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The 50 greatest cars of the past 20 years

  1. If a year is a long time in politics, two decades must be a few lifetimes in the world of cars. The automotive landscape has changed beyond recognition since the first issue of Top Gear magazine thudded onto shelves back in September 1993. Who’d have predicted Ferrari making a 4WD estate - or a hybrid hypercar? Or that 2013’s Merc S Class could, effectively, drive itself? Or that Jeremy would still be banging on about how much he hates the 911?

    But through it all, Top Gear has been your faithful companion, diligently charting the evolution of cars through insightful writing, stunning photos and a lot of cocking about. OK, mostly the cocking about.

    So how to celebrate our 20th anniversary? As no one knew how to bake a cake, we thought we’d keep it simple and crown the greatest car of the last 20 years instead. Unfortunately this simple idea caused a great deal of fighting in the Top Gear office. Tempers run high on these matters. At least two black eyes ensued. At one point, a chair was set on fire.

    Thankfully you lot were on hand to help. Over 100,000 of you voted in our online poll, helping us to count down the 50 greatest cars of the past 20 years and crown the winner. And whoever attempted to cast four million votes for the Morris Marina, you’ve been reported to the authorities.

    Enjoy the countdown, and do feel free to tell us just how wrong we are in the comments.

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of Top Gear mag, out now. 

  2. 50. 1994 Audi RS2

    What we said then:

    “An estate car that out-performs pretty much everything on the road.”

     For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  3. 49. 2011 Vauxhall Ampera

    What we said then:

    “An EV without the range anxiety. A green car without the sense of self-righteous anger.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  4. 48. 2010 Dacia Duster

    What we said then:

    “The Duster distills the very essence of motoring. No car in the world offers more freedom for your quid.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  5. 47. 2003 Lamborghini Gallardo

    What we said then:

    “Lambo has always produced great-looking machines, but here 40 years of epic potential has finally been fulfilled.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  6. 46. 1998 Honda Integra Type R

    What we said then:

    “There’s an overwhelming sense that this car was built to be brutally caned.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  7. 45. 1999 BMW X5

    What we said then:

    “Its combination of poise and precision would shame many saloons, let alone other 4x4s.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  8. 44. 2011 Ferrari FF

    What we said then:

    “The most un-Ferrari of modern times, but also a stroke of genius.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  9. 43. 2005 Mazda MX-5

    What we said then:

    “The art is in the travelling, the science in the getting there. Only the MX-5 seems to understand that.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  10. 42. 2009 Alfa Romeo 8C Spider

    What we said then:

    “You’re looking at it, and a few seconds later you’re thinking of re-mortgaging your home, selling a kidney, robbing a bank…”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now. 

  11. 41. 2004 Ford GT

    What we said then:

    “Burdened with an impossibly glamorous heritage, this is the lowest, sleekest, most staggeringly handsome supercar since the original GT40.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  12. 40. 1998 Fiat Multipla

    What we said then:

    “What else drives so sweetly and is as roomy as a Pickfords van?

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  13. 39. 2013 Jaguar F-Type V6S

    What we said then:

    “Sharp and invigorating and full of life and charisma.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  14. 38. 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK Black

    What we said then:

    “A car that achieves the impossible. It could get you to Beijing or bite chunks out of a 911 Turbo on a Welsh B-road.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  15. 37. 2012 Toyota GT86

    What we said then:

    “It’s come barrelling in with a big, dirty smile. It’s designed for one thing: fun.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  16. 36. 1996 Ferrari 550

    What we said then:

    “You lounge in a sea of power, leathery luxury and Italian magnificence…”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  17. 35. 1993 Lancia Delta Integrale Evo III

    What we said then:

    “A grunty, grippy thing that snouts about the place looking for corners.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  18. 34. 1995 BMW 5-Series E39

    What we said then:

    “A rare combination of sportiness and refinement, like two cars in one…”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  19. 33. 1996 Lotus Elise

    What we said then:

    “Something to be taken out, savoured then popped away until next time.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  20. 32. 2004 Porsche Carrera GT

    What we said then:

    “An all-time great. An object lesson in engineering to rival the Brooklyn Bridge.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  21. 31. 2002 Ferrari Enzo

    What we said then:

    “It requires your brain and eyes to operate at superhuman levels. You pretty much need to be able to time-travel.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  22. 30. 2009 Aston Martin V12 Vantage

    What we said then:

    “Strikes the perfect balance between power and control. It’s probably the best car Aston’s ever built.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  23. 29. 2012 McLaren 12C Spider

    What we said then:

    “It’s like Ron’s army took a look at the laws of physics, ummed and said: ‘Yeah, let’s not worry about those…’”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  24. 28. 2007 Fiat 500

    What we said then:

    “More than a revival, more than a cash-in. It’s a small car that prevents you from longing for a bigger one, a car with soul in spades.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  25. 27. 2004 Land Rover Discovery

    What we said then:

    “Deals with muck and mountains better than any LR before, drives better on-road than any SUV.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  26. 26. 2005 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

    What we said then:

    “When you climb aboard, you realise this is the centre of all things Benz; everything filters down from here.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  27. 25. 1998 Audi TT

    What we said then:

    “The TT looks stunning. It’s quite clearly one of the best-looking cars in the world.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  28. 24. 2003 Bentley Continental GT

    What we said then:

    “If you want something to take you and three others across continents, there’s nothing better on the planet.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  29. 23. 1999 Audi A2

    What we said then:

    “If you’ve the slightest eye for design, you can’t help but be wooed by the A2, the most exotic hatch in town.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  30. 22. 1997 Toyota Hilux

    What we said then:

    “The most indestructible car in the world. When the machines eventually rise up, you know what they’ll be driving.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  31. 21. 1999 Honda S2000

    What we said then:

    “One of the most exciting roadsters. You can’t appreciate how manic it feels until you’re bouncing off the limiter.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  32. 20. 2009 Lamborghini Murcielago LP-670SV

    What we said then:

    “Everything a supercar should be: expensive, exclusive, mesmerising and ludicrously, lethally fast.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  33. 19. 2012 Range Rover

    What we said then:

    “The RR can cope with anything. Now more than ever, this is an all-terrain Bentley.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  34. 18. 2000 Ariel Atom

    What we said then:

    “That a miniscule maker has built something on a par with blue-chip supercars is incredible.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  35. 17. 1999 Pagani Zonda

    What we said then:

    “Incredible. There’s no production car that can touch it for power, speed, excitement or indeed expense.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  36. 16. 1999 Subaru Impreza P1

    What we said then:

    “Feels like you’re attached to some hybrid Lawrence Dallaglio/Linford Christie creation as it rockets you across backroads.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  37. 15. 2000 Mitsubishi Evo VI Makinen

    What we said then:

    “Fast and completely confidence-inspiring. On real-world roads, there’s simply nothing quicker.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  38. 14. 2012 Ford Fiesta ST

    What we said then:

    “A blue-collar hero. Every control just sends tingling little signals to your fingertips.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  39. 13. 2008 Nissan GT-R

    What we said then:

    “In short, it’s extraordinary. One of the fastest cars ever made, and one of the best we’ve driven.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  40. 12. 2001 Mini Cooper

    What we said then:

    “Not only a design icon, but a car that makes driving feel like a completely natural activity.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  41. 11. 2004 Toyota Prius

    What we said then:

    “Like a rolling interactive energy-conservation video game. Somehow magical for a vegan’s car.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  42. 10. 2010 Lexus LFA

    What we said then:

    “Expensive, over-specified and looks like an evil transformer. The greatest Japanese car? Maybe.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  43. 9. 1993 Renault Clio Williams

    What we said then:

    “A monster, a proper angry little hot hatch that, in so many ways, defines the genre.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  44. 8. 1993 Porsche 911 993

    What we said then:

    “It may have started out as little more than a sporty VW Beetle, but it is now the most complete car on earth.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  45. 7. 1998 Ford Focus

    What we said then:

    “Proof a 5dr hatch can be not just a commodity, but something you enjoy and desire.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  46. 6. 1999 BMW 320d

    What we said then:

    “The best performing, best handling exec car. Justifiable with head and heart.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  47. 5. 1996 Porsche Boxster

    What we said then:

    “Driving position? Perfect. Engine? Perfect. Brakes? Perfect. Gearbox? Perfect. Handling? Perfect.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  48. 4. 2009 Ferrari 458

    What we said then:

    There is nothing to fault. Time spent with this car is time spent with your mouth open and brain readjusting.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  49. 3. 2003 Rolls Royce Phantom

    What we said then:

    “Sublime. A luxury car not so much at the top of the heap as set apart from it.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  50. 2. 2005 VW Golf GTI

    What we said then:

    “There’s no other car that does quite so much, quite so well.”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

  51. 1. 2005 Bugatti Veyron

    What we said then:

    “Nothing prepares you for the shock of the acceleration when you open the throttle and unleash a thousand horses…”

    For the full rundown, plus many more highlights from the last 20 years of the world’s favourite car magazine, you need the massive collector’s edition of TopGear, out now.

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