Jeremy Clarkson names his top 10 cars of the year
Clarkson reveals his best drives, with a few surprises thrown in
Life is still exceptional for Jeremy Clarkson — unsurprisingly given his position as most likely the world's most famous motoring journalist. Losing Top Gear has seen his name dragged south in certain segments of the media (we probably had a wee hand in that too), but all is absolutely not lost. On the contrary, things appear to be on something of an upward swing.
With he and messrs Hammond and May's new Amazon show, The Grand Tour, just around the corner, the trio look almost like they've taken the high road — as 'New Top Gear' continues to look uneasy over the outgoing season's mixed reviews and the high-profile exit of The Shouty One.
Clarkson meanwhile has been trucking on; continuing, among other things, to write about cars for driving.co.uk at The Times in the UK. Most recently he released his list of the 10 best cars he's driven in the last 12 months “or so.” And it makes for curious reading.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
As you would expect from Mr. Clarkson (I keep wanting to call him 'Jeremy', like they did on the show), the list of 10 is dominated by big muscular monsters. The Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari 488 GTB, Mercedes-AMG GT S all fit this bill. As does the 5.0-litre Ford Mustang Fastback GT, which he classes as the embodiment of the film Bullitt.
“What it is, is a muscle car,” he says. “And you sense that in the second yard. This is a machine that wants to turn its tyres into smoke and go round every corner sideways.”
Beyond that quad lies the equally predictable selection of a BMW M2. Predictable not because it's a monster but because it's a car revered the world over as a euphoric return to the ‘M’ badge's roots as a true ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’. Clarkson, like many before him, labelled it his favourite M car.
“It’s not just fast in a straight line. It’s also fast through the corners. And not just fast, but a complete delight. It’s so good that in a few bends I was actually dribbling with joy. [...] There was the original, 286bhp M5: the ultimate Q-car. It looked like the sort of box that your chest freezer was delivered in but it went like a spaceship. That’s always been my favourite M car. Until now.”
Similarly predictable was the much hyped Ford Focus RS (“Even at James May speeds [...] this car feels cleverer than is normal. It feels like a Nissan GT-R”). But then there's the final four.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
I guess the Mazda MX-5 is to be expected, but potentially not from someone who's effectively the poster boy for ‘there is no replacement for displacement’. Clarkson talks about the 2.0-litre Sports Recaro Miata in particular, calling it a “cure for depression.” The new Volvo XC90 is there — Clarkson of course a long-time fan of the voluptuous Swede (“It’s so soothing, you could nod off. And you’d be fine, because it’d wake you up if anything was wrong”).
Then, of all things, a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer makes the list. Bono's Zafira diesel to be exact.
“A previous model had a reputation for bursting into flames but as I climbed a mountain what struck me was how brilliant the engine in this Zafira was. Then I went over a bump and didn’t feel a thing. Never have I encountered any car, including the Rolls-Royce Phantom, that’s so good at refusing to transmit road irregularities into the cabin. Which makes it the most comfortable car in the world.”
Lastly, there's the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupé — a car as jaw-droppingly beautiful as it is impractical and silly. But this is why we love (loved ... maybe?) Top Gear — they were able discuss cars on an emotional level that transcended far beyond the numbers and statistics printed in 12 pt Times New on the brochure.
“I’ve never driven any mainstream road car that generated quite such an outpouring of affection as the Alfa Romeo 4C. Not ever. It was like I was whizzing about in a reincarnated blend of Gandhi and Diana, Princess of Wales. [...] Think of it as a Ferrari puppy.
“It’s a terrible car. And yet I adored it. Every other vehicle, with its perfect refinement and its perfect electrics, cannot help but feel like a machine. Whereas the Alfa, with its flaws and its tendency to go where it wants, feels human.”
I like the new Top Gear. I think Rory Reid has incredible potential, and Chris Harris could genuinely reincarnate similar levels of fandom as the old crew did back in the day.
But I can't wait for The Grand Tour.