United not by price or performance but by the sheer thrill of driving them, these are our cream of 2014. In the January 2015 issue of CAR magazine, our giant test sorts them out. We videoed it too - click here to see (and hear) the cars in action. From left to right in the picture above, here are the contenders:
1) BMW M4 Coupe
Since messing with an icon is marginally more dangerous than bomb disposal, BMW was always going to have its work cut out to make us love the M4. They dumped the 4.0-litre V8, replaced it with an aurally flaccid downsized twin-turbo six, and changed its name from M3 Coupe. It’s here because of the ancestors, but its seat at the top table hangs in the balance.
Click here for the BMW M4 review.
2) Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy-R
It’s unlikely that there’s a more focused car than this hot hatch. Stripped of anything that could distract you (back seats, radio, air-con etc) and pumped full of stuff to make you go faster (bigger brakes, race harnesses etc) it exists only to drive…
Click here for the Renaultsport Megane Trophy-R review.
3) Jaguar F-type R Coupe
In drama terms at least, Jag’s new sports car hero has the BMW M4 licked – it sounds like a brawny old-school muscle car and goes like one too. That muscle car theme continues with gorgeous looks and slightly shonky cabin, but does it handle with traditional muscle-car unruliness?
Click here for the Jaguar F-type R Coupe review.
4) BMW i8
The first hybrid to make it into a CAR performance final, the i8 has stolen more ‘this is the future’ style headlines than any car since the Prius. But unlike the Prius, the i8 is a scissor-doored supercar, a high-performing, stunning looking brute. But skinny tyres? Can this really work?
Click here for the BMW i8 review.
5) McLaren 650S Spider
By ironing out the 12C’s weaknesses McLaren finally gave us the car to fully showcase its anti-Ferrari character, meaning usability and refinement as well as slammed-back-in-your seat punch. Is it special enough, and will turbo lag hurt it?
Click here for the McLaren 650S Spider review.
6) Porsche Cayman GTS
Given that we love the Cayman so much we’d like to have its children, this ought to be an easier result to predict than Chelsea vs Burnley. But the GTS is Cayman excess, with extra everything ladelled on top of the perfect Cayman S. Too much?
Click here for the Porsche Cayman GTS review.
7) Ferrari 458 Speciale
We can argue about whether Ferrari’s best ever sports car really needed stripes and a gaudy carbon pack, but the car’s breadth and depth of ability is unquestionable. Few of the eight rivals here expect to beat it. But what if one of them did?
Click here for the Ferrari 458 Speciale review.
8) Alfa Romeo 4C
On paper they got everything right: carbonfibre tub yet affordable price, raw character and looks to die for. On the road, sadly, it isn’t quite as cut and dried. We’ll forgive Alfa most things, especially when they go back to their roots with such raffish enthusiasm as this. But is the 4C, in the end, good enough?
Click here for the Alfa Romeo 4C review.
9) VW Golf R
The most annoyingly brilliant Volkswagen is the Rory Bremner of the car world – it can impersonate a supercar, a family car, a hot hatch and even a bargain (the plasticky Megane is more expensive!). The only thing that remains is this: will we love driving it?
Click here for the VW Golf R review.
Find out the answers to all these questions (and a few more) in CAR's sports car giant test in the January 2015 issue, on sale now.
Click below for the rest of CAR's top 100 moments of 2014:
Four seismic Nurburgring laptimes
Eight cars that changed our minds about electric power
Top six people we talked about
Six wishes for 2015
Six back-from-the-dead stories
Six things we said goodbye to
Top 10 motorsport moments
Seven things we never thought we’d see
Six biggest disappointments
Top five tech trends of 2014
Top 10 quotes of 2014
10 great CAR magazine features from 2014