We have an illustrious history of great British motor cars. Jeremy Taylor urges us to fly the flag with his pick of the current crop…
If you thought the British motor industry died in the 1970s with a flood of Japanese imports, the fuel crisis and the arrival of the mundane Austin Allegro, then think again. Despite Brexit woes and confusion over the diesel versus petrol saga, Britain still builds some of the finest cars on the market. Manufacturing fell by a fifth in the later months of 2018, Jaguar Land Rover laid off thousands and even UK stalwarts Dyson announced plans to build their new electric car in Singapore. So what do we have in the showroom to tempt buyers back? Here’s our rundown of some of the best things on four or two wheels…
Britain’s Best Motor Cars
The all-electric family car is a leap into the unknown for Jaguar. Tesla was the only company offering a battery-powered SUV until last year – fortunately Jaguar has nailed it first time with the brilliant I-Pace. Stylish, roomy and very fast, I-Pace is one of the most sought-after cars in the Jaguar stable. It isn’t cheap at over £64,000 for the entry-level model, although the technology and performance really live up to the hype. I-Pace offers permanent four-wheel drive, 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds and a battery range of up to 298 miles. In the real world that equates to around 230, which is still ample. I loved my weekend in the I-Pace. It’s one of the prettiest SUVs available and the design shows great attention to detail. Just check out the flush door handles and ‘floating’ centre console. Jaguar may be owned by multinational Indian company Tata but the big cat is still a symbol of British motoring prowess.
ASTON MARTIN DBS SUPERLEGGERA
Stunning. Is there another grand tourer to rival the sheer beauty of the DBS? Just the badge alone is enough to make you go weak at the knees. And then there’s the coveted James Bond connection too. The Superleggera – Italian for superlight – is the ultimate Aston, with a price tag of £225,000. It looks similar to Bond’s DBS but unlike beefy Daniel Craig, the Superleggera has been trimmed back by 72kg using carbon bodywork. Equipped with an enormous V12 engine, the 2+2 will hurtle along to 60mph from a standstill in 3.4 seconds. However, I discovered there’s a lot more to driving an Aston than just performance. The DBS makes every journey an occasion. It feels like you are driving a car with real character – British right down to every nut and bolt. Take the DBS on an epic drive across Europe, purr around W1 or just leave it on the drive and coo.
MORGAN PLUS 4
The design dates back to 1936 but the latest Plus 4 has been discreetly tweaked to cope with the rigours of modern motoring. A reliable Ford 2.0-litre engine makes this a classic you can rely on day in, day out. A Morgan strips back driving to the bare essentials, although my delightful, royal blue test car had a powerful cabin heater and even a heated screen – the former essential with the roof lowered. A burbling exhaust note isn’t too intrusive, although wind noise makes the radio redundant. Unlike a modern Porsche Boxster or Audi TT, the Plus 4 is best kept as a weekend car, a quintessential slice of England still built by artisan tradesmen in the Malvern hills. It thrives on a country drive and has just enough pep to be entertaining. Around £43,000 will get your name on the waiting list but unlike more conventional rivals, the Morgan will hold its value well. You just have to source your own tweed cap, picnic basket and driving gloves to complete the look.
BENTLEY MULSANNE SPEED
Bentley’s renaissance in recent years has been based around cars like the sensational Continental GT grand tourer and Bentayga SUV. However, if you want your own gentleman’s club on four wheels, the Mulsanne has everything bar a butler. The 530bhp Speed, as the name suggests, is the fastest version and can be yours for a modest £252,000, although a catalogue of ‘must-have’ options usually hikes the price in excess of £300,000. One shouldn’t really drive a huge, four-door saloon like this at great speed but with a 6.75-litre engine and twin turbos, one can’t resist. Even the cut glass decanter in the rear doesn’t make a sound. Like the Morgan, the Mulsanne feels as British as cricket on the village green with a glass of Pimms. A marvellous engine and an imperious sense of style.
Anyone adverse to supercars should try the 570GT. This is the most practical and comfortable model to come out of the McLaren factory in Woking – honestly, it’s an everyday motor if you have £160,000 spare! The GT is a little softer sprung than Italian rivals, more like a tourer than a track-focussed tearaway. My favourite feature is the low-slung rear screen, hinged at the side to drop in a couple of your favourite Globe-Trotter carry-ons. Of course, the V8 GT lives up to the visual promise too. 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds and tremendous fun to drive. It’s also very well planted on the road, which inspires confidence if you’re not used to 562 horses under your right foot. See it as a ‘beginner’s supercar’ with some added practicalities and you won’t go far wrong.
On Two Wheels…
TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE BOBBER
The Bobber is the runaway success motorcycle of the last 12 months. Triumph’s fastest selling machine ever has hit Harley-Davidson where it hurts. It’s not a tourer, commuter or an adventurer but a retro-style statement – perfect for hipsters and Sunday rides out to the country. A 1200cc engine provides modern day thrills – I can assure you there’s currently no cooler bike on the planet for £10,650. And it’s built near Leicester.
Engineer Richard Thorpe was so passionate about building the greatest electric bicycle he quit his job at McLaren and went to work. That was 2002 – his new GS model is a joy straight out of the box. It took me 25 minutes to assemble following instructions on an app, then I was riding down the lane minutes later with battery assist. The GS folds up in minutes and features pit-stop style detachable wheels, some versions have an LED daytime running light too. Thorpe and his team in Surrey have reinvented the wheel. From £2,499.
MUTT FAT SABBATH
The current trend for retro, urban cool machines that don’t cost a fortune is what Birmingham-based Mutt is all about. Using old-style 125 and 250cc Suzukis, they create budget machines that look far more expensive than they really are. The bargain Fat Sabbath starts at less than £3,500, with a bullet-proof engine, black tank and quilted leather seat. Hang on tight because it brings out the Steve McQueen in you.
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