Best Car Reviews of the Year
In times gone by, in order to find out the quality of a car you had to rely on a review popping up in your favourite car magazine, what your friends and family had to say, or a ten minute test drive that barely allows you to get a feel for the car. However now that the internet has well and truly changed the way that we lead our lives, it is possible to access more reviews of the same car then you will ever read. Ranging from the cream of the crop reviews from the likes of Top Gear down to a basic but realistic user review, when you embark on a car search, you are certain to find a plethora of opinions and statistics to guide you on your way.
In many ways, having access to so many reviews is a good thing – it means you can narrow down your car search according to the requirements that you have and weed out any cars that have a reputation for particular problems. You can walk into a dealership armed with as much information as you need to see through the sales-speak and buy the car you need. As well as this, the pressure is on car manufacturers to produce the best possible cars – or risk a bad review and lose huge volumes of sales.
This is not to say that car reviews are always a positive thing – often one bad review on a respected website, magazine or TV show can seriously damage sales. It must be remembered that car reviews are essentially somebody’s opinion. In fact, the power of a bad review is emblematic in the way that car manufacturers approach reviewers. Supercar legends Ferrari recently banned one high profile car journalist, Chris Harris, for giving their cars a bad review. He lashed back in an article that quickly went viral and no doubt damaged Ferrari’s reputation. Read the post “How Ferrari Spins” on motoring blog Jalopnik.
Whether you read car reviews to help you choose your next car, or just to marvel in amazement at cars you can’t afford, there is no doubt that some are simply better than others. We’ve compiled a list of our favourite car reviews from the past year for your reading and viewing pleasure.
Top Gear is the biggest car entertainment franchise in the world – with a magazine, website and of course the hugely popular TV show presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, it has a massive devoted following around the world. Such is the fame of Top Gear, that a bad review can have serious consequences for a car, whilst a good review can bolster sales on an unprecedented level.
This December, Jeremy Clarkson jumped into one of the most highly anticipated supercars of the year – the McLaren P1. Whilst everyone knew that it would undoubtedly be a largely positive review, nobody expected the level of praise that Clarkson lavished upon the car.
Clarkson describes the P1 as ‘stratospherically brilliant’ and said that ‘it makes everything else look like the past.’ He describes trouble shooting film for the show in the car because; well it’s basically too fast.
With fans eagerly awaiting the footage, the digital version of the magazine article prompted plenty of comments on the web – those who wholeheartedly agreed with Clarkson’s opinions (which fans of the man himself will know are always strong) and those who challenged his comment that the upcoming Porsche 918 and Ferrari LaFerrari are unlikely to surpass the P1 in terms of all-round excellence.
One thing is certain though – since the release of the review, the McLaren P1 has completely sold out, with all 375 models accounted for, and a huge waiting list. McLaren’s original aim was to sell out by September 2014 – a target which they have achieved 9 months in advance. A spokesman for the company attributed it too, ‘a combination of the first feedback from customers and Top Gear’s review of the P1.’
Follow Top Gear on twitter – @BBC_TopGear
Follow Jeremy Clarkson on twitter – @JeremyClarkson
2. Regular Car Reviews: 1995 Mazda Miata MX-5
As much as we love reading and watching reviews the super and hyper cars of the world, the fact that we will most likely never be able to afford these cars means that sometimes it can be refreshing to take a look at more affordable cars. However, when the word ‘affordable’ is bought into play, more often than not it goes hand in hand with ‘dull.’ Regular Car Reviews on Youtube have made a conscious effort to adjust this.
As the name suggest, Regular Car Reviews take a look at regular, affordable cars, but in their own very unique style that could completely change your opinions of a car or at the very least, get you laughing.
The Youtube channel’s most successful video this year was a review of a 1995 Mazda Miata MX-5 executed with the style typical of the channel – ridiculous, excitable and comedic. Achieving an impressive 380,000 views and counting, the review is perfect for anyone looking for a light hearted, if slightly crazy, opinion on the car. Well worth a watch, take five minutes out of your day – I promise that by the end of the video there will be a part of you that will be considering buying an MX-5.
Follow Regular Car Reviews on twitter – @regularcars
Jalopnik is the biggest auto enthusiast blog in the world. Based in the USA, their posts come from a range of writers and cover everything related to cars. In the summer of 2012 Jalopnik made a stand against the traditional car review, denouncing that they were simply too unoriginal and uninteresting, and recognising a niche for a car review format that actually entices the reader and offers something different.
The new format has proved successful – it is not only informative but also conversational, and does it’s best to embrace the essence of a car. Most well received was Jalopnik’s review of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, which also beat all other cars to the mark to become Jalopnik’s highest scoring car of 2013.
One of Corvette’s most iconic cars, the Stingray has a strong legacy and a cult following. Chevrolet though, realising the need to branch out to new buyers, have upped their game somewhat, perhaps to the displeasure of Corvette purists, but certainly to the joy of the majority of sports car enthusiasts, who have long pointed out the need for a speedier evolution of the Stingray.
Travis Okulski, who wrote the review for Jalopnik, goes into detail about every aspect that matters – and the Stingray does not disappoint. Classed with the likes of the Porsche 911 and the Nissan GT-R, the car not only matches and surpasses performance expectations, but is also notably cheaper than both, making it a far more accessible car for consumers. It is, as Okulski writes, “A bargain that no longer needs an apology.”
Follow Jalopnik on twitter – @Jalopnik
Follow Travis Okulski on twitter – @tokulski
4. Driving the 887hp Porsche 918 Spyder – CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS
After Chris Harris’ outburst against Ferrari earlier this year (see “How Ferrari Spins” in Jalopnik) his influence and popularity has soared. However Harris has been a fixture on the automotive journalism scene for a while now, and when given the opportunity to test drive the Porsche 918 Spyder before official release, his response was, of course, yes.
The video stands out as a review not only because it gives access to some of the closely guarded secrets from the upcoming release, but also because Harris knows exactly what the enthusiast community wants to know.
Whilst his review is largely quite technical – focusing far more on the internal workings of the car rather than the ultimate feel and passion of the ride (a style best expressed by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson) Harris cannot be faulted for the quality of the review. He is objective, and certain about his concerns around the car – namely the electric motors. This may seem basic, but is actually impressive given that it could be remarkably easy to pander to the bigwigs at Porsche instead of being completely honest about your concerns. Luckily, Chris Harris could never be accused of giving a less than honest review.
Though Harris is clearly not a fan of the hybrid hypercar – mentioning more than a few times who he would far rather drive a Porsche 918 Spyder sans the electric motors, he still unashamedly brings up the Spyder’s main rivals (LaFerrari and the Mclaren P1) with project leader Frank Walliser. Tense topic, since both cars outdo the 918 Spyder in terms of acceleration, and interestingly Walliser skims vaguely over the point, acknowledging only that “maybe we have some competitors…”
Despite only having the opportunity for a short drive in the Porsche, Chris Harris predicts that, despite being a top notch car, its main rivals will simply push the 918 out of the market. A problem for Porsche, certainly, but not necessarily a weakness that cannot be overcome, as long as Porsche can find and identify their USP.
Follow Chris Harris on twitter – @harrismonkey
Dan Neil, writer for the Wall Street Journal and friend of Elon Musk (founder of Tesla Motors) is known for his quirky car reviews. In this particular feature on the WSJ’s website, Dan Neil quickly summarises a full length article, in which he praises the Ford Fiesta ST.
The Ford Fiesta is already one of the world’s best selling cars, and here in the UK topped the best seller tables. Neil’s recommendation is to opt for the sportier, faster, though slightly more expensive ST version, on the grounds of ‘shelf-life.’
His argument is that, whilst the standard Ford Fiesta is a great car, the ST model is even more exciting, and will hold the owners attention for a much longer time – not only are you getting a better, more exciting ride, but you’re less likely to want change your car within a few months. It makes sense to anyone who finds the hassle of selling and buying cars more trouble than it’s worth.
The best part of this review has to be that Dan Neil is a highly talented reviewer who is not yet reviewing high powered dream cars exclusively, in the way that many of the top motoring journalists do. Unlike Jeremy Clarkson and Chris Harris, who are arguably of the same calibre, Neil offers us a car that is affordable on the average salary, without sub-consciously comparing it too high powered cars – it is a refreshingly realistic review that takes a different angle to the norm, and that is why he makes this list.
Follow Dan Neil on twitter – @Danneilwsj
So if reading these reviews has piqued your interest, now may well be the time to start looking for a new car. Though a McLaren P1 or a Porsche 918 Spyder may be out of reach, you might be surprised at what you could afford on a clever finance policy. To find out more about car finance and how it works, visit our Car Finance overview page.
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