Top Gear’s biggest car reviews of the year
Includes: Merc-AMG GT R, Aston Martin DB11 and Renault Clio RS16
Mercedes-AMG GT R
"As far as I’m concerned, there is no better sounding turbocharged car. The GT R makes a colossal noise, a whooping, hollering, deep V8 bellow that comes up from the very bottom of its engine block."Advertisement - Page continues below
"All in, it’s a terrifically absorbing car to drive. It’s very cohesive – the power and handling are well matched, there’s enough urge to stretch the chassis without intimidating the driver. It demands a bit of you and won’t relax as happily as an R8 or 911 Turbo. So as a daily it’s a bit harder work, but the highs are higher when you go looking for them..."
"Its pace is relentless yet completely effortless, and backed up by the kind of aural drama that can’t fail to raise a smile, even, perhaps, if cars aren’t your thing. And thanks to that AWD setup, you’ll have complete confidence to access rather a lot of the performance, rather a lot of the time. Which is a double-edged sword. That lighter front end turns sharply, with understeer not really an issue at road speeds. You can sustain what feels like unbeatable pace on challenging stretches of tarmac..."Advertisement - Page continues below
"Within ten yards this feels like no 4C I’ve ever driven. The steering’s weight is more consistent and linear, and as the miles rack up it happily obeys motorway lane changes. You’ve got so much less management to do just to maintain a straight course. It’s really lovely. And that means you’ve got more confidence in actually getting stuck into the rest of the 4C’s abilities..."
"The Centenario is a rolling testbed for the next-generation Aventador and represents a suitably barking-mad end to the Winkelmann era and a century of jaw-droppingly desirable cars, but fires the starting gun on the next generation and the century to come."
Aston Martin DB11
"It is, whichever way you measure it, a sizeable step on from the DB9 it replaces, but doesn’t try anything too outrageous. A solid start to a future portfolio that will be studded with flashier and faster members than this, but none that are quite so suited to being enjoyed every day, wherever you’re heading"
"I was sceptical about how much of a step forward over the FF it would be when the basic concept remains so similar, but it’s a wholesale inside and out reworking that’s lost nothing, gained extra dynamism and retained the atmospheric V12."Advertisement - Page continues below
Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge
"The Wraith and Ghost Black Badge are magnificent cars that double as singular forms of entertainment in their own right. Nobody else does the automotive travel experience quite like Rolls-Royce, and the Black Badge is underpinned by a very specific wit to go with the engineering kudos."
Porsche 718 Cayman S
"The more I drove this one, the more I got used to it, but then I’d think back to driving the naturally aspirated one and, well, that’s the one I still want. I no longer yearn to own a Cayman – that, when all’s said and done, is the difference."Advertisement - Page continues below
Renault Clio RS16
"Though not as special, the RS16 is better to drive; more approachable, less likely to harm you, and simply more fun to drive quickly, even without a sonorous V6 tucked just behind your ears. The hot hatch world will be a poorer place if Renault can’t make the sums work."
Ferrari 488 GTB
"The way the 488 kicks through the rev range is nothing short of epic. It’s massively fast of course, forcing you back into the seat with its rampant torque and ability to not just sustain that pressure but actually increase it as the revs rise. There is a sense of crescendo to this turbo engine, the only downside of which is that the 8,000rpm limiter seems to arrive too soon."
"The thing just head-butts the horizon. Not quite like the similarly powerful McLaren 570, mind, because it’s hauling nearly a third of a tonne more. But there are times when the GT-R easily leaves a 2WD supercar behind. First, from a standing start, and second out of a slowish corner, especially a slippery one, because of the immense traction."
VW Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40
"This is a tremendous car. Honestly, one of the very best I’ve driven in 2016. All of the confusing spec nonsense floats out of the window when you give the Clubsport a bit of stick, and discover what this car does is take the very likeable – but slightly untaxing – Golf GTI, and ramp up the aggression in every single department, without ruining any of the day-to-day ability."
"There’s magic here. It’s a marvellously engaging thing. The cornering is connected and confident, happy to give you options. The steering is all feel but little corruption. As ever in a McLaren, the carbon tub has a stiffness and integrity you can always sense."
Alfa Romeo Giulia QV
"I run an M3 as my daily driver, have done over 11,000 miles in it now. I’ve bonded with it, forgiven its foibles, admire it tremendously, thoroughly enjoy living with it. And given a straight choice between it and the Giulia… I really don’t know. It’s that close. My practical side would say BMW because it’s a known quantity, but I reckon there’s a strong case for the Giulia being better to drive."
"I’m not sure I’ve felt acceleration quite like it in any other car I’ve driven. Partially this is down to the open cockpit experience, but more to the fact the 3-Eleven occupies an unusual position. It’s not as light as other lightweights such as the Caterham R620 or BAC Mono, but compensates with way more power and torque. And at the other end it’s so much more visceral and immediate than anything with a windscreen and roof, be it the McLaren P1 or Ferrari LaFerrari. Really."
BMW M4 GTS
"The damping has that same precision that a Porsche GT3’s does – it feels sharp at low speed, but as you go faster the suspension’s quick reactions mean it’s not caught out. It’s firm, but really satisfying to punt down a good road. Very positive steering and turn-in, unbelievable front end grip. This is not a car that understands understeer."
McLaren 675LT Spider
"Traction is herculean but progressive. The car operates on a stratospheric plane, but elevates you with it. It’s sharp but not spiky. Meanwhile up front, the LT’s steering is magically alert, and feeds torrents of feel to your happy hands."
Porsche 718 Boxster S
"It handles better, goes faster, is more efficient and all that nice spreadsheety ticking of boxes. If you came to this car without knowing the old one, then you’d be blown away. And yet, it’s not - quite - as emotional or engaging as the previous six-cylinder generation, simply because of the way the engine makes power."
"In many ways it would be wrong to compare the NSX to an R8 or 488 although those are the benchmark competitors. In fact it feels more directly related to a Porsche 918. Both took years to get right, both hide their additional mass with trick electronics and both represent a new kind of performance car that’s hard not to admire. "
"Rolls-Royces are the most sensual and immersive luxury car experiences available, bar none. In losing its roof, the Dawn adds an extra sensory dimension to the scenario. It’s utterly, bewitchingly magnificent."
"Even on a track it’s remarkably composed, and stays well damped and neutral, resisting roll and understeer. The steering’s very progressive, and stability at very high motorway speeds is impressive. It can’t altogether disguise the weight, but you hardly feel the height."
"The first sign of the M2’s deep talent is the steering feel, the tingling of engagement that it wraps you in. There’s lots of grip, but – much more than in the M3/M4 – a sense of how much is left. Now confident of the state of play at the front, you can joyfully get to work on the throttle and bring the rear end into play. Traction is colossal but gradually you can get the back to edge outward. It’s uncannily progressive and you’ve a delightfully transparent channel of messages to work with..."
Fiat 124 Spider
"Because there’s so much more low-down torque, I’d wager this is a more throttle-adjustable car than an LSD-equipped Mazda. You don’t need to get the body weight swinging around on the suspension to get the car sliding – just ping the boost in a low gear, and the turboboost will kick the car slightly sideways. Not Ken Block-style, but enough to feel the car shuffle under the seat of your trousers and feel alive..."
Lamborghini Huracán Spyder
"The great thing about having a V10 on board is that it sounds interesting all of the time. Unlike a flat-plane V8, it doesn’t blare or drone at low speeds. It’s always chattering away to itself and generally being musical. Deep-bodied and flatulent at low revs or on the overrun, baleful in the mid-range and bloody frenetic at the 8,250rpm power peak..."
Ford Focus RS
"It’s a magical sensation, because unlike powerful rear-wheel drive cars, where the rear has a penchant for overtaking the front, the RS’ front tyres aren’t merely a static rotation point, they use that 30 per cent of torque to keep things moving forward, letting you hang the tail out, fear-free..."
Pagani Huayra BC
"Even on this brief first acquaintance which was limited by a road network more used to Fiat 500s and goats than 789bhp hypercars, it’s immediately obvious that the steering is sharper than the standard car, and the brakes are mighty, and the performance is brutal… delivering the kind of acceleration you can feel in your face..."
"The CT6 scores really well in the dynamics category. It’s around 1,000lb lighter than some of its bigger competitors, has a super tight bodyshell, and makes extensive use of fewer, bigger clever castings at key points in the structure. Plus there’s an active chassis, so the CT6 shares the ATS and CTS’s class-leading ability to stay composed and change direction with speed, control and surety. It also does all this with a hushed calm you would want but probably weren’t expecting..."
Aston Martin Vulcan
"Five laps and I’m spent – I start to get a headache, I need to drink, sweat gathers, ears ring. I haven’t heard a word from my engineer on the pitwall, because even with the intercom turned right up, he’s fighting an unwinnable battle against the V12. When someone else goes out you can hear them around the whole circuit, each gearshift, each lift. When they howl down the pit straight, shockwaves battering the grandstands, it’s actually painful. Moments later, you can taste the pungent fumes..."
Porsche 911 Turbo and Turbo S
"Go faster and both the Turbo or S remain one of the quickest point-to-point road cars on the planet. Click Sport Response, press throttle, overtake eight cars, relax. Or keep going and realise that because the Turbo remains a GT, everyday car, that it lulls you into travelling at speeds that you just didn’t think relevant, or actually possible..."
Mercedes-AMG E63 S
"Stupid, mad, brilliant, hilarious. Don’t go near it in the wet, because the back will snap out of line and beyond the point of no return in an instant. But at higher speeds on dry tracks it’s immensely controllable. As long as you’re not picking up the tyre bills. 626lb ft does do some damage…"
Lotus Exige Sport 380
"Take it on at your ego’s peril. It’s the most accelerative Lotus I’ve ever driven by some margin: down the back straight at the Hethel test circuit, you turn into the ballsy Windsock corner at 80mph (if you’re a bit chicken like me), or 90mph if you’re trying, and don’t brake for the second-gear chicane until you’re knocking on the door of 140mph."
BMW 5 Series
"It is a fabulously ownable car. Wonderfully secure on any road. Fast and yet refined. Comfortable in its ride and seats. With cabin quality and ergonomics developed to a world-leading pitch. It’s painstakingly evolved and definitely a 5 Series. No surprise, but exactly what literally millions of buyers want."
Tesla Model X
"Tesla is good at providing the kind of eye-boggling acceleration I can only liken to a supercharged Ariel Atom or a launch-controlled Porsche 911 Turbo S. Some of that comes from the sheer mass you’re moving, but the faintest squeeze of the accelerator at the end of a village sees you hit the national speed limit almost as soon as you spotted the sign."
"I really can’t stress this enough – the F12tdf is an animal in a way that nothing else is. A GT3 RS is far more stable, a LaFerrari is way more magnanimous and kinder to you and flows with a road. I’m trying to think of other cars that would induce similarly damp palms."
"The power on offer is quite staggering. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 offers up 435bhp and 664lb ft, enough to drag the SQ7’s 2.3 tonnes to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds."
BMW M4 Competition
"In the standard car, it felt like the engine, gearbox, rear axle and suspension actively didn’t like each other, and were fighting over how to interpret the driver’s commands. The Competition is more business-like. More professional, without getting anodyne and soulless."
Audi R8 Spyder
"Gearchanges and lifts of the throttle, meanwhile, will bounce a wild cocktail of pops and crackles off the nearest solid surface. It’s utterly silly and a little childish. But that’s what supercars are about, right?"
"The Quantino is an odd but charming looking machine in the carbon. If Koenigsegg went to Zagato and asked them to construct a Ford Fiesta rival (we can dream), it’d probably look something like this."
Lamborghini Aventador SV with rear-wheel-steering
"It’s immediately, instantly more agile on the GP track than the standard car. As noted, the SV feels more agile than a car with a mid-mounted 6.5-litre V12 really ought to. The SV with RWS is an order of magnitude sharper again, more ‘feelsome’, and inspires more confidence. It also understeers less, but avoids the sensation that some spooky voodoo is occurring on the rear axle – as is the case in the Ferrari F12tdf – the first time you really get on it. It feels natural. Yes, the massively grippy Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres help, but the way you can chuck this thing into a corner, then lean on it all the way through, really is quite something. The RWS, coupled to the SV’s amazingly well calibrated ESC, allows you to manhandle all 740bhp with impunity..."