At the end of a year that most people will fondly remember for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, or perhaps for what was an uncharacteristically spirited World Cup performance by the England football team, those of us who debase ourselves with impure thoughts of turbochargers that glow red hot will instead look back on 12 months of the most remarkable new performance cars. In what has unquestionably been a vintage year, these are our favourite driver’s cars of 2018.
5. Ford Fiesta ST
There are very few cars launched this year or any other that would not find an afternoon in the company of the Ford Fiesta ST educational. The sparkly little hot hatch does so much important stuff to such a high standard that it actually merits comparison with the best sports cars out there, regardless of price. It’s enjoyable to drive at all speeds, it has a sweet natural chassis balance and, what’s more, there is a cohesion to its major controls that only a handful of cars can better.
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4. BMW M2 Competition
Driving the previous BMW M2 – a thuggish, hotrod of a car – was like being married to a clown: always hilarious, but when you wanted to connect on a deeper level it would throw a cream pie in your face and run around honking its nose. The genius of its replacement, the M2 Competition, is that it is no less entertaining and every bit as controllable in a big, smokey drift, but there’s a precision and deftness to its chassis that means you can enjoy driving it neatly, too.
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3. Ferrari 488 Pista
Around Ferrari’s own Fiorano test track, the 710bhp 488 Pista is a mere 1.8 seconds a lap slower than the 950bhp LaFerrari hypercar. That’s impressive on its own, but more remarkable still is that far from being tricky to drive or lethal at the limit, the Pista is approachable and benign. On top of that, it is brilliant to drive on the road, too, somehow combining peerless on-track ability with composure and finesse on a bumpy highway. One of Ferrari’s very best.
2. McLaren 600LT
During the development of the 600LT, McLaren’s chassis engineers were encouraged to shave with cutthroat razors so they knew what sharp really meant. The most recent Longtail model adds a little more power, more immediate steering and a less compromising chassis setup to the already brilliant 570S to deliver one of the most thrilling driving experiences of the year. Get the twin-turbo V8 hot enough and the 600LT will spit flames from its top-exit exhausts, too.
1. Alpine A110
At a time when certain performance cars are becoming so fearsomely quick that to stretch one on the road is to place your driving licence inside the box alongside Schrodinger’s cat, the dainty Alpine A110 proves quite brilliantly that speed and power are secondary factors in the make-up of a great driver’s car. With 249bhp and a tiny kerb weight it is quick enough, but an exquisite chassis makes it as rewarding to drive on the road as any car launched in the last five years.
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Dan Prosser is a motoring journalist who tests some of the world’s most exciting cars for publications including Pistonheads, Top Gear, Autocar and Evo.
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