Brown Car Guy: Car of the Decade 2010s
Here's my personal favourite from each year of the last decade and best overall car of 2010-2019
Looking back through all the multitude of many motors I've tested, reviewed and written about in the last decade, here the cars that stood out for me personally as the most memorable drives and/or the cars I would have! By the way - the years are when the cars were introduced, not necessarily when I drove them, which might have been much later in some cases.
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2010 Lotus Elise S3
Not entirely a new car, but every time I drive one, I'm left utterly enchanted, hooked and tingling all over. A more visceral, pure and connected driving experience you'll be hard pushed to find anywhere. It's a happy car, it's literally smiling at you, and everyone loves it. From the S3 on, it exclusively got Toyota engines and transmissions - hence mechanically reliable. I absolutely adore it! Talking of Toyotas though there is one other car that I must put a close second.
10 years in the making, five years in development, would-be Formula 1 V10 engine making the best noise of any sportscar ever - evocative enough to wake the souls of dead racing drivers - the Lexus LFA is a legend. Rarer than a Bugatti Vey/Chi-ron, I was privilege to get some laps on the scariest high-speed circuit I've driven - Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. To say I was intimidated beforehand would be an understatement. Half a lap in, the ferocious LFA was talking to me - and it was friendly! 'Rev me up, push me hard, trust my dynamics.' I was smitten by the in-lap.
I’ve got to fit another Lotus into this, the Evora. A slightly more refined Elise, every version is delicious to drive and lovely to behold. I would never pass up an opportunity to get behind the wheel!
2011 Lamborghini Aventador
A worthy offering in the Countach lineage - wild, rakish and potent in that typical Lamborghini way, driveable and liveable thanks to Audi DNA. Not as mad as Murcielago, but still what I'd regard as the last true Lamborghini in essence and spirit. Was fortunate to do the international launch at Vallelunga Circuit in Rome and driven it a few times since. In the intervening years it's gotten crazier still, and sprouted numerous special editions, but this progenitor set a sound template for sensational supercar insanity!
2012 Toyota 86
When Toyota finally got sporty again. Underrated and misunderstood by many - this is not a power-drift car. It's a superbly balanced and sublimely set-up sporty two-seater that is always an absolute joy to steer especially in three-pedal self-shifting guise. 200bhp was plenty at launch. What it's missing though is any further development the years since - where are the more powerful versions, where is the convertible, where are the track day editions?
Talking of track day specialists - my very close second favourite is the more hard core version of the Lotus Elise, the Exige. Like a mini racecar for the road, it's a quick and stupendously thrilling steer.
2013 Jaguar F-Type
Actually this one was very close between the Jaguar F-Type and the C7 Chevrolet Corvette. I've had a lot of fun miles in Vettes over the years, the most memorable being the Z06 manual convertible, plus of course the ZR1 on track and... well all of them were unforgettable actually.
But the F-Type is just such a sweet thing and (was) available in three flavours - mental musclecar V8, Grand Tourer V6, and light and sporty four-cylinder (V6 has been dropped in the new 2020 version). The 2.0 four-pot is the one I tested most recently and I totally fell for it without expecting to. The delightful chassis really shone through in that guise. Suave and stylish - I can easily see myself in one - even if you can't. LOL!
2014 Ford Mustang
Whilst an honourable mention must go to the Lexus RC F which I drove a lot during its launch year, on road and track, and have a lot of fond memories with, the winner of course has to be the Ford Mustang. The current styling might have caused a bit of an uproar when it was first revealed, but personally I was immediately in love. It remains a properly unruly muscle car, that gets your heart racing, from the burble of its V8 comes to life. Then you exit sideways out of every junction as the world points at you in appalled disgust - and frankly you don't give a damn, because you’re laughing your head off.
It's everything a cool car should be - rockstar style, Mr Universe might, rebellious attitude, you’re bestest drinking buddy and a rule-breaker at heart. Plus it looks a million dollars but doesn’t cost it. The latest revisions make it better than ever. Manual V8 coupe would be my pick - and whilst I was once nearly going to sign on the dotted line for a Kona Blue GT, it's the Bullit Edition that has me salivating the most these days. I'd so rock one!
2015 Ferrari 488 Spider
Admittedly I still think the 458 Italia is the prettier car, but the 488 (and its latest successor the F8 Tributo) are as sexy as hell. With the Spider you get to play Magnum all day long, but the driving dynamics of the 488 were somehow even better than the 458 - more accessible, safer and yet more exciting and engaging. The beautifully balanced handling is exquisite fun, and I even like the way it sounds. Of all the contemporary Ferraris, this is my favourite (though I haven't driven an F8 Tributo yet!).
Whilst this piece of exotica is head and shoulders above anything else, I can't let this vintage year pass without name-checking some American muscle cars that so got under my skin, I never tired of thrashing them and vapourising as much rubber as possible. The 6th gen Chevrolet Camaro SS and ZL1 especially with that original face were captivating cars - punchy but poised.
And two old-skool muscle cars that were always my favourites levelled their shit way up to almost unattainable heights - Dodge Challenger and Charger both went 707bhp Hellcat crazy - bonkers and badass! I could feast at that fountain of ferocity forever quite frankly!
2016 Aston Martin DB11
Just when I'd started to lose interest in Aston Martins, dismissing them as outdated and badly put together, the DB11 happened. Handsome, nicely built, sweet interior, electronics that worked and made sense (thanks Mercedes!) and oh my Lord, the performance. Plus you feel like James Bond in an Aston - you just kinda do.
Having said all of that - the new Alfa Romeo blew me away with the Giulia and especially the Quadrifoglio version, which I'd put right up there with, perhaps even above, a BMW M3/M4, plus it is gorgeous. And the best hot hatchback of the decade so far, was not the Volkswagen Golf GTI - but its limited edition Clubsport variant. Somehow it dialled back the civility and turned up the excitement. Fantastic! But it didn't reign for long in my affections...!
2017 Honda Civic Type-R
To be honest, I didn't get to drive one until this year (it's not officially sold in the UAE where I was previously based). And now I've driven three different current gen Type Rs, and each one confirmed my initial stunned impressions - there has never been a tighter, sharper, more solid and potent hot hatch, that is also perfectly practical, usable and comfortably daily driveable. Honda has worked magic with this car, and rediscovered its mojo along the way. It's genius and I desperately want one.
By some contrast the other stand-out car that debuted this year is the Ferrari 812 Superfast, which literally would take my breath away with every squirt of the throttle, the thrust slamming my internal organs against my spin and twisting my facial features into a bizarre contortion of awe, surprise, delight and terror! What a thing.
2018 Bentley Continental GT
I'd driven many previous editions of the Continental GT by Bentley, and admired them. But the only version that almost got under my skin was the V8 S. But it was never a 'for me' sort of car. And that interior design, switchgear and interface was more than a little disappointing in such an exalted machine. However the new car is like a jump two generations ahead. Beautiful to behold; a triumph of craft, sculpture, tactile delight and technical extravagance inside: and bloody hell - magnificent to drive hard too! Love it.
But this is probably the peak year of the decade. There are at least three other cars that had me whoop-whooping with ecstasy - the riotously fun little BMW M2 Competition; the devil-may-care deadly Aston Martin Vantage (I struggled with the face initially but fell in love once behind the wheel); and the staggeringly swift and sensational 600bhp Jaguar XE SV Project 8 supersaloon - outlandish wing and all! I'd been a fan of the regular XE anyway (introduced in 2015) and always suspected a more powerful version would be a weapon - and it is!
2019 Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody
This is a difficult year to judge for and the winner may surprise you - it's almost like going full circle as this generation Dodge Charger was introduced in 2011. And I've already named checked the Hellcat when it was introduced in 2015. But this year I did the launch of the updated 2020 model year Charger Hellcat - revised suspension, improved brakes, same astounding engine, and a jaw-dropping, show-stopping new presence in its phat widebody suit. It looks and drives better than ever, and it was never anything less than awesome before. It's the last hurrah for a mighty era of motorised mayhem the likes of which might be extinguish completely from our reach soon, never mind be so accessible as this. I'm a huge fan.
But to some extent it wins by default because I haven't yet had the chance to experience other amazing machines that have also been introduced this year, and which I suspect there could be winners, such as the Ferrari F8 Tributo, Honda E, Porsche Taycan, Audi RS6, Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 and Chevrolet Corvette C8 (yes I know a couple of these are electric - sign of the times guys...). So perhaps they'll pop up in my round up of the 2020s!
The Brown Car Guy Car of the Decade 2010s is...
All of the cars mentioned so far got under my skin and had a massive impact on me - including a Morgan Plus 4 (but I didn’t include it because it’s not exactly new)! And I left out SUVs too, but whilst I'm here, take a bow my TOP THREE SUVS: Range Rover Velar, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and the latest Jeep Wrangler.
As you can see it was tough to select only a handful of cars from the hundreds driven during this time, let alone whittle it down to just one. Of course it couldn't be just one, I had to make a top three in the end.
In reverse order then, in third place it's the Lotus Elise S3. At any speed, in any circumstances, on any day, it takes you back, and reminds you, what driving is really all about it. Your interface with the car is about as pure as it get and it gives truth to the cliché - man and machine as one.
Second has to go to another car, that I only drove in this, the last year of this decade, but it had me at R. I can imagine as my daily driver - something easy to justify to the family, perfect for around town here in North West London and yet furious fun to peddle, especially when you escape the city limits - it is of course the Honda Civic Type-R.
And the overall winner is another old-skool superstar, in fact the automotive equivalent of the Hollywood all-action hero, packing a knockout punch and a witty retort to make up for its driver’s inadequacies. It instantly makes you cool and is the epitome of a muscle car - it is of course the Ford Mustang GT V8. I've driven many iterations of the Mustang, new and old, but there's one common factor between them all - they always make me smile and I end up wanting one.
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