It’s that time again. That test again. Now in its 28th running, Autocar’s Britain’s Best Driver’s Car (BBDC) competition has been the ultimate arbiter of greatness among new sports cars as varied as the original Lotus Elise and Honda NSX, the Lamborghini Murciélago and the Porsche 968 Club Sport.
It is the original big magazine annual ‘supertest’ and its format has been copied and adapted many times, but its endorsement is no less meaningful to sports car buyers today, and no less coveted by car manufacturers.
This year it was to the sublime roads of north Wales and then the spectacular Anglesey Circuit that we headed for the occasion. The weather couldn’t have been better (as the images you’re about to see should attest), nor the welcome warmer. Huge thanks are owed to all at Trac Mon for their hospitality. And for the at-the-wheel thrills, we’re about to award the most glorious and glittering credit we can muster to the cars you’re busting to read about: the Aston Martin Vantage GT8, Porsche 911 R, McLaren 675LT Spider, BMW M4 GTS, Honda NSX, Jaguar F-Type SVR and more.
Strap in, then, as we recount the tale of two flat-out days of driving, judging, documenting and arguing, conducted on both road and track, from behind the wheel of our reigning BBDC champion – the awesome Ferrari 488 GTB – and the 10 newcomers seeking to roar off with its crown.
ON THE ROAD
I am driving an Aston Martin Vantage GT8 to Wales. Initially, I thought I should have been in a DB11 – it is the most significant Aston in decades, after all – but my colleague Matt Saunders has dissuaded me. “We want a GT8, not a DB11, in this contest,” he says, having driven both. “It’s a driver’s car. Trust me.” So I do.
I’ve mentioned that the Aston is one of the most engaging cars on the road, so let’s talk about one of the least. Ford’s Focus RS is a five-star road test car, but in this company, it “shows its working class roots”, says Matt Saunders. I’m confident no other hot hatchback would have had the RS’s ability – we did consider the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S – but ultimately the RS was the victim of the cambers of “Welsh A-roads that brought a few undesirable tendencies out of the steering”. The Focus is, although capable, not a car that grabs you by the lapels and demands your attention.
Still, with 92 points from a possible 150, it isn’t in last place on the road. That dubious honour falls to the BMW M4 GTS. If you’re prepared to get much busier than we had time for with a box of spanners, it’s possible to take the track-focused GTS and tune its dampers for the location you find yourself at. There’s a Nürburgring-specific set-up listed in the handbook, for example.