► Editor Phil McNamara looks back on 2015
► A year of manufacturers fettling for high-performance
► Read on to find out who deserves an award this year
The first drive in Lambo’s new, rear-drive Huracan, VW’s punchiest ever Golf GTI, an incredible go-faster Ferrari F12 – welcome to 2015’s final issue. Those three fired-up specials embody a key trend of the year: manufacturers just can’t resist fettling their cars, either to go racing or create high-performance flagships. In 2015, nearly every month spoiled us with outstanding cars born of continuous improvement.
That’s my first 2015 trend wrapped up then, in the ‘Thank Heavens for Fettling Award’. Porsche gave its Cayman the GT3 treatment to make the GT4, its 911 GT3 the RS treatment to create a racing car for the road, McLaren morphed the 650 into the 675 LT, and the CAR team agreed the Aventador SV to be the greatest Lambo ever. It goes beyond super-sports cars: the Range Sport SVR is staggeringly agile and sounds wicked, something that applies to AMG’s reworked Mercedes too.
The manufacturers sharing my ‘Overachieving Underdog Award’ are Mazda and Jaguar. I wasn’t optimistic when Ford cut the Mazda cord back in 2008, but its Skyactiv engineering to boost efficiency while preserving driver enjoyment has spawned the excellent 2 supermini and CX-3 crossover. Throw in the MX-5 to keep the roadster flame alive, and you have a company that deserves kudos. Ditto Jaguar: when sources suggested it would start production of three new aluminium cars in 12 months mid-decade, I didn’t believe it. That the new XE is dynamically the best small saloon you can buy, and that it goes down a new Midlands line alongside the handsome F-Pace and Range Sport, only enhances the feeling that ingenious Jaguar is nailing it.
Who else gets a gong? ‘The Disaster Averted Award’ goes to Ferrari and Porsche, for managing to deftly take the mid-engined V8 and iconic 911 into the turbo era, without neutering their engines’ soundtrack, character and climactic power delivery. The same can’t be said of Honda’s Civic Type R (how I miss its banzai revving), but it’s still a brilliant hot hatch.
‘Headline Generator of the Year’ awards go to Rolls-Royce for announcing plans to develop an SUV, Apple for not announcing plans to develop a car (though that didn’t stop us all speculating), and VW, whose appetite for epic corporate disasters saw totemic engineer Ferdinand Piëch acrimoniously exit the supervisory boardroom, before the chairman he tried to oust, Martin Winterkorn, resigned due to the Dieselgate scandal. Hopefully 2016 will bring closure for owners awaiting remedial work to the 11m affected VW Group diesels, and clarity on up to 800,000 current models afflicted by ‘irregularities’ in their CO2 figures. On a more positive note, next year will herald our first drives in the Alfa Giulia, Aston Martin DB11 , the Ford Focus RS and this month’s cover stars, the BMW M2 and M4 GTS. Until then, a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year to you all.