2015 Motors Round-up
"And yet, the petrol-head’s favourite must be the Volvo V60 Polestar; we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve heard ‘I can’t believe it’s a Volvo!’ from passengers of this car, mostly after we’ve hurtled it across road and track"
Despite ever more traffic on our roads, the spiralling costs of motoring, and ever more stringent speed and safety requirements, there’s hardly been a better year for the launch of exciting new cars
We’ve had the privilege of sharing the experience of so many of them with you over the year, so here’s our round up of some of our most memorable drives.
Whilst the cars we mention here are in no particular order, the Volvo XC90 is one of the most impressive new vehicles we’ve tested this year. Replacing a global best-seller is no mean feat, but Volvo has risen to the challenge and in the face of stiff competition.
Yet the XC90 shouldn’t be seen in isolation. The DNA filters throughout the range. The more compact XC60 easily holds its own against the Audi A3 and even the Land Rover Discovery due to its sporty handling, sharp looks, keen pricing, exceptional safety, and competitive pricing.
And yet, the petrol-head’s favourite must be the Volvo V60 Polestar; we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve heard ‘I can’t believe it’s a Volvo!’ from passengers of this car, mostly after we’ve hurtled it across road and track. Built by the Volvo owned Swedish Polestar race team, it’s a unique serious performance package with ultimate all day/all-purpose usability. That, to our mind, is what modern day performance cars should be all about.
Jaguar Land Rover
Step forward Jaguar F-type; a car that looks gorgeous, sounds better than a Bose, and offers everything from a V8 howl with performance to match, to its ultimately driver focused V6 S manual coupe recently tested in these pages – the latter to our mind the definitive modern interpretation of how a Jaguar E-Type should look and perform in today’s world. Naming this Jaguar the F-Type, as the E type successor, is totally fitting. The F-Type is not the brand’s best seller, for as a niche sports GT it was never intended to be so, but brilliant it is with enough power and overtaking ability for real-life motoring and, as with the Volvo V60, can be used as your one and only every day car.
The ‘Top of the sales charts’ accolade has to be handed to the highly accomplished Jaguar XF, supported now by its equally capable BMW 3 Series challenger, the Jaguar XE. The XF has won countless awards, and is succeeded in global market popularity by the Jaguar XJ.
Thanks to the money and good judgement of Mr Tata (Tata own the Jaguar Land Rover group) we see the strongest ever line-up of Jaguar and Land Rover cars. Tata provided the finance and told them to get on with it. The vote of confidence paid off and the new Range Rover we tested earlier this year, for example, has been dubbed by many reviewers as one of the world’s best motor cars, period. We found it to be a remarkable machine, certainly more spacious, comfortable, drivable and capable than its predecessor with the ability to climb everything but vertical walls. The new Discovery Sport also proved tremendously impressive on test.
This year we’ve had the privilege of driving new Maserati models, namely the Ghibli (diesel and petrol), the Quattroporte and the Gran Turismo. The Ghibli, Maserati’s big success story, has brought entry level Maserati ownership to many who otherwise only aspired to the brand, yet it remains a true Maserati. The Ghibli diesel has gobbled up fleet sales, the petrol-engined cars fed the enthusiast who puts performance over economy, whilst what better way of demonstrating style, sophistication and discerning taste than turning up anywhere in a Maserati Quattroporte. Have you ever watched and listened to a Gran Turismo driven with attitude? Say no more; a Maserati remains one of the coolest cars on the planet, and now more people are able to afford the experience.
Putting the emissions issues to one side, let’s not take away the fact that the Volkswagen brand produces good cars. Just ask their owners. At the performance end of the scale, the new Golf R is a class winner, and the Polo GTI we tested earlier this year shows that premium brand quality doesn’t have to mean premium brand prices; never have there been two models that better prove performance and practicality can go hand in hand.
Any talk of value must include Skoda. The name is synonymous with brand transformation, and Skoda build quality stacks up with the best. The Octavia and the new Fabia graced these pages earlier in the year. To us, the Skoda Superb is the best Skoda ever made, and there is not a car in the class that offers such generous rear legroom.
If you fancy having your cake and eating it, then we suggest two great Audis we tested this year – the Audi R8 V10 plus and the new Audi TT Convertible. The R8 gives you a massive adrenaline kick, whilst the Audi TT Roadster is a dose of Red Bull. You may recall our R8 V10 test across some of the best driving roads in Snowdownia and our quote of the year from the M3 driver ahead of us: ‘No matter how hard I drove, the R8 seemed to be stuck in exactly the same spot of my rear view mirror. I just couldn’t leave it’.
Honda has had a good year. The new Honda Civic we drove earlier in the year proved that radical change is less important than building on a sound concept, the new Civic proving better all-round whilst retaining its familiar design. Little did we know that its Nurburgring record beater cousin was just around the corner. On track drives with Touring Car racing champs Matt Neale and ‘Flash’ Gordon was all the demo we needed to be convinced that rockets can travel on 4 wheels.
So much so that we needed the winning solace of the Honda CR-V for a calm down, not a bad line-up when it comes to all round credibility, especially with the new HRV added to the portfolio. Go humbler still and the smart new Honda Jazz was voted ‘most reliable car’ in this year’s annual Car Buyer awards.
Mazda’s a clever brand; while everybody’s going electric Mazda set out to prove with its SKYACTIV engine development programme that combustion engines can be super-efficient, economical and clean. We tested the Mazda 2.2 diesel a few months ago and left mightily impressed, rating it as one of the best cars in the saloon class. The new MX-5 is already a winner. One of the few models able to hold its own in the affordable roadster market, this new MX5 is even more exciting to drive, replacing the modern trend of increasing sophistication (and therefore more weight) with simplicity and purpose, and all at an affordable price too! With new car prices starting at just over £19,000.
Kia and Suzuki
As we found, never underestimate the ‘small’ brands! This little Kia Picanto impressed us no end with masses of equipment whilst proving an acceptably comfortable 4 seater. Add to that highly impressive fuel economy (over 60 mpg) and overall running costs, with prices starting at just over £8,000 it is a bargain.
And who says a 4x4 needs to cost mega bucks? Many of us just don’t use our 4x4s for even mild off-roading; if you’re one of those people this highly capable Suzuki Vitara we drove a couple of months ago is yours, fully equipped for circa £14,000.
Have a wonderful Christmas car fans, if 2015 is this good we are certainly on course for an exciting 2016! Happy (and safe) driving, we thank you for your reader loyalty and wish you many miles of happy motoring for 2016!
Related Articles: Jaguar F-Type Coupe V6 S Manual | Maserati on a confident path to growth | The Maserati Ghibli V6S | Brand Icon New MX5 Enthuses Buyers | The Suzuki Vitara | Volvo XC90 D5 AWD SE LUX Review