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Miles Downard’s top 5 pick of the bunch for 2015


It's the end of the year once again - my how time flies - and so it's time to look back on what I consider to be the top 5 cars I drove in 2015. I can't even begin to tell you how difficult it would be placing these five cars in any sort of preferred order, so I'm going to sit on the fence.

Here they are, in no particular order.

Mercedes CLS 500

This is probably Merc's most interesting car, from a conceptual point of view that is. It's a long, sleek looking thing that is very obviously designed to look like a coupe. Only the CLS has four doors. Then on the inside it's actually designed less like a saloon and more like a coupe, with its 2+2 seating layout. So already I'm paying attention.

The 4.7 turbo-charged V8 powering the rear wheels continues to keep me interested. It spits out planet warping power and torque figures which haul this near two-tonne monster from 0-100km/h in under 5 seconds. It is truly amazing how the CLS manages this kind of feat with minimal fuss. A pleasant, albeit subdued, bark emanates from the exhaust and you're off with nothing but faster moving objects outside the windows to gauge the increase in velocity. It's just about the most comfy car I've driven too, next to one a bit further down the page. Safe to say it ticks all my motoring boxes.

Mercedes C63 AMG

Right, so, this thing is barking mad. It's a family saloon based loosely on the C Class that many-an-executive potters to work in, only this one has 375kW and 700Nm and does 0-100km/h in 4 seconds dead. That's quicker than a Ferrari 360.

It goes round corners too. AMG's of old have always been a bit more muscle car than finely tuned driver's tool. This one changes the game somewhat. There's a fancy electronic rear differential can transition from open to locked. It has active engine mounts to reduce weight transfer in the twisties. Similarly the suspension can be set in a few modes, from comfy to hard. Safe to say it's pleasant from the driver's seat.

Then there's the noise. It's simply a marvel how AMG extract this kind of bellow from a turbo charged motor. With the active exhaust set in 'look at me' mode you get that typical AMG V8 growl that has become a trademark of the brand. Nice one.

Mercedes AMG GTS

So I know it's starting to look like I'm sponsored by Mercedes, but honestly this is nothing more than doff of the old hat to a company that has released some truly amazing vehicles this year. This one aims its barrel right at a fellow set of Germans; namely Porsche and their pesky 911.

'Handcrafted by racers', is the catch phrase Mercedes Benz is using for the new AMG GT. And that is has been, using techniques and materials that are normally reserved for actual racing cars. The 4 litre twin turbo charged V8 is dry sumped - the only sports car in the world to go this route. Those turbo chargers sit inside the V, allowing for a compact engine and reducing the length of the intakes, which significantly improves throttle response and reduces turbo lag. Moving to the rear, there's a seven speed double clutch gearbox sitting on the rear axle, another first. This gives the GT optimal weight distribution and keeps that all important centre of gravity low.

The results are simply awesome. Having banged this one around Zwartkops Raceway for a day I can safely say it's the most confidence-inspiring sports car I've ever driven.

Subaru WRX STi

This is an interesting pick. And honestly I think it's here for no reason other than being a 'bucket list' car - just something you have to drive at least once before you die. It comes with a cult following that almost can't be matched in the motoring world thanks in no small part to its rallying history. It's known for being a bruiser, going about its business like a cage fighter. And indeed it needs to be driven as such.

The WRX STi is far from a car I'd like to drive every day of my life. The clutch is heavy, the steering is heavy, the suspension is rock hard - in fact I wonder if the shock absorbers deserve that name, because they don't absorb anything. Your spine has that honour.

But the manner in which that turbo charged 2.5 litre boxer motor delivers power to all four wheels is something you have to experience. And cornering. My hat. You have to be a right nutter to go anywhere near fast enough to explore the limits of grip in an STi, by which time the G-forces are tearing your face off the bone. You just have to experience it.

Rolls Royce Ghost Series II

Luxury is something that I think a number of people misunderstand, but Rolls Royce is a company that knows all about it. The Ghost Series II is a car that doesn't overwhelm occupants with technology, but rather gets on with the job of catering for your every desire. Be it a completely unique dashboard (its finger-print unique), to lamb's wool carpets, to fridges, to custom door sill inlays. It's all there.

It's said that this is the Rolls you drive yourself, when James has his day off. Accordingly some focus is put on driving. So there's a GPS controlled automatic gearbox that selects the gear most appropriate for the upcoming terrain. There's also a mighty engine under that long bonnet that'll get you along the road at quite a lick.

Most importantly the Ghost feels no different whether you're tootling about town, peering out the window at the commoners, or hurtling along the motorway at warp speed. The suspension soaks up even the worst of South Africa's roads without transferring so much as a ripple through the cabin, while the sound insulation is such that you could put a baby to bed while parked in the middle of a PSL soccer match.

At the price of two and a half Mercedes S65's, value for money is a tough question. The thing is that it wipes the floor with every other luxury vehicle to the point that there's no comparison. On that basis, the Rolls is worth every penny.


Article written by Miles Downard
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