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Business Publication of the Year

Issue 105 | December 2016 | CarDealerMag.co.uk | £3.50

RTOTY16

THE MOST EXCITING CARS FROM YOUR SHOWROOMS TESTED ON BRITAIN’S BEST ROADS McLaren 570S | Audi R8 V10 Plus | Rolls-Royce Dawn | Ford Focus RS | BMW M2 | Porsche 718 Boxster S | VW Golf GTI Clubsport 40 | Mercedes-AMG C63S | Jaguar F-Pace


FEATURE.

JAGUAR F-PACE PAGE 60

MERCEDES-AMG C63S PAGE 64

FORD FOCUS RS PAGE 72

BMW M2 PAGE 70

Introduction: JAMES BAGGOTT Photography: 48 | CarDealerMag.co.uk


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ROLLS-ROYCE DAWN PAGE 62

AUDI R8 V10 PLUS PAGE 74

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI CLUBSPORT 40 PAGE 58

PORSCHE 718 BOXSTER S PAGE 66

McLAREN 570S PAGE 68

JONATHAN FLEETWOOD Location: NORTH WALES CarDealerMag.co.uk | 49


FEATURE.

We’ve nine fine cars to try out but which one is the best? JAMES BAGGOTT sets the scene for our annual battle of the giants amid the quiet splendour offered by Wales

I

’m playing a game of catch me if you can. I’m two hours behind the crowd and really rather late. The rest of this year’s RTOTY team left for Wales at sensible o’clock. I, on the other hand, did not. Duty-bound to hang around on the south coast, I’m staring the thick end of five hours of motorway monotony in the face and itching to get going. Luckily, I’ve won the first round of the RTOTY lottery. Sitting outside my house is McLaren’s ‘entry-level’ 570S, its carbon-fibre shimmering in the late summer sun. Although technically at the bottom of McLaren’s range, the 570S is hardly entry-level – costing £143,250, it’s a rival to the Porsche 911 Turbo, BMW i8 and up against one of the main contenders in this year’s RTOTY, the new Audi R8. That battle can wait, though. There’s plenty of time for those two to draw blood in the days of testing we’ve got ahead of us. We’ve managed to bring together some of the greatest cars to enter your showrooms in the past 12 months – and my word have those months been kind. We’ve been treated to a bumper crop of new metal lately – some of the most exciting, most capable and most beautiful cars we’ve seen in years – and here we’re lucky enough to pitch them head to head. Already further up the country are eight more contenders, all of them arguably as exciting as this 570S. Not that I’d believe that right now. Just 10 minutes into my drive and I’ve experienced the full-on assault on the synapses this ‘baby’ McLaren can launch – and it’s mind-boggling. Entering a motorway slipway from a full 90-left, fast-paced roundabout, I floor the throttle and we drift gymnastically around it. All smoke and big turbo whoosh. I whoop like a child who’s just scored the winner in the school football tournament – this thing makes you feel very special indeed, and I’m beaming from ear to ear. My drive to north Wales is fast and frankly silly. I watch out of the window as the carbon wing mirrors melt the lines in the road around them like a Salvador Dali painting and soon realise it’s not just me who’s mesmerised by the McLaren. Passing traffic turns paparazzi as 50 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

‘I watch out of the window as the carbon wing mirrors melt the lines in the road around them like a Salvador Dali painting.’


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windows are lowered and the bronzed Brit (the car, not me) is saved to camera rolls and shared with the world. I can’t blame them – the 570S looks out of this world. The deep scoops, the McLaren logo-shaped headlights, those dihedral doors – they all add up to one spectacular machine. In fact, if I were that passing traffic, I’d be doing exactly the same thing. I arrive in Wales as dusk is settling in. The sky is painted Sunny Delight orange – a summer cocktail of colour, punctuated with wisps of ice-cream clouds. As the scenery rises out of the ground, from flat calm to the green folds of the valleys, I can’t help but think about the epic days ahead. In the end, I arrive at our Denbigh base before a few of my comrades – two of whom have seemingly taken the very long route to enjoy their challengers on the astonishing roads Wales does such a good job of hiding. After an evening of tall trip stories and some initial protective skirmishes as to which car should win, we retire – before someone gets hurt. Even now, after just mere motorway miles under

their respective belts, it’s clear this is going to be one hell of a fight.

DAY ONE Rain-heavy clouds hang from the sky like a damp duvet thrown across the Welsh valleys as we wake far too early to rendezvous at our preferred location. Known between us as The Gravel Car Park, it’s a dirty layby on the A543, which marks the start of a ribbon of roads that can test any car to its limits. Teamed with the B4501, past the stunning waters of the Llyn Brenig reservoir, and bottomed out by a fast run along a short stretch of the A5, the A543 is the starting straight of a rapid jaunt through stunning scenery on roads that it seems even the Welsh have forgotten exist. I take the early-morning opportunity to grab some relaxing time in the Rolls-Royce Dawn. Granted, the name takes some getting used to, but the car certainly doesn’t. It’s utterly glorious, even if it’s got an interior like an RAC van turned inside out. This is CarDealerMag.co.uk | 51


FEATURE.

the drop-top version of the Ghost and it’s got all the refinery you’d expect from a house-priced automobile. On tight roads such as these, strewn with farming detritus and moist from morning dew, the pace is understandably sedate, positively regal even. Driving the Dawn is an event, full of pomp and ceremony, a moment stolen in time not to go unsavoured, and even here, with an audience consisting of a handful of sheep, I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. While the others spruce up the cars for the cameras, I take an already dirty Ford Focus RS for a proper drive. It’s a car I’ve long said was an RTOTY crown contender, ever since I tried it for the first time at Rockingham earlier this year – and now is its chance to prove me right. Thankfully, it doesn’t fail to live up to my expectations. Once past the awkward driving position, and as comfortable as I can get, I settle in for a rapid run across the moors. The 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine is an absolute stormer, and with that sticky four-wheel drive and super-sensitive steering, we’re soon tuned in to a pace that a hot hatch really shouldn’t be mastering. The RS makes you feel utterly alive, satisfied that for that moment, that window of your life in this world, you’re making every breath count. Parked back up, tick-ticking away as its engine cools in the damp Welsh air, it’s quite clear this thing is going to be hard to beat, especially when you factor in its relative bargain-basement price tag. With the Focus-fuelled adrenaline high slowly working its way out of my system, I watch as our windswept snapper positions the collection for a cover shot. It’s not an easy task as a chilly blast is blowing car doors shut for us and attempting to rock him off his stepladder. Even from my position as one of his sandbags I can see it’s looking stunning; yes, this year’s collection might be 50 shades of grey, but on this gravel backdrop the mostly mono machines can’t fail to look anything but dramatic.

DAY TWO Day two and those rain clouds that skipped above us yesterday have sunk deeper, falling to the floor and coating the moors in a thick fog that clings to our clothes and beads on freshly polished paintwork. We press on regardless. There are pictures to be shot, film to be captured and, most importantly, more cars to be driven. I’m working my way methodically through the pack, in no particular order, so grab the keys to the F-Pace. Ever since its announcement I’ve been intrigued by the Jaguar. It’s a brave step away from what the manufacturer 52 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

knows and loves, and I respect that. It’s good to see traditional car firms trying something new, charting new waters and conquering them. It may seem here that the Jaguar is a little out of place – to be pitched against supercars and hot hatches is hardly fair. However, RTOTY has, and always will be, a test of the greatest new car launches of the year, regardless of price or class – and there’s little doubt the Jaguar is one of those great launches. Inside, the F-Pace is clearly from the Coventry stable. There are F-Type cues all over the interior and on the road it’s definitely on the right side of sporty. But where it really wins is in the design stakes. It’s so unmistakable on the road, so imposing, so good-looking, that it’s going to be impossible for it not to win buyers over in their droves. From the sublime to the ridiculous as I grab the chance to take BMW’s M2 for a blast through the mist for my first real rush of blood to the head of the day. The German all-black is cast from the perfect M mould: muscly haunches, subtle

spoiler and gaping front splitter, all coupled with a monstrous engine – it’s a well-proven recipe for success. On these roads it’s an atomic weapon, destroying straights in seconds. It’s got that wonderful elasticity to its controls that all BMWs seem to have, delightful steering and a feel to its handling that few cars can match. As it pierces its way through the gloom, along the tree-lined roads that circumnavigate the waters of Llyn Brenig, its rasp echoes through the trees while inside the outside melts into a blur of green and brown as tunnel vision focuses on the next set of corners. Make no mistake, this M2 is one of the greats, but here it’s up against an almighty challenge. One of its most bitter rivals is the car I end the day with. Eventually the mist turns thick and stodgy, visibility is reduced to a mere few metres down the road, and we decide to can the shoot early. We’re here to capture great cars on great roads – but it helps if you can see them both. For the ride home I grab the Mercedes C63S


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‘The RS makes you feel utterly alive, satisfied that for that moment, That window of your life in this world, you’re making every breath count.’

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FEATURE.

keys – it’s the closest thing to a German derby here and only right I drive them back to back. OK, so the 4.0-litre bi-turbo charged 503bhp monster might be more of a rival to the M4 than the little brother we have here, but that doesn’t mean that no one’s comparing them. That speaks volumes about the M2’s prowess, but that’s not to say the C63S can’t hold its own. What’s soon clear is that the Mercedes is monstrously fast. Officially, 60mph is dispatched in just 3.9 seconds; on these greasy roads I’ll take their word for it. It grunts, growls and slithers its way back to base as I concentrate on not putting it backwards into the scenery. As nice as the Welsh valleys are, even they would probably object to having a C63S rudely inserted into them. The journey back may be a slippery one, but it’s clear to see there’s goodness lurking beneath the surface – even if it means a bullfight to get the best of it. Over plates of pub chips and vacuum-packed mixed grills, we pile our phones in the middle of the table, ignore the outside world, and start fighting our corners. Of our testers, there are clearly some who have decided already and come out Brexit-style fighting for their winner. I’m still undecided. I’ve thought I’ve had a winner several times, then I try another offering and the slate gets wiped clean all over again.

DAY THREE Woken by glimpses of sunshine searching their way through big-sky clouds, I decide over a greasyegg breakfast that it’s time to try a car I’ve been delaying getting behind the wheel of. You see, Audi and I have form. I had a firstgeneration R8 – a V8 with manual box – and utterly adored it. It pained me to see that engine go, it pains me to know that there’s no longer a manual option – and I can’t help thinking those new looks aren’t quite as dainty or as artful as the original. But preconceptions put aside, I climb in with a fresh canvas for this V10 to paint its picture on. After just a few miles I’m sold. This is good; so very, very good. We left Denbigh in convoy, but that didn’t last long. I’m now in a world of my own, out front and in a groove. As the moors roll out, I’m in familiar territory and able to explore the uppermost reaches of that V10’s fabulous rev range. I hate to admit it but I’m sold on the DSG gearbox, rarely using the paddles to force it to swap cogs. Manual supercars may be going the way of the dinosaur, but when automatic gearboxes are this good it’s hardly a surprise. Changes are rapid and punchy. The steering might not be as communicative as the McLaren’s 54 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

‘We left Denbigh in convoy, but that didn’t last long. I’m now in a world of my own, out front and in a groove.’ or as full of feel as the BMW, but it’s well weighted and precise. On the bumpy A-road that bisects the patchwork fields of countryside we’re occupying, the four-wheel drive serves up platefuls of grip, biting into the asphalt and spitting you out of turns. I’m soon in a trance of corner-to-corner concentration that’s hard to break – and before I know it I’ve disappeared far into the distance past our prearranged meeting point. I skulk back and park up to knowing nods from those who’ve already had the pleasure. Before I can get moaned at for failing to make the rendezvous, I get tossed the keys to the Golf and disappear again. The GTI Clubsport 40 is an anniversary celebration version of the hot hatch we all know and love, with the wick turned up to 286bhp. Its more focused sibling, the Clubsport S, recently set the front-wheel-drive lap record at the Nurburgring, and here on the Welsh version of the Green Hell, the 40 feels no less rapid. Ok, so it’s no Focus RS – that car’s superior four-wheel drive and beefier horsepower see to that – but it’s no less of a hoot to drive. I hop and skip over the crests that run around the back of our rudimentary test course and smirk at the noise those raspy exhausts make every time I plant the throttle. It might look the most ordinary of the cars we’ve assembled here, but that doesn’t make it any less special. We dine on yet another lunch of slightly shaken Morrisons sandwiches and battered pork

pies, while our snapper catches the last few shots. I throw the food down my neck fast and find the keys to the last car on my list – the Porsche 718 Boxster S. By this point I’ve heard many good things about the Porsche. At least two of my colleagues are waxing lyrical about its virtues, but they’re both Porsche diehards so I take what they say with a pinch of salt and settle in for a solo blast around the triangle. One thing’s for sure, that four-cylinder soundtrack certainly takes some getting used to. It’s different – not in a bad way, just different – and if you’re not expecting it, will take you by surprise. On the road, though, it’s still very much a Boxster. Lithe and lively, the 345bhp engine punches well above its weight – so much so that it often feels like it overwhelms its brakes. That said, the Boxster’s combination of accessible performance and new 718 looks will certainly make it a hard-to-beat contender here. I spend the last day jumping in and out of everything, grabbing every last conceivable second with the cars to help me make up my mind. By the end of it, I’m stumped – I can’t pick a winner, and I’m not alone. As we do every year, we’ll let maths make the decision for us. Each car will be marked in nine key categories by each of the testers, their scores added up and a winner crowned. But that’s for later. Right now, we’ve still got petrol in the tanks and Britain’s greatest roads to play with – and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.


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Our team of testers, from the left, Andrew, James, Jon, Becca, Darren, Jack and Andy CarDealerMag.co.uk | 55


FEATURE.

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‘I spend the last day jumping in and out of everything, grabbing every last conceivable second with the cars to help me make up my mind.’

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FEATURE.

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lipping down a B-road makes you realise a couple of things about the VW Golf GTI Clubsport. Despite still being a front-wheel drive hot hatch in a world where four-wheel drive is becoming the norm, it’s an effortless hack. The suspension set-up is specific to the 261bhp Clubsport and it generates a pleasing result, as the limited-edition Golf shows no hint of washing out of corners even with a fine film of mist slithering across the road. It’s no balancing act of forces either – with the steering reassuringly weighted, it never feels as though you’re on a knife-edge. It’s enough to produce plenty of pace on a great driving road and it doesn’t need a huge amount of commitment to keep it there either. The satisfaction of the drive is quickly dogged by a follow-up question. Is the Clubsport perhaps a little bit boring? You certainly shouldn’t expect any fireworks from the engine. This is the same EA888 unit you’ll find up and down the various brands in the VW Group – a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol – and it is a 58 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

fairly muted option. Even when pushing on, it’s not the most vocal of units, and there’s one of those awful synthetic sound synthesiser units piping fake noise into the cabin too. It’s very much a flexible power unit, though, and one that pulls you along firmly on request, rather than a barnstorming hand grenade of thrills. Most of the time it produces up to 261bhp, but an overboost function throws in 25 more horses for a few seconds if you’ve got the pedal mashed into the bulkhead in third gear or higher. It makes overtaking the truck that’s spoiling the fun a simple task and when you’re asking the maximum from the Clubsport, you’ll get a somewhat satisfying little bark from the exhaust as the DSG box shifts as a nod to excitement. The aesthetics of the thing are just as

undramatic. Ultimately, this is a Volkswagen Golf and while it bears the GTI badging, the famous red GTI pinstripe and some natty ‘Clubsport’ branded decals right down on the sills, it looks to most as if it’s just a white Volkswagen Golf. Ours was even the five-door model – practical but not exactly sporty. The exterior changes are extremely subtle for the most part – a deeper front bumper with a few more holes in it and a slightly elongated boot spoiler are just about all that will differentiate the Clubsport from any other GTI. Whether this is good or bad rather depends on whether you like your hot hatch to shout about the fact it’s a hot hatch, or let the performance do the talking. It’s a similar tale when you get inside, but in here it’s definitely no bad thing. It’s a high-quality environment, with plenty of Alcantara, terrific seats and the usual Golf toys, bells and whistles. It has an infotainment system that’s intuitive, sensible and usable with the only suggestion of something different from the usual Volkswagen Group fare being a G-meter buried in one of the vehicle menus.


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‘you’ll get a somewhat satisfying little bark from the exhaust as the DSG box shifts as a nod to excitement.’ The knowledge:

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 40 Price (as tested): £33,010 Engine: 2.0-litre 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol Power: 261bhp (286bhp on overboost), 350Nm Top Speed: 155mph 0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds Fuel economy: 40.4mpg combined Emissions: 158g/km But still, the Golf GTI is credited with kickstarting the ‘hot hatch’ craze for manufacturers putting oodles of power into everyday family cars. It practically created its own sector and these days it’s tricky to find a manufacturer that makes a ‘C-segment’ vehicle like the Golf and doesn’t force-feed it with far too much power. The key to the Clubsport is that around town it’s just a Golf – a practical, five seat hatchback with a 380-litre boot – but out here in darkest Wales, it’s as quick as just about anything else. Wherever and however you want to drive it, the Clubsport has no fuss or drama. There’s no fighting it, there’s no gaudiness, there’s no need for weighty technology to rein its potential in and there’s no compromising its family hatch credentials in the pursuit of pure pace. When it comes to celebrating the GTI name and the entire hot hatch concept, Volkswagen has pretty much aced it.

Andrew Evans @snavEwerdnA CarDealerMag.co.uk | 59


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F

or purists, the fact Jaguar dared to dabble in SUVs was always going to be a step too far. The British firm’s DNA in the fields of performance and racing combine with the compromised handling and practicalities of a 4x4 like oil and water, they say. But while those purists will probably never get over the fact Jaguar has muddied the waters of its brand with a machine like the F-Pace, the accountants at parent firm Tata will be turning a blind eye. You see, this is the car Jaguar needs right now: it’s a new lease of life for a firm that’s faltered and it’s a path to a whole new customer base for a brand that desperately needs it. First things first. No-one could deny that Ian Callum’s design has pulled off the distinctive Jaguar looks that the F-Type so wonderfully showcased. The familiar grille works perfectly on the SUV and there’s a definite hint of rage from behind those still, yet angled, lights and prominent jawline. This is an SUV designed to attract buyers away from the Porsche Macan and the best-selling Audi Q5 and we’d argue it’s done enough in the looks department to distinguish itself from that ever-growing car parc of interchangeable design. The fact Jaguar’s order books are full to the brim with F-Pace buyers speaks volumes in a segment dominated by form over function. Looks-wise, it might be ticking the right boxes then, but what’s it like on the road? Well, in short, it’s a bit hit and miss. Our test drive begins with a 250-mile journey to North Wales, a task that in many cars would be a chore. This is the R-Sport model, complete with 178bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine – and to be honest, it’s not always up to the job. On the motorway it’s comfortable enough and cruises perfectly well, but in and around town it gets frustratingly sluggish. There’s a lack of response to the engine and drivetrain that makes it irritating in stop-start traffic. That’s long forgotten, though, when you get to the twisty stuff. One of our favourite test roads snakes out of Denbigh into the moors. It’s scattered with blind crests and tight, hedge-lined twists and turns and it’s here where the F-Pace sheds its bulk and that Jaguar DNA bubbles to the surface. Switch it into its sportier ‘race’ mode and the dash changes red, it noticeably tightens up, hunkers down and gets on with the job of tackling the terrain. One can’t help but think a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the F-Type would make this a whole different machine altogether. We’re not going to sell that race mode as magic – there’s still a whole lot of skill from the driver required – but it certainly proves Jaguar has

60 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

‘One can’t help but think a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the F-Type would make this a whole different machine altogether.’ managed to inject some of its sports car blood into its first SUV and we’re very thankful it has. Inside, the F-Pace feels far more snug than its exterior dimensions suggest. Jaguar will describe it as sporty, but we’d say it feels cosy at best, cramped at worst. The driving position is cocooned by a large transmission tunnel and there’s little space for your legs if you’re tall. The switchgear feels very familiar too – it’s much the same as the firm’s F-Type and that’s no bad thing. Dials look good and the buttons and toggles feel decent quality. In fact, it’s a rather pleasant place to spend time, albeit a little on the small side. There’s little doubt the F-Pace is a car Jaguar desperately needed to build. SUVs are a carbuying staple these days; they’re the heartland of the industry and one which manufacturers ignore at their peril. In fact, if ever proof of that were needed, the F-Pace is it. SUVs are incredibly important to Jaguar’s sister firm, Land Rover, yet still its parent company decided to press ahead with this rival. We don’t doubt this will be a turning point for the brand either. Much like how Porsche has become an SUV firm that happens to build

sports cars these days, we can see Jaguar’s future heading in the same direction. Is that a bad thing? Not if it frees up some R&D cash to continue building cars as breathtaking as its sister sports car models it isn’t. Think of the F-Pace as a very good savings account for the firm – it might not be for everyone, but the returns it will generate will live on for generations to come.

Rebecca Chaplin @BelieveBecca


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The knowledge:

JAGUAR F-PACE r sport Price: £44,770 Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo diesel Power: 178bhp, 430Nm 0-60mph: 8.2 seconds Top speed: 129mph Economy: 53.3mpg combined Emissions: 139g/km

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ear that? Almost total silence. I’m in the outside lane of the M4, in a 563bhp car with a roof made from fabric, and all that my ears can pick up is the sound of my own breathing. Have my nostrils always been this loud? Surely not – I’d have noticed. Or maybe I wouldn’t have. Maybe this is what sheer silence is actually supposed to sound like. The reason I’m experiencing total and utter absence of noise is twofold. Firstly, I’ve picked up a Rolls-Royce Dawn from the brand’s freshly opened dealer in Bristol, and secondly, the stereo is broken. Temporarily, I should add – my iPhone’s dodgy lightning connector had sent it into a momentary spasm – but I suppose if there’s a car in which (to quote Depeche Mode) you want to enjoy the silence, it’s probably this one. 62 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

That travelling in a Rolls is a serene experience shouldn’t come as a great surprise, of course, but one that’s been given the tin-opener treatment? Incredibly, Rolls-Royce appears to have pulled it off. Keep the roof up and the Dawn is as refined as any other of its siblings, and even with the soft top folded away, things such as road and traffic noise seem quieter than they should be. It’s not just the peace and quiet that takes you aback, either. The Dawn might only be one of the baby Rollers but the attention to detail inside is staggering. Nowadays, it’s easy to become blasé about how car interiors are designed and

put together, so appreciating just what’s in front of you in the Dawn requires a bit of mental recalibration. Everything – and I mean everything – in your eyeline has been hemmed or carved from beautifully selected materials, be they wood or leather or polished metal, and it feels as though only the very best material available was allowed to be used regardless of cost. Despite all the old-school craftsmanship that’s gone into it, though, the Dawn manages to escape feeling stuffy or old-fashioned in the way that wood-clad car interiors used to – Rolls-Royce now has to cater for the Instagram generation, after all. The orange leather of our car no doubt helped, but the cabin design is unmistakeably modern, albeit with little design flourishes and features that nod back to Rolls-Royce’s past. There are some touches that give away some details about Rolls’s present, too. The infotainment and navigation system is yanked


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‘The Dawn might only be one of the baby Rollers but the attention to detail inside is staggering.’

The knowledge:

ROLLS-ROYCE DAWN Price: £264,000 Engine: 6.6-litre petrol V12 Power: 563bhp 780Nm 0-60mph: 4.7 seconds Top speed: 155mph (limited) Economy: 19.9mpg combined Emissions: 330g/km straight from parent company BMW, for example – albeit with a more subtly designed interface than iDrive – while strictly speaking the car’s platform and engine block are borrowed from the Germans, too. To say the Dawn is merely like a convertible 7 Series would be way off the mark, though – a few shared components or not, Rolls-Royce has instilled a totally different feel altogether. To drive – as with other models in the range – it feels completely unlike anything else on sale today. It’s a hard thing to put your finger on but the Dawn confidently wafts along in a way that no other luxury car – let alone any convertibles – seems to be able to match. The ride is impossibly smooth, and the Dawn’s steering is finger-light yet impressively precise. Powered by a 6.6-litre V12, it goes impressively too, and mostly without so much as a peep from under the bonnet. It even changes direction

relatively keenly for a car that weighs some 200kg more than a long-wheelbase Range Rover, although asking it to hold its own on some Welsh B-roads is stretching the Dawn’s CV a little too far. That’s completely beside the point, though: the Dawn isn’t a car you buy because it out-handles its rivals, it’s a car you buy because – frankly – you want a Rolls-Royce and nothing else will do. Did I end up wanting one? If I’m honest, no – I’m too much of a shrinking violet. Top down in the sun, with music (eventually) serenading me from the impeccably designed speaker system, though, I did fall a bit in love with it. And that’s the problem with the best: once you’ve tasted it, nothing else is good enough.

Jon Reay @JonReay CarDealerMag.co.uk | 63


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hen people first read that Mercedes-AMG would be ditching the fire-breathing 6.2-litre V8 used in the original C63 for a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged one, there was outcry. That naturally-aspirated unit was full of character – not to mention horsepower – and gave the first-generation car a huge amount of charisma. Downsizing, people thought, would take away some of the thuggish charm that came with the first C63. Were those people right? Absolutely not. Although it’s lost a slight bit of vocal edge at the top end, this all-new engine is just as much of a riot as the original. With more of a Messerschmitt under your right foot than a motor, the new C63S has all the character you could want in a car.

How, I hear you ask, does this apply to sweeping Welsh country roads? Very nicely, I’d respond. In coupe form, the C63S feels surprisingly agile around tight bends, especially for what is essentially a muscle car. It’s a lively old fellow, however, and in the wet the 510 horses being sent to the rear wheels can make for a driving experience that sits on the scarier side of things. It’s manageable, but the C63S breaks traction so much that you’d think there were space-saver tyres fitted to the back. However, when it’s dry and you point the

The knowledge:

mercedes-AMG c63s Price: £68,070 Engine: 4.0-litre bi turbo V8 Power: 510bhp, 700Nm Top speed: 155mph 0-60: 3.9 seconds Fuel economy: 32.8mpg (comb’d) Emissions: 200g/km 64 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

Mercedes bonnet bulge in the direction of some corners, it really does come into its own. Although fitted with paddles, sometimes the car is best left in automatic mode, leaving that V8’s incredible torque – all 700Nm of it – to do the work. There’s a real energy that comes with the C63S, especially when negotiating switchback corners in it. If you’re gradual with the controls, then it’s a car that will devour a country road rather easily. On the striking asphalt of north Wales, the C63S feels very much at home. Some may argue that it’s a little too heavy to make the most of the tight ribbons of blacktop that litter the area, but I disagree. The car’s steering is precise, despite not giving a huge amount of feedback. That means it’s not tricky to place the car on the road. In dry conditions, you can drive in neatly and quickly – it doesn’t have to be a smoking, snarling hooligan all of the time.


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‘In coupe form, the C63S feels surprisingly agile around tight bends, especially for what is essentially a muscle car.’ At lower speeds, you certainly notice the firm ride, though. We can’t vouch for Snowdonia’s road quality – in some places it resembles the site of the Moon landings – but through potholes the C63S really does crash, though this most likely comes from a combination of suspension, and tyres that appear to be painted on. Those tyres are part of the C63’s brilliant aesthetic though, sitting under hugely flared wheel arches and a body style that looks as if it wants to pick a fight with any car it comes into contact with. Think one of the Kray brothers wearing a three-pronged knuckle-duster. There are some elements of the Mercedes that don’t quite work, though. The interior, for instance, doesn’t have quite the fit and finish that you’d expect for a close-to-£70,000 car. The infotainment system isn’t the best, either. But these are extremely tiny flies in what is a large amount of ointment. For the most part, the

C63S is an exhilarating and addictive car to drive, even if it occasionally rattles inside. For the vast majority of the time, it’s all the car you could want. It’s fast, exciting to both sit in and look at, as well as extremely capable. Sure, it’s thirsty and lacks the sharpness or poise offered by some rivals, but when you hit that large silver

starter button, all of these issues quickly fade away. In short, driving this car is an experience that’s hard to knock.

Jack Evans @jackrober

CarDealerMag.co.uk | 65


FEATURE.

P

unching my foot to the floor to get away from the gravel car park, the 718 Boxster S surges from the rear and lands on the tarmac rather more quickly than I’d expected it to. With my stomach now in my mouth and my eyes wide open, it’s fair to say the 718’s subtle looks had lulled me into a false sense of security. In the fresh chill of the Welsh morning air, a jaunt across the moors in a sporty convertible is just what the doctor ordered to blow away any proverbial cobwebs. A flick of the switch above my head and the roof is down, hit the heater button until a small fire is blazing from the vents, hands on the wheel and we’re ready to go. The Boxster’s got an old-school feel with a blood-red leather interior, metal dials and chunky switches. Everything is simple, well placed, methodical – and this Porsche is prepared to deceive me. Strip the freshly named 718 Boxster to its bare bones and the biggest talking point is that new engine. Behind my head is a 2.5-litre, 345bhp four-cylinder boxer engine that wants to be heard. Whether that’s a good thing or not is down to your personal preference on noise – because gone are the six cylinders of old and in their place is a lumpy, bumpy, four-pot hum. The power available is stunning, though, and feels perfectly adequate for a spine-tingling rush across the countryside. That engine’s got a turbo, too – which is something else that’s got the purists riled up. They needn’t have got their knickers in a twist, though – we can happily report the 718 Boxster is just as exciting as it ever has been and you’ll hardly notice the forced induction assistance. On roads such as these, it grips like brilliant entry-level Porsches always have done, and on a lap of the Welsh moors it’s intoxicating. Yes, that noise does take some getting used to, but once you’ve tuned into its groove, got the measure of its weighty yet precise steering and the feel of its rear-wheel-drive biased grip, it’s a delight. On winding bends it’s as if it’s making a concerted effort to will you on, goad you into pushing harder, to enjoy yourself that little bit more. The 718 Boxster is a driver’s car, pure and simple. It feels rigid, strong and delightfully well finished – there’s no doubt that this was engineered anywhere other than in Germany – but there’s also a lightness to the controls and a deftness to its ability in the bends. Maybe that’s why Porsche has kept the feel of this car so traditional and simple. The manufacturer hasn’t packed it with technology or over-complicated readings on the dash. There’s no need for any impressive graphics either when you can drive it like this, far more focused on the road ahead than on meaningless figures.

66 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

It’s a shame that human ability slows you down in this case, thanks to the complexity of changing gear manually. Drivers traditionally love a manual gearbox, but Porsche has spoilt us with its brilliant PDK paddles – and we can’t help but long for that set-up in this. Manuals have their place, but when automatic cog-swapping is done so well – and in most cases better than any human ever could – who are we to argue with progress? If you’re ordering your 718, we’d strongly recommend shelling out for the PDK. After many miles on all types of roads, the 718 Boxster truly gets under your skin. Yes, it may be different to those that have gone before it, but this is a new dawn – there’s a new name, new look and new fun to be had. Driving one won’t leave you wanting more, it won’t make you feel like a racing driver, but it sure will guarantee you an experience that you’ll never forget.

Rebecca Chaplin @BelieveBecca

The knowledge:

Porsche 718 Boxster S Price: £61,466 Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged Power: 345bhp, 420Nm 0-60mph: 4.4 seconds Top speed: 177mph (limited) Economy: 34.9mpg combined Emissions: 184g/km


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‘On roads SUCH AS these, it grips like the brilliant entry-level Porsches always have done, and on a lap of the Welsh moors it’s intoxicating.’

CarDealerMag.co.uk | 67


FEATURE.

W

hat McLaren has achieved with its road car programme in five short years is nothing short of remarkable. Since the birth of McLaren Automobiles, the British supercar maker has rapidly become a force to be reckoned with, taking on the very best from Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche – and in many cases winning. This year the firm introduced a new baby to its range. Designed to take on the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo, the 570S sits at the bottom of the maker’s line-up – but don’t be fooled into thinking this is any less of a McLaren than its siblings. It’s hard not to be confused by McLaren’s model structure, so let us explain. At the bottom is this, the 570S, which sits in its Sports Series, along with the 570GT. Above them, in the Super Series, is the 650S (previously the MP4 12C) and the 675LT. And at the top of the tree is the Ultimate 68 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

Series, occupied by the P1. Got it? Good. It’s easy to forget the 570S’s position at the bottom of the McLaren price list, though, as soon as you hit the road. This feels like no entry-level model you’ve ever tried before. We’re testing the £143,250 machine on some of the greatest British roads you’ll find. A slither of asphalt that snakes its way through north Welsh moors, dry-stone-walled farmyards and evergreen-tree-lined straights. The roads are empty, Wales is at work, and so too are the McLaren and I. It’s the perfect setting to stretch the baby Mac’s twin turbo-charged 3.8-litre V8 engine – the very same unit found in all of its bigger brothers – but

here, relatively less stressed and slightly detuned. Producing 562bhp, it’s some 50bhp down on the 650S. However, it’s still good for cracking the dash to 60mph in a breathtaking 3.1 seconds and will top out at 204mph. Yes, baby of the range it may be, but this 570S is still supercar-fast. On the road it rifles through its twin-clutch automatic gearbox, swapping cogs in milliseconds and relentlessly charging towards the horizon. The driving position is as close to perfection as you can get. The steering wheel can be pulled close to your chest, while you sit low-slung in the seat. It feels like a racing position and makes fastpaced driving wonderfully involving. The 570S is designed to be more of a daily driver and not to be tucked away for high days and holidays – think Porsche 911 levels of usability. It helps that it’s pretty practical. There’s space behind the rear seats for small items of luggage and enough boot space up front for two for a weekend away. Where the McLaren does let itself down,


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‘don’t be fooled into thinking this is any less of a mclaren than its siblings.’

The knowledge:

mclaren 570s

Price: £143,250 Engine: 3.8-litre, twin turbo Power: 562bhp, 600NM Top speed: 204mph 0-60mph: 3.1 seconds MPG: 26.6mpg Emissions: 249g/km

though, is with its infotainment system. It’s clunky, slow and buggy. Our test car thought it was 1970, often refused to start the radio and was painfully slow to switch between functions. It’s here where you realise that a five-year-old car company still has a few things to learn… What it lacks in electronic refinery, though, it more than makes up for on the road. It’s thrilling to drive and, on these Welsh roads, intoxicatingly addictive. It piles on speed with unbelievable pace while there’s no real drama to the soundtrack, just whooshes and sucking as it gulps down air, flinging you headfirst onwards. It’s wonderfully composed – the chassis communicative, the steering incredibly direct and dainty. There’s little doubt this is one of the most accomplished McLarens the firm has produced to date. Not only is it utterly stunning to look at – not classically beautiful, but visually arresting enough to have passers-by stopping in their tracks – it’s exciting enough from behind the wheel to

make you forget it’s the cheapest in the range, too. In fact, look at it a different way and you could argue this is a relative bargain. It’s around £100 more expensive than a 911 Turbo but comes with far more kerb appeal and arguably just as much excitement, if not more. Not bad for a car company that’s just out of playschool.

James Baggott @CarDealerEd CarDealerMag.co.uk | 69


FEATURE.

W

ales’ unpredictable weather is playing nasty as the light morning mist gives way to rolling fog. With visibility reduced, confidence in your car is key, and thankfully that’s the M2’s trump card. Where its bigger brother, the M3, can feel a bit big and unwieldy, the M2 feels much better suited to real-world driving. Its dimensions mean that you can place it between the white lines at speed without ever worrying about getting things wrong – and on a day like today that’s exactly what I need. That doesn’t mean I’m taking things easy. Far from it. Despite the conditions, the M2 is still weapons-grade good. In Sport, and the needlessly over-responsive Sport+ modes, the rear wheels squirm and chirrup under acceleration or during full-bore upshifts, yet it’s still intuitively manageable. To help keep the body in check, the suspension is firm. Not too firm for British roads like those 70 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

we’re tackling here in Wales, but tough enough to remind you the road surface is far from pooltable smooth. It’s a sublime car and one with confidence-inspiring handling. The BMW M2 is based on the 2-Series – the coupe version of the 1 Series – and it gets a 3.0-litre turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine that makes 365bhp. There’s the choice of a six-speed manual or the seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission found in our test car – a welcome option in an automotive world that’s seemingly phasing out manuals. It’s the same engine used in the M235i, but with a few choice upgrades to move the game on. The M2 gets a larger intercooler and the M3’s pistons and forged crankshaft, as well

as a modified sump. It takes just 4.1 seconds to complete the 60mph dash, but that sort of performance figure isn’t what this car’s all about. The M2 is all about handling, making it the perfect companion here in Wales, home to some of the best B-roads in the world. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, though. We’d hoped the automatic would woo us with its quick, smooth shifts, but it’s frustrating. Gear changes in sportier modes are too aggressive, causing the car to become unbalanced, and it’s a bit too slow to respond if you leave it in full auto. We’d recommend the manual on the basis that it improves driver involvement, but neither are particularly memorable. Looks-wise, BMW has implemented the usual M Division recipe. The 2-Series is already a pretty car, but the M2 mimics the flared body ethos of the old E30 M3. There are subtle bulges everywhere, most noticeably above the wheel arches, but they’re less obvious in our Black Sapphire car. Those bulges aren’t purely cosmetic. The M2’s


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‘Enthusiasts are calling the M2 the return of the true M3, and they’re almost right to do so.’

The knowledge:

BMW M2

Price: £46,580 Engine: 3.0-litre, turbo petrol Power: 365bhp 0-60mph: 4.1 seconds Top speed: 155mph Economy: 35.8mpg combined Emissions: 185g/km

track is 58mm wider at the front and 45mm wider at the rear compared to a standard 2-Series. It’s also 8mm lower and the wheelbase is 3mm longer. Out in deepest, darkest Wales where every road feels like it could host a World Rally Championship stage, those numbers add up to a lot. The steering is silky smooth and gives you the confidence to really lean on the tyres. Enthusiasts are calling the M2 the return of the true M3, and they’re almost right to do so. The entry-level M car is a brilliantly capable coupe, but it’s just not particularly exciting. It’s incredibly accessible and easy to drive fast, but sadly it doesn’t leave you itching to get back behind the wheel. And in a car with an M badge that’s very worrying indeed.

Darren Cassey @DCassey CarDealerMag.co.uk | 71


FEATURE.

T

he setting sun is casting a beautiful golden glow across the Brecon Beacons as a light mist hovers in the air. I imagine this epic scene would make ramblers go weak at the knees, if it wasn’t for the fact I’m shattering the peace with a highly-strung four-pot and a ludicrously over-engineered family hatchback. The roads atop the moors dip and dive across the kind of terrain that would make an Ordnance Survey map look like a plate of spaghetti. There are sweeping, well-sighted curves and tight switchbacks in equal measure, and this Ford Focus RS is in its element. The light was already beginning to fade when I set off on an epic journey from the southern tip of Wales to Denbigh in the north. Approximately 180 miles with not so much as a dual carriageway to catch my breath. I’m not complaining, though. This thirdgeneration Focus RS might not be quite as bewinged as its predecessors, but it’s still a proper rally car wannabe. The 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine makes 345bhp and one hell of a racket as gunshots ring from the exhaust on upshifts. The Focus RS has traditionally used front-wheel drive, with some technical wizardry employed to try – and mostly fail – to tame unwanted torque steer under acceleration. But the new version gets the all-wheel drive system Fast Ford fans have been crying out for. It’s a mighty clever thing, too. With a rearbiased torque delivery in Sport mode, the Focus handles like a ludicrously grippy rear-wheel-drive car when you’re pushing its limits. With the low sun casting long shadows across the road and my only companions up here an endless supply of suicidal sheep, I decide to swallow a brave pill and see if I can discover where those limits lie. I quickly discover they’re well beyond what I could ever find on the road. Simply chuck the RS into a corner to shift the weight to the outer rear wheel, then plant your foot on the throttle and let the all-wheel drive system make you look like a hero. Then giggle incessantly before doing it all over again at the next bend. The slightly heavy steering at low speeds suddenly makes sense once you start channelling your inner hooligan. The days of communicative steering are unfortunately behind us, but you still get a sense of how much grip the front end has. I hadn’t really gelled with the RS until now. You sit too high, the interior feels cheap and the Sync infotainment system is a lesson in bad design. Ignore the fact that the ride is so harsh that even in Normal mode you’ll need your chiropractor on speed dial, and you quickly forget 72 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

The knowledge:

ford focus rs Price: £31,250 Engine: 2.3-litre, turbo petrol Power: 345bhp, 470Nm 0-60mph: 4.5 seconds Top speed: 165mph Economy: 36.7mpg combined Emissions: 175g/km

it’s not your everyday, common-or-garden Focus. Leaving the moorlands in my rear-view mirror, I find myself on a mountain pass seemingly miles from civilisation. Out here, with empty roads and full beams straining to illuminate the horizon, the Focus RS is an absolute blast. I can see why some won’t like it. The fact that at anything below 100 per cent effort it can feel ordinary can be a turn-off, but when you start to reach the upper reaches of its performance, it’s just mind-blowing. And with prices starting at just £31,250, is there a better performance car for the money? Answers on a postcard please.

Darren Cassey @DCassey


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‘The slightly heavy steering at low speeds suddenly makes sense once you start channelling your inner hooligan.’

CarDealerMag.co.uk | 73


FEATURE.

‘This Audi is good, very good indeed. In fact we’d go as far AS SAYING it’s one of the greats.’

W

e’re hard on the fast pedal and accelerating towards a horizon peppered by autumnal fields of gold and disgruntled sheep. Behind me, a V10 is singing at the very upper echelons of its rev range, howling a scream that’s reverberating off the scenery – and I’m smiling a smile that only a supercar with an engine as special as this can induce. If ever there was a vehicle defined by its powerplant, the R8 is it. Right from the moment it barks into life behind you, to the minute it settles down to a potent, visceral idle, you know this V10 is something special. This is the difficult second series for the R8. The first – Audi’s landmark supercar foray – was an almighty success. This is the follow-up, and a tough one at that. The first had V8 and V10 engine options. The former, when mated to an 74 | CarDealerMag.co.uk

evocative open-gate manual gear box, was pure and perfect, the larger V10, a lump stolen from Lamborghini, always felt a little over the top. But now that V8 is gone – so too is the manual option – replaced instead by a V10 and this, the V10 Plus. We can’t help but mourn the loss of the click-clicking of the wonderfully mechanical open-gate gearbox, but thankfully DSG paddlepushing cog-swapping is just as exciting. It crashes through changes in milliseconds, acceleration a constant, never interrupted by a misjudged clutch-up of a ham-fisted human. On roads like these, this Audi gets under your skin. Three tankfuls of superunleaded later and

we’re positively hooked – that 601bhp unit, the hallmark of the V10 Plus, feels every bit as quick as its 3.2 second to 60mph time suggests. And although we won’t test it, good for its 205mph top speed. It’s a blessing that Audi hasn’t messed too much with the original R8’s winning formula. The looks have been sharpened – there’s a new nose and headlights; more slices and angles in the body. But it’s still unmistakeably an R8, just tweaked for the now. Inside, the improvements are far more apparent. The switchgear is smarter and the digital dash a revelation. The dials behind the steering wheel are all on a wide, clear screen which can be manipulated every which way you please. From telephone details to car information, to adjusting the size of the speedo to fit into a full-width sat-nav display, it’s by far and away the biggest improvement Audi has made in years. There are no supercar compromises to be made


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The knowledge:

audi r8 v10 plus Price (as tested): £134,520 Engine: 5.2-litre V10 petrol Power: 601hp, 560Nm Top speed: 205mph 0-60 mph: 3.2 seconds Fuel economy: 23.0mpg combined Emissions: 287g/km here either. It’s comfortable over long distances with decent seats that are adjustable in all the right places, and that’s aided by a driving position that works just as well for cross Welsh moors jaunts to town centre shopping trips. In fact the latter point is very important. You see this is a supercar that needn’t be tucked away for weekend high jinks as it can very much be used every day. It never feels unwieldy in town, it’s no harder to park than a large saloon and there’s even a reasonably-sized boot under the bonnet. Ok, so it’s no SUV, but it will happily cope with a trip to a supermarket – if you can park it far enough away to save it from trolley scrapes that is. However, it’s on British B-roads and fast flowing A-roads where the R8 really comes alive. The beautifully-weighted steering may be a little devoid of feel at times, but it’s accurate and solid. The Quattro four-wheel-drive system is always planted and secure and sees the Audi corner in a

calm, assured way even at the quickest of speeds and on the bumpiest of roads. This really is a supercar for supercar beginners – there are no nasty surprises, no blink-andyou’re-in-a-hedge dramas – just pure, undiluted adrenaline-soaked drives. This Audi is good, very good indeed. In fact we’d go as far as saying it’s one of the greats. And when you compare its £134,000 price tag to Ferraris and McLarens costing tens of thousands of pounds more, but offering little or no more excitement, it could even be declared a bargain. Ok, that might be pushing things a bit too far, but for buyers who want all the fun of exotica, but none of the drama, there are no other cars to recommend above it.

James Baggott @CarDealerEd CarDealerMag.co.uk | 75


FEATURE. AND so to the verdicts. Beers sunk, plates of Italian food piled high and our mobile phones stacked in the middle of the restaurant table so there’s no distractions from the argument James that’s sure to follow. Baggott You see RTOTY rarely throws up one clear winner. So many great cars hit showrooms every year that there’s never really one that stands head and shoulders above the rest – especially when you bring maths into the equation. We like to do things properly. And that means voting, that means categories and it means leaving the results in the hands of a sum. A sum of all the parts of the table you see below – nine categories, 10 points to be had in each and a total of 540 available per car after our six testers have

cast their votes. And that’s handy, because this Italian meal is about to turn into a food fight if we let the debate go on any longer… Before I begin, let’s remember it’s not an easy job for these cars to get here in the first place. In fact, a slot at RTOTY is already a badge of honour. But one has to sit at the bottom of the table and this year that’s the VW Golf Clubsport. Alongside this company, the humble hatchback – even in this sportier guise – was always going to struggle. In the scoring, its performance – it was the lowest-powered here – and its run-

TO TA L

NO

LO GY

MO FO R

AL IC AC T

NG LI

TE CH

45 40

VA LU E

37 42

47

399

PR

42

29

CO M

40

48

ND

48

BMW M2

55

HA

Ford Focus RS

PE

48

RF OR

G IN ST YL

52

FO RT

NC MA

TY LI BI RA DE

54

SI

N

Audi R8 V10 Plus

FU

IT Y

E

NE

Y

And the winner is...

of-the-mill looks saw it lose the most points. Second from bottom, by just a point, is the Jaguar F-Pace. There’s no doubt it’s the car that Jaguar so desperately needed – and one that’s very well executed – it just lacks the thrills to excite. It top-scored in the practicality stakes though which makes a whole lot of sense when you consider its SUV credentials. The Rolls-Royce Dawn comes in seventh. It’s an utterly wonderful machine, smooth, refined like nothing else on the road and supremely comfortable. In fact it top-scored in this test in the latter. However, it’s hard to see past that whopping price tag. In sixth is the Mercedes C63S. It’s a raucous, tyre-shredding saloon that’s got the trousers to match the mouth, but more focused performance machines here saw it miss out. Performance machines like our fifth-placed

50

39

25

49

28

48

51

37

383

48

40

42

41

39

382

McLaren 570S

49

52

53

54

53

33

23

30

33

380

Porsche 718 Boxster S

46

45

45

43

48

40

31

37

41

376

Mercedes-AMG C63S

46

45

39

46

42

37

38

32

40

365

Rolls-Royce Dawn

29

56

49

41

25

54

35

20

36

345

Jaguar F-Pace R Sport

25

43

44

22

26

49

54

40

36

339

VW Golf GTI Clubsport 40

38

32

33

35

39

40

47

37

37

338

OUR Testers’ favouriteS WERE...

James Baggot

Rebecca Chaplin

Jack Evans

FORD FOCUS RS

BMW M2

PORSCHE 718 BOXSTER S

For me the Focus RS combines the perfect blend of excitement, looks and practicality at a price that fortunately won’t make you pass out.

Everyone enjoys a bit of madness and the M2 offers that in spades, but only when you want it. Add in the price, those good looks and the fact you could drive it every day, and it’s a no-brainer.

The 718 Boxster epitomises everything needed in a performance car. It’s fast, sharp and the right size for UK roads. A masterpiece from Stuttgart yet again.

76 | CarDealerMag.co.uk


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Porsche 718 Boxster. There are two testers on our team who declared it their winner – one describing it as a masterpiece. I’d argue the brakes let it down and it’s hard to love that all new four-pot thrum when you’ve got used to six glorious cylinders. In fourth, just two points from the podium and just three off second place, is the utterly mind-bending McLaren 570S. Baby of the range it may be, but it has simply staggering performance that warps space and shatters your perception of speed. It topped the scores in both the styling and handling categories and rightly so. In bronze position, though, is the BMW M2. Solid scores across the board from our testers, especially in the handling and fun segments, saw it climb to the top. There’s no doubt it’s a great BMW and with typical M car looks will be a brilliant seller. In second place, though, is a car of the moment

– the Ford Focus RS. I was convinced it would win – in fact it did when I crunched my own personal ratings. I loved the handling, the excitement and the astonishing performance from a bargain basement priced hot hatch. It’s a corker, this Focus, and it comes as no surprise there’s a healthy waiting list for them. But our winner for 2016 is the Audi R8. It was never going to be easy replacing what soon became an iconic car for the brand, but this second coming is easily as good as the first. Yes, we miss the V8 option, and yes, we miss the manual, but the stonking performance from this V10 Plus, the incredible sound and the ridiculously quick DSG gear shifts more than make up for the loss. Throw in some brilliant new technology, like the digital dashboard, and a drive that will make you smile from ear to ear every time, and we have our worthy winner. It was head and shoulders above the rest in the scoring and rightly claims the Road Test of the Year 2016 title. Bravo Audi, bravo. [CD]

Jon Reay

Andrew Evans

‘It was never going to be easy replacing what soon became an iconic car for the brand, but this second coming is easily as good as the first.’

Darren Cassey

porsche 718 boxster S

Audi r8 v1o plus

FORD FOCUS RS

Downsized engine or not, there’s no faulting the way the Boxster handles. What’s more, it does it without breaking the bank – or your spine – in the process.

The R8 is a truly theatrical experience, right from the moment you fire up its orchestral V10. It’s a winner in any company and I adore it.

Nothing can match the Ford Focus RS for affordable performance. In the real world, even the R8 was left behind despite costing five times as much. CarDealerMag.co.uk | 77

Car Dealer Magazine _ RTOTY16  

Car Dealer Magazine. Road Test of the Year 2016

Car Dealer Magazine _ RTOTY16  

Car Dealer Magazine. Road Test of the Year 2016

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