Super Saloons - DriveTribe Readers Choice Award
COVID-19 didn't spell an end to practical performance!
Usually on a yearly round-up, the author of an article would start off with a summary of how the year looked: all the ups, downs, hurdles and developments were summed up in 3 paragraphs and then you got into the grit of the article.
This time however, you all know how 2020 went down, so I'm not going to bother. Instead, let's focus on the fact that this year has treated us to some pretty tasty fast saloon cars. So tasty in fact, that any reasonable petrolhead could gaze at this list and go "yeah, I fancy one of those."
As this is a DriveTribe user's choice article, it's all down to you to vote which 4-door supercar worrier is the best. Time to introduce the nominations!
Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA/GTA M
Image credit: FCA Media
Built as a lighter, harder, more powerful version of Alfa's brilliant Giulia Quadrifoglio, the GTA was intended mainly for one use: a damn good track day.
For an extra £100,000-ish over the standard car, you get 30 more horsepowers from the 2.9 litre Ferrari-derived twin-turbo V6, some carbon fibre add-ons, the option of a roll cage where the rear seats used to be (specific to the GTA M), and some bragging rights. Owners will be able to tell their mates that their GTA is one of only 500 to be built.
Whether Alfa's pricing strategy is justifiable or an outright joke is down to you. But one thing that's not debatable is that the GTA will be a pretty rare sight on the roads.
Audi RS6 & 7
Image credit: Audi Media
There's always a little bit of anticipation whenever a new car from Audi's RS division rocks up. Because whilst they may not be the most fun on mountain passes, they're usually the ones to go for if you want a fast, comfortable and sensually-amazing daily driver.
The old RS6s, RS7 and others captured this audience perfectly and it's safe to assume that the new RS6 and 7 have nailed it again.
With plenty of tech, a premium aura, Quattro all-wheel-drive and more than enough blow from the 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8. The RS7 is a car you can't really argue against; except of course, if you want your dog to join for the ride. Because then the RS6 comes into play!
Mercedes E63 AMG facelift
Image credit: Daimler Global Media
A slight surprise was brought among us a few years ago when Merc's skunkworks division gave the world the W213 E63 AMG. Because it was soon apparent that it wasn't like any AMGs that came before it.
In essence: Mercedes built it as a properly serious competitor to the BMW M5 rather than a burbling, exuberant alternative that was usually found ghosting in a thick cloud of its own tyre smoke.
Within the 40-or-so years that BMW's M division and AMG have been building their own takes on super saloons, the rivalry has honestly never been this close.
For 2020, the E63 got a new face, some interior upgrades and well... upgrades in other places too. It already was a brilliant car - it's just even more brilliant now.
BMW M5 facelift
Image credit: BMW Group Press
You can tell that BMW and Mercedes are watching each other more closely than ever: because at pretty much the same time the E63 was updated, so was the all-famous M5.
Traditionally, the M5 was the best car in its class without question; ever since the original E28 from 1984 - or even the earlier E12 M535i. It's rather more closely-matched in 2020, so it all depends on your opinion!
Like the Merc, the M5 received a new face and improved upgrades all-round. It also comes with all-wheel-drive like the E63, so most of the 616bhp isn't all wasted.
As much as I don't personally like the red on this one, there's no denying that this is one truly astonishing machine.
Image: BMW Group Press
Even more important than the M5 in BMW's Motorsport lineage is the smaller, less expensive M3. I say less expensive because the new G80 generation unveiled this year is hardly attainable: in the U.K, we only get the Competition Package spec and it starts from an eye-watering £75,000! Only a few years ago, that was M5 money...
But in its defence, the Bavarians haven't gone all greedy and asked a tonne for options; because having visited the configurator, you actually get most of the goodies as standard. But the price isn't what shocked everyone, it was the nostrils...
But if you look past those (which I don't even think are bad), then you have one hell of a package: a straight six-powered, 500bhp practical family saloon built on an already-capable chassis and is set to be one of the greatest M cars of the modern era. Best of all? There's an estate coming, so even your dog can come along for the ride!
VW Arteon R
Image credit: Volkswagen Press
Perhaps one of the more unusual reveals in 2020 was from Volkswagen, consisting of an R version of the Arteon. In case you're wondering, it's effectively a streamlined Passat that also happens to be rather handsome.
The engine may be the weakest on this list: a 2.0 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder unit with 316bhp, but it'll shoot from 0-60 in under 5 seconds and will be considerably more attainable than the others on this list.
Like the M3, an estate version is also on the way (or a shooting brake, strictly speaking). But nevertheless, the Arteon R may be a possible niche, but it's nice to see something a bit more understated than the rest of the premium crowd.
Maserati Quattroporte & Ghibli Trofeo
Image: Maserati Media
After seven whole years, Maserati finally get their heads together and install the 5-Series rivalling Ghibli with an engine it always deserved: a 3.8 litre twin-turbocharged V8. In essence, it's the same unit used by Ferrari bar some technical changes and a cross-plane crankshaft.
It churns out 580bhp and 0-60 takes a hair over 4 seconds; which if you think about it, isn't that quick given the German competition are managing the sub-3 second margin. But perhaps that doesn't matter, as Maserati customers may not care about the numbers.
The same engine is also available in the more iconic, larger Quattroporte. The GTS was around since launch and it always deserved a significant power boost. Now we've got one. Excellent.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S
Image: Porsche Pressroom
Replacing the 550hp 'standard' Turbo, the Panamera Turbo S was presumably made in response to Audi's circa 600hp RS6 & RS7 in regards to the horsepower hierarchy. Because... well you know, Porsche is the more prestigious brand in the VW Group.
Nevertheless, the super limousine from Stuttgart kicks out 620hp and claims 0-60 in just 2.9 seconds. For a boat that weighs in at over two tonnes! And given that these German manufacturers tend to under-exaggerate their performance figures, it could be even quicker than that.
The question is though: does it take your vote as this year's best super saloon? While it may not be for everyone, it's certainly one of the most impressive on the list. And it's a Porsche!
Image: Audi MediaCentre
Finally, we come to the thinking man's choice of a fast super saloon.
The S8 has always sold in pretty small numbers, but the fact that Audi came out with a new one suggests that the customer base is established and quite particular on what an S8 should be about.
Unlike a Mercedes S63, it shouldn't really shout about itself. The sheer subtlety of this car is a huge part of what makes it so appealing; you would have to be a bonafide petrolhead to notice the badges and quad tailpipes and notice that it's something rather special. If you're not, you'd glance at this car and believe it's just another large Audi with a diesel engine.
That is until, you see one thundering past on the autobahn at a pace which your brand new Porsche 911 may struggle to keep up with. This is thanks to its 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 churning 571hp and 590 lb.ft of torque.
In many ways, it's not hard to see why fast, full-sized Audis took the starring roles in the Transporter films. If Jason Statham was up for making a new one, the S8 would be a perfect hero car!