New 3-series; Noble M600 driven; new Bentley; British sports car special; ZR1 v Lambo; Aston Rapide
22 December 2009

As August opened, Autocar broke the full inside story on BMW’s next 3-series, a car that will bring three-cylinder engines and sub-100g/km emissions to the compact executive segment from 2011. However, the debutant that had the whole office buzzing with excitement was the Noble M600 – the first new car from the company in the post-Lee Noble era and a pulse-quickening 220mph, £200,000 prospect to read about.

August 2009 in pictures

Later that month we became the first magazine in the world to deliver a first drive verdict on Noble’s crucial new car. Steve Sutcliffe was somewhat awestruck by his driving experience. “Pound for pound, I’d say this is one of the most exciting cars I’ve driven in the past 10 years,” he wrote, later recording that it felt even quicker, once in its stride, than a Bugatti Veyron.

By coincidence, the first pictures of another new £200,000 British exotic turned up in the same issue as those of the Noble. It was the Bentley Mulsanne, which was unveiled at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the US. What the Mulsanne’s 6.75-litre V8 gave up to the Noble’s in outright horsepower (500bhp played 650bhp) it made up for in pedigree. Why resurrect the ‘Mulsanne’ name? Bentley boss Franz-Josef Paefgen could give us no better reason than “because it just sounds right”.

Continuing the flag-waving vein, we crowned Britain’s best driver’s car of the year in August. The likes of the Jaguar XFR, Nissan GT-R, Porsche Panamera, Audi R8 V10, Porsche 911 GT3 and even the Lamborghini Murciélago SV pitched up at Goodwood circuit one day that month to fight it out for the title, but it was eventually scooped by the universally adored Lotus Evora.

Nine of our 10 judges voted the Evora number one, reported senior road tester Jamie Corstorphine. “We all enjoyed belting it around Goodwood,” he went on, “but crucially we enjoyed driving it more slowly on the road just as much.”

In a final flourish of patriotism, we invited every British sports car maker we could think of to Silverstone circuit to take part in a tribute to one of the most interesting and resilient industries in the world. Fifteen makers turned up, from Ariel to Westfield via Farbio, Caterham and Caparo, among others. A heartening and enjoyable day was had by all.

In the Autocar news pages, the full extent of the economic downturn’s influence on the car industry was revealed when Toyota, so often held up as the most profitable car maker in the world, announced a quarterly loss of £483 million.

In the US, the government-backed scrappage scheme ended, causing car makers to fear for the welfare of the ongoing recovery, and the state of Kansas introduced its Right Lane Law, which made using the outside lane of its highways illegal unless overtaking or turning left. And Swindon became the first British borough to deactivate its network of fixed speed cameras.

Other August highlights included a turn-up for the books when the Corvette ZR1 beat a Lamborghini worth three times its list price in a twin test. We also had a ride in Aston Martin’s new Rapide four-door, which Steve Cropley described as a car “brimming with promise”.

Matt Saunders

Autocar's review of 2009: JanuaryAutocar's review of 2009: FebruaryAutocar's review of 2009: MarchAutocar's review of 2009: AprilAutocar's review of 2009: MayAutocar's review of 2009: July

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