As another year comes to a close, Tim Oldland chooses his favourite new cars of the last 12 months…
2016 has been a bumper year for supercars, from the lower regions of the £100k supercars to the £3m hypercars, this year showed us that there’s no stopping the performance car. Last year we mused about how much longer the horsepower race will continue and 2016 didn’t do anything to stop the race, with 500bhp now being the absolute starting point for anything ‘super’ and saloons and estate cars coming out of the factory with 600bhp. Hot hatches are sneered at if they arrive with less than 300bhp and don’t get me started on 500+bhp SUVs.
I must point out first though, that this list refers to cars that came out in 2016, as in actually landed in the UK, for you to order and drive, so some may have been revealed in 2015. But it was 2016 before anyone could drive them…
5 – Bugatti Chiron
The Veyron was one of the most iconic cars of the last 20yrs, combining punishing power and speed with incredible luxury and usability, so it must have been a pretty daunting task to replace it, but that is what Bugatti faced and conquered in 2016. At the Geneva Motor Show the Veyron’s replacement, the Chiron was revealed and the world was left stunned. To start with they had taken the slightly dumpy looks of the Veyron and created something familiar yet stunning – the details around the car make it a feast for the eyes – the multiple headlights, the swollen arches, the open rear deck, it’s still obviously the Veyron’s replacement but it looks so much more modern and stylish. Of course, Bugatti wouldn’t release a successor to the world’s fastest car without some engine work – in fact the whole car is almost all-new – the 8.0 litre quad turbo W16 getting 87% new parts to put out an utterly hilarious 1479bhp and 1179lb/ft of torque. That means 0-62mph in under 2.5 seconds and a top speed limited to 261mph. Oh, and a price tag of £2,000,000. The most impressive part of the Chiron though is that it’s apparently as easy to drive as a TT, which is a huge feat in itself with that much power.
4 – Mercedes-AMG GT R
Firstly – don’t call it the GT-R, Nissan won’t like that – so it’s GT <space> R. OK? Some may see the new AMG GT R as a strange inclusion here as it’s ‘just another version of the GT’ – but they could not be more wrong as the GT R is different enough to be classified as a different model if AMG saw fit. The wick is turned up on the 4.0 litre twin turbo V8 to produce 577bhp and throughout the chassis, suspension and drivetrain there’s apparently more in common with the GT3 race car than the normal GT model. Styling wise they have seriously scored too, with the new ‘Panamericana’ grille as used on the GT3 racer sitting atop huge intakes either side of the reworked bumper. The front and rear track is increased which accounts for the greatly swollen bodywork which bulges out over the front and rear wheels. At the rear there’s a massive carbon diffuser and a fixed carbon rear wing which all adds up to the GT R looking like a race car that just turned left at the end of the pit straight and headed down the M1. All of these modifications and tweaks have been seen on Mercedes’ before though and haven’t always resulted in a better car (I’m looking at you, SL65 Black Series) – there are no worries about that here though. Initial reports are of an incredibly driver focused machine that is huge fun to drive – a claim that is borne out in their recently release Nurburgring lap time. The AMG GT R manages to lap the ‘Ring in a staggering 7min 10.92sec – which earns it the title of the fastest RWD road car around the famous circuit. To put that into perspective, the Ferrari 488 GTB does it 10.71 seconds slower and really isn’t a slow car. Oh, one more point about the GT R is that it has satin green paint. Yes I’m a child but I love that.
Win a Mercedes here
3 – Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
The BMW M3 has had its own way for long enough, lording it up over the other sports saloons in the marketplace. Sure the Mercedes C63 has its own following, but the V8 engine almost makes it seem in a different league and without an RS4 in the Audi lineup there hasn’t really been a viable M3 rival for a while. Well petrolheads rejoice because there is now – and it’s an Alfa! It’s said that you can’t be a true petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo – the combination of looks, handling, superb engines and frankly hilariously bad reliability means they are spoken about in hushed tones by branded jacket wearing internet keyboard warriors. But now they have a product that isn’t just ‘good for an Alfa’ – it’s better than the competition – though they could’ve gone for a slightly more pronounceable (or indeed writable) name than Giulia Quadrifoglio. When talking about the QF you have to start with the looks – crikey Alfa really have nailed it here – they have designed a sleek, muscular and plain beautiful car that makes the M3 look old, boring and safe. The nose features the classic Alfa grille flanked by sleek headlights and two huge intakes in the bumper (though sadly as is the way these days most of the intakes are blanked off) and the rest of the body bulges and curved over the mechanical parts like skin stretched over muscle. And speaking of muscle they haven’t skimped here either – an incredible 2.9 litre twin turbo V6 that gurgles, snarls and barks its way to 503bhp – and thankfully it’s rear wheel drive. Though one downside is we only get the 8spd automatic in the UK – there’s a manual available in Europe. Either way, we’re very glad there’s a new alternative to the already brilliant M3, and even more glad that it’s an Alfa.
Win an Alfa Romeo here
2 – Aston Martin DB11
The Aston Martin DB9 was old. Very very old and needed a one way ticket to Dignitas – sure it still looked pretty and sounded good but it was so far behind the competition that it was only bought by those truly loyal to the brand. Aston Martin needed a GT car that could compete with rivals on all fronts and thankfully in 2015 they signed a deal with Mercedes to gain access to their technology and engines. The DB11 is the first car to benefit from that tie up and whereas this only bears the fruits of the tech parts, that is one of the areas the DB9 was most lacking. For a £120,000 car the DB9’s Nav and infotainment setups were embarrassing, so thankfully the DB11 brings it right up to date with all of Mercedes’ latest tech for the interior and exterior systems. So there are all the toys and trinkets you’d find on an S-Class coupe like surround view, self-parking, LED headlights and other niceties. Another of the hard things for Aston Martin was the styling, so many people criticise them for all looking the same (not me, why would you change something so beautiful?) so they dared to be different with the DB11. Sure the basic shape is still the same, but show me a big GT coupe that doesn’t have a similar profile, plus there’s the familiar corporate grille. But Aston has been very clever to keep a sleek shape without any wings or body addenda by incorporating the aerodynamic elements into the bodywork.
The Merc engines will first be seen in the new Vantage in 2017, but the DB11 still gets a new powerplant in the form of a 5.2 litre twin turbo V12 producing 600bhp – this is downsizing Aston style – which pushes the performance into the realm of serious machinery. 0-62mph takes under 4 seconds and there’s a 200mph top speed – in fact the performance is so strong it forced Aston to upgrade the Vanquish. So it has the looks, the tech, the performance and still has that glorious Aston noise – right now there really isn’t a car on sale that does a better job of being a GT, sports car and cruiser than the DB11. Well played, Aston Martin, well played.
Win an Aston Martin here
1 – Porsche 911R
When the ‘991’ generation Porsche 911 GT3 was revealed in 2013, Porsche purists worldwide threw their arms up in disgust at the fact that it only came with the dual clutch PDK-S automatic gearbox. They bemoaned the lack of driver involvement and tapped angrily at their keyboards while wearing their Porsche branded pyjamas (the only Porsche thing most of them actually own). Little did they know that deep within Porsche, a team of engineers were working on a car to shut them up. They took the engine from the later released 911 GT3 RS – a 4.0 litre flat-six with 493bhp – and slotted it into the skinnier GT3 body, and removed the fixed rear wing. They made the bonnet and wings from carbon fibre and the roof from magnesium to drop the weight down to a scant 1370kg and then they did the masterstroke – they stuck in the drivetrain a new short throw 6-speed manual gearbox. Nice touches inside too, with the addition of the woven leather ‘houndstooth’ seats as seen in classic 911’s, the 997 Sport Classic and the 991 50th Anniversary models.
Win a Porsche here
The combination of big power, light weight, manual gearbox and rear wheel drive with an LSD means that the 911R has won handling, performance and car of the year tests throughout 2016 and has cemented itself as one of the best drivers’ cars ever. Good job really, given that despite the £136k list price, the rarity of the R means they are now trading at £400,000. It’s somewhat silly though, as the next generation 991.2 GT3 is coming with a manual gearbox too, so you’ll be able to get the same experience very soon in a full production car – though being a ‘GT’ this too will also probably only be purchased by owning a certain number of Porsches over the last few years and having incriminating photos of the dealer principle in a compromising position with a vacuum cleaner.
Anyway, that’s a subject for another rant – for now the Porsche 911R is my favourite new car of 2016 and well deserved it is too. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings – in fact neither will you have to, as there’ll be another article looking to the new cars we’ll be seeing in 2017 very soon!
Happy New Year!