Well, 2017 seems to have been a year of plenty, because there are lot of high points to remember. Most of them, perhaps naturally in a speed-camera festooned age where the future of traditional performance automobiles is under threat from the growing EV push, came in situations where I could drive in the spirited fashion that simply isn't possible (or particularly admired) on congested public roads.
There was the regular Honda Civic MkX, which was a revelation - a C-segment hatchback at the top of its game, thanks to serious investment from its parent company. Then there was the Type R version of the same automobile, possibly one of the greatest front-drive machines yet built that felt alive and joyous on a circuit in a way its predecessor never did. And then there was the arrival of the Hyundai i30 N, a automobile so gobsmackingly amazing, so completely out of the blue that it was hard not to be totally blown away by it. The best hot hatch on sale right now? Possibly. And that's some accolade.
The top three moments, though, all relate to automobiles with more than 500hp; predictable, eh? Number three came right at the end of the year, with the chance to thrash the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio up the Jebel Jais mountain in the UAE. This road is like the sort of thing we'd all design in a dream world: a sinuous, undulating two-laner covered in the silkiest of new asphalt, snaking its way up a remote mountain to the east of Dubai. It doesn't go anywhere; at the top, 1,900 metres and more above sea level, there's just a gravel automobile park. With, weirdly, an abandoned old melamine kitchen unit in it.
What stunned, though, was the scenery, the light quality, that road... and, of course, the Stelvio itself. Barrelling up that hill, the V6 roaring away, the handling doing its best impression of a low-to-the-floor sports automobile, it was thankful validation that the Alfa Romeo Giulia was not just a flash-in-the-pan; the Italian company was back, and with a vengeance.
The second-best memory of 2017 is getting to spend 1,000 glorious miles in the company of the BMW M4 GTS, driving it all the way to the Nürburgring and back for the launch of the almost-as-special M4 CS. There were so many great moments on that trip, such as standing amongst the rowdy, alcohol-soaked fans of the N24 race at night, attempting to V-max the GTS on the Autobahn near Aachen (282km/h was good going but a sluggardly Volkswagen Golf moving into lane two in the middle-distance stopped me in my tracks), or driving from my hotel to the track each day along an absolutely belting, deserted road through the woods.
But it was the departure from the Nordschleife which has seared itself into my memory banks. The M4's satnav picked out its own route that veered more towards Spa, across the border in Belgium, yet it was the back roads of western Germany that stunned. View after breath-taking view of spectacularly beautiful, bucolic countryside rolling away to the hazy vanishing point on the horizon. The roads were heavenly. The GTS was boiling away in the zone... it was a half-an-hour or so that reaffirmed that this was one very special BMW. And that Germany is a truly marvellous country, in many respects.
However, even that sublime recollection was topped by five miles of insane driving fun in... an Alfa Romeo. The Giulia Quadrifoglio, this time, on a road I know well. Again, the whole demented charge along a bucking back road was scintillating enough but there was one particular instant, one dizzying high in the Giulia's astonishing repertoire that wins the crown. Through one compression, fully committed, lights blazing and the night well set in, the Alfa's flat undertray briefly made with a raised section of the road
The result? Sparks. A genuine shower of blazing yellow sparks, fizzing up behind the Giulia's quad-piped rear end, a vision akin to the sort of thing a Le Mans racer or an old F1 automobile from the 1980s would kick up. Not great for the Alfa's longevity, of course (ahem!), but, for that briefest of brief seconds, I felt like a genuine racing driver. And, amidst the many, many other glittering skills the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio possesses, it was that one instant that confirmed this is the best supersaloon on sale right now. And possibly, ever. A genuinely world-beating Alfa - no moment is going to top that, now is it?