There's been no shortage of hot new metal this year. Here's my top ten...
Despite the controversy surrounding its paddle shift-only gearbox, the GT3 completely blew me away. It was miles more civilized than I was expecting it to be, quite a bit faster than I thought it would be, and more exciting than ever to drive hard. Never before did £100k seem like such good value – but then the GT3 does just about everything you’d want from a sports car under one roof. I also happen to think it looks the absolute mutts nuts.
Can you spot a theme developing here? I didn’t really know what to expect from the 918 Spyder to be honest, but what I got was a phenomenally good – and quite astonishingly fast – hypercar that also just happens to be capable of running on electricity alone if you so wish. The best thing about the Spyder, for me, is the fact that, at its core, it’s just a good old fashioned supercar, with proper steering, on-my-good-gawd levels of handling and grip, and a monster great 4.6-litre V8 with which to make your heart explode. The future never looked so exciting if this thing is representative of what’s to come.
3. Porsche... only joking. Tesla Model S
The Model S was/is extraordinary for all sorts of reasons, the most surprising of which is that, in the end, it’s just a very lovely car to drive, simple as that. The fact that it’s powered by batteries is almost a side issue in the event, even though this is of course the car’s raison d’etre. And the knowledge that it’ll run for at least 250 miles before requiring a recharge makes it a lot more usable in the real world as well. Easily the biggest surprise of my year.
I spent a day with the Aston at a mostly wet Castle Combe recently and I was frankly amazed by how good it was to drive. Not just in a straight line but through corners, under brakes, going sideways; you name it, the Aston could do it. With extra cheese and chilli sauce on top. Oh yes, and the new gearbox works beautifully, so there...
5. Ferrari F12
The F12 is a freak of a car. It’s so fast, it is ridiculous. But what’s even more astonishing is how much traction and composure and balance it has, despite boasting enough raw power to pull a block of flats to pieces. But it wasn’t, for me, Ferrari’s best car of 2013 because that was...
When the 458 Speciale meets the GT3 next year it will, for me, be the biggest showdown of the year (unless we do somehow manage to persuade Ferrari and McLaren and Porsche to let us triple test the you-know-whats, in which case I’ll enjoy eating my words). The fact that the Speciale stands even a chance of putting one over the GT3 should tell you all you need to know about how sensational it is, never more so than in third gear, with about 12 degrees of corrective lock applied, with its new the SideSlip control mode fully engaged.
Lemon of the year for me I’m afraid. Compared with most other hot hatches of this year, most notably the excellent Fiesta ST, the new paddle shift-only Clio 200 Turbo was perfectly OK. But compared with its rabidly brilliant predecessor, it was a dud. Could, and must, do better next time please.
Probably the car that split opinion among our testers more than any other, but I happened to think it was great. Never before has so much pure speed and practicality and cabin quality – or handling composure on or near the limit – been available in a hot hatchback. And so it’s expensive, yes, but also worth it because it’s so different. Unique cars often tend to come at a price.
9 BMW i3
The future, right here in the present day. If it doesn’t win European Car Of The Year, it’s a disgrace.
10 Lister Bell STR, aka Lancia Stratos replica
In the real world I think this was probably my favourite car of the year. It costs thirty thousand pounds to build but it looks like a million dollars. And it drives as good as it looks. One day, when I take a step back from the coal face of this manic job, I will build one of these and drive it into the sunset, with a very wide smile of contentment on my face.
Have a great Christmas folks, genuinely. See you bright and early next year.