Which new cars have caught my attention over the past twelve months?
The Grand Touring column seems to have largely become about classic cars of late. I guess that's not really surprising since that is my main area of interest in the motoring world. However, that's not to say I don't look at modern cars too. I have a subscription to Evo magazine and spend an inordinate amount of time on the web reading up about new car launches and road tests. With the end of the year approaching and with it the inevitable awards season I thought I'd give some consideration to what my favourite new cars of 2012 are. I can't say that to date I've driven any of these, so really this blog is a consideration of the cars I would most like to try out and perhaps consider owning. The key factors here are as follows: does the car have the appeal to get me into the showroom, and does it represent good value for money?
Given my well-documented love of front-engined Ferrari berlinettas it's not surprising that the car launch I was most looking forward to was the mighty F12berlinetta. Ferrari's new flagship supplanted the 599GTB Fiorano (how many people remember it is called the Fiorano?) and in many ways it has corrected the things that I disliked about the outgoing car. The 599 was physically too large for my liking and clearly Ferrari thought so too; the new car is smaller in every direction. It's also better looking than the not-unattractive 599, at least in my opinion. It should easily win my heart as my favourite new car - but there are some caveats. Firstly, the new direct injection V12 has bumped up the horsepower to a staggering 730bhp, and my mind is still trying to reconcile whether it really needs that amount of power to make it special. The F12 is also rather expensive and at £239,736 before you start ticking the (very pricey) options, I can't help feeling that I would be equally happy with a Ferrari 550/575 that, at current prices, can be picked up for a quarter of the amount.
A hefty price tag also puts the mockers on the recently announced Mercedes SLS Black Series. I'm a big fan of the basic SLS but the optional wing kit seen in the pictures of the new Black ruins the looks. I'm not sure I would ever make use of the performance gains over the already expensive standard car either.
McLaren and Ferrari both added open Spider versions of their existing cars, the MP4-12C (now just known as the 12C, thankfully) and the 458. When the McLaren was launched I was rather underwhelmed by its looks, but I've warmed to it over the course of this year having seeing several out on the road, and particularly after having the opportunity to sit in one. However, in my eyes the McLaren has suffered in comparison to the 458 with the conversion from coupe to Spider, leaving the Italian car as my choice for the mid-engined V8 supercar.
In looking for something a little more practical, I have been impressed by the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe. The Gran Coupe seems to have arrived fairly quietly with very little fanfare and not much in the way of road tests. It's actually the best-looking car in BMW's current range and while driving on the M4 the other day I was pleasantly surprised to discover the two door 6 Series I thought I was following was actually a Gran Coupe. Since range-topping BMWs tend to be heavy depreciators, I might look out for a used one in a few years' time.
One of the biggest surprises this year has been the Tesla S. I've been largely unconvinced by EV cars to date; they seem to be very expensive and their lack of range limits what you could do with them. This was certainly true of the Tesla Roadster, which offered less than the Lotus Elise it was based on for significantly more money. The Tesla S, however, is a standalone car and a good-looking one at that, following the lead of the BMW Gran Coupe and Mercedes CLS with its saloon/coupe looks. While the car is perhaps more suited to the United States, not least because of Tesla's plan to build a support infrastructure of charging stations there, it's the first EV that can stand up and be counted amongst more conventionally powered cars.
With production of the Tesla Roadster ceasing Lotus has filled some of the production capacity with the V6 Lotus Exige. It looks great especially in the confusing convertible version (shouldn't that be an Elise?) but it's almost certainly too hardcore for my liking. In that sector, the cars that really float my boat are the new Porsche 981 Boxster and Cayman. The new models have gained serious visual attitude and have definitely moved out of the shadow of the 911. However, the new 991 version of the 911 is, for me, one of the disappointments of the last year. It's nothing to do with the controversial electric steering, but rather that I just don't like the look of it. My neighbour has one which I see one every day, and each time I look at it the front headlights just seem wrong, particularly in profile. I'm sure it's a better all-round car than the outgoing 997 but I prefer the styling of its cheaper siblings. Of the two, I'm more likely to go for the Cayman since I'm not a fan of convertibles (though I've owned a couple!)
The 991 has not been the only disappointment this year. The recently announced Maserati Quattroporte is another visual step back from its predecessor. I'm hoping that the forthcoming small saloon, to be called Ghibli, with be the four door Maser to go for. Rather less exclusive, the new F30 BMW looks incredibly bland, although that may be a deliberate ploy to get the more style-conscious cusomters to go for the forthcoming Four series coupe (and Gran Coupe). The latest Mercedes SL is arguably better looking than its immediate predecessor but that isn't saying much, and I find it sad that the car that used to define timeless elegance now looks so bloated. The second generation Bentley Continental GT looked great in the first press photos but now I'm starting to see them around West London it looks just as big and graceless as the original. Looking at the cheaper end of the market, the concept version of the new Mercedes A Class promised a stylish hatchback, but the reality is a bland Euro box whose only standout feature is the three-pointed star on the nose.
Probably the most talked-about car of the last year has been the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ/ Scion FRS. Some seem to love it beyond reason while others are a bit underwhelmed. I'm glad it exists and that a mainstream manufacturer is willing to make a car clearly aimed at enthusiasts, but it seems like a car for someone younger than me so I'll pass!
A car aimed at a younger audience that I do really like is the Range Rover Evoque, although (again showing my age) I find the family-oriented five door version better looking than the radical 3 door. One may yet become our family holdall car if the need arises in a few years. My wife and I call the Evoque the Ewok whenever we see one on the road, and when we saw an example of the new Range Rover on the streets of London she described it as a big Ewok, which must mean that we should call the latest Rangie the Chewbacca...
Land Rover's sister company Jaguar launched one the moist significant models in its history in 2012: the F Type. With only the roadster version shown so far, it looks like a great car, though on paper it seems to be rather on the expensive side when compared with Porsche's Boxster or Cayman. There's still no sign of the coupe version, but if that looks as good as the concept I'll wait for that before making a definitive decision.
So, that's a quick run through the new cars that have caught my attention over the last twelve months. However, which one is the most desirable to me? If money was no object it would be the Ferrari F12, but I think it's more likely that will be my most desirable used car of 2018! The BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe would make a great everyday car and the new Porsche Cayman will no doubt be as good as cars costing twice as much, but neither of these has me lying in bed dreaming of my perfect specification.
No, the most desirable new car for me isn't actually a new car at all but a remanufactured one: the Singer 911. Singer take a 964-series Porsche 911 and strip it down to a bare shell before rebuilding the car in the style of the classic pre-impact bumper 911s. With extensive use of carbon fibre and a Cosworth-built version of the iconic air-cooled flat six, the resulting car has a power to weight ratio equal to that of a modern 997 GT3 and looks absolutely gorgeous. Depending on specification, one of these could set you back as much as an F12 but for your money you're getting a bespoke car that is built to your exact requirements. It's also a thoroughly modern car but built in a classic mould, which suits me down to the ground.