Welcome to the MOTOR Awards for 2017, where we recognise the best and worst or the year.
In this instalment we give out three awards – Most Fun, Best Concept, and Scariest Beast.
MOST FUN: Subaru BRZ
To buy an affordable sports car these days, you could simply spin the Wheel of Fortune and be overjoyed with wherever it stops. Either the Abarth 124 Spider, Mazda MX-5, Toyota 86, there are no boring consolation prizes. But more than any other the revised Subaru BRZ hits the rear-wheel jackpot.
It’s bloody cheap at $32,990 plus on-roads. Since Toyota jacked up the 86 GT’s price tag, the Subaru is only $2200 costlier – a surcharge it makes up for with 17-inch Michelin Primacy rubber alone, replacing 16-inch Yokohamas. The 17s are still slidey, but drift proceedings are at the driver’s call and not merely that of the road surface.
The Toyobaru twins both beefed up body rigidity for the new year, with extra spot welds in the C-pillar and thicker mounting plates for the rear suspension, which permitted engineers to slightly soften the suspension for greater handling balance.
Are you from the misguided train of thought that says hard damping equals more fun? Look elsewhere. The BRZ is wonderfully malleable and engaging, rolling subtly onto its outside wheel after the keen nose has been guided by the sharp and syrupy-smooth steering system that still – four years after the original’s launch – rates among the best in the business.
Gone is the crude Sport electronic stability control (ESC) setting that worked with the brakes, replaced by a more lenient and quieter Track ESC setting, which permits throttle-steer and only tempers big-time oversteer.
Of course with ESC turned completely off, the BRZ, fortunately, can still spin its rear wheels furiously enough to make the driver forget about the lack of a turbocharger on the 2.0-litre boxer four, which now produces 152kW at 7000rpm and a laughably low 212Nm at an awfully high 6400rpm.
Gutless it may be at low revs, but mated with a slick and clicky six-speed manual, and seated deep and low inside the tub, there’s real sparkle in this driving experience when thrashed. Keep the tacho needle flicking away at the top, and the throttle directly connects right foot to limited-slip diff-equipped axle to precisely alter the horizontal degrees of travel.
Perhaps the icing on the cake was the BRZ Sports Edition. For thousands less than the 86 LE, the Subaru offered the same impressive Brembo braking and Sachs damper upgrade. Not even placing price aside, it’s the BRZ that left us with the biggest smile this year. And not coincidentally, it’s an outline that can look similar to the wide arc of black rubber it often leaves on bitumen.
BEST CONCEPT – AMG GT Concept
Why is our best concept of 2017 a slightly garish four-door? Because it clearly shows AMG’s intention to use electrification for good (improving performance; extending the life of its V8s) rather than evil (reducing noise; killing its V8s).
The Mercedes-AMG GT Concept previews a forthcoming ‘four-door coupe’ which will use an electrically-assisted version of AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 to produce 600kW and a claimed 0-100km/h time of around 3.0sec dead.
Think of it as Merc’s version of the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, only faster and much cheaper. It’ll start production in mid-2018.
SCARIEST BEAST – Porsche 911 GT2 RS
If the on-paper specs – 515kW/750Nm, rear-wheel drive, 0-100km/h 2.8sec – aren’t enough to keep you up at night, one viewing of its record-setting 6min47.3sec Nurburgring lap time is guaranteed to have you checking under the bed for monsters.
Its acceleration is brutal, with the engine seemingly intent on turning the car inside out and sucking the driver backwards into the turbos, accompanied by violent braking and cornering forces so strong your head is likely to come off.
It’s unclear whether we’ll get a chance to drive the GT2 RS locally, but that’s okay – we’re scared. But you’d already know from reading our first drive.