In a literal sense a driver’s car is merely one that can be driven by anyone who has the ability to drive.
But in the sometimes overused Autocar sense of the term, a driver’s car is one that we feel is unusual in the satisfaction it delivers to the person behind the wheel.
Which means any judgment we may make in this context is always going to be subjective, rather than objective. It’s what we as a collection of individuals feel about a car, not something we can prove or justify via scientific measurement, and it’s important to understand this whenever we refer to a driver’s car – past, present or future.
As to what constitutes a driver’s car, several key factors must be present in my opinion, most of which are again subjective judgments in themselves.
It must have good steering feel (which is entirely subjective), it must have an approachable, natural sense of balance to its handling (ditto), a well resolved, well damped ride (ditto), it must sound good (ditto), it must have good clean throttle response, a decent gearchange – be that manual or paddle-shift – and seats whose springing is in sync with that of the chassis.
What a driver’s car does not automatically require is massive amounts of power, torque, acceleration, speed, grip or fundamental dynamic excellence.
A Suzuki Swift is a great driver’s car yet it has none of the aforementioned attributes. On the other hand, just because these elements are present doesn’t mean that a hugely powerful, extremely fast, dynamically impressive car can’t also be defined as a great driver’s car.
So I guess the answer is: a driver’s car is one that we feel is worth going the extra mile in, merely because we, as keen drivers, know that we’ll reach an extra level of enjoyment when behind the wheel.
What defines whether it’s a driver’s car or not is actually up to the individual in the end. All we can do, as a collection of individuals who drive just about every new car that goes on sale in the UK, is drive them all and try to agree which ones we like driving the most. And these we tend to refer to as driver’s cars.
So there’s your answer my friend. Now let’s move on if we can.