19 Feb 2014

The Top Ten Best Handling Cars I've Driven

In the last couple of years I've driven more than a hundred cars.  Prior to that I must have driven more than 40.  Here is my top ten best handling cars.

Handling, to me, doesn't necessarily mean how fast a car can go round a corner.  It's something a little more ethereal than that.  Handling is about steering feel and sharpness, the sensation communicated through all those parts of the driver that touch the car, the warning the car gives you before it loses grip completely, how fast it loses that grip and the grip level itself.  Handling is a combination of factors that deliver a sensation that you can push a car to the very edge it's limits - and have fun whilst doing so.

1 - Porsche 911 (991) Turbo

I drove this on track at Silverstone in late 2013.  In my review I said: "The confluence of active aero, ceramic brakes and rear wheel steering means you can drive heroically. The rear wheel steering is not felt on turn in or through the corner but come out of a corner, mash the throttle and you feel the rear end moving. It adds a degree of emotion, never mind speed, to driving the car. Nail a corner exit and the Turbo rewards with a squatting and sliding of the rear end and a perfect punch on to the next straight."

2 - Lotus Exige S Roadster

I drove the Exige on track at Hethel in 2013.  All Lotus' handle heroically well but the Exige is numero uno: "The Exige S Roadster is an amazing car at the limit. You can feel it moving around underneath you, yet all the while it stays on the road and pointing the right way."

3 - Jaguar F-Type S

I drove the F-Type on the road in 2013.  It's not an outright track car but it's amongst the best on the road: "It corners magnificently but its true skill is in mid-corner direction changes. Give the direct steering a flick one way or anther in a corner and you can feel the chassis turn on its axis with very little in the way of pitch. It feels alive, agile and controllable."

4 - Renaultsport Megane 265

I drove the Megane in early 2013 on the road.  It's my favourite front wheel drive car:  "Amid the frantic delivery the chassis copes well. Scream into a sharp corner, change into 2nd as you enter, foot heavily on the brake pedal, turn in, foot on accelerator, ESC copes with tyre slip, tiniest amount of wheelspin from inside wheel, eyes on next apex. Never revs. Don't look down."

5 - BMW 435i M Sport Coupe

I drove the 435i in late 2013 on the road: "The 435i's chassis allows you to feel where the front and rear of the car is going, and to work with it. Rounding corners or roundabouts and the rear wheels want to push the back out just a tad. You feel it and apply just enough throttle to lean on the rear. From the outside this angle of oversteer would be invisible but it's satisfying and rewarding to work with."

6 - Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black series

I drove this in 2012.  It's the best handling Mercedes I've ever driven: "...when you reach the open road, the C63 AMG Black series basically turns into a race car. Precise steering, instant throttle response, brakes that stop in an instant and never fade. But a race car without a harsh ride and banging and rattling as you feel every bump in the road with your spine. This is a race car that smooths out the imperfections and cossets your ego."

7 - Lotus Evora

I had an Evora on a weekend long test in late 2013: "Feedback through steering, and seat of the pants, is scalpel accurate. Combine this with the fact the car isn't too wide and it makes for an ideal road hooner whereby placement is accurate and confidence is high."

8 - Porsche 924S

This is my own car. It's amazing fun to drive: "You feel the road through your fingertips, your feet, your bottom. You communicate with the 924. This is when you know you are not in a Volkswagen but a true Porsche."

9 - Subaru BRZ

I had a BRZ on a week long test in summer 2013: "The BRZ is the best car I've ever driven for sheer naughty mucking about in a car. Its toolkit of fun is chock full. It feels light, like you can throw it around, yet you never get out of control. The car will oversteer through power alone in the first three gears. It responds nicely to a Swedish flick."

10 - Porsche Cayman

I had a Cayman on a four day test in Autumn 2013: "That interactivity runs through the entire driving experience, from the firm seats, the noisy cabin, the bolt-action gearbox, the need to manage the engine yourself, the ride quality. In an era when electronics are taking over the Cayman is a, or possibly THE, driver's car."

By Matt Hubbard