PH 2017: Surprise of the year

There really shouldn't be any surprises in an industry that works on six-year life cycles - but as with everything else in life involving other people, 2017 threw up shocks and peccadillos aplenty.

The £100K Escort
Perhaps I should have seen it coming. Perhaps I shouldn't be bothered, given it's not really anything to do with me. Perhaps I shouldn't even be surprised, given what some cars have sold for recently. But that Escort RS2000 selling for £97,875 remains astonishing to the point of total consternation - I mean, how?!

I get that the Escort has competition history, that many grew up lusting after one, and that this particular RS2000 was immaculate. I understand. And I'll accept that my judgement might be skewed because the fast Ford I wanted at 17 was a green Focus with 300hp. But this makes no sense, even in a world of unprecedented classic car values - it's an Escort, for crying out loud!

Perhaps most depressingly of all for classic cars generally, but old Fords specifically, is that these ludicrous prices mean that the cars just won't be used. Given a fast Ford represented - and continues, in fact, to represent through cars like the Fiesta ST - affordable and democratised performance to many, that's sad. I'll have to console myself by watching another vid of that nutter Frank Kelly in his Escort; actually, with my blood pressure how now it is, perhaps I won't!
(Matt Bird)

McLaren Senna
My surprise of the year was set to be Honda's Urban EV Concept, for its refreshingly characterful approach to commuter transport in the face of a souless automated future. But then McLaren unveiled the Senna. I don't think the change of heart requires much explanation; the stats, the name, the looks... It doesn't get much more surprising than that!
(Dafydd Wood)

Porsche 911 GT3 Touring Package
When the 911 R went on sale in 2016, fans were up in arms that lucky owners were soon flipping it for extortionate amounts of money. It seemed to be the way of the world, despite many manufacturers trying to combat it with the threat of blacklisting or even litigation. Porsche took a different path, though, instead aiming to burst the bubble by building the 911 GT3 Touring Package. A 4.0-litre GT3 with a manual box, a mechanical limited-slip differential, and no rear wing. It's the perfect answer to those 911 R owners who aimed to further inflate prices, put stripes on it and you could even fool people into believing you owned a £400,000 car. You wouldn't though and, now, neither do they.
(Nikolai Attard)

Porsche Panamera 4S Diesel
Because who cares, right? An oil-burning, two-tonne, six-figure-with-options saloon? This sort of stuff typically leaves me as cold as two-day old turkey. But not this year; not with a 422hp 4.0-litre diesel V8 plundered from elsewhere in the VW Group (most notably the Bentley Bentayga) and stripped of its elaborate electric turbochargers. Equipped with conventional blowers, the engine still develops 627lb ft of torque - although even that unlikely figure doesn't describe the magnificent and unencumbered way the Panamera goes up the road. Yes, it's still quintessentially diesel-powered, but its glowering, fast-spinning thrum could only originate from a V8 - and only Porsche could have contrived to have it meet the road so engagingly. Also, someone we know very well strapped a V-Box to one and sent it to 60mph in 3.9 seconds. Staggering - and a fitting tribute to the once all-conquering derv.
(Nic Cackett)

Kia Stinger and Hyundai i30 N
Sometimes a carmaker will announce it's going to do something off-the-wall, something outside its usual remit, and you know what's going to happen: it'll be a half-arsed job at something its established rivals already do much better. No such qualms with the Kia Stinger or Hyundai i30N, though. Both have arrived bang on the money and both are viable alternatives to the establishment. I'd have an i30 N over a Volkswagen Golf GTI and, while a Stinger might not be quite so high up my wishlist against the best 4dr executive coupes, it's terrific to drive. Not just for a Kia, for any big sedan.
(Matt Prior)

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
I like to make jokes about Americans as much as the next lazy journalist, but I wasn't expecting the Camaro ZL1 to be a bad car before I drove it. The surprise was that it was so much better than I was anticipating, even without taking account of a pricetag that makes it a bargain for those lucky enough to be able to buy one.

Much about it is muscle-car familiar: a big V8 at the front, ably assisted by a supercharger, and interesting-wheel drive. Yet although hugely fast, the more impressive thing about the ZL1 is how good it is away from straight lines. There's huge grip, the potential for predictable slip and steering that is genuinely better than any of the posh European alternatives. Given the chance I'd take one over a BMW M4 or Audi RS5, maybe even the AMG C63 Coupe if I could pocket the considerable amount of change. But that chance is sadly lacking; let's hope that GM starts to think outside the States in future.
(Mike Duff)

Comments (53) Join the discussion on the forum

  • 1781cc 28 Dec 2017

    Several weeks on and that Senna is still offensive to look at!

  • 172 28 Dec 2017

    Threw not through

  • Matt Bird 28 Dec 2017

    172 said:
    Threw not through
    Good point, apologies! Would seem like someone was a bit too keen on the mulled wine the week before Christmas... Should be sorted now.


  • RamboLambo 28 Dec 2017

    Loving the Kia Stinger. The brand has really come on leaps and bounds and offers an industry leading 7 year warranty to boot.
    Forget your german carp, the South Koreans are now making the best cars.

  • dandarez 28 Dec 2017

    Matt Bird said:
    172 said:
    Threw not through
    Good point, apologies! Would seem like someone was a bit too keen on the mulled wine the week before Christmas... Should be sorted now.

    How now, brown cow.

    '...with my blood pressure how now it is, perhaps I won't!'

    Proof reading services available at extremely high rates, contact dandarez. wink

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