With our promotion this week, would you go for practical or performance?
One week, one promotion, sixteen cars on offer – so is it going to be Race or Space? Tim Oldland looks at the different cars on offer and tries to choose between them:
Track Car: Ariel Atom vs Caterham 420 vs Lotus Exige Sport 350 vs Focus RS
Bit of a tricky one, this. You can definitely lump the Focus RS in with cars like the Caterham and Atom because it has a Drift Mode which is only supposed to be used on track, therefore it’s a track car. But sadly, as good as the Focus is (and it’s really REALLY good) it falls by the wayside here compared to the others. Next to fall is the Ariel Atom, which despite being a fantastic car to drive and a new way of looking at hardcore car design just somehow still isn’t as good to drive as the Caterham on track, so it must lose out.
That leaves the Caterham 420 and the Exige Sport 350, wow what a choice. Both are exceptionally good cars – the Caterham is an incredible mix of delicacy to the controls, balance of the chassis and a visceral experience of the world as you drive through it, while the Exige is brain-meltingly fast, composed and has a hardcore nature to the driving experience that leaves you begging for more track time. So in the end it all comes down to personal preference and for me, the Exige is more usable more of the time. The Caterham may be the better car on track but you’re not always on a track where the Lotus comes into its own. Plus on track I like a roof over my head and some bodywork around me!
Tim’s Choice: Lotus Exige Sport 350
Sports Coupe: Jag F-Type V6S vs Corvette Stingray vs Nissan 370Z Nismo vs Audi R8
Four very different coupes in this category and for this choice we have to take ticket price into account sadly, which rules out the R8 for me as it is over three times the cost of the other three cars and that means that despite the incredible V10 engine it must fall into last place here. Now the fight becomes a little fairer, so the cars can be judged on their merits. And the car to fall into 3rd place has to be the Nissan 370Z Nismo, mainly because it’s the least engaging to drive and the engine(and the noise it makes) just isn’t up to the job at hand.
So that leaves the F-Type V6S and the Corvette to fight it out. Now ordinarily the Jag would win hands down for me as I’m such a big fan of the car, but I’ve just come back from 2wks in Florida so have a bit of a yearning for something yank flavoured. The V6S may sound good, but the Corvetter counters with a big ol’ V8 and a bellowing soundtrack that is one of the only things that can make the jag sound weak. The performance is also much better thanks to lower weight and another 85bhp, and the looks are pure muscle car. If I did this another time in the year maybe the Jag would have won but not this time…
Tim’s Choice: Corvette Stingray
SUV: Mercedes GLE350d vs VW Touareg vs Discovery HSE vs XC90 vs Audi SQ5 vs Cherokee SRT vs Maserati Levante vs Evoque by Kahn
I thought about splitting the SUVs into more groups, but even though some of them claim to be sporting there’s no real point thinking of them as such as they’re still high-riding off-roaders. So we have eight cars and one has to be last – or in this case two take joint last place – take a bow Mercedes GLE350d and VW Touareg. Both are fairly old designs, come with fairly humdrum engines and basically have nothing bar a nice badge, some understated looks and decent quality interior to make them saleable. So they drop into the background, followed rapidly by the cars in joint sixth place – the Evoque by Kahn and the Maserati Levante. The Levante is a pretty horrific looking thing with some bad angles and plain awful angles, made worse by the only available engine being somewhat weak as well, while the Evoque by Kahn excels in the looks department – Kahn’s kit looks fantastic – the engine is coarse, slow, thirsty and has no place in a premium SUV like this.
So four down, four to go. In fourth place sits the Audi SQ5, mainly due to its age and the fact that the main Q5 range has now been replaced but the SQ5 lives on. It makes it this high up the list though thanks to the cool looks and the shove from the twin turbo diesel engine. First step on the podium goes to the Cherokee SRT, thanks entirely to the utter bonkersness of it (is that a word? Well it is now!) – a massive SUV with a monster 6.4 litre V8 engine and a bellowing exhaust note.
In second places sits the new Land Rover Discovery HSE – with a caveat. The old Discovery was a fantastic car, full of charm and great looks but I haven’t yet driven the new model. It promises to be the best in class thanks to road holding, technology and classy looks but until I’ve got behind the wheel it has to stay in second place behind the Volvo. I had the XC90 for a week to review it earlier this year and it absolutely won me over with the imposing yet stylish looks, surprisingly good performance, decent economy and incredible interior. For me it is easily the best car in class, beating even the Range Rover Sport so it simply has to be top of the list here.
Tim’s Choice: Volvo XC90