PH 2017: Most memorable drive of the year


While there were plenty of memorable cars to drive in 2017, not every drive could be called memorable. You need a proper backdrop for that, typically with a bit of serious weather thrown in. These were the occasions which truly stood out...



Caterham 420R to Silverstone, via the A413
It was the car I used for the Cadwell sprint, and also the one I took a good few PHers out in at our Sunday Service, but it was the road drive there that was the most memorable. I took the roof off at Beaconsfield services, regretted it very soon after as the night sky expelled yet more miserable rain, and soon after was having the time of my life. The roads were empty, the roundabouts were slippery, the sun was rising and the Caterham was absolutely fantastic. Exploitable, expressive and exciting, I couldn't have wished for a better car for the journey. Sensational fun. Well, apart from that roundabout where I ran out of lock; I won't tell if you don't, OK?
(Matt Bird)



Bentley Continental GT V8 to the N24
I've previously recounted a small portion of this drive, but that experience was just one of the things that made it so memorable. It was a journey tailor-made for the Continental; an early start in London, a quick blast down to the Chunnel, and an afternoon spent cruising across Belgium, into Germany and to the 'ring. From navigating the narrow cobbled streets of Brugge, where we stopped for a spot of lunch - it was like a f**king fairytale - to travelling at three miles a minute on the Autobahn, the Conti GT was faultlessly comfortable, effortlessly composed and relentlessly eager to push on. When a detour forced us onto B-roads, the greater poise and agility of the V8 made hunting down and dispatching lorries a pleasure and, to cap it all off, the Nurburgring 24 hours was waiting at the other end...
(Dafydd Wood)



Supercar weekend in Wales
The weekend was the basis of a double triple test. For starters, an Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio vs BMW M3 Competition Pack vs Mercedes-AMG C63 super saloon showdown, and then for the main course, dessert and breakfast the next day, a supercar tete-a-tete (-a-tete) in the shape of the Porsche 911 Turbo S, our-long term McLaren 570GT and an Audi R8 V10 Plus.

Getting to swap in and out of the three cars and drive them on road and track was a phenomenal experience, really allowing each of them to fully demonstrate their strengths - and weaknesses. The R8's V10 scream was music to my ears, but the dynamic steering proved somewhat uninspiring. The 570GT felt so much smaller than it actually was thanks to its great visibility, and the brakes were exceptional compared to the slightly over-servoed ones on the R8, but the noise was a little underwhelming. Meanwhile the Porsche 911 Turbo S could use launch control at every traffic light (I didn't) and nothing would go wrong. It just simply worked and worked and didn't struggle to keep up with either of its shoutier counterparts. At the end of the weekend the hardest choice was picking which one I would keep if I had the chance. Probably the R8; I like to be heard before I'm seen. [He certainly is in the office! - Ed.]
(Nikolai Attard)



Jebel Jais to nowhere
I was lucky enough to drive up the spine of Norway in March - a journey which ended on the famed Atlantic Road; an engineering exercise probably without parallel in Western Europe. But the memory isn't quite as colourful as driving the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio in the UAE last month. Partly because the Norway drive was conducted in a mix of driving rain and blizzards, and the Alfa certainly wasn't - and partly because the road leading up toward the peak at Jebel Jais is less a public highway and more a car enthusiast's wish-list. Smooth tarmac? Check. Two-lane ascent? Check. Huge, poster-worthy hairpins? Check. Reasonably quiet? Check. Doesn't actually go anywhere except to a massive, mind-bending panorama? Check. And the best part was that the road isn't completely finished, meaning that Alfa bribed or blagged its way onto the final closed-off stretch. The only thing missing? A Giulia Quadrifoglio, obviously.
(Nic Cackett)



Citroen C1 at Spa
What are the chances of the best drive of the year coming at the wheel of a Citroen? Slim, I guess, but this is all about the location and the event, rather than the car itself. The Citroen C1 race car is merely quite a giggle, underpowered by on skinny tyres that lend it an adjustable handling balance. But the Space 24hr race for C1s and Citroen 2CVs (and derived versions) is a total blast from drop of flag to wave of flag, a day later.
(Matt Prior)



Morgan 4/4 versus the Cotswolds
While I don't hold with the view that modern cars are getting too good, my most memorable drive of 2017 came in a car that stopped evolving about half way through the 20th century. The Morgan 4/4 has flaws big enough to be explored by people wearing helmets with lamps on them, yet despite being slower than a base spec modern supermini it won me over with its unadorned charm.

It was one of those perfect combinations of car and road. The Moggy's modest performance against some of the more obscure roads in the Cotswolds, having got up early enough in the middle of summer to have them to myself. It was properly timeless stuff, the Morgan feeling so much more exciting than the modest numbers on the speedo suggested it should. With lower limits and harsher enforcement everywhere, the obvious answer is to find something slow and thrash it harder.
(Mike Duff)

Comments (10) Join the discussion on the forum

  • huckster6 27 Dec 2017

    You parked the Bentley in Bruges? On my one visit, parking in the place was tough. No intelligible street signs about parking. Locals denied understanding of either English or French. Unwelcoming.

  • Johnny5hoods 27 Dec 2017

    "With lower limits and harsher enforcement everywhere, the obvious answer is to find something slow and thrash it harder."

    Wise words. Not only are roads getting busier and speed limits lower, but fast cars keep on getting faster. Many 'ordinary' cars can now do 0-60 in 4.0 secs, whereas, just 25 years ago, most supercars couldn't achieve that. Result? Fast cars are getting less exploitable and more intimidating at road speeds.

    Was just saying, on another thread, I miss 1983 VW Scirocco 1.8 GTi. Less of everything, particularly height and weight, made the performance it had much more accessible. 925 kg, low driving postion, mechanical fuel injection, no PAS, 175/70 13 donuts. Cars today are much too heavy, with much too tall a driving position, they're too inert and too detached. 300 odd BHP isn't as much fun as I dreamed as a boy it would be. It comes with undesirable side-effects.

  • 67Dino 27 Dec 2017

    Johnny5hoods said:
    Cars today are much too heavy, with much too tall a driving position, they're too inert and too detached.
    Do agree. Of all the cars I’ve owned, the best ‘smile on the face’ motoring I’ve had was in a 1977 MG Midget. Every roundabout was an opportunity, every bend in the road a challenge, every straight an experience. Happy days. Nearest thing for fun I’ve driven since was a Lotus Exige, albeit about a million times faster.


  • nickfrog 27 Dec 2017

    huckster6 said:
    You parked the Bentley in Bruges? On my one visit, parking in the place was tough. No intelligible street signs about parking. Locals denied understanding of either English or French. Unwelcoming.
    You've probably been unlucky. On several visits I have found parking easy (at least out of the centre, which is only a short and lovely walk away), street signs obvious and everyone seem to speak either French or English as a second/third language.

    Come to think of it, I am not convinced we visited the same Bruges wink

  • GibsonSG 27 Dec 2017

    Johnny5hoods said:
    "With lower limits and harsher enforcement everywhere, the obvious answer is to find something slow and thrash it harder."

    Wise words. Not only are roads getting busier and speed limits lower, but fast cars keep on getting faster. Many 'ordinary' cars can now do 0-60 in 4.0 secs, whereas, just 25 years ago, most supercars couldn't achieve that. Result? Fast cars are getting less exploitable and more intimidating at road speeds.

    Was just saying, on another thread, I miss 1983 VW Scirocco 1.8 GTi. Less of everything, particularly height and weight, made the performance it had much more accessible. 925 kg, low driving postion, mechanical fuel injection, no PAS, 175/70 13 donuts. Cars today are much too heavy, with much too tall a driving position, they're too inert and too detached. 300 odd BHP isn't as much fun as I dreamed as a boy it would be. It comes with undesirable side-effects.
    Wise words indeed. That's why of my modest fleet, the most satisfying and fun is my old MX5. It's a bit of cliché but it's the right size and just the right mix of performance and grip.

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