The month began with the announcement of the seven cars in the running for Europe's 2011 Car of the Year award. Among them was Nissan's all-electric Leaf, alongside more conventionally powered options such as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Citroën DS3, Dacia Duster, Ford C-Max, Vauxhall Meriva and Volvo S60. The overall winner, announced on 29 November, was the ground-breaking Nissan, which COTY judge Steve Cropley praised for its potential to 'normalise' EVs.
As unusual as it was not to see a Renault on the Car of the Year shortlist, the French manufacturer sprang to our attention in other ways. We published scoop pictures of a new Renault compact crossover, which is designed to secure its maker a slice of the incredible success of the Nissan Qashqai and to make up for the company's flop with the slow-selling Koleos.
Renault insiders also told Autocar that a higher-powered version of the Zoe electric supermini is in the pipeline. The Zoe Gordini could get as much as 134bhp, they advised, but it should still be good for more than 100 miles of range. "Making high-performance EVs isn't like making fast piston-engined cars," one Renault man told us. "The higher-output powertrains are almost as efficient as the lesser ones."
November brought us not just one, but three separate drives in different, one-off, multi-million-pound concept cars. The battery-powered Renault DeZir came first, seducing us with its stunning looks, before shocking Matt Saunders with its bone-jarring ride. Next came Hilton Holloway's test in the innovative Audi A1 e-tron, and finally Steve Cropley's drive in Jaguar's sensational C-X75 supercar. Both the Audi and the Jaguar demonstrated the world of possibility opened up by range-extender technology for electric vehicles; both made it very evident that there has never been a more interesting time to be a powertrain engineer.
Meanwhile, Lotus threw editor-at-large Steve Sutcliffe the keys to the new supercharged Evora S, and he came back brimming with praise for the British sports special. "It's one of those cars that, for whatever reason, manages to over-deliver on the sum of its parts. It feels so much more than an Evora with an extra 70bhp," he wrote. And what about the most crucial question? "I'd have one over a Porsche Cayman any day," he concluded.
November's comparison tests addressed a broad spread of subjects and produced plenty of bragging rights for BMW. The M3 Competition Pack came up smelling sweetest after our 'Britain's best B-road cars test. In spite of being the second slowest through our timed run, the M3 was the most enjoyable car to drive on the day, beating the Audi RS5, Nissan GT-R and even the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.
And later that month, the Alpina D3 Biturbo coupé trumped all and sundry in our 2010 Green Grand Prix. This year the economy test was conducted on the track and involved performance machinery only, and the Alpina returned a commendable 33mpg – more than 60 per cent of its official economy claim – during our circuit test.