PH 2017: Carpool of the year

Variety is the spice of life, right? It's key to a great selection of PH Carpools as well, as we've had another fantastic 12 months of PHer ownership stories on a Monday morning. As in previous years, the list covers almost everything on four wheels; highlights from 2017 include a Mazda 626GT purchased for £80, a Subaru Brat with an incredible delivery story and a Dodge Charger used as a daily driver.

Unlike in 2016 however, this year's most read list does look a little more diverse. There are BMWs and Porsches again, yes, although not four M3s and three 911s in the top ten. 2016 really was an odd year, wasn't it?

Again, this list has been compiled solely on page views, the 10-car ranking being a true reflection of the PHer's cars that PHers want to read about. Top up whatever your poison is this festive season and enjoy!

10. Ultima Can-Am
Mark Harries' Ultima kicks off our countdown, and is comfortably the fastest car in our Carpool collection. That's not saying a lot though, is it? With 550hp and a 1,000kg kerb weight, it would be the fastest car in lots of lists...

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of Mark's story was the regularity with which his Ultima was being used. Here is a car so spartan that it doesn't even have a roof, yet it's been all across Europe on a host of adventures. Mark's favourite bits? The performance, funnily enough, along with the amazing looks and a supportive, reliable bunch of Ultima owners. He was less keen on how frequently the very pricey tyres had to be replaced, but that just sounds like a sign the car's being enjoyed properly!

9. Gemballa 911
Yep, another Porsche. However, while it’s not the only one on this list, it is the sole 911 in 2017’s Carpool of the Year. After 2016 that’s something of a relief.

Jay Williams’ 996 isn’t any old 911 either, with a few Gemballa upgrades to the powertrain and suspension. He’s getting plenty of use from it in Australia, describing it as a "transformation" from the other regular 996s that he’s driven. Indeed his only bugbear is said to be the centre armrest cubby lock, so things are looking pretty rosy!

What’s next? Jay has his eyes on a Gallardo, but if the 911 stays then he’s hoping to bring it over to the UK for a European road trip. There are plenty of 911s to get acquainted with over here...

8. Audi TT RS
If you need further proof that PH readers really do love a fast Audi (after two RS products featured in our Road Test of the Year), look at this five-cylinder TT in eighth place. Glance higher up the list if you require even more evidence, too...

Jonny Sinclair's TT RS replaced a Z4 Coupe and has been tasked with nearly everything, from family duties to road trips to track days. It's performed excellently as well, Jonny saying that the Audi "ticks so many boxes that I think this is one I'll be holding onto for a long time."

It hasn't been perfect though; brakes that are far from brilliant, a few expensive replacement parts and some understeer on track have seen to that. But you can't have everything, right? And we'll support commitment to the sports car cause when a family SUV would have seemed like the obvious option!

7. Porsche Boxster
Yes, another Porsche, but it's the last one in this year's top 10. It is, honest. And Simon Holehan's Boxster is more interesting than most...

Bought for £4,200 with 123,000 miles, Simon's Orient Red 986 is a bizarre spec: lacking air conditioning, leather seats or the upgraded stereo, it must be incredibly rare. That being said, the car has proved his perfect MX-5 replacement, with the added bonus of reasonably affordable parts to help with his DIY mechanic adventures.

Simon's Carpool was one of the most detailed and commented on of the year, his experience seemingly at odds with a lot of the scare stories you hear about Boxsters. At the time of writing the biggest expense had been £450 for tyres, with only a couple of minor faults to report. That might help explain why he had no plans to replace the Porsche, despite regularly changing cars in the past - sounds like a keeper!

6. Ferrari 612
Ferrari! A V12 Ferrari, no less, PHer 'Charly Sparrow' taking the plunge on an incredibly rare - one of 17 UK cars in the same spec - 612 back in 2015. It's the only Ferrari in the Carpool countdown this year, and behind some much more ordinary cars, but it would have been a shame to see a top 10 without any supercars...

Appropriately enough, that glorious V12 had been one of the best things for Charly, as well as the looks, of course. Furthermore, while the infotainment was described as "crap", the big Scag has apparently been quite reliable. Electrical problems are common, though, so you've been warned!

Clearly the car has made a favourable impression on this PHer, with an F12 lined up as a 612 replacement. The one thing better than a V12 Ferrari is a faster V12 Ferrari, right?

5. Toyota Celica GT-Four
Yes, Toyota ahead of Ferrari. Celica surpasses Scaglietti. By a good margin too, Colin Deller's GT-Four attracting another 1,000 page views. It wasn't even the car he originally set out to buy...

Originally after a Nissan 300ZX, the Toyota caught his eye on PH for its immaculate condition. More than two years after purchase Colin is still content too, which even he admits is a surprise given how often he changes cars.

The performance, practicality and handling have really endeared the Celica to Colin, and a huge North Coast 500 road trip this year only deepened his affection. Indeed, despite friends encouraging him to add more power, Colin is quite keen just to tinker with the interior for now and enjoy his Celica on the road - bravo!

4. BMW 130i M Sport
Given a BMW M3 was our most read Carpool of 2016, it should come as little surprise to find the 130i this high up in 2017. Whether new or used, it seems you can't get enough of reading about BMWs!

Richard Showan's 1 Series was in fact his second; he enjoyed his original so much, and could find nothing to match it from the current hot hatch crop, that when the time came to replace a Fiesta he bought another! As you might expect, the straight-six is a big part of the charm, but Richard even likes the looks too. When asked what he didn't like about the car, he could think of nothing worse than "a few intermittent rattles and squeaks" inside - things are going well then!

Mostly reliable, economical and fairly inexpensive to run, it's easy to see why Richard loves the car and uses it so much. He says it's a keeper and, given how PH loves a BMW, we wouldn't be surprised to see another - if not a few - in this list next year.

3. Volkswagen Passat CC
Yes, you're reading that correctly: the third most popular PH Carpool of 2017 featured a VW Passat. Not any old Passat, of course, but that's still a little unexpected.

James Lodge was, like many of us, unaware that a V6-engined Passat CC even existed. However, when one popped up for sale locally while searching for a 3 Series, he took a test drive and a deal was done soon after.

It's proven a great purchase too, even if the Passat doesn't have all the equipment expected of a flagship model. Fast, discreet, comfortable and economical (enough), it has ticked all the boxes he was looking for. In fact the biggest problem at the moment is visibility; because his wife can't see out of it, she won't drive the car! More time for you though, right James?

While a Boxster is lined up to replace the Passat at some point, the car has proved so impressive that there's no hurry from James. In his own words, "I get a kick out of it every time I squeeze the right hand pedal" - why would you swap it?

2. Mitsubishi Lancer IX Wagon
As suggested by the Litchfield GT-R's ranking in the Road Test of the Year, this strong Carpool showing for a Mitsubishi Evo IX wagon proves further that PistonHeads really is very keen on a fast Japanese car. Second out of 50 is good by anyone's ranking!

David Harrison's Evo estate was bought to replace a BMW 335d as he wanted "something sharper"; he's got that alright! With more power than standard and uprated suspension too, the Evo is even more of a rocketship than it would have been otherwise. It still needs to be serviced like a regular one though, the 4,500-mile intervals a major issue for David and one of the reasons it was retired from daily driving responsibility.

Still, it offered some fantastic drives and something vastly different to the BMW. Wonder if anyone on PH bought it?

1. Audi S8 V10
We Told you about the Audis! Your most read PH Carpool story of 2017, from the dozens published, was Lee Whitehead's Audi S8. By a long way too, the big V10 thousands of page views ahead of that second-placed Evo.

Audi fan Lee has been into S8s since Ronin, and it was only when looking for an S4 replacement many years later that he realised the V10 model had come into budget. As he said himself, "with that engine, it would be rude not to!"

Despite issues with the rear screen, a frustrating car park crash and prohibitive road tax, Lee is enjoying S8 ownership. Of course the engine is a big part of that enjoyment; combine that with the super subtle styling and imperious refinement and you have the ultimate cruiser, which Lee has put to the test across Europe.

So what's in store for our most popular Carpool of this year in 2018? Lee's plans back in June were to have a set of winter wheels to keep alongside the summer rims but, other than that, simply to carry on driving his S8. Excellent news!

Comments (13) Join the discussion on the forum

  • givablondabone 24 Dec 2017

    With a real world budget I'll take the celica please, But I respect all of them! Happy Christmas everyone. beer

  • 1781cc 24 Dec 2017

    Whoa, I really didn’t expect to see my S8 at the top of the list! Interesting reading some of the other ones I missed tho, love that Evo X estate - didn’t even know they made them, love that colour!

    Merry Christmas to all, of you are on the roads Xmas day, safe travels!!

  • Johnny5hoods 24 Dec 2017

    Bought a 130i this year, in large part, because of the interest on PH. A really interesting car. Last ever N/A straight six hot hatch? Come to think of it, first ever, too!

  • Johnny5hoods 24 Dec 2017

    Wait a minute, 325ti. There, got in there first!

  • rtz62 24 Dec 2017

    Perusing the list made me realise there were only 3 of that top 10 that I could afford t own, but more importantly, that I would WANT to own.
    Just goes to show that variety is the spice of life, etc....

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