Here we are again: it’s ‘Handling Day’ time – or our grand annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car shootout, to give the occasion the build-up it unquestionably deserves.
The protagonists change, but the format stays the same and has done for more than two decades. A field of the very best new sports cars, supercars, super-saloons, hot hatchbacks and lightweights of the year face off against last year’s winner to decide which is the best driver’s car on British roads in 2015.
As ever, money is no object – and value for money is no advantage. Neither is practicality, usability or dealer availability. Brand power, material lavishness and kerbside kudos get you nowhere, and bald grip and performance are only worth their weight on the senses.
This year, we are awarding no credit for outright lap time; it’s all about subjective dynamic appeal. Four judges, having driven the cars extensively on the track and surrounding roads of Snetterton circuit in Norfolk, will place the entrants into the order in which they appeal most as driver’s cars. And this year, as a twist on the usual plot, the top three will go into a final on-road test to fight it out for the outright win on the epic roads of the Yorkshire Dales.
We have 10 runners overall, the Ferrari 488 GTB representing our 2014 champion, the 458 Speciale, as its indirect successor. Elsewhere in the field, you could probably pick four or five likely winners, assuming the test conditions were geared to flatter them. It’s with regret that the McLaren 675LT and the Aston Martin Vantage GT12 aren’t along for the party. Both manufacturers declined the invitation.
But otherwise, roll up. Where would your bet go – and, more important, on what should you spend the winnings?
About the judges
Andrew Frankel - Senior contributing writer (@andrew_frankel): There have been 26 annual Handling Day tests in Autocar history and this man has been at every single one of them. Experience and measured approach are second to none. Crash-related anecdotes also first class.
Matt Prior - Head of video, features (@matty_prior): Autocar’s road test supremo turned columnist, video and drive story doyen has to pronounce on another new priceless supercar most weeks of the year. Usually in exotic surroundings, where he’s plied with better snacks than those on offer here.
Matt Saunders - Chief tester (@thedarkstormy1): Took a break from his usual performance figuring and handling testing… for more of the same. Took advice from locals on this year’s road route, which bisected one of the British army’s live firing training areas. Promptly took no offence.
Nic Cackett - Deputy reviews editor: Handling Day’s main purveyor of hairy cornering shots, ornate metaphors and cheery one-liners. Succeeded spectacularly in arranging lunch — and squeezing his rhinocerean neck through the welded metalwork of an Ariel Nomad.