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Jame Siddall's top 10 cars of 2015

11.12.2015

There have been loads of fantastic vehicles released this year and as tough as it was, I have compiled a list of vehicles that really stood out for me this year.

1) Mercedes-AMG GT S - Future classic

That's a horribly overused term. But it's precisely what the GT S is. And even if it didn't go much it would still be a thing of beauty,  even automotive art.

But go it does with an AMG four-litre V8 biturbo catapulting it from rest to 100km/h in a bellowing, blistering 3.8 seconds, topping out at 310km/h. That's what you get with 375kW and 650Nm on tap. It's also a blindingly fast, sharp-edged scalpel of a thing on the track - as we discovered during hot laps at Zwartkops Raceway on the launch - and reasonably civilised on the road.

Yours for just under two bar. There is a marginally less punchy, more affordable - or less expensive, if you will  - GT version. But most that find a new home in SA will surely be the hot GT S models. The same motor finds its way into the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 S sedan, which turns in only slightly less galvanising figures for a whole lot less money.

2) Infiniti QX80

 

It's vast. It's vulgar. It weighs a little under three tons. Its 5.6-litre V8 sucks fuel and it’s absurdly anachronistic in today's world of demure downsizing.

It will seat eight in the sort of luxury fit for a sultan (and I bet these monsters are going to go down well in the Middle East). Yet I love it, and it's also pretty capable off-road, while it will shunt its bulk from rest to 100km/h in just 7.5 seconds.

Someone from Infiniti called it "a land-going Learjet" which pretty much nails it. Yours for around R1.3 bar. The armoured version costs extra. So do the services of the driver that you'd want for this traffic-clearing titan while you wallow in the back.

3) Mazda2 

Something has happened at Mazda. Its cars have quietly gone from being efficient but mostly unremarkable and innocuous to simply superb. All of them.

One of my favourites is the Mazda2 hatch. Who knew that small cars could feel so premium? Automatic versions are especially good, with the range starting at just under R190,000. No longer bargain-basement territory, to be sure. But boy do you get what you pay for. And then some.

4) Audi Q7

Need a large, seven-seater luxury SUV? Audi's big - but not quite  as big as the Infiniti QX80! - new Q7 is a subtle, sublime evolution of the outgoing model.

It's only fractionally smaller than the old vehicle, but a lot lighter as well as more sophisticated, while the build and ride quality will make you weep. And yes. It's better than the headline-grabbing, more visually arresting new Volvo XC90.

Only one model - a three-litre turbodiesel - is available right now. Pay R924,000 for it.

5) Citroen C4 Cactus 

 

Softly sprung and decidedly quirky - but never in a contrived, annoying way - with those protective "Airbump" panels on the sides, the Cactus is an entirely loveable little Gaul. It's also light at under a ton.

The e-THP versions featuring a turbopetrol, 1.2-litre three-cylinder gem of a powerplant are the ones to go for, starting at around R265,000.

6) Ferrari California T

The outgoing California might have taken some flak for being a bit of a boulevard cruiser. But the new turbocharged Cali, which is part of the Prancing Horse's swing towards forced induction, turns in supercar performance with a soundtrack to match.

Torque is up by a huge 49 percent to 755Nm, while power rises to 412kW. Build quality is brilliant. So is handling. Of course.

Pay a bit under R3.7 million for this entry-level Ferrari, if you'll pardon the misnomer.

7) Renault RS 275 Megane Trophy

The Golf GTI has always been really good. And the Ford Focus ST is big fun. But the ultimate Megane takes, um, the trophy with its hard-edged, track-focused  nature.

 Power is fractionally up over the standard Megane RS's, with 201kW and 360Nm from its two-litre, turbopetrol motor. Zero to 100km/h comes up in a blaring six seconds - only it feels way faster. Extraordinarily entertaining stuff. But with a rock-hard ride and tight, grippy Recaro seats I wouldn't want to drive one every day. Just on special occasions.

Yours for a whisker under R450,000.

8) BMW 2 Series Convertible

This car - which effectively replaces the 1 Series drop-top - is a reminder just how well BMW does convertibles. And is there anything finer than piloting an open car on an azure day?

Well, let me not be flippant, of course there is. Still, convertible motoring is unbeatable as an automotive experience, and because you should be driving it with the top down it probably doesn't really matter which of the three engine variants you opt for. Starts at just under R490,000.

9) Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG Coupé

Deciding what's the best car in the world is difficult. And potentially contentious. But Mercedes' S-Class Coupé - a machine of such presence and beauty that it causes you to literally suck your breath in - is surely a contender.

It also takes automotive technology to new levels, while the halo model S65 AMG Coupé that I tested boasts biblical firepower with a new six-litre, V12, biturbo motor pouring on 463kW and 1,000Nm of torque. One thousand! Yours for just under R3.1 bar. Before you start loading on the options. Ouch. I know. But it does compete with even pricier cars from Bentley and the likes, while there are slightly less expensive S500 and S63 AMG versions available.

10) Hyundai Santa Fe

Need proof that the Koreans (and I speak specifically of Hyundai and sister company Kia) have long since closed the gap with even the most established players? Then look to the extensively facelifted new Sante Fe.

And look you should because the more time I spend on our disintegrating roads the more convinced I am that a mid-sized SUV is the way to go as a daily driver. Both versions (one is a five-seater, two-wheel-drive, the other an all-wheel-drive seven-seater) use a refined 2.2-litre turbodiesel running through a six-speed auto. Thing is Hyundai knows its vehicles are up there with the best. Hence a starting price of around R660,000.

 

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11.12.2015
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