These are our personal choices of the best cars we drove in 2017. Some may shock, some may just seem pretty conventional but we would love to hear what you think of our choices in the comments below.
It's hard to fully communicate the breadth of ability possessed by the new Civic Type R without slipping into gushing hyperbole. Not only is it incredibly quick, agile and engaging, but it is just such a fun car to drive. The short ratios, precise steering and lively throttle response keep you wanting to push on, while it's unwavering composure gives you the confidence to do so. It's a remarkable accomplishment on Honda's part and, for its combination of performance, price and practicality, just edges out the manual 911 GTS as my favourite car I've driven this year. Even the looks have started to grow on me.
When a company like Mercedes decided to put its most powerful V8 in a saloon instead of the AMG GT R, that for me was already enough to make it my car of the year. 612hp in a car that can carry four people! Earlier on in the year, PH was lucky enough to borrow an E63 S for a
Sunday Service at Santa Pod
with the strip open for runs. Naturally I had to see what all that power was like and it didn't disappoint - quarter mile covered in 11.32 seconds at 122.8mph. It certainly surprised many drivers beating a Porsche GT3, a couple of BMWs, Golf Rs and a tuned Nissan GT-R with said driver running over to ask how I had modified it. That inner monster was then put back in its box on the way home and was a comfortable motorway cruiser barely getting a glance from other road users. The real wolf in sheep's clothing.
There are several obvious contenders: not least the new Ford GT and a Porsche 911 GT3 with a manual gearbox - but it would be scandalous in 2017 to overlook the quality of the cars emerging from Woking. This was true last year as well, of course - and yet with the 570S Spider and the 720S, McLaren has proven that its knack for evolutionary enhancement has matured to the point where the results might credibly be called peerless. Certainly this is true in the case of the 720S, a car of outrageous ability and performance, and probably Woking's crowning achievement to date. But my time in that car was fleeting; the 570S Spider I've driven frequently, in fair weather and foul. And in no moment - roof up or down, rain or shine - did it fail to confound expectations. Remarkably comfortable when you need it to be; atom-splittingly sharp when you want it to be; as fast as it'll ever have to be and as captivating a place for £165,000 as you could ever hope to find.
Lotus Exige 430
Firstly, what a fabulous year for new cars this has been. Again. From a refreshed GT86 to the E63, and from the 720S and the return of a manual GT3, 2017 has proved there's still life in the fast car yet. It's changing, sure, but not necessarily for the worse.
That choosing a favourite car of the year was so difficult should tell you in what high esteem I hold the Exige Cup 430. Why is it my car of the year? Because I love it, put simply, and because the car feels like a culmination of all the things that Jean-Marc Gales has been working towards since he began as CEO in 2014. It's savagely fast and utterly compelling to drive, of course, but also feels exotic, expensive and desirable in a way that Lotuses haven't always. The pursuit of lightweighting is becoming more relevant by the day as well, the way it delivers supercar levels of performance in a Fiesta kerb weight as exciting as it is encouraging for the future.
I won't pretend that it doesn't require some compromise - and a heck of a lot of money - but for proving just what the Lotus mantra can achieve, and for being one of the best cars I've ever driven on track, the Exige Cup 430 is my favourite car of 2017. I can't wait to see what comes next.
Squeezing in right at the end of the year is the Alpine A110, which is not just the best car of 2017, it's the best car in years. Driving it you know you're in the company of something incredibly special - like the first time you have a crack in a Toyota GT86, only this has the extra power we sometimes crave in the Toyota, while carrying even less weight and having its mass in the middle, which makes it turn ever more eagerly. At around £50,000 when it arrives in Q2 of 2018, the A110 will not be a cheap car, but could it be superior to a Porsche 718 Cayman when it does get here? It might just be.
Porsche 911 GT3
Sorry to be so crushingly unimaginative. 2017 has brought some genuinely brilliant performance cars, from the Honda Civic Type R to the McLaren 720S and 911 GT2 RS. Trying to work out which one was my personal favourite threatened to put my brain into a feedback loop; how do you quantify betterness when comparing a Rolls-Royce Phantom with a Ford GT?
So I resorted to that old pub conversation starter: if I could have just one car from this year's crop to keep forever, which would it be. All became clear, if entirely predictable - I'll have a 991.2 911 GT3, thanks - non-Clubsport and with the manual gearbox https://www.pistonheads.com/news/driven/porsche-911-gt3-manual-review/36190. It's a fabulous all-rounder, as fast as I'd ever need anything to be on track, yet barely harsher than a regular Carrera on road. There's just the small matter of finding or affording one...
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