4 underrated British performance cars
These are four powerhouse cars we should really be paying more attention to
The UK has given the world a vast number of inventions we take for granted on a daily basis – the automatic kettle (obviously), television, telephone, penicillin, photography and even the World Wide Web.
We’re making waves in the automotive world, too: We invented disc brakes, carbon fibre and the electric motor. On top of that, we’re “the home of F1” and we have a strong heritage with the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and JLR. All that said, I feel like there are occasionally some automotive greats which slip through the cracks. These might be high-volume units or limited-run bespoke affairs, but I think we should be shouting about them more.
Jaguar S-Type R
The Jaguar S-Type R brought the British fight to the likes of the M5 and the Mercedes E55 AMG. Sadly, I think most agree that it lost that battle overall, but it’s definitely not worthy of being discounted altogether.
I feel somewhat qualified to shout about this car because I’ve driven one. It wasn’t an extended test drive by any means, but it was enough to fully-appreciate what the big cat is all about. It’s such a relaxed, dignified and modest way of shredding tyres and being a complete hooligan.
You’re enveloped by plush leather and an optional old-school wooden veneer (which I think actually works in this car) as you float over tarmac with grace. Kicking the noisy pedal is such an addictive and hilarious experience – there’s an age-appropriate delay as the gearbox stows its pipe and whisky in preparation for gear selection, but once the optimum gear is selected you’re gone. It's overpowered with a hilarious supercharger whine that is so uncharacteristically entertaining it can’t help bring a smile to your face.
The M600 Carbon Sport - One of the more modern incarnations of the M600
The M600 is a bespoke offering from the Leicester-based automotive geniuses at Noble. It was launched in 2010 and is still on-sale in various forms today as a result of its inability to be ignored. Noble made big changes to their cars with the introduction of the M14 and M15 models, which ultimately concluded in the more successful M600. This was a herculean leap forwards from the track-focused, somewhat unrefined vehicles from its past. The M600 has a much more refined appearance and the cockpit has a similarly pleasing aesthetic.
This car is certainly befitting of the 'brute' name tag – the car is devoid of ABS, traction control and generally all artificial assistance. I’m aware the phrase “driver’s car” is thrown around a lot in automotive journalism, but this car requires genuine skill to drive at pace. It’s a refreshing change from the current norm and is still capable of 0-60 in 3.5 seconds – even when it was first launched 8 years ago.
The Ultima GTR during its world record-beating skidpan run. I literally don't have space to write about all these records.
Ultima is a brand who many are unfamiliar with. This small outfit devote their time to carefully refining their cars at a slow-and-steady pace. Over the years, this has produced some striking results, most notably its ability to demolish world records.
The Ultima GTR (in factory standard 640bhp Chevy V8 form) set its first record of 0-100-0mph in 10.3 seconds. To help appreciate this feat, run the stopwatch on your phone for 10.3 seconds. Now imagine accelerating to triple-digits from a standstill, then braking back to 0 in that time.
Think it’s impressive? Ultima were just getting started – soon after, they beat their own record with a time of 9.8 seconds. Unimpressed, the car’s swansong was a record of 9.4 seconds. For further perspective, a Ferrari Enzo is only capable of performing the task in a frankly pedestrian 10.9 seconds.
Morgan Aero 8
The Morgan Aero GT - What Morgan call a limited 'gloves-off' variant of the Aero 8
This one was initially tough for me to justify. I felt as though the Aero 8 was appreciated (although I’ll admit the eyes have somewhat of a 'Marmite' effect), but just not quite as much as it should be. I didn’t know whether it was truly worthy of this list, so I did some research into sales figures – Morgan sold 472 cars in 2017. As in, across their entire model range. By way of comparison, Aston Martin sold more DB11s in the first quarter of 2017. Therefore, I’d call the Aero 8 underappreciated.
Originally launched in 2001, this heathen is the first Morgan with an all-aluminium chassis (where other models use aluminium-skinned wood on steel). Its unique visuals make it a sore thumb in a sea of restrained-looking supercars, with a furious soundtrack which almost defiantly enhances the effect. Perhaps the most attractive thing about this car for me is the price; it’s not up against Ferraris or Lamborghinis, it’s competing with BMW M cars and poverty-spec Porsches. If you’re after a Carrera 2S alternative with a twist, this is your car.
What would you add to this list to make it a five-car feature? Tell me in the comments below!