It wouldn't be Christmas without unwanted socks, stomach-churning quantities of cheap chocolate and elderly relatives who complain about repeats on telly then settle down to watch the 1978 Morecambe and Wise Festive Special for the 44th time. Nor would it be Christmas without our now traditional Brave Pill of the Year, the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to modest amounts of extra traffic to the original stories. These are 2021's top ten Pills in terms of clicks, proof that variety is the spice that brings us together.
The roughage of Pill's diet has long been big-engined Mercs, and of the eight that featured this year two made it to the greatest hits. To the mild surprise of the office, the SLK 55 was one of them, with much love for its zingy engine and cracking soundtrack - especially when treated to a free-flowing exhaust - and a tolerant acceptance among the commentariat for its lack of dynamic finesse. Our Pill's sub-£15,000 asking price also looked like conspicuous value given a full Mercedes main dealer history and the rocketing values of many less charismatic alternatives.
Supercharged Jaguar V8s have always made for popular Pills, with both of this year's offerings making it into this festive listicle. The XFR that featured back in July was a pre-facelift car that had covered 109,000 miles and looked like a steal at just under £12,000 given the combination of 500hp and a promised full Jaguar service history. While many commenters reckoned it wasn't risky enough to be brave, it also persuaded several owners to share overwhelmingly positive experiences.
Having turned the long-running search for our first French Brave Pill into a quest worthy of a coconut horseshoe soundtrack, we finally got there in May with this Citroen C6 HDI. The combination of a very unexciting V6 diesel and wrong-wheel drive was clearly lacking in the sort of mechanical peril of riskier Pills, but the big Citroen's quirky styling and general French insouciance obviously went down well. One commenter, a former motor trader, reckoned that he had owned between 60 and 70 of them over the years and covered more than 250,000 miles.
The second supercharged Jag to make the list was an impressively affordable X150 XKR, one with the piquant combination of 138,000 miles and an £11,000 asking price, making it the cheapest in the Classifieds. Those criteria played a large part in its selection, but it was also chosen on the basis that - at a time of widespread fuel shortages - it still had three quarters of a tank when the dealer took the pictures. Beyond faded headlamp covers and a gappy MOT history even the more cynical commentators were struggling to find many reasons not to.
At the risk of dropping a Cosworth-sized spoiler there are no riskier cars any higher on the list than this one. Indeed, beyond the Mercedes 600 Grosser which didn't make this rundown it's hard to find any more daring choice in this year's Pillbox than the W8-powered Passat. Beneath its (very) dull exterior beats an unlikely and hugely complex heart distantly related to the doubled-up W16 in the Bugatti Veyron and also largely unknown to even Volkswagen specialists. PHer ahenners summed it up best with the assessment "rare, complicated, somewhat pointless." A line that has since become Pill's mission statement.
Moving towards the sharp end of our dirty decuple brings us to the only car on the list to have a four-cylinder engine, although not the one with the fewest spark plugs. In a cheeky tweaking of Pill selection criteria the VX220 Turbo was chosen on the basis of handling that was likely to create as many brown skidmarks as black ones, a point reinforced by the five cars that were crashed at Jerez on the original press launch. Our Pill looked impressively fresh despite having covered 124,000 miles and although few commenters reckoned that made it scored well for courage, most agreed it offered far better value than a contemporary Elise.
Given the internet's love of Tesla related controversy we would have been mildly surprised if the inclusion of an early Model S didn't make this highlight reel. It was chosen with tongue in cheek, celebrating Pill's second birthday with something completely different (and trying to predict what the future of brave motoring might look like.) Such subtle logic did little to dampen the entirely predictable flamewar that broke out in the comments, one that included inevitable gags about panel gaps but also, strangely, cabbages. Still, for £28K it clearly was a bargain - the cheapest Model S in the Classifieds now is nine grand more expensive.
Our second V8-powered Merc triggered nearly as much debate as the Tesla, and beat it on raw clicks. The C63 was selected as one of the first to be offered below £15,000, that valuation down to both a sizeable 132,000-mile odometer score and various bits of non-standardness including privacy glass, black wheels and badges, and one of those fallen-off numberplates that lives inside the windscreen. Praise for both the V8 and the driving experience was almost universal from those who had experienced both. Love for the visual modifications was muted to the point of total silence.
Pill certainly doesn't shy away from enticingly priced exotica, but this Ferrari 612 Scag was the only supercar to get into the Top 10. It certainly wasn't hard to see the appeal of a V12-powered modernish Ferrari being offered for just over £50,000, especially given it cost £185,000 in 2005. But neither was it hard to see the risks inherent in something so complicated and exotic, especially given the combination of 57,000 miles and nearly a football team's worth of former keepers. Opinion over the looks was as polarized as American political debate, with a straight divide between love and hate.
You'll have to imagine Alan 'Fluff' Freeman's voice reaching a crescendo at this point (anyone under 45, ask your dad) with the show-stopping revelation that 2021's official certified no.1 Brave Pill is a diesel-powered SUV. Not 'arf. An early example of the outgoing L405 Range Rover beat all challengers to the BPOTY title, although we suspect that Land Rover won't feature prominently in the corporate trophy case.
The Rangie's braveness was backed up by 121,000 miles and an enticing £24,000 price tag, one so appealing that a friend who read the story went out and bought a very similar example. It's also proof that the readership definitely seems to have a type - last year's highest-traffic BP was another DERV-gargling toff-roader in the shape of a Touareg R50 TDI. You know what you'll be getting more of in 2022.
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