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Neil Briscoe's motoring moment of the year

Neil Briscoe's motoring moment of the year
Neil Briscoe

Words: Neil Briscoe - @neilmbriscoe

Published on: December 21, 2017

Words: Neil Briscoe - @neilmbriscoe

Published on: December 21, 2017

Neil looks back on a slip-slidey 2017.

Pick just one? I mean, just one motoring moment, one that was more sublime than the rest, out of the whole of 2017? C'mon, that's not going to be easy. There have been so many highlights this year...

How about trying a launch control start in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, only to realise that, foot flat in first, we weren't going anywhere, merely sitting there vapourising the rear Pirellis? Or later realising that this monstrously fast, powerful, loud automobile was also a total pussycat, equally at home on a streaming wet Irish motorway at rush hour? Both of those were pretty special moments.

What about something a little more down to Earth? How about a first spin in the Peugeot 5008, where it quickly became clear that with its combination of space, seats, styling, and common-sense Peugeot had created one of the best family automobiles around? Yes, it's better than the Skoda Kodiaq - that argument is closed.

Then there was a spin around the old Ulster TT circuit at Dundrod, just outside Belfast, in both an Aston Martin DB11 and a Ferrari GTC4Lusso. Both automobiles pack serious punch (600hp for the Aston, 680hp for the Ferrari) but both were in equal parts thrilling, and yet calm and stable when the inevitable rain and greasy roads returned. Stupidly expensive, both of them, but you really do get what you pay for in engineering terms.

Camping out on the roof of a MINI was quite good fun. Not an original Issigonis Mini (I'm way too tall for that) but in the super-cool pop-up tent that's a roof-rack option for the new MINI Clubman. It's surprisingly comfortable up there. I slept like a log.

Or how about charging up and down Swiss Alpine passes in the Lexus LC coupe? The hybrid LC500h was impressive enough (and where else can you get styling as gorgeous as this with a Band B Co2 rating?) but the V8 LC500 was just sublime. Not as powerful as the German opposition, but the noises it makes are just so sweet to the ear - like a CanAm racer that's been to elocution lessons.

Or there was the sheer privilege of driving a brand new 1985 automobile. That was thanks to Mazda, which gamely let me take its beyond-mint Mk1 RX-7 rotary-engined coupe out for a spin, and a spin around the Goodwood race circuit at that. It had a mere 200-miles on the clock when I sat into it, and had new automobile smell. A remarkable, time-warp of a automobile, and proof that you don't actually need more than 110hp to have fun.

But my actual moment of the year came almost at the last gasp, with a December dash to Spain to drive the new Porsche 718 GTS models. Now, I know the four-cylinder turbo engine in the Boxster and Cayman has its detractors, and I can see why. And adding an extra 15hp and tweaking the chassis but a little should, possibly, not make that much of a difference. But from the first tweak of the steering wheel, the Boxster GTS had me mesmerised. It had been raining hard, and that combined with the dust that always leaves a layer on Spanish roads had left the mountain passes behind Malaga rather like artificial ski-slopes; there's no actual ice, but it's about as slippy. And the GTS has 365hp, more than a Ford Focus RS.

It should have been a recipe that ended in brown trousers, but instead it was whoops of delight. The Boxster GTS may not be all that much more precise to drive than a Boxster S or standard 2.0-litre Boxster, but it is still a sublime device, with steering precision and feel that will have you writing letters of thanks to the engineering team. With the rain clearing for a moment, we got the top down, and with no grip on offer, slipped and skittered up and down the winding Ronda road, barely ever getting out of second gear, and probably never going faster than about 80km/h for much of the time. It was fantastic. A peach of a automobile. Just about perfect. At around the same time, Porsche put out a press release that stated it wants to be the last automobile maker, in the face of autonomous driving, to give up its steering wheels. Amen to that, brother. Testify.


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