This was a real surprise. It shouldn’t have been, given what the AMG GT has achieved thus far, but the distance the Pro has taken the car beyond even the GT R is genuinely incredible and superbly executed. I reckon the balance and compromise between luxurious Benz and road racer AMG loon is near perfect. I also think it looks absolutely sensational and I love that Mercedes had the guts to go ahead with it. Taking on McLaren and Porsche is brave enough, but making a GT with a cage in it, manually adjustable coilovers and aero flics seemingly straight from an N24 racer is a real sign of intent for a company still best known for autobahn bruisers. That it can compete with those sports cars, the very best out there in fact, lap the ‘ring in 7:04 and deliver genuine fun on the road validates the decision - the Pro is fabulous.
A huge proportion of the reaction to any car, be it old or new, a daily or an exotic, inevitably revolves around how much it costs. Especially so when it’s a £72,140 Renault hatchback. But put aside questions of value, opportunity cost and the fact that £21k of that price can be cut with the removal of the optional carbon discs and rims, and what’s left is the knowledge that the Megane Trophy-R is simply an absolutely phenomenal driving machine. Pitting it against the most enjoyable car I drove last year, the Golf GTI Clubsport S, only served to highlight just how good it is. From the second you get underway it’s apparent that the Trophy R is something special; the steering feel, damping and brakes all a cut above any other hatch, the car nimble and light on its toes while remaining unfailingly planted and predictable. It’s unbelievably quick but, unlike so many fast cars today, unbelievably fun too. And who can really put a value on that?
Yes, a convertible version of a thoroughbred sports car is my pick from the year. But hear me out. Adding a folding metal roof to the MonoCell II-tubbed McLaren Sports Series machine has a negligible effect on performance, but enables such a drastic enhancement in noise and drama that I’d go so far as saying the 600LT’s skywards-pointing exhausts are my favourite of any car. Wind the Spider’s back window down and they’re right there over your shoulder, fizzing, gargling and crackling at deafening levels. The tinnitus is totally worth it. We already know about the 3.8-litre V8-powered LT’s ability to spit blue flames with every high-rev downshift, but on a night drive through Wales with the Spider’s back screen rolled down, nothing quite prepares you for the fireworks display. The 600LT’s other traits – an utterly fabulous chassis, rich hydraulic steering and feelsome brakes – provide a plethora of rewards for its driver. Add in the freedom provided by a 600hp machine as compact as this and to me, the 600LT Spider is one of the most rewarding high-performance driver’s cars out there.
I’ve waded into deep waters here because if I’m being totally honest with myself, the Taycan is neither the best car I drove this year nor my favourite (that honour likely falling to the latest 911 Speedster). But Porsche’s technical achievement - and the far-reaching ambition required to get it there - is thoroughly deserving of recognition. There are many aspects to that success, of course, but the simplest way to impart them all at once is to categorically state that no-one reading this, not even the staunchest opponent of the electric motor’s revival, would be unmoved by the experience of actually driving the quickest Taycan. It is simply too fast and clever and comfortable and consistently good to not earn your respect (even if it is extracted begrudgingly). Yes, it is hugely expensive and distressingly heavy and less than perfect in other notable ways, too - but the Taycan is confirmation that the advent of the electric car is not incompatible with the concept of a driver’s one; it is irrefutable evidence that one day in the not too distant future we will all be able to have our cake, and eat it too.
While the C8 has several significant flaws, none are serious enough to stop it from topping my personal list of 2019’s highlights. For much of its life the Corvette has existed in a parallel universe to the rest of the performance car world, especially outside of its U.S. homeland where buying one has always been a deeply eccentric decision. But with the move to a mid-mounted engine GM has taken the 'Vette out of its comfort zone and created something that genuinely makes every other mid-engined sportscar look expensive, certainly with American pricing. It is democratizing one of the most exclusive bits of the market like nothing before; if things go to plan the C8 will outsell the combined total of every junior supercar by a comfortable margin.
I drove faster cars than the F8 Tributo in 2019. I drove more intoxicating cars as well. But all things considered, I don’t think I drove a better one. When I think about what an entry-level Ferrari berlinetta needs to do in 2019, the F8 Tributo ticks every single box. Ferrari - and what follows here applies every bit as much to McLaren with its 720S - has found a way to make a mid-engined supercar with more than 700hp perfectly amenable in normal driving, utterly undemanding to use and comfortable over longer journeys, but then sensationally good to drive at speed both on the road and a race track. Shouldn’t there be at least one impossible combination in amongst all that? It’s like that guy at school who’s popular with girls, better than anybody at sport, funny, good at maths and somehow brilliant in English class as well. Actually, when I put it like that, I don’t think I like the F8 Tributo one bit.