PCOTY: 10 to 1

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 12

by SCOTT NEWMAN pics CRISTIAN BRUNELLI

Lexus GS F Popular, if polarising, but fails to achieve greatness

TWELFTH on the grid. P-Last. It’s not where you want to end up, but I reckon in this case, it’s not a true or fair reflection of the Lexus GS F’s real abilities and place in the world. And let’s not forget, just to make it into a PCOTY field suggests a fair degree of nous in the first place, so winding up at the blunt end of things isn’t as bad as it looks on paper.

Speaking of which, on paper, the Lexus really does look the business. Specifically, that 5.0-litre atmo V8 knocks out 351kW as well as 530Nm at a high-ish 4800rpm. But where such a high torque peak can sometimes make for a frustrating drive, in the Lexus, it simply means you need to rev it up to about 4000rpm and then hang on. Because at that point, the exhaust note hardens, the GS F squats at the rear and just takes the hell off. Oh, there’s plenty below that for just getting around, but if you want to be getting along, then 4000 is the magic number.

At more than 1800kg, the GS F is no featherweight, but it carries that bulk well and there’s absolutely no doubting the fact that it’s a truly capable platform with a spot-on, real-world blend of balance, ride and handling. It even steers pretty faithfully and although we’d like a bit more weight and substance to the feel of things, the Lexus never fails to turn in and even did a decent job on a properly slick track.

Okay, it lacks that last few percentage points of driver involvement, but that’s what happens when you also opt for a supremely quiet interior and a refined overall demeanour. In fact, the Lexus is a bit like the opposite of the C63 S Coupe; the former trades off blood and guts for silkiness, the latter is the other way around.

Neither approach is wrong… just different. And hey, they’re both proper performance cars at the end of the day and worthy of inclusion in this field.

The one thing that will turn a lot of potential owners away from the GS F is the stylistic approach Lexus has adopted in recent years. The front end that looks like an earthquake has hit a trapezoid storage facility is one thing, but an aftershock has clearly nailed the angle factory next door and there are all sorts of obtuse and acute lines peppered all over the GS’s plastic bits.

Then there’s the mish-mash of an interior. We loved the adaptive digital display with its ghost needles and user-chooser options, but the waterfall dashpad brought a tier (geddit?) to our eyes.

But let’s not forget that the Lexus also provides decent value for money and in isolation (as in, not as part of PCOTY) it would be a serious contender against all comers from a similar price bracket and with a similar brief. –DM

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 4.99SEC (9TH) 0-400M: 13.09SEC @ 179.72KM/H (10TH)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: 11th Don’t underestimate the Lexus.

If it had an Italian badge, we’d be oohing and ahhing.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 12th Japan cooks up a rear-drive V8 four-door. Result is reliably odd, enthusiastic and likeable.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 11th Flawed, but full of character and great fun to drive.

TIM ROBSON: 11th The basic bones are there, but the GS F needs more punch and attitude.

JOHN BOWE: 12th I liked its road behaviour but on a wet track it was dreadful.

There’s no doubting it’s a capable platform with a real-world blend of balance, ride and handling

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 6.5 7 7 6 8 34.5 DYNAMICS 7.5 7 7 7 8 36.5 ACCESSIBILITY 8.5 8 9 7 9 41.5 LIVEABILITY 8 7.5 9 6 9 39.5 VALUE 6 7 6 6 7 32 X FACTOR 5 7.5 3 8 6 29.5 TOTALS 41.5 44 41 40 47 213.5

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 11

Ford Mustang GT Needed to be a bit more horse and a little less pony

IT’S ONE of the most talked about cars of the past 12 months – and yeah, sure, we’ve been doing a lot of that talking. However, in the final reckoning, and thrown up against the toughest PCOTY field in living memory, Ford’s Mustang GT simply found itself outgunned in every quarter, despite that wholesome 5.0-litre V8 under the hood. Err, make that bonnet.

Its muscle car-esque stance and languid rear-wheel drivetrain belies surprisingly accurate and feelsome steering. The ’Stang also has a decent enough chassis tune, with a faithful, predictable rear end and loads of front grip in dry conditions. At DECA, its long-throw manual and taller third gear held it in good stead, though the sharp change of direction over the left crest spooked it a bit.

The GT and its Pirellis were unhappy bedfellows at Winton, unfortunately, which pushed it out of favour with more than one judge. There was no way to drill down past the edgy, sketchy top layer of grip to meaningfully access the suppleness of the GT’s chassis tune; and there was a bit of a disconnect between clutch and gearbox action that made power transfer tough. The Mustang suffered as a result.

However, on the mountain loop and in direct comparison with a pair of hardcore, head-kicking rear-drivers in the HSV and the Merc, the Mustang GT showed admirable pluck, thanks to its wall of torque, its long throttle travel and that long gearing.

Slot it in third, let physics sort out the whole power delivery thing and work on loading up that front end, and the GT is a willing companion in open, flowing terrain with positive braking, adept steering and great roll control. Although that long wheelbase does see it become less enthusiastic in tighter terrain.

On the long run back to Ford HQ, though, the GT’s touring credentials came into sharper focus. Sure, the interior falls into the trap of chintz disguised as nostalgia, but its achingly good looks and undoubtable connection with a long line of automotive folklore lend the Mustang a romance that isn’t shared by many other cars in this year’s field.

At the end of the days there’s no doubt that this is easily the most driver-centric ’Stang to ever be sold Down Under. Its rock-star popularity with the enduring Ford faithful means that the next, more focused version will be able to improve on a solid PCOTY showing – it finished just half a point behind the HSV and a handful away from the GT-R – in the face of formidable competition.

At the final reckoning, though, this year’s PCOTY field is simply too deeply stacked for the Mustang to scrabble any higher than it did. –TR

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 5.20SEC (11TH) 0-400M: 13.38SEC @ 176.61KM/H (11TH)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: 9th I’m a huge admirer of the new ’Stang. Steak comes before sizzle for once.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 8th Surprisingly sorted but its genius is more in making you feel good, than making you go ‘wow’.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 12th Felt overawed in this company, but a terrific modern muscle car.

TIM ROBSON: 9th Modern muscle car is outpointed in a strong year.

Still a cool rig.

JOHN BOWE: 6th Old style, but by far the best American drivers’ car ever.

In direct comparison with the HSV and the AMG, the Mustang GT showed admirable pluck

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 6 8 6 5.5 8 33.5 DYNAMICS 8 7 7 6.5 8 36.5 ACCESSIBILITY 8 7 7 8 7.5 37.5 LIVEABILITY 7.5 7 7 6.5 8 36 VALUE 9 9 9 6.5 8 41.5 X FACTOR 7.5 8.5 7 6 8 37 TOTALS 46 46.5 43 39 47.5 222

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 10

HSV Clubsport R8 LSA If this is a swansong, the Clubbie is leaving on a supercharged crescendo

HOW far we have come… if GM’s mighty, mighty LSA engine had been around a few short years ago, we would not be writing about the HSV Clubsport being down in 10th spot, guaranteed. It’s another result that does more to illustrate the strength of this year’s opposition, rather than shining the spotlight on any particular weakness in the R8.

Armed to the absolute teeth with that fantasmagorical 400kW/671Nm 6.2-litre supercharged V8, and blessed with a chassis that still surprises and delights after so many years, the R8 looked – and sounded – like it would make a good show of it, even taking into account the carpark it found itself nestled in on that first afternoon.

Right from minute one, the engine makes the car just a little bit special – not to mention outrageously pacey. Its eye-widening turn of speed down DECA’s long straight was matched only by the burliness of its stock brake package and the quality of its chassis balance front to rear. It required a little bit of mental recalibration to recall that it wasn’t a range-topping GTS version of the car, rather just a humble Clubbie.

It handles more than okay, too, with good change of direction and a willing rear end.

It did better than most in the wet at Winton, too, thanks to its Continental tyre set, and took both the wet and semi-dry condition in its stride. On track, though, is where its R8 origins are probably most noticeable. It doesn’t, for example, like its gear change to be rushed, with a disconnect between clutch action and shift speed proving to be reasonably annoying. Its steering, too, is light for such a large car and could do with more load to better match its character.

Out on the open road, the circa-1900kg R8 suffered at the hands of its leaner, almost equally well endowed rivals, struggling on the change of direction in tighter terrain. That gearshift inconsistency, too, is out of step with the rest of the car’s fluidity over flowing terrain.

With the scores for positions seven through 11 separated by less than 10 points from a possible 300, a few of the judges marked the R8 down in the areas of Liveability and Dynamics, while the subjective X-Factor figure also pulled the R8 down in the face of formidable opposition.

Is this the last time we’ll see a V8-powered Holdenderived rear driver at a Performance Car of the Year event? It’s very likely – and it’s somewhat of a shame it had to come up against such a high calibre field, because the R8 is far better than the final tallies indicate. –TR

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 4.48SEC (6TH) 0-400M: 12.55SEC @ 184.84KM/H (7TH)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: 11th I can’t feel 400kW. But I can feel (and see) quality when it’s plonked before me.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 11th Eye-openingly potent for a Clubsport. I just wish it sounded a little more sinister.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 10th Huge grunt, great handling and room for the whole family.

TIM ROBSON: 7th Can’t understand how it didn’t do better. Mucho, mucho motor.

JOHN BOWE: 8th Very well executed, a lot of car for $80 grand.

Right from minute one, the engine makes the car just a little bit special – not to mention outrageously pacey

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 8 8 8 8.5 8.5 41 DYNAMICS 8 7 7 7 8 37 ACCESSIBILITY 8 7 7 8 8 38 LIVEABILITY 8 7 7 6 9 37 VALUE 7 9 6 7 8 37 X FACTOR 6.5 7 6 6 7 32.5 TOTALS 45.5 45 41 42.5 48.5 222.5

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 09

Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years VW proves that four decades of practice makes pretty close to perfect

EVER watched a movie that was decent first time around, but improved on every subsequent viewing?

That’s the VW Golf GTI 40 Years. Just as some movies require some concentration and focus to figure out what’s going on, you have to dig deep to really uncover what makes the 40 Years special.

It only just made the PCOTY cut. Having been beaten by the Focus RS in a recent comparison (December 2016) we debated whether there was any point bringing the limited-edition Golf along, but as the year’s hottest front-driver (narrowly nudging out the Peugeot 308 GTI 270) we felt it deserved a chance.

At DECA the Golf failed to shine. Oh it was quick, capable and even reasonably fun, but the same could be said of the regular Golf GTI Performance. The 40 Years didn’t display any obviously extra handling smarts and its stiffer suspension introduced a terseness to the ride that devalued the GTI’s greatest asset, its ability to be both very fast and very comfortable.

Winton was a washout. The VW was one of the easier cars to drive in the slippery conditions, but powerful front-drive cars on a wet racetrack, especially those with limited-slip diffs, are almost always a one-way express ticket to understeer city. Additionally, the 40 Years doesn’t have the adjustability of something like the Megane Trophy to be able to neutralise the frontend push. Or at least it doesn’t when there are rivers running across the track.

It was on day three, on our chosen test road in the Victorian High Country, that it started to click. With dry tarmac under its 19-inch Pirellis, the clever front diff could effectively harness all 195kW/350Nm. The engine is awesome, not just more powerful than in the regular GTI but also much more aggressive, a vicious bbrrtt escaping the pipes on full-throttle upshifts.

The steering is nicely weighted, the brakes are strong and though the chassis isn’t as playful as the equivalent Megane or Focus, it’s beautifully composed. It inspires confidence as it flows from bend to bend, and finally VW has allowed you to kill the electronics in a front-drive Golf. At last the 40 Years elevated itself above its more prosaic siblings, in the process making its $2500 premium over the GTI Performance look like an absolute bargain.

As a manual that gap shrinks to $500. We asked for a three-pedal car, but sadly the 100 examples so-equipped all have customers’ names next to them.

And we can understand why, as even with the DSG this is an exceptional front-driver. Ninth place might not sound too flash, but for a sub-$50K hot hatch to be snapping at the heels of a Nissan GT-R and Audi R8 V10 Plus proves it’s something special. –SN

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 6.00SEC (12TH) 0-400M: 14.00SEC @ 171.75KM/H (12TH)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: =6th Still showing the rest of the hatchback world how it should be done.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 10th I respect it a lot but oddly I don’t lust over it. I’d almost be happier with a Performance or R.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 8th A slow burner, but dig deep and its excellence shines.

TIM ROBSON: 12th This is the Golf GTI to own.

Amazing engine and a real character.

JOHN BOWE: 10th Better than I expected, the best front-wheel drive I have driven.

The engine is awesome ... a vicious bbrrtt escaping the pipes on full-throttle upshifts

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 7 7 6 8 7 35 DYNAMICS 7 7.5 7 8 7.5 37 ACCESSIBILITY 7.5 8 9 8.5 8.5 41.5 LIVEABILITY 8 8 9 8 8.5 41.5 VALUE 7.5 8 8 7.5 9 40 X FACTOR 6 7 5 5 6 29 TOTALS 43 45.5 44 45 46.5 224

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 08

Nissan GT-R Japanese supercar-slayer fast but not talented enough in this company

FOR THE revered, decade-old GT-R’s recent refresh, Nissan focused on making its much-loved, supercarscaring coupe easier to live with – rather than just a more potent performance car. Both the interior and exterior have been revamped and the once cantankerous dual-clutch transmission has never been so behaved. In trying to give Godzilla more manners, Nissan has been successful, creating the most comfortable, daily-driveable R35 yet.

This is important – we’re searching for the Performance Car of the Year. So you’d think that with the GT-R boasting more liveability than ever, to match its breath-taking performance, it should have done better than eighth. What gives?

Well, it’s certainly not wanting for speed. Though power and torque are up ‘just’ 15kW/4Nm – the mighty VR38DETT now belting out 419kW and 632Nm – Nissan really didn’t need to give the base GT-R a million extra kilowatts when plainly it was already fast enough for most customers. Its as-tested 0-100km/h time of 3.2sec is utterly mental, the GT-R’s all-wheel drive traction and launch control helping it best the 488 and Huracan – keeping in mind, for the cost of one LP580-2 you could have exactly two new GT-Rs.

As ever, launch control in an R35 remains a compulsory bucket list item – it is simply brutal, and all the more impressive remembering this is a car that weighs 1765kg – more than a base SS Commodore.

As for corners, whether the GT-R is fun or just a bit unhinged and scary continues to depend a lot on your skill level. Around a soaking wet Winton it was a bit of both, the dry-focused Dunlop SP Sports a little skatey but the low grip conditions letting the impressive allwheel drive system strut its stuff.

In the dry, the GT-R also still demands a lot of concentration. Tyre temperature is a variable but again there’s the fact this is a big car you don’t want to get away from you. On a really tight, twisty road it can feel a bit cramped, but on the more open stuff it covers ground ridiculously fast, even if sometimes in a more brutally-efficient than laugh-out-loud fun manner.

There really isn’t one reason why the GT-R didn’t finish higher up other than the fact it’s just not the establishment-disrupting sports car it was when launched 10 years ago – and despite the updates, it’s starting to show. While the GT-R is still crazy fast, terrific value (even with a recent $17K price hike) and now more comfortable than ever, relying on sheer brute speed alone will only get you so far. Ultimately the GT-R needs to learn some new talents if it wants to continue playing with cutting-edge performance cars like those it’s up against here. –DC

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 3.20SEC (3RD) 0-400M: 11.21SEC @ 199.67KM/H (4TH)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: =6th Concept ain’t new but little tweaks over the years have kept it current. And quick.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 5th Bulls**t fast but you get the feeling if it could replace you with more computer, it would.

SCOTT NEWMAN: =4th You judge it against the supercars then realise it’s a third the price.

TIM ROBSON: 8th Still a savage disguised with electronics, but starting to show its age.

JOHN BOWE: 11th Very underwhelming, I expected it to shine, it didn’t.

Launch control in an R35 GT-R remains a compulsory bucket list item

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 7.5 9.5 8 10 9 44 DYNAMICS 7.5 8 8 8.5 8.5 40.5 ACCESSIBILITY 8 7 7 8 8.5 38.5 LIVEABILITY 7.5 7 6 6.5 7 34 VALUE 6 9 7 9 8 39 X FACTOR 6 7 7 5 7 32 TOTALS 42.5 47.5 43 47 48 228

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 07

Audi R8 V10 Plus When it comes to four-ringed supercars, less is sometimes more

GENERALLY speaking, when booking PCOTY contenders we always try and secure each car’s ‘ultimate’ specification. This usually pays dividends for everyone – the faster, more focused variants are what people want to read about and tend to perform better in the overall rankings. When it comes to the new R8 V10 Plus, however, Audi has made a delicious meal but left it in the oven too long.

According to Audi, unlike the previous R8 V10 Plus, which was merely a slightly lighter, more powerful version of the standard car, the new Plus is positioned as the ‘track variant’. For an extra $35,000 you score another 52kW/20Nm from the 5.2-litre V10, carbon ceramic brakes, 40kg less weight, a stiffer passive suspension setup and lightweight fixed-back seats, and it’s largely these last two points that scuppered the R8’s chances of PCOTY success.

Car buyers come in all shapes and sizes, which makes Audi’s decision to fit heavily reclined fixed-back seats unfathomable. It wasn’t much of an issue for Robbo, which must mean he has a Plus-sized figure (sorry Robbo…), but Morley, DC and I hammered the R8 on Liveability. If you can’t get comfortable in a car, it doesn’t really matter how good it is to drive.

And it’s important to be comfortable in a new R8, because you’re steering a certified missile. A 10.93sec quarter mile and 3.18sec effort from 0-100km/h tells you all you need to know about the Audi’s unhinged speed. The screaming V10 is one of the world’s greatest engines, and bar the odd hesitation on downshifts, the lightning fast dual-clutch ’box attached to it is also one of the best.

Thankfully, Audi will fit regular seats to your Plus for no extra charge, but it won’t fit the adaptive dampers that are standard on the normal R8 V10. The Plus’s circuit-focused setup might eradicate roll on the racetrack, but it’s spine-jarringly stiff on the road – when a Nissan GT-R feels luxurious in comparison, things have gone too far.

To be fair, the Plus is brilliant on track. It didn’t matter whether Winton was damp or drenched, the all-wheel drive Audi inspired huge confidence and could be driven harder than any of the other supercars.

Unfortunately, on the road the quattro system felt to pull, rather than push the car. The old R8’s beautiful rear-biased setup has been replaced by one that is more secure, but ultimately less fun.

Essentially, in hindsight we took the wrong variant.

We suspect the regular R8 V10’s normal seats and adaptive suspension would’ve righted the range-topper’s wrongs, and with 397kW the ‘standard’ car was hardly going to be hanging around. At its core the R8 V10 is incredible, but for us the Plus was more of a Minus. –SN

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 3.18SEC (2ND) 0-400M: 10.93SEC @ 209.58KM/H (2ND)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: 6th I’ve always regarded the R8 as a dinkum alternative to established hypercars. Now I know for sure.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 9th Would have finished further down if it had any other engine.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 9th Stunning looks and drivetrain spoiled by ride and stupid fixed-back seats.

TIM ROBSON: 5th Such an accomplished machine right across the board. My personal fave.

JOHN BOWE: 3rd Its looks don’t buzz me, but a very useable everyday supercar.

A 10.93sec quarter and 3.18sec eff ort from 0-100km/h tells you all you need to know about the R8’s speed

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 8.5 9 9 9 10 45.5 DYNAMICS 9 8 7 7 8.5 39.5 ACCESSIBILITY 8.5 8 9 9 9 43.5 LIVEABILITY 7 6 6 5 7.5 31.5 VALUE 6.5 8 5 7.5 7.5 34.5 X FACTOR 8 7 8 6 8 37 TOTALS 47.5 46 44 43.5 50.5 231.5

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 06

Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe Affalterbach’s unhinged missile fires into muscle-car territory

LET’S not kid each other here. The AMG C63 S Coupe is not about wafting you and your significant other down to the opera house in silence. Nor is it about lurking in the shadows and just being a watcher. Nope, this is a genuine muscle car that just happens to have a high-end Euro badge on its rump. It’s about as subtle as a Trump tweet. But in a good way.

For all that, you get a slight feeling that maybe the C63 S in coupe form doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Oh sure, it’s straight line and outright performance credentials are beyond question, with urge and urgency that can match it with the megabuck, mid-engined stuff. But the looks of the coupe, for instance, don’t quite gel for some of us in the same way the original C63 did. You know, all muscle and no beg-yer-pardons. The new coupe isn’t the prettiest AMG, yet it doesn’t seem to have visual brutality.

Of course, you can make up your own mind about that, and from the best seat in the house, you can’t see what it looks like anyway. It’s also from the helm you discover what a head-kicker the AMG really is. There is acceleration and then there is the stuff the C63 S produces. Call it thrust, call it grunt, call it what you like – this is a serious piece of hardware. And covering big distances with zip fuss is the name of the game.

Again, however, we’re drawn back to that feeling the Coupe’s not quite sure what it’s meant to be. The noise inside the cabin, at 78dB, is all but as rowdy as the ear-plugs-optional Lamborghini at the same cruising speed. And the ride quality is way down on the plush factor built into many other cars with Mercedes badges. That said, a ride bordering on too stiff has historically been a bit of an AMG C-Class thing, so it’s clearly deliberate and does not seem to scare punters.

And keeping things as firm as they are also allows for pretty neat, sorted handling. And so it is, but the C63 S has one more trick up its sleeve in that department. With a wider rear axle than cooking C-Class cars and torque vectoring built into that drive axle, the AMG is a truly amazing thing to punt hard.

Turn it in and it feels completely normal with good steering feedback and a solid feel. But feed the power in post-apex and the car starts to tighten its line.

At first I thought I’d dialled in too much lock, but then it happened again the very next corner and I discovered that you can use this extra dollop of turn-in to brilliant effect. In fact, the harder you punch it out of a bend, the more torque you create and the more vectoring gets done on your behalf. In the end, you find you have to start winding off a little lock post-apex just to maintain your chosen trajectory. This ability to rotate itself just on throttle is something you won’t tire of and shows just what a techno-sled the AMG really is. In a muscle-car kind of way, you understand. –DM

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 4.56SEC (8TH) 0-400M: 12.48SEC @ 194.10KM/H (6TH)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: =2nd About as loopy as it gets. And I mean that in a good way.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 4th Licence-losingly fast. It’s like the friend who you know is bad for you, but you keep hanging out with them anyway.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 7th AMG really understands what makes a car fun. Mega engine.

TIM ROBSON: 9th The hardest C-Class AMG there is… and it shows, too.

JOHN BOWE: 7th Far better than I expected it to be, a good jigger.

Call it thrust, call it grunt, call it what you like; this is a serious piece of hardware

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 8.5 9 9 8.5 8.5 43.5 DYNAMICS 8 8 7 8 8 39 ACCESSIBILITY 8.5 9 8 7 7 39.5 LIVEABILITY 8 7 8 7 8 38 VALUE 6 7 7 6.5 8 34.5 X FACTOR 7 8 8 8.5 8 39.5 TOTALS 46 48 47 45.5 47.5 234

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 05

Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2 Not perfect, yet everything you’d want a supercar to be

HERE’S how you know 2016 was one of the best, if not the best, years ever for performance cars. The Lamborghini finished fifth. Man alive – fifth!

But before you go surmising that this was because the LP580-2 is rear-drive when the Huracan was originally conceived as an all-paw monster, let me assure you, this was not the case. Nope, the Huracan simply lucked out by being born in the wrong year. The same year as Ferrari turned up to PCOTY, the same year as Porsche released a new 911 Turbo S and the same year that the mucho loco, and bargain-priced, Ford Focus RS came along.

Because even though it finished off the podium, the Huracan remains one of the most, er, virile performance cars you can buy at any money. Not only that, but it looks a dead-set million bucks just sitting there, with a purity to its lines that neither the Audi nor the Ferrari could match and the Porsche couldn’t care less about.

The Lambo runs everything pretty hard in the numbers department, too, with lazy 11s recorded down the strip despite lacking all-wheel drive traction.

Miraculous, then, that the Huracan simply grips up from a standing start and heads for the hills without bulk wheelspin being the result.

It’s a better all-rounder than its looks suggest, too, and even though the ride is actually pretty good, it could do with adaptable dampers to make the most of the inherent balance and ability in what is actually a terrific chassis.

That excellence fades a little on the wet track we were blessed with, and it’s then that the Lambo was quickly voted the one most likely to try to kill you.

But by Gallardo Balboni standards, the Huracan is vastly better mannered. However, it remains that the big, heavy engine, mid-mounted as it is, combined with a mid-corner chicken-out on your part will see it attempt to swap ends.

The one traditional Lambo thing the Huracan doesn’t seem to have been able to ditch is the spectre of some truly, um, inventive ergonomics. Only the Italians, for instance, could get away with power window switches where up is down and down is up. Then there’s the non-convex passenger’s exterior mirror, the bizarre side-to-side toggle switch for the indicators and the lack of – in 2016, remember – a lanechange function where the indicators give you three flashes with a single tap of the switch. You know, like almost any other car does.

Oh, and where your $15,000 Kia now has a standard reverse camera, the mega-buck Lambo does not. Then again, neither does the Ferrari. Sheesh. –DM

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 3.55SEC (5TH) 0-400M: 11.25SEC @ 209.46KM/H (5TH)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: =6th Same formula as the Balboni, but a way better result. Sex.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: =5th Fifth does not convey how much I love this car. A reardrive Huracan is so right it’s not funny.

SCOTT NEWMAN: =4th Makes you work to extract its best, which is as it should be.

TIM ROBSON: 2nd Ooooh boy. What a rush!

Wish it had more front end, though.

JOHN BOWE: 3rd Gorgeous engine, worth the money just for the sound it makes.

The Huracan remains one of the most, er, virile performance cars you can buy at any money

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 8.5 9 9 9 10 45.5 DYNAMICS 8.5 8 7 8 9 40.5 ACCESSIBILITY 8.5 7 8 7.5 8.5 39.5 LIVEABILITY 6.5 6 6 6 7.5 32 VALUE 7 8 5 7 8 35 X FACTOR 8.5 9 9 9.5 9 45 TOTALS 47.5 47 44 47 52 237.5

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 04

BMW M2 Pure Back to basics Bavarian proves a big hit

HERE’S a fun little factoid: if you look at the cumulative cost of this year’s top two, you can have 12 BMW M2 Pures, and still have enough cash left over for a lifetime of track days. Thing is, you only need one M2.

The M2 Pure represents a true return to form for the Haus of M, and a real homage to the cars that kicked the brand off. Its relative lack of size when compared to its M3 and M4 stablemates, a long, flat torque curve that makes its turbo motor feel almost nat-atmo and its flat, wide stance combines with a deliberate policy of dismissing extraneous fluff to produce a car that is truly a rare thing.

The M2 Pure deploys an updated version of the N55 2979cc turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, and its 272kW of power and 465Nm of torque may seem anaemic in this company. However, its wide 1450 to 4750rpm torque curve gives it a depth that belies its on-paper numbers.

In the midst of the hottest PCOTY field of all time, the M2’s performance across the week is nothing short of stellar. Its hit out on the first day at DECA showed more than one judge that this sub-$100K coupe with the mug-lair front bar and concept-car wheels is more than the sum of its parts.

Sure, it won the tyre lottery at a soaking Winton, but it still managed to show more than a few of its rivals how steering should actually work – a trait made even more remarkable by the fact that the front end of both the M3 and M4 are far from favourites in the MOTOR office.

It was let off the hook a little – the M2 succumbed to a set of mistreated front brake pads that grumbled more than I do on a deadline week. Even though the noise was atrocious, the performance didn’t deteriorate, so it got to carry on.

It was in the hills around Marysville, though, that the M2’s place in the PCOTY pecking order was cemented.

On a long, sinuous set of perfectly manicured bends with the sweetest camber imaginable, I set out after the M2 in the 488 GTB – and I could not believe just how easily the BMW managed to keep its nose in front.

Where the Ferrari’s massively stiff chassis and sharp manners meant frightening yourself silly keeping corner speeds up, the M2 just keyed into the terrain and bolted for the hills.

It’s not perfect; the automated throttle blip detracts from the character of the car, and the ECU is too conservative doling out the torque low down. But to finish this high in this field is an outstanding performance for the little blue coupe. –TR

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 4.55SEC (7TH) 0-400M: 12.82SEC @ 175.82KM/H (8TH)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: 5th My new best friend in the BMW showroom. Bargain, too.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: =5th Fun-loving baby M car makes its big brother M4 feel a little too serious.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 6th So capable in every area; a bargain for what it offers.

TIM ROBSON: =3rd A return to form for BMW M, and for rear-drivers in general.

JOHN BOWE: 2nd The best value sporty BMW on the market.

To fi nish this high in this fi eld is an outstanding performance for the little blue coupe

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 8 9 7 8 8.5 40.5 DYNAMICS 8 8 7 7.5 9 39.5 ACCESSIBILITY 8.5 6.5 8 7.5 9 39.5 LIVEABILITY 8.5 6.5 9 7.5 8 39.5 VALUE 9 9 8 9 9 44 X FACTOR 8.5 8 7 7 8 38.5 TOTALS 50.5 47 46 46.5 51.5 241.5

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 03

Ford Focus RS Blue Oval builds a truly category-redefining hot hatch

T PERFORMANCE Car of the Year there's often a Surprise Packet that shows up the more fancied rivals. You're looking at it.

Stop for a moment and consider that Ford's absolutely brilliant new Focus RS has beaten not just the adored BMW M2 – the car heralded as the M brand's return to form – but the rear-drive Lamborghini Huracan that some judges needed to be forcibly removed from; and the scintillating Audi R8 V10 Plus. In fact, with not a single vanilla contestant at PCOTY 2017, pipping any of the cars you've so far read about would be remarkable, let alone nine of them. A $51K hot hatch.

Clearly, though, not any old hot hatch. With its turbocharged 2.3-litre inline four (shared with the Mustang EcoBoost) belting out a whopping 257kW and 440Nm (470Nm on overboost), channelled through an innovative 'Twinster' all-wheel drive system able to shunt 100 per cent of the rearward thrust to either rear wheel for true torque vectoring, Ford has created an impressive performance car – on paper. But in truth it's even better to drive, a car clearly engineered by people who not only love driving and understand what makes a proper performance car, but how to innovate to move the game forward.

A And in that sense the Focus RS is an annoying car for any manufacturer that makes a hot hatch because it is category redefining. Previously, a hot hatch would have one of two handling configurations: security and stability, pushing into understeer at the limit – like a VW Golf R or Mercedes-AMG A45 – or I-wish-to-killyou startling oversteer, like a Renault Sport Megane or Ford Focus ST. Provided your driving style is versatile enough to tap into each, the Focus RS can provide both these handling personalities – with a bonus party trick.

Not only can you drive the Focus RS 'flat' up a twisty road, leaning into the satisfying grip of those 235/35R19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres; and not only can you drive the car more 'on the nose', inviting the rear end into play under brakes, or exciting it with some daring steering inputs; but the Focus RS will – in one of the most unusual feelings in modern performance driving – power oversteer just the right amount out of tight, first- and second-gear corners, providing the sensation of a rear-driven hot hatch.

There are very few cars that can provide such a multi-dimensional driving experience all in one – and certainly no others under $100K. Yep, we are confident in declaring the Ford Focus RS has the most talented chassis of any new performance car under $100,000.

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 5.04SEC (10TH) 0-400M: 13.08SEC @ 173.82KM/H (9TH)

JUDGES' RANK

DAVID MORLEY: =2nd If you love hot hatches, you will need a Focus RS. That is all.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 2nd I'm not sure I would ever get bored of driving this car.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 3rd A cut-price World Rally Car. Crap ride, brilliant everything else.

TIM ROBSON: =3rd A wild, wild ride, and an absolutely amazing car for the cash.

JOHN BOWE: 9th I love it in many ways but the damping is appalling.

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 7 8.5 6 8.5 8 38 DYNAMICS 7 9.5 8 9 8.5 42 ACCESSIBILITY 7 9 9 9 8.5 42.5 LIVEABILITY 8 6.5 8 6 8.5 37 VALUE 9 9 9 10 10 47 X FACTOR 6 8 7 7 8 36 TOTALS 44 50.5 47 49.5 51.5 242.5

Big call, and perhaps worth verifying in a separate test, but from the outset, it's a statement we're reasonably confident making. Part of its sorcery is, again, in its all-wheel drive system which overspeeds the rear axle by two per cent for spookily eager handling.

Fortunately it's got the grunt and brakes to keep up with the chassis, the four-pot cracking and popping like a World Rally Car at all the right times, and showing off turbocharged muscle and flexibility right across the rev range, peak torque available from just 2000rpm.

The big (350mm Brembo front) brakes feel firm and strong underfoot, and it's a doddle to heel-toe.

Of course, the Focus RS is not perfect. Far from it, unfortunately. For that utterly sublime chassis you give up comfort, making the Focus RS almost more of a weekend than weekday car. On this basis alone many would-be customers might gun for the Focus RS's arch-nemesis, the Golf R, for a more comfortable daily driver. To continue on the Focus RS gripes, you also sit oddly high in it. Under full throttle it sounds merely okay with a lot of synthesised engine noise.

There are nicer interiors at this price point like the 308 GTi or, again, Golf R. The much-spoken-about Drift Mode is a bit silly. And its backwards-cap styling is not for everyone, not to mention that the lack of a twin-clutch option will be an instant deal-breaker for many people. (Let's be grown-ups and admit that not everyone wants a manual.)

But trust us, all of these ills are but minor misgivings to own a performance car as stimulating as this one.

From purely a performance perspective, the Focus RS moves the game on. And to think it's just $51K... that's it, this year's Bang For Your Bucks is cancelled. Here's the winner. –DC

The Focus RS has the most talented chassis of any new performance car under $100K

PERFORMANCE Car of the Year 02

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 9.5 10 9 10 10 48.5 DYNAMICS 8.5 10 9 10 8 45.5 ACCESSIBILITY 7.5 8 8 8 8 39.5 LIVEABILITY 6.5 8 7 6.5 8 36 VALUE 6 7 4 7 8 32 X FACTOR 9.5 9 10 9 8 45.5 TOTALS 47.5 52 47 50.5 50 247

Ferrari 488 GTB Jaws drop, eyes open and minds boggle at the foregone conclusion that wasn’t

OPE. The Ferrari 488 GTB didn’t win.

Surprised? We don’t blame you. It came close, and it looked the goods at various times during the course of PCOTY week, but when all was said and done, the much-vaunted Fezza didn’t quite get the job done.

It’s fair to say the weight of expectation sat heavily on the oddly petite, yet unbelievably contemporary silhouette of the inexplicably grey haunches of the 488. However, in some ways, the Grigio Medio hue perfectly suits the new-school ethos of the 488 GTB. It would be too easy to paint it in Scuderia Rosso – but one gets the sense that’s becoming clichéd.

Yes, even for Ferrari.

The 488 is, after all, the brand’s first mid-engine, twin-turbo V8 coupe since the F40, and the vanguard of the new age of mainline performance for the Maranello marque. The sheer breadth and depth of aero, mechanical and electronic trickery on show in this one 1475kg bundle of carbon fibre and metal is breathtaking. The 90-degree vee 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 can, for example, predict misfires and pump oil at two different pressures. It has a blown rear diffuser and underbody wings that change with road speed – even the dampers operate faster than thought, and are linked to the electronic diff and drivetrain.

So what happened? It might sound like a broken record, but the sheer depth of this year’s field saw some N

The sheer breadth and depth of aero, mechanical and electronic trickery on show is breathtaking

The rear-drive 488 is undoubtedly a weapons-grade backroad tool and it simply eviscerates the gap between corners

Testing Times Fast, but not fast enough

THE 911's all-wheel drive allowed it to produce better numbers, but in terms of pure speed the 488 was king. It's not, however, anywhere near as quick as Ferrari says it is. Maranello claims 0-100km/h in 3.0sec and 0-200km/h in 8.3sec, but while the former is feasible on a perfect surface (though forget about using the launch control, it's slow) the latter is pure fiction, the 488 hitting 200km/h in 9.6sec on its best run in our hands. Short of losing 200kg, there's no way the 488 would match its claim. – Scott Newman

line-ball scoring across the top cars – and the line fell on the wrong side for the Ferrari. It was outpointed by a whisker in both Dynamics and Performance, and lost out when it came to more esoteric areas like Liveability. This is, after all, Performance Car of the Year, and MOTOR has always asked its winners to step up to the crease when it comes to the basics. Want the ultimate in handling and speed? Head to the track with your second-hand F1 car.

A perceived lack of value for money, too, went against the 488. It’s a tough one to quantify, but ultimately the cost of admission in this like-for-like comparison is too high. Sure, its base price of $469,988 is within $15,000 of our winner, but this example comes in at $625K… ouch.

At DECA, everyone approached the Fezza with a healthy dose of respect for its 492kW and 760Nm, but at sixth-tenths, it’s engaging and exciting in equal measure. Even for jaded old hacks, there’s a childlike delight in sliding behind the wheel of such a unique rig. The wheel is surprisingly big underhand, and the shift lights across the top illuminate like a slot machine down the long straight. The gearbox, too… amazing. And there are fewer nicer things in the world than the grip from a brand new set of Pilot Sport Cup 2s under your fingers and butt.

Those same tyres, though, meant the Fezza was at a distinct disadvantage on a wet track – and Winton was very wet. Screwing up the courage to get to full throttle anywhere around the circuit was a real ‘meet-yourmaker’ deal, and everyone was mindful of the car’s cost and the proximity of the walls.

It was out on the road where the battle was closest, and the rear-drive 488 is undoubtedly a weaponsgrade backroad tool. It simply eviscerates the gap between corners, it’s got prodigious ability through its front end – and the Bumpy Road mode gives the suspension tune the suppleness to really bring out the very best in an amazing chassis.

And yet, when it comes to the crunch, the Ferrari is perhaps hamstrung by its own absurdly high standards. The skin-prickling bass thump of the twinturbo never quite reaches the emotional highs of the 458’s screaming V8, the massively grippy rubber doesn’t give much feedback when the screws are wound up, and more front purchase wouldn’t hurt, either. It’s a special, special car. In isolation, it’s a thing of automotive beauty.

In this company, though, it came close, but not close enough, to claiming the ultimate honour. –TR

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 3.30SEC (4TH) 0-400M: 11.00SEC @ 214.10KM/H (3RD)

JUDGES' RANK

DAVID MORLEY: 2nd What’s the fuss all about?

This. This is what.

DYLAN CAMPBELL: 1st My Performance Car of the Year. So. Expletive. Fast.

SCOTT NEWMAN: 1st My winner. For pure driving thrills it’s unmatched.

TIM ROBSON: 6th An absolute experience, but ultimately too edgy and expensive.

JOHN BOWE: 3rd Super fast, too fast in fact.

Good sound for a turbo car, and such presence!

PCOTY 2017 Data & Specs

More facts and figures than a Weight Watchers meeting for those who like to know where every PCOTY calorie went

WITH DRY running at a premium, we focused on recording numbers for the five cars we’ve never performance tested before, namely the R8, 488, GT-R, Huracan and 911 Turbo S. All other numbers are our best figures in each car, recorded either during comparison tests at Heathcote Raceway or, in the case of the M2, at Winton during Bang For Your Bucks.

As such, these aren’t directly comparable numbers but in all cases, fairly close to the car’s ultimate potential. Unfortunately the conditions at Winton on the day were so changeable, lap times were just not possible.

AUDI R8 V10 PLUS

BODY 2-door, 2-seat coupe DRIVE all-wheel ENGINE 5204cc V10, DOHC, 40v BORE/STROKE 84.5 x 92.8mm COMPRESSION 12.7:1 POWER 449kW @ 8250rpm TORQUE 560Nm @ 6500rpm POWER/WEIGHT 288kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch WEIGHT 1555kg SUSPENSION double A-arms, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f/r) BRAKES 380mm ventilated carbonceramic discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 356mm ventilated carbonceramic discs, 4-piston calipers (r) WHEELS 20 x 9.0 (f); 20 x 11.0 (r) TYRE SIZES 245/30 ZR20 (f); 305/30 ZR20 (r) TYRES Continental SportContact 6 PRICE $389,616

BMW M2

2-door, 4-seat coupe rear-wheel 2979cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo 84.0 x 89.6mm 10.2:1 272kW @ 6500rpm 465Nm @ 1400-5560rpm 182kW/tonne 6-speed manual 1495kg struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r) 380mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 370mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers (r) 19 x 9.0-inch (f); 19 x 10.0-inch (r) 245/35 R19 (f); 265/35 R19 (r) Michelin Pilot Super Sport $89,990

FERRARI 488 GTB

2-door, 2-seat coupe rear-wheel 3902cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo 86.5 x 83.0mm 9.4:1 492kW @ 8000rpm 760Nm @ 3000rpm 334kW/tonne 7-speed dual-clutch 1475kg double A-arms, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r) 398mm ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 380mm ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, 6-piston calipers (r) 20 x 9.0-inch (f); 20 x 11.0-ich (r) 245/35 ZR20 (f); 305/30 ZR20 (r) Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 $469,988

FORD FOCUS

5-door, 5-seat hatch all-wheel 2261cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo 87.4 x 94.0mm 9.4:1 257kW @ 6000rpm 440Nm @ 2000-4500rpm 163kW/tonne 6-speed manual 1575kg struts, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, adjustable dampers, anti-roll bar (r) 350mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 350mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r) 19 x 8.0-inch (f/r) 235/35 R19 (fr) Michelin Pilot Super Sport $50,990

FORD MUSTANG GT

2-door, 4-seat coupe rear-wheel 4951cc V8, DOHC, 32v 92.2 x 92.7mm 11.0:1 306kW @ 6500rpm 530Nm @ 4250rpm 176kW/tonne 6-speed manual 1739kg struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, anti-roll bar (r) 380mm ventilated discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 330mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r) 19 x 9.0-inch (f); 19 x 9.5-inch (r) 255/40 R19 (f); 275/40 R19 (r) Pirelli P Zero $57,490

HSV CLUBSPORT LSA

4-door, 5-seat sedan rear-wheel 6162cc V8, OHC, 16v, s/c 103.25 x 92.0mm 9.1:1 400kW @ 6150rpm 671Nm @ 4200rpm 210kW/tonne 6-speed manual 1907kg struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r) 367mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 372mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (r) 20 x 8.5-inch (f); 20 x 9.5-inch (r) 255/35 ZR20 (f); 275/35 ZR20 (r) Continental ContiSportContact SP $80,990

LAMBORGHINI HURACAN LP 580-2

BODY 2-door, 2-seat coupe DRIVE rear-wheel ENGINE 5204cc V10, DOHC, 40v BORE/STROKE 84.5 x 92.8mm COMPRESSION 12.7:1 POWER 427kW @ 8000rpm TORQUE 540Nm @ 6500rpm POWER/WEIGHT 307kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch WEIGHT 1389kg SUSPENSION A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f/r) BRAKES 380mm ventilated discs, 8-piston calipers (f); 356mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (r) WHEELS 19 x 8.5-inch (f); 19 x 11-inch (r) TYRE SIZES 245/35 R19 (f); 305/35 R19 (r) TYRES Pirelli P Zero PRICE $378,900

LEXUS GS F

4-door, 5-seat sedan rear-wheel 4969cc V8, DOHC, 32v 94.0 x 89.5mm 12.3:1 351kW @ 7100rpm 530Nm @ 4800-5600rpm 188kW/tonne 8-speed automatic 1865kg double A-arms (f); coil springs, anti-roll bar (fr); multi-links(r) 380mm ventilated/drilled discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 345mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4-piston calipers (r) 19 x 8.5-inch (f); 19 x 9.5-inch (r) 255/35 ZR19 (f); 275/35 ZR19 (r) Michelin Pilot Super Sport $151,700

MERCEDES-AMG C63 S COUPE

2-door, 4-seat coupe rear-wheel 3988cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo 83.0 x 92.0mm 10.5:1 375kW @ 5500-6250rpm 700Nm @ 1750-4500rpm 217kW/tonne 7-speed automatic 1725kg multi-links, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f/r) 390mm ventilated/drilled carbonceramic discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 380mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4-piston calipers (r) 19 x 9.0-inch (f); 20 x 10.5-inch (r); 255/35 ZR19 (f); 285/30 ZR20 (r) Michelin Pilot Super Sport $162,400

NISSAN GT-R

2-door, 2+2-seat coupe all-wheel 3799cc V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo 95.5 x 88.4mm 9.0:1 419kW @ 6800rpm 632Nm @ 3300-5800rpm 239kW/tonne 6-speed dual-clutch 1752kg A-arms, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r) 390mm ventilated/drilled discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 380mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4-piston calipers (r) 20 x 9.5-inch (f); 20 x 10.5-inch (r) 255/40 ZR20 (f); 285/35 ZR20 (r) Dunlop SP Sport Maxx $189,000

PORSCHE 911 TURBO S

2-door, 2+2-seat coupe all-wheel 3800cc flat-6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo 102.0 x 77.5mm 9.8:1 427kW @ 6750rpm 750Nm @ 2250-4000rpm 267kW/tonne 7-speed dual-clutch 1600kg struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar, active multi-links, adaptive dampers (f/r) 410mm ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 390mm ventilated carbon-ceramic discs, 4-piston calipers (r) 20 x 9.0-inch (f), 20 x 11.5-inch (r) 245/35 ZR20 (f), 305/30 ZR20 (r) Pirelli P Zero $456,200

VW GOLF GTI 40 YEARS

5-door, 5-seat hatch front-wheel 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo 82.5 x 92.8mm 9.6:1 195kW @ 6500rpm 350Nm @ 1500-4600rpm 143kW/tonne 6-speed dual clutch g struts, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r) 340mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r) 19 x 7.5-inch (f/r) 225/35 R19 (f/r) Pirelli P Zero $48,490

Porsche 911 Turbo S

PCOTY 2017 1st Place

The fastest car in PCOTY history has topped the strongest field ever. Behold, the 2017 Performance Car of the Year

HERE at MOTOR we’re clearly better journalists than we are businesspeople. Nothing sells magazines like “SHOCK UPSET” or “SURPRISE WINNER” emblazoned across the cover, but while the Porsche 991.2 911 Turbo S might be a predictable choice as victor, it’s also the right one. Except, it wasn’t predictable. The 991 Turbo was a unanimous choice two years ago and the 991 GT3 was clearly the pick of the bunch last year, but Porsche’s third-consecutive PCOTY win (and 13th in total) only became clear once every score was tallied. It was close.

Nonetheless, as the quickest, most powerful and most expensive 911 available (until the new GT2 RS arrives at least) the Jet Black Turbo S was always going to feature at the pointy end. It only took a cursory glance of this year’s criteria to realise the Porsche was going to score strongly across the board. Yet, to simply say “it’s hard to fault” is to sell short the staggering quality of engineering contained in this car.

Winton, day two. A brief gap in the weather had left H the track dry enough to attempt some acceleration runs, but with deep puddles in the braking area the all-wheel drive Porsche seemed like a prudent place to start. The track was cold and there was a brief flurry of wheelspin, but such was the rate of acceleration that by the time it had registered the 911 was halfway down the track. It felt fast, but nothing had prepared me for the numbers displayed on the DriftBox screen: 0-100km/h in 2.9sec, 0-400m in 10.7sec at 212.4km/h and 80-120km/h in 1.6sec. The Turbo S is the fastest car MOTOR has ever tested. That’s 10 out of 10 for Performance, then.

On track the speed feels brutal, but on the road it literally leaves you breathless. On dry tarmac the allwheel drive system and flawless dual-clutch gearbox ensure none of the 427kW/750Nm is wasted. The punch out of corners is such that it seems as soon as you hit the throttle, you automatically need the brakes.

Thankfully, the enormous carbon-ceramic brakes are more than up to the task and seem indefatigable; JB even managed to have smoke pouring out of the wheelarches after his hot laps on a sodden racetrack.

Combine its phenomenal stop-and-go capabilities with limpet-like cornering grip and you have a driving experience that, at full tilt, borders on physically and mentally exhausting. Without fail, every judge exited

the Turbo S on the road loop speechless, mouth agape, left dumbstruck by its awesome capabilities. It actually makes you feel quite inadequate as a driver. Try hard and you might get a hint of understeer or the odd flash of the ESP light, but in general this ultimate 911 feels to be barely raising a sweat.

Crucially, however, it doesn’t lack involvement. The brake pedal has beautiful feel and the steering is possibly the best of any PCOTY contender. It’s a cliché, but you can drive the Porsche 500 metres and already know it’s brilliant. It’s a trick very, very few manufacturers are able to pull off.

If any criterion was going to trip the ruthlessly efficient Turbo up, it was X Factor, where highly subjective issues like engine noise and outright fun were assessed. However, the previously anodyne Turbo has developed a personality. It’s no match for the Huracan, or even the 488 for aural appeal, but the exhaust pops and crackles on the overrun and the turbos exhale sharply each time the throttle is lifted with a noise like you’re being chased up the road by Darth Vader.

Equally, all-wheel drive 911s are more readily associated with grip than slip, but if there was one positive to take out of Winton being effectively underwater, it’s that it made it much easier to access

Without fail, every judge exited the Turbo S on the road loop speechless and with mouth agape

each car’s ultimate limits. With stability control engaged the Porsche was a model of composure, its road-biased Pirellis slicing through standing water and electronics eradicating any oversteer – as long as you didn’t get too greedy in the braking zones you could drive very quickly very safely.

Banish the PSM, though, and the Turbo happily swung its rear wide under brakes, where it could be held thanks to the rear-biased all-wheel drive system until a steady application of throttle gradually pulled the front straight. Care was needed when gathering up the slide, but it’s the Turbo’s value rather than its behaviour that makes drifting it a daunting prospect.

So, to recap: the Turbo S is the fastest car present in a straight line, the easiest to extract speed from and has probably the best brakes and steering in the field. To make matters worse for the competition, however, it’s the ‘car’ part of the ‘performance car’ equation where the 911 really shines.

For all its mind-bending speed, the Turbo S has a decent boot in the nose and is the only one of the supercar quartet with back seats. You’re only going to fit small children back there, but it’s better than putting them in the engine bay of the Ferrari, Lamborghini or Audi. The ride is firm, but fair – certainly better than the R8 or the Focus – and while road noise is probably the 911’s biggest failing, it’s still quieter than the Italian duo.

Its value is questionable when the regular Turbo is 98 per cent as good for $80K less, but on the other side of the coin, in pure performance terms the ‘S’ would give the likes of the Lamborghini Aventador and Ferrari F12 a run for their money – and they’re another quarter of a million dollars. Then there’s the fact that by the end of the week a couple of cars felt like they needed a good service, whereas the Turbo S felt like it could’ve done another PCOTY. Or three.

So if it’s the best thing since sliced bread, why did only three of the five judges have it at the top of their lists? Editor DC and myself were the dissenting voices, for while the 911’s technical excellence is unparalleled, if we both had to choose one of these cars for one last drive, it would be the Ferrari. The 911’s brilliance is like wearing armour plating; it makes you feel invincible, but it’s your exposure to danger in the 488, the way it jinks and slides at the limit, that made it the more rewarding choice for the two of us.

Nonetheless, the Turbo S is a worthy winner, because it is the best car. We threw every possible contender we could find at it, and still it came out on top – Porsche simply has a deep understanding of what makes a performance car great, and thus how to make a great performance car.

In sales terms at least, Porsche may now be an SUV company that makes sports cars, but as long as the profits from those SUVs continue to be funnelled into the world’s best driving machines, it can start making electric convertible Cayennes for all we care. As for all the other manufacturers, better luck next year. M

THE NUMBERS

0-100KM/H: 2.90SEC (1ST) 0-400M: 10.70SEC @ 212.40KM/H (1ST)

JUDGES’ RANK

DAVID MORLEY: 1st Ten-seven! Outta the box.

Fuggeddaboutit DYLAN CAMPBELL: 3rd After the first fast drive, I just got out and sighed SCOTT NEWMAN: 2nd Almost terrifying in its competence, but regular Turbo is plenty TIM ROBSON: 1st Not as emotional as a nonturbo car, but an utterly astonishing achievement JOHN BOWE: 1st If you could only have one car, this is it. Simply outstanding

The Turbo S is a worthy winner. We threw every possible contender at it, and still it came out on top

JUDGES JB DC DM SN TR TOTAL PERFORMANCE 9 10 10 10 10 49 DYNAMICS 9 10 10 10 10 49 ACCESSIBILITY 9 9 8 9 9.5 44.5 LIVEABILITY 8.5 8 7 8.5 8.5 40.5 VALUE 7.5 6 5 6.5 8 33 X FACTOR 8.5 7 8 6 8 37.5 TOTALS 51.5 50 48 50 54 253.5

Roll Call Best of the best

1996 Porsche 993 911 Turbo 1997 BMW E36 M3 1998 Porsche Boxster 1999 Porsche 996 911 Carrera 2000 Porsche Boxster S 2001 Nissan S15 200SX 2002 BMW E46 M3 2003 Porsche Boxster S 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo 2005 Porsche 997 911 Carrera S 2006 Audi B7 RS4 2007 Porsche 997 911 GT3 2008 Porsche 997 911 GT2 2009 Audi R8 V10/Nissan GT-R 2010 Porsche 997.2 911 GT3 RS 2011 Nissan GT-R 2012 Porsche 991 911 Carrera S 2013 Audi R8 V10 Plus 2014 Porsche 991 911 Turbo 2016 Porsche 991 911 GT3