What topped our definitive ranking of the best new cars you can buy today? Find out here...
9 July 2017

What are the 50 best new cars you can buy today?

That's the question we tasked our expert team of road testers with answering. Yesterday, we revealed the cars that placed from 50th to 6th in our countdown. So it's time to reveal the final five...

The 50 best new cars of 2017: 50-6

5. Aston Martin DB11

Any car maker that can keep a vehicle concept as wonderful and anachronistic as the front-engined, 12-cylinder, 2+2, Great British, grand touring coupé alive and well in this topsy-turvy 21st century deserves particular praise. But one that can update it, as Aston Martin has with the DB11 – building on almost every important strength that Astons have traded on for decades, before adding new ones and making the resulting car feel both brand new and warmly familiar – has done more than make a car. It has preserved a species.

The really marvellous thing about the DB11 is that it exists at all, frankly. Aston Martin’s business has burned through the fortunes of plenty of wealthy enthusiasts over its century of history and under new boss Andy Palmer it still has to prove that it can consistently turn a profit and pay back its creditors. But the punt was taken regardless: a sharp intake of breath was made and the skill and expertise of a close-knit company in the English Midlands was backed.

The DB11 is what has been produced. And it’s superb, not to mention a ‘proper’ Aston Martin. It is rich and seductive in the way that its V12 sounds, and yet newly vigorous in the urgency of its pace. It is more supple-riding, comfortable and long-legged than any DB car in history, and yet also capable of setting a benchmark lap around MIRA’s Dunlop circuit that’s a closer match for that of a Porsche 911 Turbo S than a Bentley Continental GT3-R. And it is so much better appointed and better equipped than the cars built under Ford’s ownership of Aston Martin that the comparison is stark, to say the least. The DB11 is easily the greatest single step forwards that its maker has yet taken.

In a handful of ways, the car shows room for improvement, which is why it has just made our top five rather than dominating it. But you can be sure that Aston Martin will have the time to make those improvements, what with the model lifespan of a typical DB car being about twice that of a 911. And so when Autocar does its ‘50 best cars of 2027’, don’t be surprised if this automotive blueblood is still in it. 

4. Volkswagen Golf R

What’s left to say about the R, a perennial fixture in this list and a repeat all-round contender for realworld money? This time around at least, broadly speaking, the car is new, Volkswagen having treated it to the same mild facelift as the rest of the Golf line-up. Truthfully, though, while this process tweaks the model’s appearance and infotainment and fractionally increases engine output, it remains very much as before. Which is to say brilliant on the kind of subtle and endlessly rewarding scale that most mainstream cars register on only fitfully – if at all.

Tellingly, it does not fade in recollection nor ever disappoint on re-acquaintance. The Golf R, like the Porsche 911 or Range Rover or Mazda MX-5, is discussed often in our office because it provides the kind of benchmark we all instinctively agree on. It is the kind of endless at-a-distance flattery that ought to damn the user to disappointment when finally returned to the sharp end. But instead, the same imperturbable embrace, brawny and substantive and spot on, rises to meet you every time. Naturally, a sizeable element of this is the Golf’s wider gift for ergonomic precision – although that hardly accounts for the EA888 engine’s brio or the neutral doggedness of the four-wheeldrive chassis or the unexpected compliance of the ride quality – all of which collude in the impression of a car in spectacular command of its dynamic faculties.

Consequently, its inclusion in the top five was never queried for a moment. In the court of public opinion, the Golf R remains Exhibit A in the case for both having your cake and eating it, and it would take only a slightly weightier onus on value for money for the car to stand triumphantly at the top of this short list every year. 

3. Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

The most astounding thing about the Giulia Quadrifoglio is that it results from what could be called a standing start. Before the Giulia, Alfa Romeo hadn’t built a rear-drive saloon for decades. It hadn’t dabbled seriously in V8 engines, either – and its recent attempts at sportiness away from the 4C were limited to mostly awful, second-rate versions of the Mito and Giulietta. Its initial attempt at rivalling the mighty BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 ought by rights to have been an admirable failure at most, but it isn’t. It’s as far from that as you could hope to get. It is overachievement. It threatens to be a proper Alfa: fabulous, flawed and emotionally irresistible.

That it manages to be any of these things is rooted in the Giulia’s interminable development. Those repeated returns to the drawing board; the top-down refusal to compromise on key elements; the heavy-duty involvement of Ferrari engineers, each of them presumably immersed in Maranello’s bleedingedge approach to all things fast and feelsome. As palpably as a Porsche has passed through Weissach or a Renault through Dieppe or a Mercedes Affalterbach, so the Quadrifoglio feels a product of their input. The car’s steering, as ethereal as angel wings, is righteously incisive. Its weightless positivity is the counterpoint to the scrupulously severe German heft, and the Giulia’s lithe chassis has been primed to respond like a tuning fork, its direction changes resonating with the same immediate and emancipated vitality.

On Exmoor, limited to halfwaysane road speeds in spectacular weather, the Quadrifoglio doesn’t feel encumbered by the overt brawn of its back axle, either. In a single moment, it feels balanced, assured and animated all at once. Of course, in the same moment, it also seems insensitive to brake inputs, extremely thirsty, disappointing to the touch and very optimistically priced. Some of that is as familiar as it is unwelcome, but the Giulia’s extraordinary and unexpected talent is not. 

2. McLaren 570S

It doesn’t usually pay to work with adventurous car photographers, but this was one of the rare occasions when it did. Snapper Luc Lacey had picked a wiggle of tarmac he liked the look of for our road test shoot on the brand-new McLaren 570S. It was somewhere none of us had been before.

Typically, it was a road cut into the side of a Welsh mountain and, on the morning we were there, it was being buffeted by some awful conditions. I remember watching the clouds and rain blowing and swirling up the valley towards us and wondering at what point Halle Berry would appear in her X-Men get-up. I also remember thinking: “This isn’t exactly supercar weather.” Well, it depends on the supercar.

We explored the roads nearby before cracking on with the photos and discovered a narrow, rutted, potholed, partly unmarked B-road, bits of it mid-repair. It was the kind of road you might imagine would be every bit as incompatible with the enjoyment of a modern mid-engined McLaren as the weather was.

But no. What the 570S set about doing that morning was demonstrating exactly how usable it could be. How absorbent and forgiving its suspension could be when left in Normal mode. How the car’s incredibly precise, perfectly weighted, consistently paced and beautifully communicative steering allowed it to handle a tight mountain lane with a slippery surface (and a precipice just beyond the white paint) with the assured feel of a really great 1980s hot hatchback.

The car seemed to have all the grip and body control it needed – even with 562bhp to transmit onto wet tarmac through Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres – and yet not a morsel of hypersensitivity or nervousness. Amazing. And I was in awe partly because, a day previously, I’d done timed performance runs of the same 570S for our road test and witnessed it do things that cars at double its price level might struggle to match.

It’s one thing to be able to deliver a mid-engined supercar with a carbonfibre tub for a price that many would lavish on a highly specialised sports car, but quite another to make it as broadly talented and as confidence-inspiring a supercar as the 570S is. I’d driven the P1 a couple of years earlier; I’ve driven the 570GT and 720S since; and I still think the 570S is probably a greater gift to the car-loving world than any of them. It feels like everything that’s brilliant about the way McLaren makes cars, reduced and distilled down to its most simple, affordable and appealing.

1. Porsche 911 GTS

Regardless of appearances, the Porsche 911 GTS has not won this contest to find our favourite car on sale. The GTS range can be thought of as a box of chocolates, full of different flavours, shapes and textures. A Targa here, a convertible there. A four-wheel-drive version lurking in the corner next to the PDK. You can pop as many in your mouth as you like but no combination will be as mouth-wateringly delicious as the simplest and best: this contest has been won by the base-spec GTS – the manual, rear-wheel-drive coupé on this page, and that alone.

For as long as the customer has had a selection of 911s to choose between (which is more than half a century now), less has almost always meant more. It is as if the moment you start to fiddle with the essential rightness of the original concept other than to add speed, some of that genius is lost and the car’s appeal is reduced.

The appeal of this GTS is the same as that of previous 911s to wear the badge, reborn on a new level of ability. But were it just a great driver’s car, it would have stood no chance of topping this list. As enthusiasts, we all want a car that will turn every great drive on a deserted country road into an unforgettable experience. But in our hearts, we also know that those drives constitute less than 1% of our time on the road; and if the car’s not working on the 99% of occasions when we’re not flinging it at the scenery, the role of the car in your life is reduced to that of a toy.

The GTS works 100% of the time. It looks fabulous with its blackened centre-lock wheels and Alcantara upholstery. It rides beautifully on standard sport springs and adaptive dampers. It’s quiet at a cruise and has superb all-round visibility, occasional rear seats, a surprisingly big boot and a new infotainment system that even has apps on it. In short, it slots beautifully into your life.

Then the road appears. And the GTS becomes this other car; one so quick that it can sit on the heels of a 570S, because in this environment, the McLaren’s extra pace is more than offset by the 911’s more compact dimensions. The car feels light because it is: 145kg lighter than a 911 Turbo, if you’re interested. The wheel moves gently in your hands, the gearlever shifts around the gate with military precision and the body control permits just enough movement to let the car breathe with the road, never so much as to allow the smallest degree of float.

Put simply, it comes down to one simple equation: the amount of enjoyment a car can provide is defined by how fun it is to drive, multiplied by the number of times it makes you feel inclined to drive it. On this score, the 911 GTS or, to be precise, this 911 GTS, stands supreme.

Words by Nic Cackett, Andrew Frankel, Matt Prior and Matt Saunders

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Comments
11

9 July 2017
Autocar wrote:

And it is so much better appointed and better equipped than the cars built under Ford’s ownership of Aston Martin that the comparison is stark, to say the least. The DB11 is easily the greatest single step forwards that its maker has yet taken.

Without Fords investment AM would not exist, the best thing that ever happened to them, and the biggest leap forward was the DB7.

It was the first new vehicle in over 20 years, and is still influencing the design of all its products since then. The same could also be said for JLR and Volvo, without Fords considerable backing and huge parts catalogue, they would probably have gone the same way as Rover.

Ford also sold them on to owners with a passion for the companies to thrive, record sales back that up. The models produced under Ford may not have been the best, but they improved the quality and reliability and crucially sales, they allowed the marques to keep their own identities.

No one could say a Volvo or a Ford or a Jaguar looked similar, even though underneath they may have been, can we say the same for the VW group of clones.

9 July 2017
Citytiger wrote:

Without Fords investment AM would not exist, the best thing that ever happened to them, and the biggest leap forward was the DB7.

It was the first new vehicle in over 20 years, and is still influencing the design of all its products since then. The same could also be said for JLR and Volvo, without Fords considerable backing and huge parts catalogue, they would probably have gone the same way as Rover.

Ford also sold them on to owners with a passion for the companies to thrive, record sales back that up. The models produced under Ford may not have been the best, but they improved the quality and reliability and crucially sales, they allowed the marques to keep their own identities.

No one could say a Volvo or a Ford or a Jaguar looked similar, even though underneath they may have been, can we say the same for the VW group of clones.

If ford are so wonderful, why didn't they do for Aston Martin as VW has for Bentley and BMW for Rolls Royce?

9 July 2017
Bob Cholmondeley wrote:

If ford are so wonderful, why didn't they do for Aston Martin as VW has for Bentley and BMW for Rolls Royce?

And what is that exactly, turn them into the chariots of choice for premier league footballers? Make an SUV, in Bentleys case, make them a very expensive badge engineered Audi/VW, Phaeton or Q7 ring any bells?

9 July 2017
Well whatever autocar has to say about their number 1, it does not prevent it from looking like a startled duck at best and a lowered Volkswagen Beetle at worst.

9 July 2017
No Tesla Model S in the top 50? A Seat Ateca is better? :-/

9 July 2017
I am fast becoming less respectful of the opinions of autocar.... To say that the Aston has not improved under Ford is again showing the badge bias these so-called reviewers have for certain brands...

If it wasn't for Ford Aston would've been lost in History and the pre Ford Astons were not very reliable nor well built.

The DB11 is a beautiful car and looks the part inside but it has not moved the bar a single inch so to put it up there is rather biased and lacking merit.

Not impressed one bit with the final 5- Laughable....

9 July 2017
Factczech wrote:

I am fast becoming less respectful of the opinions of autocar.... To say that the Aston has not improved under Ford is again showing the badge bias these so-called reviewers have for certain brands...

If it wasn't for Ford Aston would've been lost in History and the pre Ford Astons were not very reliable nor well built.

The DB11 is a beautiful car and looks the part inside but it has not moved the bar a single inch so to put it up there is rather biased and lacking merit.

Not impressed one bit with the final 5- Laughable....

Having worked for a few of these manufacturers albeit as a contractor rather than a direct employee they would have very different view of life under Ford.

9 July 2017
I agree there should be a tesla model s in that list no doubt. Thought Range Rover should have been higher and as for the top 5 well it seems I must be missing something with the Alfa because personally I don't see it as that pretty or impressive and I think the 159 was much better looking. For an Alfa the giulia looks characterless and too bulky. Don't get me wrong it's not a bad looking car just not as desirable as an Alfa should be in my opinion. Golf R i agree with just because It is so capabable at doing everything with a relatively low price aswell.

10 July 2017
These may be the top performance cars on sale, but if you'd based the list on top 5 comfortable, versatile, affordable, efficient or stylish say, the outcome may have been different. Why is it that only performance matters?

10 July 2017
Well at least the showy bit of style, that is exactly the brief the gold fullfils.
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