TorquingPoint's Top 10 of 2012
It’s been quite a year in the car world, with downsizing taking effect, petrol prices going up and the economy in a vice-like grip. But the auto industry seems to be going from strength to strength with more new models being released this year than the last few years and new niches being created and filled every month. So here are the 10 cars that we felt really stood out this year…
10. Renault Zoe
A bit of an oddball one to start off the list – Renault’s new Zoe, their first ground-up design electric family car. Some may still mock the EV ideal, but the Zoe is the first EV to be a genuine alternative to a petrol supermini. To start with, it looks great – much better than the new Clio in fact. It’s practical, with a roomy cabin and does a refreshingly honest 80 miles in normal usage on one charge. But the best part is that it costs £13,650 – that’s comparable to a 1.5 DCi Clio, with £70/month costs for the battery lease. Compare that to a couple of tanks of diesel in the Clio and the fact that the Nissan Leaf costs well over £25,000 and it looks cracking value. We really hope the buying public take notice and buy these in the numbers they deserve.
9. Toyota GT86
‘But it’s only got 200bhp’ they shouted. But they were barking up the wrong tree – this year’s most exciting new small coupe was all about driving fun at sensible speeds. Skinnier than usual rear tyres meant that the GT86 is playful and fun on your local B-Road so you can have a good old fashioned hoon at speeds that won’t lose your license for you. Okay, it could have a nicer engine note and the interior is a bit plastic and mid-90’s in places, but what we need to focus on is that in 2012, in the time of downsizing and econo-boxes, Toyota decided to build a small, rear wheel drive coupe with a flat four engine. Rejoice.
8. New Porsche Boxster
Looking at the previous 987-generation Porsche Boxster it would have been hard to subjectively sit there and think “Hmm, yep that looks old a boring now, needs a complete revamp”. It still looked fresh after all the years on sale. But Porsche pulled one out of the bag with the new model – taking design cues from the big daddy Carrera GT Supercar gives it a look of its own finally, instead of a 911-light. In fact, many think the new Boxster now looks much much better than the 911 – praise indeed. It still has the incredibly taught and nimble chassis, still has the epic 300+bhp flat six engine, but now adds in a proper interior, luxury build quality and stunning looks.
7. BMW M135i
Nobody thought that a BMW 1-Series fettled by the not-quite-proper-M/Performance group would be special. We thought it would just be a slightly faster 1-Series hatch. But the new lower echelon of the M/ladder managed to work some serious magic on the new M135i, with a chassis balance not seen since the glorious e30 M3 and performance figures that surprised everyone who drove it. The buggest surprise though was the price – BMW sell this 316 bhp beast for a shade under £30,000. When you think that a VW Golf GTi with just 211 bhp costs around that you can see why this is one of the performance bargains of the year. Expect to see plenty of these on the roads and in a 2nd Hand Spotlight feature in about 5 years!
6. Pagani Huayra
We couldn’t have a Top 10 article without the new Pagani. Okay, we don’t think it looks or sounds as good as the Zonda, but this is still a 730 bhp, 230 mph, £1m+ Hypercar dripping in carbon fibre and gorgeous detailing just like it’s big brother. The sound may not have the feral howl of the Zonda, but it’s different, with a more bassy rumble and whistles and flutters from the turbos and wastegates. The thing is, the Huayra is a much better steer than the Zonda ever was. More progressive, faster and more usable, the Huayra takes Pagani into the future and the all-important US market. Rumours still persist of a smaller model as well, hopefully we’ll see that in 2013.
5. Aston Martin V12 Vantage Roadster
Small, light, roadster body. 6.0 litre V12 engine with 510 bhp. Manual gearbox. These are the reasons why we love the new V12 Vantage Roadster – it’s not just pretty, it’s achingly pretty. It makes a sound like no other car. It’s probably the last manual V12 Aston Martin you can buy – except you can’t as they’re all sold – but it’s still the end of an era. Sure, the V8 will hopefully have a manual option for a while yet but the big V12 is auto-only from now on. Such a shame, but that’s the way of the world. But we can still get in a V12VR, drop the roof and enjoy every downshift, rev-matching and hearing the pops and crackles from the exhaust, followed by the epic howl as you floor it out of the corner. Heaven.
4. Morgan 3-Wheeler
‘Retro’ is a word used far too often these days, but this is one instance where it really is the only word one can use. The Morgan 3-Wheeler is to all intents and purposes the same car they made in 1911 – big V-twin engine slung out front, two seats and one wheel at the back. Now it’s an S&S 2.0 litre engine from a Harley Davidson mated to a Mazda MX-5 gearbox, but that’s the only modernisation, everything else is pure retro cool. It’s easily the coolest car on sale and though it may not have the handling finesse of modern cars it has more than enough charm and feel good factor to make it appear on most petrolheads’ fantasy garage list.
3. Aston Martin Vanquish
We loved the Aston Martin DBS - a proper old bruiser that would try and spit you off the road in a cloud of tyre smoke and V12 noise. It was also massively purposeful to look at. So it must have been a tough task for Aston Martin to replace it. But when they did and we all saw the new model – all bets were off. For a start, they resurrected one of the most evocative names of recent years –Vanquish. Then we were told it would be auto only (boooo), but that was quickly forgotten when we saw it – taking cues from the One-77 Hypercar, the new Vanquish is a stunning car, with an exposed carbon splitter up front, sculpted sides and a pert rear with a scooped-out rear spoiler. It may just be the best looking Aston for years. Oh and it still has the glorious 6.0 litre V12, this time with 565 bhp. What’s not to love?
2. Range Rover
It’s not very often that an all-new Range Rover comes along, so when one does everyone pays attention and you’ve got to really hope that Land Rover have got it right. Well worry not because they certainly have got it right this time. An all-aluminium construction combined with a new V6 diesel engine means that there’s a 420 kg weight saving over the old TDV8 model with massive increases in economy, huge drops in emissions and the same performance. The body is bigger too so there’s much more legroom in the rear and the cabin takes the luxury of a Bentley and improves on the style factor. Outside there’s a hint of Evoque to the looks, but the new Range Rover still looks stately, regal and well, very bloody British. If you opt for the new TDV8 model you get cracking performance teamed with great economy and a nice V8 sound track, or if you own shares in BP go for the 5.0 litre Supercharged V8 petrol model with 510 bhp. That’ll manage 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds, but will struggle to top 15 mpg.
1. Lotus Exige V6 S
“The Lotus Exige V6 S is, in my opinion, the finest sports car I’ve ever driven and beats the Porsche 911 GT3 hands down.”
That was the shocking conclusion we came to in our road test of the new Lotus Exige V6 S and it brought a fair bit of criticism too, from those who haven’t driven it and have ‘PORSCHE’ tattooed across their shoulders. But the fact is, the new Exige is a better handling fast road car than the 911 GT3 – it holds the road better, is more secure, yet is a sweeter steer, turns in more keenly and makes you feel alive every time you drive it. There’s nothing like it and we’re incredibly proud that it’s made in the UK. Evo Magazine liked it enough to make it joint winner of their eCoty 2012 with the Pagani Huayra – high praise indeed.
We just really hope that Lotus are able to continue on this line – making this Exige and its Roadster brother while developing the new Esprit. Because if this is anything to go by – a brand new V8 supercar with 600 bhp for around £100,000 will be nothing short of spectacular.
What does 2013 hold for the motor industry and what models are we looking forward to? That’s for the next article!