Here, in no particular order, is a list of the cars that rocked my world the most in 2010:
Aston Martin Rapide
If you need any proof that a four-door supercar can actually work then look no further than the Aston Martin Rapide. Why? Well not only does its sleek silhouette pack the same amount of sex-appeal as the Vantage and DB9 but an extra two seats means that you can now pick up even more groupies when sat behind that leather steering wheel. A bona fide babe magnet, the Rapide is also the best Aston I’ve ever driven thanks to a level of intimacy you don’t seem to get in its siblings. Better than the mighty DBS? Yes.
Ford Focus RS
Cars seldom get as vehemently antisocial as the Blue Oval’s nuclear green road rocket. Indeed, looking like it just crawled from the wastelands of Chernobyl, the combination of that retina-searing paintwork; rude body kit and outspoken exhaust system make most members of the great-unwashed screw their faces up with disgust. Their loss because the Focus RS is the seminal hot hatchback of the past decade. Savagely fast in a straight line it also handles with laser-like precision thanks to a special rally-bred suspension system. Women won’t get it; elderly men will cringe but I absolutely love it. A modern-day icon.
For as long as I can remember the thought of driving a hybrid was right up there with walking naked through a busy shopping centre car park – cringe worthy. Of course this all changed when I saw Honda’s new CR-Z being unveiled at this year’s Detroit Motor Show. For unlike any of its other Earth-saving peers, here was a hybrid that looked and felt like a sports car but guaranteed low emissions and frugal fuel consumption. In reality it’s no quicker than your average family hatchback but sharp handling and an interactive computer system that rewards considerate driving with virtual trees makes you smile every time you get behind the wheel. Doing your bit for global warming never felt better.
BMW M3 GTS
Just to get up Porsche’s nostrils the Blue Propeller-heads in Munich decided to cobble together a car that would give their 911 GT3 a proper run for its money. The current M3 seemed like a good place to start so BMW set about modifying 150 units with a whole host of tasty performance tidbits. Out went the back seats, that air-conditioning system and in came a roll-cage and one of the sweetest sounding V8s ever built. Finished off in a shade of orange that wouldn’t be out of place at a matric dance, the resultant M3 GTS blew my mind around Spain’s Ascari racetrack. Capable of going, stopping and turning like a racing car, fast road-going saloons don’t get better than this. A worthy GT3 rival.
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
In the past big AMG saloons were kind of like the American muscle cars of the 1960s – hot to trot in a straight-line but heffalump clumsy when faced with anything that even vaguely resembled a corner. So imagine my surprise when I sunk into the über-luxurious E63 and found that it could dance the sideways shuffle with pretty much the same grace as a BMW M5. A machine that wouldn’t be out of place in the garage of some Mafioso kingpin, Merc’s big daddy of the E-Class range is also choke-on-your-tongue fast when you do naughty things with that accelerator pedal. The ultimate getaway vehicle.
Like the hot girl who goes to seed in her first year of varsity, a once sassy Citroën spent the last decade slowly slipping down the automotive seduction scale. Indeed, things were looking dire for the French institution responsible for enduring icons like the Pallas and Traction Avant. But then all hell broke loose when they unleashed the new DS3; a car infused with both James Brown’s soul and all the anti-establishment attitude of actor Johnny Depp. A boutique hatchback that goes against the grain by borrowing nothing from the past, the postmodern DS3 put Citroën back on the cool map almost overnight. Available with a turbocharged engine and a keen chassis, it’s not half bad to drive either.
With the IS-F Lexus decided to trade in their usual crease-free chinos for some torn jeans and a wife-beater vest. Of course being their first attempt at fashioning a big performance saloon, this transformation could have ended in disaster but instead it turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. Endowed with more power than a BMW M3, not only is this Lexus blisteringly quick but it handles phenomenally well too. Yet perhaps the singularly most satisfying thing about the IS-F is that it just loves getting sideways, that muscular rump proving to be as flickable as an irate tiger’s tail. Yeah, I never thought I’d say this but there might just be space in your fantasy garage for a Lexus after all.
Daihatsu Materia Turbo
While most car manufacturers spent the recession cutting costs, Daihatsu South Africa was dropping some hard-earned cash into developing the Materia Turbo. Limited to just 40 vehicles, each of these homegrown specials came equipped with a cache of mods that would tighten the jeans of the most hardened boy racer. The result? A Japanese take on those dropped-and-chopped hotrods that used to terrorize the streets of California back in the 1950s. Finished off with a turbo waste-gate that hissed like Darth Vader with every gear change, the Materia Turbo remains one of the most enduring cars I’ve ever driven.
After three years in the game I thought I knew what fast was all about. Well when I finally got behind the wheel of the latest Porsche 997 Turbo my perceptions changed quicker than a green chameleon on a red lava-lamp. Powered by a twin-turbocharged flat-six engine, this Porsche is without a doubt the most rapid car I’ve ever driven. Of course in theory something so brutal should also be a nightmare to control but in actual fact the Turbo is as easy to drive as your mum’s Polo. I don’t care what Stephen Hawking has to say about time travel; the fastest way of getting between two points is inside this 911.
1965 Ford Mustang
I’ve driven tons of sheet metal over the last year but the machine I still look most forward to driving has to be my racecar. A ’65 Fastback packing an obscene amount of Detroit muscle, the feeling I get from unleashing this thing upon the race track is up there with funneling beer and firing shotguns. It has no driver aids; there is no safety net, just a very fine line between grabbing glory and ending it all in a fireball of death. Best of all it makes any other “hardcore” production car seem like a whimpering pussy. Unfortunately this beast isn’t for sale but if you ask me nicely I just might take you for a ride one day.