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Cars with soul

  1. Morgan 3Wheeler

    The most fun non-car that TG drove in the whole of 2012. Giving a taste of classic thrills without the cranking handles and lack of synchromesh, there’s something about the big vee-twin, the skinny tyres, the sheer exposure to the elements that tweaks our jangly bits. Turns a Tesco trip into a Spitfire fantasy.

    Years produced: 2012 to date
    Country of origin: Great Britain
    Fun fact: At an average of 89.5mph, last year a Morgan captured the ice land-speed record for three-wheelers

    This feature first appeared in Top Gear magazine

  2. Fiat Panda 4x4

    Anywhere you find mountains in Europe, you’ll find original Panda 4x4s still battling on valiantly. Driven with terrifying dexterity by chain-smoking ski instructors, these gently decaying Fiats litter the ground. Small, old and mechanically simple, they’re beloved by all who drive them.

    Years produced: 1983-2003
    Country of origin: Italy
    Fun fact: Since its launch in 1983, there have been 114 different limited-edition Panda

  3. Dodge Viper RT/10

    Eight-litre truck engine swathed in a Baywatch swimming costume of a body. What’s not to like? Well, the fuel economy. But the Viper showed that America remembered the muscle car and knew how to update it. A fabulously potent cocktail.

    Years produced: 1992-1995
    Country of origin: USA
    Fun fact: The team’s key target was to beat the Shelby Cobra’s 0-100-0mph time of 15 seconds

  4. BMW M Coupe

    Just when we were starting to think the Germans were irredeemably straight, they go and create an unhinged shrunken shooting brake with M underpinnings. It may have been an after-hours project, but wow, just wow. Small, punchy and beautifully boisterous.

    Years produced: 1998–2002
    Country of origin: Germany
    Fun fact: The Coupe was a whopping 2.7 times stiffer than the Roadster

  5. Maserati Qattroporte GT S

    Engines help give cars soul, and the GT S’s Ferrari-derived 4.7-litre V8 was one of the most soulful around. But that alone doesn’t tell the full story. The effortless chic and style of the Quattroporte, the grace with which it moves, and the soul-searing noise, that’s what the Quattroporte is all about.

    Years produced: 2007-2012
    Country of origin: Italy
    Fun fact: The first Quattroporte was a special commission built by Frua for the Aga Khan in 1963

  6. Ford Focus

    The original Focus was a reminder that the average car could ride and handle in a way that was anything but average, thanks to its costly but cool control blade suspension. Old and tatty an early Focus might be now, but, unlike previous Dagenham dustbins, it’d still run rings round many newer rivals.

    Years produced: 1998-2004
    Country of origin: Great Britain
    Fun fact: Last August, a Focus became the 350 millionth Ford to roll off a production line, which is a whole lot of blue oval

  7. Fiat Coupe

    Like the Peugeot 406, the Chris Bangle-designed Coupe also had the feel of a cut-price Ferrari, plus it was the right nationality. In 20v, five-cylinder form it could also keep up with contemporary Ferraris.

    Years produced: 1994-2000
    Country of origin: Italy
    Fun fact: Reintroduced by the McLaren F1, the Fiat Coupe 20v Turbo was the first mainstream production car to feature a proper starter button

  8. VW Lupo GTI

    Back in the bad, old days of the woeful MkIV Golf GTI, we had no inkling VW knew how to have fun. Then it went and created the rabid terrier that was the Lupo GTI. All these years later, there’s never been a tougher, feistier urban hot hatch.

    Years produced: 2000-2005
    Country of origin: Germany
    Fun fact: Early cars had a five-speed manual ‘box, but you want a post-2002 six-speeder

  9. Toyota Land Cruiser

    Apparently, the original FJ40 is called the Macho in Venezuela, and you could have ordered it in ‘Health Grey’. And, like the original Land Rover Defender and Ford Bronco, the FJ40 is a vehicle so fit for purpose it’s the antidote to the modern world on four wheels. This also means that hipster buyers in LA have jacked values right up.

    Years produced: 1959-2001
    Country of origin: Japan
    Fun fact: Badged Bandeirante, it was still being made in Brazil until 2001

  10. Audi RS4 Avant (B5)

    Soul is hard to define in a machine, but you know when it’s not there, as is the case in virtually every modern Audi we can think of. But there are exceptions, and the 380bhp 2.7 V6 bi-turbo ‘B5’ RS4 Avant has that Terminator thing down cold. The ultimate Q-car?

    Years produced: 2000-2001
    Country of origin: Germany
    Fun fact: The RS4’s engine has a baffled oil sump, to help high-speed cornering. It needs it

  11. Skoda Yeti

    On one level, a modern version of the Talbot Matra Rancho (a utilitarian French vehicle which looked like it had 4WD but didn’t). On another, a car whose gentle capability gives it indefinable soul.

    Years produced: 2009 to date
    Country of origin: Czech Republic
    Fun fact: TopGear got the Yeti trending on Twitter following its appearance on the programme

  12. Mercedes-Benz W123

    Widely thought to be the best-engineered motor car ever. “As well-made as some cathedrals,” according to May. Driven across Botswana by Captain Slow, and yet it survived even JC’s tender ministrations. Still colossally popular in Northern Africa. The later W124 was terrific too.

    Years produced: 1977-1985
    Country of origin: Germany
    Fun fact: The earliest 2.0-litre diesel models made barely 50bhp

  13. Rover SD1 Vitesse twin plenum

    Lord knows what planet Rover’s thinking beamed in from, but deciding to base the styling for its new executive hatch on a Ferrari Daytona was inspired. Fitted with a 3.5-litre V8, this thing purred with everything that was (occasionally) good about BL. Guilty pleasure.

    Year produced: 1986
    Country of origin: Great Britain
    Fun fact: Rover wanted to call it the Rapide, but Aston intervened…

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