The line-up for Britain’s Best Driver’s Car usually assembles itself. There’s a big name, a must-have, which everything else falls easily around.
But not this year. Not since Lamborghini declined, wisely perhaps, to allow any publication to compare a Huracán alongside any other car. So we mulled over a long list of what we thought we should gather for what we informally know as Handling Day.
Usually, we’d then cut that list down to 10 plus last year’s winner. But we realised that the 12-car list was one of the most stonkingly strong line-ups in the competition’s 25-year history, so we left it entirely as it was.
Handling Day is actually three days of testing, photography and video on the road and on a circuit. This year we based ourselves at Castle Combe, Chippenham, within easy reach of decent roads in Wiltshire and surrounding counties. And by decent, we of course mean poorly surfaced and badly cambered as only the finest British roads can be.
The track itself? It has been developed from the perimeter road of a wartime airbase so is fast and mostly right-handed, with a few chicanes to provide a fine test of traction and braking stability.
But although it is quick (the fastest cars exceed 150mph along the start-finish straight), it’s so bumpy and cambered that it’s a surprisingly good test of a road car. Even a modestly powered hot hatchback feels in its element around here. You’ll find one listed below, alongside the 11 other competitors.
Alfa Romeo 4C – deserves its chance to show what it can do here.
Ariel Atom 3.5R – most-focused version of the latest Atom.
BMW i8 – more GT than sports car but a must-have for BBDC.
BMW M4 – a 3-series-based M coupé is usually a front-runner.
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray – it’s already impressed us.
Ferrari 458 Speciale – a five-star road test car, but BBDC is full of surprises.
Jaguar F-type R coupé – hardcore V8 coupé with plenty of fans here.
McLaren 650S – a grower, we think, and a force to be reckoned with.
Porsche 911 GT3 – last year’s winner earns itself an automatic recall.
Porsche Cayman GTS – dubbed the best sports car in the world. Let’s see.
Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy – hot hatchback heaven.
Vauxhall VXR8 GTS – provides the brawny, large-capacity kicks.
Richard Bremner (senior contributing editor), Nic Cackett (road tester), Andrew Frankel (senior contributing writer), Lewis Kingston (deputy digital editor), Matt Prior (road test editor), Matt Saunders (deputy road test editor), Steve Sutcliffe (editor-at-large), Mark Tisshaw (deputy editor)
Click on the links below to read each section of Britain's Best Driver's Car 2014, followed by the crowning of this year's overall champion as decided by our eight judges.