My 10 favourite cars from 2012

LAST year was an amazing year for new cars. I drove plenty of them and many have stuck in my mind for all the right reasons.

In this blog I'm remembering some of the very best cars I've driven in 2012.

So here, in descending order, are my 10 favourite cars from the last 12 months.

10. Subaru WRX STi

The Subaru WRX STi might be gone, but it will never be forgotten
The Subaru WRX STi might be gone, but it will never be forgotten

One day I might forgive Subaru for dropping the 'Impreza' from its turbo-charged rally bred monster saloon. Who cares what people think? Snobs. It's like changing the name of your house because you're worried people'll think it makes you sound common.

However, I will never forgive them for getting rid of the 'WRX STi' altogether. Which is what they did not long after I drove the last ever 'Impreza'.

Yobbish or not I don't care. The Impreza blossomed into a wonderful beast, which never failed to make you feel like a motoring God. The only comfort I seek from its death is the memories I cherish from driving the last of its kind.

May it rest in peace.

 

9. Mercedes C63 AMG

The C63 AMG is the best Mercedes C Class Coupe. And I love the C Class Coupe
The C63 AMG is the best Mercedes C Class Coupe. And I love the C Class Coupe

I've always had a soft spot for the Mercedes C Class Coupe, it's a fine looking car with bags of kit, a lovely interior and it drives really well.

I spent a fantastic week in one touring Essex and Suffolk on a family holiday and became very fond of it but, in May, I also had a very quick play in the absolutely bonkers C63 AMG version. It's as if an engine with so much power and character just completes the car.

Because they all come with an array of AMG goodies, even the diesels, there's little to suggest what lies beneath the bonnet in the flagship version - but when you press the start button and hear that monstrous engine bark into life you're left under no illusion that you're about to have a lot of fun.

And that's exactly what I did.

 

8. Range Rover Evoque

Sorry to state the obvious, but the Range Rover Evoque is absolutely brilliant
Sorry to state the obvious, but the Range Rover Evoque is absolutely brilliant

No surprises here. We all know the Range Rover Evoque is excellent. There's so many of them about on the roads these days that it's obvious they're a huge success.

By building the Evoque Land Rover took a bold step into unknown territory and risked its reputation on a stylish but very unusual child prodigy in a niche no manufacturer had properly explored before.

But, boy, did they pull it off. A three door in the Dynamic trim, with the right colours and the full glass roof is certainly on my dream driveway and it was, by quite a long way, one of the most complete, interesting and accomplished cars I drove in 2012.

Well done Land Rover.

 

7. Jaguar XKR-S

The Jaguar XKR-S can only be described as savage. Brilliant, but savage.
The Jaguar XKR-S can only be described as savage. Brilliant, but savage.

I'll never forget the Jaguar XKR-S, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. I drove two of them in 2012 - a convertible and a tin-top and I was absolutley blown away.

I'm a huge Jag fan so there was always going to be a leaping cat in this list and the XKR-S is probably the best car from the Jaguar stable (so far) so it makes sense to put it in. The problem I have with the XKR-S is that it's quite simply too fast.

Seriously, it's a car that amazed me as I'd never thought a vehicle could accelerate too quickly before - but on a normal day, on a normal road, there is absolutely no need for such a mountain of power.

For a half hour drive around the Warwickshire countryside the XKR-S was terrifying, hilarious, submlime and just plain daft. It was a drive I'll never forget.

If it was my money I'd buy the bog-standard XK. It's plenty quick enough. But the XKR-S makes this list for giving me one of the best driving experiences of my life.

 

6. Infiniti G37 Coupe

Motoring's best-kept secret? You really have to try the Infinit G37 Coupe, it's fabulous
Motoring's best-kept secret? You really have to try the Infinit G37 Coupe, it's fabulous

Back in the Autumn I spent a day with Infiniti in Hull, driving their latest line up of models.

I didn't know what to expect as I'd never driven one of these 'posh Nissans' before but I was in for a few surprises.

I wasn't fully convinced by their FX models and the EX left me feeling a bit cold but I loved the M35 Hybrid. The real surprise, however, was the G37 Coupe. It is absolutely fantastic.

Essentially a bloated Nissan 370Z, it manages to give you all the luxury of a grand tourer but with the bonkers underpinnings of a sports coupe.

It looks fab, it's immensely comfortable, it's very quick and it drives brilliantly. It was one of the biggest surprises of 2012 and certainly one of the best cars of 2012.

 

5. Range Rover TDV8

The outgoing 2012 Range Rover TDV8. Best car in the world? Well, I think so
The outgoing 2012 Range Rover TDV8. Best car in the world? Well, I think so

I've always said the current V8 diesel Range Rover is the best car in the world. There might be faster cars, more luxurious cars, better looking cars or even better off-roaders but no other car does so many things quite so well.

It is everything you want a car to be and more. It even drives well and the diesel V8 is an absolute masterpiece.

I drove a few Range Rovers in 2012 and if it wasn't about to be replaced with an even better version it would probably be at number one in this list.

If I was to win the lottery, you can forget Ferraris, McLarens or even the Bugatti Veyron - the Range Rover would be the first car I would buy. It is everything you want a car to be and more.

 

4. BMW M135i

The BMW M135i was the biggest surprise of 2012. It might look a bit rubbish but, my God, it's a good car
The BMW M135i was the biggest surprise of 2012. It might look a bit rubbish but, my God, it's a good car

I'm not normally a fan of BMWs, especially the One-Series. And, aside from the coupe, which I think is quite cool, I think BMW's hatch back is awkwardly-styled and overpriced.

But in October I drove the BMW M135i for the first time.

I wouldn't have bothered if it wasn't for a recommendation from a fellow motoring journo over lunch who said it was 'mad as a hatter'.

I'm glad I had a go, let's just say that. It is absolutely bonkers. I can't say it's changed my mind about BMWs, or even the One-Series, but it gave me the shock of my life.

What you get is a phenomenally quick rear-wheel drive hot hatch, with the best gearbox I've ever used in any car, a great interior and the usual quality of fit and finish you'd expect from a BMW.

If you're still wondering why such a bland-looking car is in this list at all, then get out there and drive one. It's absolutely awesome.

 

3. Vauxhall Ampera

The Vauxhall Ampera. Shining like a beacon in a sea of mediocre hybrids
The Vauxhall Ampera. Shining like a beacon in a sea of mediocre hybrids

2012 has been a big year for hybrids. I've driven some really bad ones but also some really good ones.

I had to put one in my list and I tossed up between the excellent Mercedes E250, the surprisingly brilliant Infiniti M35h and this, the clever Vauxhall Ampera.

The Vauxhall makes my list because its technology impressed me most. It's not the most economical, it's not the cheapest and it's not the best to drive or the fastest.

But it strikes me as the car that's moved hybrid technology on the furthest.

The way it uses its engine as a power supply rather than a unit to drive the car is inspired and the fact its batteries can be topped up by plugging it into a household plug socket makes it even more ingenious.

It looks great, it drives well, it's loaded with gadgets and there's a Vauxhall dealer everywhere you look.

It's definitely the best hybrid to have been launced in the last 12 months.

 

2. Volvo V40

The Volvo V40 is quite simply the best Volvo ever produced. And, on Volvo's current form, that really is saying something
The Volvo V40 is quite simply the best Volvo ever produced. And, on Volvo's current form, that really is saying something

Volvo are on their best ever form at the moment, and they've had a fantastic year in 2012. Their models are getting better and better.

The best Volvo yet though, by quite a significant margin, is the V40. It's brilliant.

It's aiming to breach a very competitive sector and to take on the leviathans including the Volkswagen Golf, but all the usual Volvo safety goodies, a smattering of new technology that's thus far unique to the V40 and a great looking body make this a very strong contender.

The V40 handles better than any other Volvo I've driven, looks fab, comes with every gadget you could want and is keenly priced.

As mainstream family cars go, 2012 saw the arrival of plenty of big hitters but for so many reasons the V40 was the pick of the bunch for me. I absolutely love it.

 

1. Toyota GT86

Certainly the best sports car I drove in 2012 and I'm pretty sure the best car I drove in 2012. The unbelievably good GT86
Certainly the best sports car I drove in 2012 and I'm pretty sure the best car I drove in 2012. The unbelievably good GT86

I spent an unforgettable week in the GT86, Toyota's long-awaited return to the sports car scene. And, my God, was it worth the wait.

The GT86 is everything a sports car should be and its arrival has re-written the rule book and brought back the glory days of pure, unfettled driving enjoyment.

For such a modern car, much of it feels quite old-fashioned - but in a very good way. In this day and age I'm amazed there's still a way this lairy, tail happy and hilarious car can be produced.

It's priced well, it drives like a car should and all the silly things a modern car needs to make it to the market are buried away and only there if you really need them.

It's exciting in a way I never thought possible in a £25,000 car but still a pleasure to live with.

And it made me love sports cars again. For that reason, I have no hesitation in hailing the GT86 the best car I drove in 2012.

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