A bargain sub-£18k price instantly made the Focus ST one of the year's most-wanted cars
27 December 2006

JanuaryThe year scrambled away from the lights like a boy racer with a point to prove. January brought a host of hot new metal, not least because of an action-packed Detroit motor show.Aston Martin showed us the Rapide concept, a sleek, sexy four-door version of the DB9; to near-universal approval and Lamborghini unveiled the Miura concept, a retro machine that garnered praise and criticism in equal measure. But then Ferrari introduced us to the 599 GTB, and suddenly Lambo's retro concept simply looked dated. Just as contemporary, but a whole lot more affordable, was Volvo's C30 concept, revealed at Detroit and looking every inch the 21st-century hatchback. In January we also got our first glimpses of the Peugeot 207, the Mazda 6 MPS, the VW Fox, the Audi S6, the BMW Z4M coupe and also the Skoda Roomster, ahead of its debut at the Geneva show. Away from the shows and on the road it was just as good a month; we road-tested the awesome new Mazda MX-5, the Honda Civic, the Toyota Yaris, and perhaps the most talented car of the year: the amazing new Porsche Cayman S.

FebruaryYou might have thought that February would be a brief respite between the Detroit and Geneva motor shows, but we kept our foot to the floor.That's especially true in the case of the Corvette Z06, which went on sale in the UK for the first time. This seriously quick machine seriously impressed us – sure, it has its flaws, but we were bewitched by the soundtrack, the speed and the looks.But if the Corvette was great, we were even more impressed by a much more affordable machine – the fabulous Ford Focus ST, which got the full road test treatment. The ST's combination of exciting engine, serious pace and an amazing chassis would have been impressive enough on its own, but a bargain sub-£18k starting price instantly made the fast Ford one of the year's most-wanted machines.But the Focus was due to get some stiff competition – Honda unveiled the Civic Type R Concept, and Mazda announced plans for the mental 256bhp 3 MPS.We also got behind the wheel of the latest Mercedes S-class. True to form, we reckoned it was, like its predecessor, the best luxury car in the real world.

MarchMarch traditionally means one thing in the motoring world – the Geneva motor show. In 2006 it was no disappointment, and a star of the show was the Saab Aero X concept. This stunning aeroplane-inspired machine might not make it to the road, but we still want one. Equally impressive was the Kia Cee'd concept – a Korean hatch designed for Europe that really looked like it has a chance of beating the established competition. Our appetite for supercars was sated by not one but two new Porsche 911s – the new Turbo and the new GT3 – and the Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. We got behind the wheel of the GT3 and discovered it to be remarkably civilised, for a car that can lap the Nurburgring in under eight minutes. We'd have to wait to get behind the wheels of the Turbo and LP640, but there was still plenty of fast stuff to keep us occupied, not least the new Audi RS4. This 414bhp V8 monster is quite simply Audi's best-ever driver's car; no wonder we gave it four-and-a-half stars in the road test.Audi also found success on the racetrack in March, when its diesel-engined R10 racecar won its first race at the Sebring 12 Hours in the US.The month ended on sad note, with news that Jaguar was to move from its base at Browns Lane after 40 years.

Come back tomorrow for part two

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