that’s uncool, it’s just that the new C3 supermini has raised the bar sufficiently enough for us to look at this concept with a sense of ‘meh’. Whatever that means.

Oh, sure, the standard motor show trinkets are there: suicide doors, cameras for door mirrors and ‘showy’ 18-inch rims to name but three, it’s just that we’re not bowled over by the C-Aircross. There are, however, reasons to be cheerful. Firstly, it highlights just how far Citroen has come in recent years. And, secondly, it previews the next-generation C3 Picasso. Good news.

Jaguar I-PaceCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

For now, the Jaguar I-Pace remains a concept, but the model on show in Geneva looks as production ready as you’re likely to get. It also shows off a new Photon Red paintjob.

It’s the first time the I-Pace has been seen in Europe and it previews Jaguar’s first all-electric vehicle, set to hit the streets in 2018. Jaguar is already taking orders for the Tesla Model X rival, with one outlet claiming that 350 deposits have already been received.

Peugeot InstinctCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

If Peugeot is to be believed, this is what an autonomous future looks like. The Instinct is a 300hp plug-in hybrid with both ‘Drive’ and ‘Autonomous’ driving modes, with Peugeot claiming that an ‘Internet of Things’ platform will learn the driver’s lifestyle.

The seats can be adjusted individually, allowing the occupant to select the position most suited to them – upright to drive or horizontal to… er… sleep. Yes, sleep. You’ll also find a so-called ‘chatbot’, a speech-driven PA offering a vast array of services.

Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6eCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

You might hate the Bentley Bentayga, and – as Bobby Brown might say – that’s your prerogative. But if Bentley sells a sufficient number of the boutique SUVs, it’ll be free to explore new ideas such as this: the EXP 12 Speed 6e.

In true grand tourer style, Bentley claims that an electric vehicle with a ‘Flying B’ perched on the bonnet must offer sufficient range to be able to drive between London and Paris or Milan and Monaco on a single charge. Ideal, if you’re planning to race a train from the Carlton Hotel in Cannes to the Conservative Club in London.

Honda NeuVCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

NeuV – pronounced ‘new-vee’ – stands for New Electric Urban Vehicle, and it’s Honda’s vision of an electric future. Not only can it learn things about its driver – stop picking your nose at the wheel – it also takes advantage of the fact that privately-owned vehicles sit idle for 96% of the time.

In other words, the NeuV doubles up as automated ride sharing vehicle when the owner is not using the car. It has the potential to collect and drop off customers at local destinations, even selling energy back to the grid. Cool concept, this.

SsangYong XAVLCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

Remember when you laughed at that Korean carmaker with the funny name? Laugh no more, because SsangYong is on a roll, as demonstrated by the really-rather-good Tivoli. The XAVL previews a next generation seven-seat SUV, featuring seven independent seats and a huge amount of interior space.

According to SsangYong, the eXciting Authentic Vehicle Long draws inspiration from the “iconic” Korando, meaning it might preview a replacement for the value-driven SUV.

Hyundai FE Fuel CellCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

There are those who believe that it’s hydrogen and not electric that represents the future of sustainable motoring. For now, the infrastructure isn’t there to support a fleet of hydrogen-powered cars, but the likes of Honda, Toyota and Hyundai are at the forefront of development in the sector.

The FE Fuel Cell is part of Hyundai’s plan to deliver 14 or more new environmentally-focused models by the year 2020 and has the potential to deliver a range of up to 500 miles from a single tank.

Mercedes-Benz Concept X-ClassCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

You’re unlikely to find a Concept X-Class parked outside a branch of Wickes, as Mercedes-Benz is pitching this to a more “urban lifestyle” audience. The five-seat pick-up previews the production version, set to launch later this year.

Underneath, the X-Class is little more than a Nissan Navara, but has been ‘poshed-up’ for urban lifestyle types. You can expect a suitably inflated price tag as Mercedes-Benz seeks to fill yet another niche. Will there be an AMG version? We wouldn’t bet against it…

Fittipaldi EF7 Vision Gran Turismo by PininfarinaCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

The Fittipaldi EF7 is a concept car you can drive, at least in a virtual sense. It’s the latest in a long line of Vision Gran Turismo cars, coming to a Sony PlayStation near you soon.

It’s the result of a collaboration between Emerson Fittipaldi, Pininfarina and engineering firm HWA, and is said to fulfil Fittipaldi’s vision of building a car with “fierce track-racing capabilities” for drivers of all skill levels.

Renault Zoe e-sportCoolest concepts of the 2017 Geneva Motor Show

A case of saving the best ‘til last? The Zoe e-sport is the electric car you’ve always dreamed of, drawing upon Renault’s experience in Formula E. It’s packing a 455hp electric punch, enough to propel the Zoe to 62mph in just 3.2 seconds.

Use of carbonfibre and kevlar keeps the weight down, while a lowered ride height, wider tracks and four-wheel drive should provide exceptional cornering ability. Double-wishbone suspension, 20-inch rims, Ohlins dampers, Recaro seats and Formula E-style controls complete the transformation from humdrum to hero. Renault, we have two words: build it.