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Volkswagen Lupo GTI vs. Polo GTI

Pocket rockets: Volkswagen Up GTI vs. retro Lupo GTI

The VW Up GTI is finally here. We drive it back-to-back with the much-loved Lupo GTI in this first UK test.

Honda Civic 1.5 Prestige auto road test

Honda Civic 1.5 Prestige auto road test

We try the new Honda Civic with the CVT automatic gearbox

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

How to buy a classic Porsche 911

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2Jeremy Clarkson once declared that “you can’t be a true petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo”. Not for the first time, though, Jezza was wrong. With a few recent exceptions, modern Alfas are just gussied-up Fiats. And the classics, while bursting with brio, are less dependable than a Southern train..

No, if there’s one car every enthusiast should aspire to own, it’s a Porsche 911. This quirky, rear-engined coupe has evolved – and occasionally revolved – over more than five decades. Fast, fun and engineered with typically Teutonic thoroughness, it has inspired an automotive cult all its own: witness the number of dedicated 911 magazines in newsagents. And it’s still going strong: the millionth example recently left Stuttgart, and special editions, such as the 911R, sell out before they even reach showrooms.

Video: Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 

Convinced? Now for the bad news. We’re not alone in this view, and used Porsche prices have risen sharply over the past decade – outpacing even the already-buoyant classic car market as a whole. Still, even if Brexit bites and the stock market takes a nosedive, good 911s – particularly earlier, air-cooled cars – are likely to remain highly sought-after

If you want the full, 100% proof 911 experience, you need one the original pre-1989 cars; and they don’t come much better than the last-hurrah Carrera 3.2, now available from around £30,000. The lovely 1989 example tested here was kindly supplied by Canford Classics.

How does it drive?Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

The classic Carrera isn’t an easy car to drive, but that’s key to its appeal. You need to engage your brain, exploit its strengths and work around its weaknesses. And learning those takes time.

Despite being shorter and narrower than a new Porsche Cayman, the original 911’s cabin doesn’t feel short on space. Well, not unless you’re squeezed into the toddler-sized rear seats. It’s comically sparse by 2017 standards, though, with controls scattered seemingly at random and floor-hinged pedals skewed towards the centre of the car.

Ergonomic eccentricities are soon forgotten when you fire up that trademark air-cooled flat-six, however. It whirrs, rumbles and churns: not musical, but deliciously mechanical. And the howl it makes at high revs will reverberate inside your skull for hours.

The 911’s unassisted steering and spindly gearlever demand measured, deliberate inputs, yet positively fizz with feedback. It feels lively and light-footed, effervescent even. Those characteristic front wings bob up and down, following the contours of the road, while the all-round disc brakes offer confidence-inspiring bite.

You never forget this is a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive car – one with no electronic safety aids, no less – but the Porsche is hardly the ‘widowmaker’ of urban legend. It simply requires respect and a certain degree of restraint, especially when it rains. A new hot hatch will be quicker whatever the weather, but you’ll be having more fun.

 

Tell me about buying onePorsche 911 Carrera 3.2

Chris Lowe, lead technician at Canford Classics, is a big fan of the Carrera 3.2: “It has better brakes and a more powerful engine than the 911 SC it replaced, and larger wheels make it more drivable day-to-day”, he explains. “Plus, it’s still air-cooled, so it doesn’t stray too far from the original formula. Overall, they’re just super-cool cars.”

The 3.2 was sold in three body styles: coupe, convertible and Targa. Coupes are generally considered most desirable, although the removable-roof Targa is now firmly back in fashion. A ‘tea tray’ rear wing was optional as part of the Sport pack, along with stiffer dampers and shapelier seats. Alternatively, buyers could go the whole nine yards with the 911 Supersport: a 3.2 with the stretched wheelarches and beefed-up brakes of the 930 Turbo. 

Rust is the fatal foe of any classic 911, so Chris advises checking bodywork carefully: the roof pillars and sills are the main trouble spots. Take a fine-tooth comb to the paperwork, too. “Originality is key to value,” says Chris, “so ask for the Certificate of Authenticity from Porsche, which details the original specification – including any options fitted.” Also, be prepared to budget for mechanical maintenance: “Many 3.2s are due engine or gearbox rebuilds, and the same goes for suspension. Bushes will usually need to be replaced.”

It’s also worth noting that the post-1987 G50 gearbox – as fitted here – is slicker and more user-friendly than the original 915 unit. As such, G50-equipped cars tend to be worth more. 

VerdictPorsche 911 Carrera 3.2

Is the Carrera 3.2 the ultimate retro daily-driver? Perhaps, even if the aforementioned rise in values means most owners now reserve their cars for sunny Sundays and special occasions. 

In truth, the G-Series 911 felt a little dated by the mid-1980s, yet it has aged remarkably well. To drive, it feels raw, vital and life-affirming, while its essential robustness stands in marked contrast to the flimsy over-complication of many modern cars.

Three decades hence, when scores of present-day ‘991’ 911s are festering on scrapheaps with undiagnosed software gremlins, one suspects the classic Carrera will still be going strong. It’s a sports car icon, both of its time and timeless. Buy one now before prices get even crazier.

Many thanks to Canford Classics (01929 472221) for the loan of this immaculate 1989 911. The car is currently for sale, priced at £55,000.

See more from Canford Classics

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BMW 6 Series GT 2018

New BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo 2017 first drive: Secret estate agent

Hardly a graceful swan but no longer an ugly duckling

2018 Volkswagen Polo

2018 Volkswagen Polo review: a very grown-up small car

No question: the new VW Polo is a very good all-rounder indeed – perhaps even the best car in its class

Ford Mustang GT V8

Ford Mustang V8 GT review: driven before it’s banned

Forget the 2040 ban and revel in the rumble of Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 Mustang

Atalanta roadster

Driving the brand new car that’s 80 years old

Atalanta roadster

Never heard of Atalanta? Neither had I. The company built just 22 cars between 1937 and 1939 before becoming an early casualty of World War II. Production switched to generators and pumps, where it remained until Atalanta’s eventual demise in the 1990s.

The story could have ended there: another British car company consigned to the history books along with Frazer Nash, Austin, Bantam, Jensen, Rover and countless others. But it didn’t, and – after an 80-year hiatus – Atalanta is back with a new British sports car.

More classic cars on MR:

A history of innovation

Atalanta roadster

In truth, there was always something a bit special about Atalanta. Its 1937 roadster was hugely advanced for its day, with independent suspension, lightweight construction, a three-valve-per-cylinder twin-spark engine, hydraulic brakes and an electric pre-selector gearbox.

Seen here at Brooklands, the car was successful in motorsport, too. It raced at Le Mans in 1938 and won the Welsh RAC rally in 1939. Decades later, the Le Mans car was acquired by Martyn Corfield, a lifelong Atalanta enthusiast who owns three of the seven surviving originals. It was this car that would form the basis for his modern Atalanta roadster.

Living the dream

Atalanta roadster

Martyn readily acknowledges that building a low-volume sports car – production is expected to run at one a month – won’t make him millions. But his passion for the project overrides such concerns; this is the realisation of a dream that began when he first saw an Atalanta in his local garage as a child.

Work on the reborn roadster began in 2009, with a concept version presented in 2012. Now, exactly 80 years since the original Atalanta left the Staines factory, the production car is ready: on sale and priced at £150,000.

Destination: Bicester Heritage

Atalanta roadster

Atalanta is no longer based in Staines, but at Bicester Heritage – the former RAF base that houses much of Britain’s classic motor industry. As I drive through the site, I spot a wonderfully eclectic mix of cars: pre-war Bentley, Gordon Keeble, Jaguar E-Type, Peugeot 505 – even a rally-spec Fiat Panda. It’s a fitting location to see this evocative sports car for the first time.

I meet Martyn outside Atalanta’s office-cum-workshop. He’s warm and enthusiastic, reeling off facts about the company’s history faster than I can write them down. But this isn’t PR spin: he’s rightly proud of what his tiny, three-person team has achieved.

Raffish glamour

Atalanta roadster

Elvis excepted, I’m not usually a fan of anything pre-1960. However, I’ll make an honourable exception here. Basking, roof-down in the midday sun, the Atalanta roadster looks fabulous. Sleek, low-slung and sporty, it’s the epitome of raffish 1930s glamour.

The finish is excellent, too. Paintwork looks deep and lustrous, while the interior is beautifully trimmed in soft leather. Look closer and you’ll spot neat details, such as the hidden door handles (tucked under the dashboard) and second filler cap (which houses a socket for a trickle charger). Side repeaters and seatbelts are the only obvious nods to modernity.

Praise the Ford

Atalanta roadster

Only if you lift the engine cover, and come face-to-face with 2017-spec black plastic, is the vintage illusion briefly shattered. But this is a pre-production and ongoing development car: Martyn ensures me customer engines will be much better presented.

The motor itself comes from Ford in the US: a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder developing “around 200hp and 200lb ft of torque”. It’s mated to a five-speed manual gearbox (also from Ford) that drives the rear wheels. The side-exit exhaust is located somewhere just below the driver’s right elbow. And – oh yes! – it’s loud.

Track to the past

Atalanta roadster

Twist the key and the engine barks brusquely into life. The pedals are offset and the footwell cramped, despite a lower floor than the original car – a necessary tweak for the taller drivers of today. I grasp the huge steering wheel, which has a beautifully engraved emblem of Atalanta – a huntress from Greek mythology – at its centre, and gaze along the long, louvred bonnet.

One great advantage of Bicester Heritage is the aircraft runway next door. And today, with help from a few strategically-placed cones, it will be our racetrack. Chocks away!

Getting physical

Atalanta roadster

You might expect a chassis designed in the 1930s to betray its limitations on-track. And you’d be right: the Atalanta is no Lotus Elise, especially on high-profile 550-18 tyres remanufactured for historic racing. Nonetheless, it feels benign and biddable through the tight turns of our improvised circuit.

The car’s natural tendency is to understeer; only if you deliberately provoke it will the tail break loose. I suspect it could be rather tricky in the wet, but you’re more likely be more concerned about the lack of weather protection than on-the-limit handling by then…

A car for driving

Atalanta roadster

Lap after lap, I begin to adapt my driving style. The Atalanta appreciates deliberate inputs and doesn’t flatter your mistakes. Yet that makes it all the more rewarding when you get it right.

This is a physical car, then, but in the best sense. The unassisted steering has a weighty directness, the five-speed manual gearbox needs a positive shove and, in case you were in any doubt, there’s no electronic safety net. And all the time, the wind gusts around the low-cut doors and the engine blares boisterously. It’s an intoxicating assault on the senses.

Figure this

Atalanta roadster

It’s fast enough to be fun, too. The 0-62mph dash takes seven seconds and top speed – if you find a long enough runway – is around 125mph.

That’s merely ‘warm hatch’ or Mazda MX-5 pace nowadays, of course. But as I’ll discover, this retro recreation works best when you take it steady.

Destination: Cotswolds

Atalanta roadster

With Martyn in the passenger seat, we leave Bicester and head west towards the Cotswolds. Our route takes us down winding, tree-lined lanes, past packed country pubs and through immaculate, chocolate-box villages. Prime British sports car territory, in other words.

Away from the smooth surface of the airfield, the Atalanta’s ride occasionally gets choppy, but progress generally feels relaxed. The big-hearted Ford four feels well-suited to touring, too. This isn’t an engine that begs to be revved: just shift up early and ride the wave of muscular torque.

The grand tour

Atalanta roadster

You never forget this is an ‘old’ new car, either. Martyn talks of “a 1930s experience with the rough edges removed” and, while I’ve never driven a real vintage machine, it’s very different to anything else. Better? No. Authentic and characterful? Absolutely, yes.

In many ways, the Atalanta is rather rudimentary. But that makes it the antithesis of the anaesthetised modern car – exactly as you’d hope. As the clouds clear and we blat between hedgerows, the sun glinting off its curvaceous front wings, it feels just about perfect.

Crowd pleaser

Atalanta roadster

There’s another reason to go slowly, of course: the admiration of onlookers. Pull up at The Fox and Hounds in a £150,000 Porsche and you’ll get grudging acknowledgement at best. Here, no such preconceptions apply – everyone is drawn to the glamorous lines and the raucous exhaust rumble.

The mystique of the Atalanta badge doubtless plays a part, too. Most car fans can recognise a Morgan, but this car – for now at least – remains something of an enigma. Precious few would suspect it was built in 2017.

Rose-tinted roadster

Atalanta roadster

What matters for Atalanta today isn’t winning Le Mans. Martyn’s goal is to find a niche and offer something genuinely different: new, but steeped in the spirit of the past. After all, most people who buy his roadster will already have a large collection of cars.

In that, he has succeeded. This is a car to be savoured on sunny Sunday mornings, when the roads are quiet and you can pretend it’s 1937 again (just without impending threat of fascism and war). Beautiful and beguiling, the Atalanta roadster will make you feel good about driving it. And what’s not to love about that?

McLaren 570S Spider

Spider bite: new McLaren 570S drop-top driven

Europe’s best roads and the new McLaren 570S Spider: the drop-top supercar that takes on the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracan. Sometimes work is tough…

Ultimate road test: 25 cars in one day

Ultimate road test 2017Imagine a test-track with more than 150 new cars, each parked with keys in the ignition. Choose whatever takes your fancy, then simply jump in and drive. That’s the reality of SMMT Test Day, the annual road-test event organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Now, we like a challenge, so we decided to see how many cars we could drive and review in one day. From an Aston Martin V12 Vantage S to a ‘classic’ Kia Pride, nothing was off-limits. The MR team comprised Richard Aucock (RA), John Redfern (JR) and Tim Pitt (TP), plus help from Mark Thomson of Tame Geek (MT).

Read on to see our highs and lows of SMMT 2017.

Mercedes-AMG E63 SUltimate road test 2017

Let’s start with one of the fastest cars of the day. Ballistic, bombastic, bahnstorming and more than a little bonkers, the E63 S is Stuttgart’s latest salvo in the super-saloon arms race. It packs a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, producing 612hp and a monstrous 627lb ft of torque.

On Millbrook’s high-speed bowl, the muscle-Merc accelerates from 100mph with more conviction than a Porsche Boxster at half that speed. It also has a drift mode, which we weren’t allowed to switch on. Probably for the best… (TP)

Lexus GS FUltimate road test 2017

How about another rear-wheel-drive super saloon? The naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 in the Lexus GS F produces 467hp at a rev-tastic 7,100rpm, while torque is 391lb ft. That second figure seems low in a car that weighs over 1,800kg.

Unlike many of its rivals, the GS F needs to be worked hard to get the best from it. Only at the upper reaches of the rev range does it feel properly fast; you need to cling on to gears before pulling that paddle. Unmuffled by turbochargers, the GS F sounds intense. (JR)

Jaguar F-Pace SUltimate road test 2017

What to do when you want a luxury executive saloon, but with a driving position higher than everyone else? The answer used to be ‘buy a BMW X5’. Now, it seems everybody wants a Jaguar F-Pace.

Given the way it handles like a sports saloon and the 3.0-litre V6 diesel slingshots you between corners, the F-Pace makes a very convincing alternative to other similarly-priced saloons and SUVs. (MT)

Mitsubishi StarionUltimate road test 2017

According to automotive folklore, the Mitsubishi Starion got its name because Japanese engineers couldn’t pronounce the word ‘stallion’. Wide of wheelarch and squat of stance, this 80s throwback – part of Mitsubishi UK’s heritage fleet – looked fabulous in the scorching SMMT Day sun.

Despite those INTERCOOLER TURBO stickers, however, the 30-year-old Starion seems slow by modern standards. On Millbrook’s tortuously twisty city course, it felt cumbersome and uninvolving – not the ‘Japanese Porsche 944’ I’d hoped for. Like shell suits and shoulder pads, perhaps the Starion is best left in the past? (TP)

Audi TT RS CoupeUltimate road test 2017

Locked in continuous battle with the Porsche Cayman, the latest Audi TT RS has gained more oomph from its 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine. Peak power is now a faintly ridiculous 394hp, with torque a chunky 354lb ft. Naturally, a Quattro 4WD system is standard, as is a seven-speed S Tronic semi-automatic gearbox.

Reaching 62mph takes just 3.7 seconds in the TT RS, and it feels every bit as quick as that claim. Bar some minor turbo lag, the TT RS fires on relentlessly, feeling almost hamstrung by the confines of Millbrook’s Alpine route. The exhaust note is a fitting reminder as to why five cylinders are inherently better than four. (JR)

Audi R8 SpyderUltimate road test 2017

The Audi R8’s 540hp 5.2-litre V10 is one of the best-sounding engines available: FACT. So why wouldn’t you give your eardrums unfettered access to that red-blooded howl by choosing the Spyder version? These are the important consumer questions we’re here to answer.

So yes, it sounds fabulous – even if that popping, belching exhaust alerts Millbrook’s over-zealous marshals even time I tickle the right pedal. What struck me most, though, is how easy the R8 is to drive. With light steering and a semi-auto ’box, it’s docile at low speed – yet savagely quick when the traffic clears. (TP)

Volvo V90 R-DesignUltimate road test 2017

Well, I can safely say that I didn’t expect to drive home from SMMT Test Day wishing I was making the five-hour trip in a Volvo. But the V90 is a genuinely handsome car – and a fantastic place to be.

With a twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine, four-wheel drive and an eight-speed gearbox, the V90 feels like a car that will offer you decades of style and comfort. (MT)

Rover 45Ultimate road test 2017

Apparently, this is Britain’s cheapest car. A motoring writer bought it on eBay for £3.19, which, he told me, is the same price as a jar of mayonnaise in his local supermarket. “Ironic, really, given the Rover K-Series’ propensity to blow its head gasket.”

Go on – you’re thinking it was horrendous, aren’t you? Actually no, it was much more solid, rattle-free and robust than I expected. It didn’t feel like a car on its last legs, rather a perfectly inoffensive hack to get you to the station and back for the price of a coffee once you actually get to said station. A geriatric gem. (RA)

Porsche Panamera TurboUltimate road test 2017

Praise be, Porsche has finally designed a Panamera that isn’t offensively ugly. And the Turbo has the coolest rear spoiler since the original 930 Turbo whale tail. There’s also the small matter of 550hp, which equates to 62mph in 3.8 seconds and a 190mph VMax. That’s one seriously hot hatch.

At this point, I should probably admit to being a fully-paid-up Porsche fanatic. But even so, the Panamera Turbo was genuinely the most impressive car I drove all day. Switching drive modes from Normal to Sport Plus utterly transforms its character, from comfortable cruiser to savage supercar-slayer. (TP)

Aston Martin DB11Ultimate road test 2017

The car in the highest level of demand all day was, unsurprisingly, an Aston Martin. The DB11 is an all-new car from the ground up and feels it. Its twin-turbo V12 delivers 608hp and 516lb ft of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed gearbox.

This drivetrain, combined with an excellently-appointed cabin, allows the DB11 to shift from long-range grand tourer to corner-conquering supercar with the press of two buttons. It’s a bona fide British hero. (MT)

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 6.4 V8 HemiUltimate road test 2017

Does anybody really need an SUV with 475hp and 460lb ft? Perhaps not, but the SRT Hemi dishes up a super-sized slice of American pie. A 4WD system helps control all that power, while the automatic gearbox has a launch mode setting. Braking is via a suitably huge Brembo set-up.

Predictably, the Hemi engine dominates proceedings, hoofing the Grand Cherokee along with a V8 bellow. We were confined to the high-speed bowl with this one, so couldn’t test how well it fared beyond straight-line drag races. Circling the bowl also highlighted that the SRT’s interior won’t be giving BMW or Mercedes-Benz sleepless nights. (JR)

Subaru BRZUltimate road test 2017

Being crowned Jeremy Clarkson’s car of the year clearly didn’t do the Toyota GT86 many favours – it remains a rare sight on UK roads. And the Subaru BRZ version is even rarer. Which is a shame, because the Toyobaru is still, for our money, the best budget driver’s car on sale.

It’s easy to get fixated on how readily – and enthusiastically – the BRZ goes sideways. That’s all good fun, of course, but it’s the sublime steering and chassis balance that really excites. I can ignore the rubbish infotainment system, and the fact that it’s pricier than an MX-5. For now, I just want to keep driving. (TP)

Ford Focus RSUltimate road test 2017

Unless you happened to be living ‘off-grid’ during 2016, you’ll know the Mk3 Focus RS was the single most talked- and written-about car last year. Still, in case you missed it, the key facts are a 2.3-litre Ecoboost turbo engine (shared with the Mustang), six-speed manual gearbox and – for the first time in a Focus RS – power going to all four wheels.

The RS is truly a car that more than matches the hype surrounding it, with feelsome steering, nimble turn-in, a confidence-inspiring 4WD system and an engine that just keeps pushing. The pops and bangs from the exhaust system only add to the sense of riotous fun. Unquestionably deserving of its RS badge. (JR)

Mazda MX-5 1.5Ultimate road test 2017

The world’s best-selling sports car returns for its fourth act, with Mazda taking inspiration from the lightweight original. It isn’t quite a Lotus Elise, but the MX-5 – in entry-level 1.5-litre spec – is about as basic as ‘mainstream’ cars get. And all the better for it.

Driving the MX-5 back-to-back with the Subaru BRZ was an interesting – if unplanned – twin-test. The Mazda is markedly slower, but feels lighter on its feet; few cars change direction so keenly. Highlights include a super-slick gearshift and pedals that are perfectly spaced for heel-and-toe ’changes. Nonetheless, it’s still the BRZ for me. (TP)

Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0Ultimate road test 2017

Intended to be the practical and grown-up version of the MX-5, RF stands for Retractable Fastback. Gone is the folding soft-top, replaced by a folding metal roof, along with some neat flying buttresses on the rear deck. However, it comes at a cost of 40kg extra weight in this diminutive sports car.

Perhaps it was too much sun, or too much exposure to turbocharged engines, but the 160hp MX-5 RF seemed notably sedate when tackling the steep climbs of the Millbrook hill route. At least working the six-speed manual gearbox was a pleasant affair, while the delicate handling and quick steering made the twisty bits fun. Wind noise was also rather apparent, despite the RF being the ‘refined’ MX-5. (JR)

MINI John Cooper Works ChallengeUltimate road test 2017

Limited to just 52 examples, the JCW Challenge is MINI raiding the aftermarket parts bin for the best components. Nitron supplies the adjustable suspension, Team Dynamics the lightweight wheels and Michelin the Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. There’s also an exhaust system, controlled by Bluetooth, that’s so loud it’s not meant for road use.

Describing something as ‘go-kart-like’ is a horrible cliché, but it’s almost impossible to avoid with the JCW Challenge. The steering is so direct and immediate on turn-in, the comparison feels almost inevitable. The exhaust is very loud, while the limited-slip differential is brutal in deploying 228hp through the front wheels. (JR)

Kia PrideUltimate road test 2017

Don’t laugh. The Pride was the first supermini Kia sold in the UK and it wasn’t half bad. In truth, the Pride was simply a rebadged Mazda 121 (Ford Festiva in some markets), but it did have the unique option of whitewall tyres – sadly not fitted here.

Hammering around the hill route in the Kia, Aston DB11 looming large in my mirrors, will be my abiding memory of Test Day 2017. There’s just something about driving the doorhandles off a small, underpowered car. Was it comfortable? Was it practical? Should you buy one? No idea, I was just trying – desperately hard – to avoid being overtaken. (TP)

Audi S4Ultimate road test 2017

The new Audi S4 couldn’t be any more ‘Q car’ if it tried. With almost every option available fitted here, it comes to more than £55,000. Which makes it a somewhat decadent purchase.

If you do make that choice, though, you will be rewarded with an executive saloon that holds its own against most sports cars, but then allow you cruise home in comfort and style. (MT)

Ford Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost convertibleUltimate road test 2017

The Mustang’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost engine is the sensible way to own a muscle car. With 313hp and 319lb ft of torque, it promises the performance of a V6, but with downsized turbo engine economy. This should, in theory, be the perfect Mustang for the UK.

It might be the Mustang you should buy, but it’s hard to see this as the one you’d truly want. Despite feeling bombastic in the Focus RS, the Ecoboost engine seems strangely devoid of character here. Although hardly slow, the lack of theatre is disappointing. If you’re going to buy a drop-top Mustang, the 5.0-litre V8 really needs to be beneath that long bonnet. (JR)

Volkswagen Golf GTIUltimate road test 2017

The most obvious update for the Mk7.5 Golf GTI is Active Info Display: VW’s take on Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which replaces the dials with a configurable 12.3-inch screen. Also nicked from Audi are the pointless-but-cool ‘dynamic’ rear indicators, while restyled bumpers and new alloys complete the changes.

I’ve owned numerous Golf GTIs over the years, and a five-door Mk5 GTI is the current Pitt family wagon. So it’s fair to say I’m a fan of these cars. Like its predecessors, the new GTI doesn’t instantly wow you. But it feels like a car that would win your affections over thousands of miles – just like my trusty Mk5. (TP)

Volkswagen e-GolfUltimate road test 2017

Electricity is the future of motoring and, after all VW has been though with diesel, they are pushing forward with electrification. If the e-Golf is any indication, the future will great.

The e-Golf feels oddly but enjoyably light to drive. It rewards you with instant torque, meaning at no point does it feel slow or underpowered. How long before we see an electric Golf GTI? (MT)

Aston Martin V12 Vantage SUltimate road test 2017

I rounded off my day at Millbrook with the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S – this one fitted with a dog-leg seven-speed manual gearbox. The on-paper stats are impressive: 573hp, 3.9 seconds to 62mph and 205mph flat-out. The interior looks hopelessly dated, but that’s soon forgotten when you fire-up the thunderous V12.

For the uninitiated, a dog-leg gearbox means first is down and across, where reverse might normally be. This makes the Vantage awkward to get going, but no matter: there’s more than enough torque to start in second gear. Indeed, I manage a – pretty swift – lap of the hill route without shifting out of fourth gear. You can’t do that in a Kia Pride. (TP)

Mercedes-Benz E 220d CoupeUltimate road test 2017

I hopped up to Merc trying to get hold of a V6 petrol. I drove off in a four-cylinder diesel. Short straw? If it were the old 2.1-litre diesel, maybe. But this all-new 2.0-litre turbodiesel is one of the best oil-burners Benz has made. And the E Coop itself is lovely.

It was scorching hot, so I needed to cool off. Thus, after a forgettable couple of laps of the hill course, I hit the high-speed bowl, set the cruise at 100mph and chillaxed. It was bliss. An archetypal Mercedes-Benz in all the best ways. (RA)

Volvo S90 D4 R-DesignUltimate road test 2017

The saloon brother to the V90 estate, the S90 is a truly giant four-door. D4 spec means a 2.0-litre diesel with 188hp and 295lb ft of torque, powering the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. But this car isn’t about speed. Rather, it’s an alternative to the obvious German choices.

Calm, soothing, and tranquil. Somehow the S90 manages to make everything in the world seem fine once you’re behind the wheel. It may not have been the fastest or most powerful car I tested, but it was a strong favourite for the one I’d take home. (JR)

Porsche 911 Carrera GTSUltimate road test 2017

The 911 was quite a tease, given that it was the shortest drive of the day – clocking in at total of 30 yards due to the Alpine course being closed early. In that brief distance however, I can confirm that the GTS sounds great at low speeds, has a very well-appointed cabin and a responsive throttle. After the slowest doughnut ever, there’s not much more to say except that the 911 feels every bit the super sports car at all times. Ahem. (MT)