The 10 Best Cars I Drove In 2021

The 10 Best Cars I Drove In 2021

It has been a varied year of driving, to say the least. From small electric Ferraris and Bugattis, to restomod Porsches, an off-roading Morgan, and an Aston Martin SUV. Not to mention my first experience of a Caterham, taking a Radical SR1 to a track day at Silverstone, and a whole heap of electric cars too.

Picking winners is never easy, so instead here’s a roundup of my motoring highlights from 2021. These are my favorites, but also the cars that proved to be the most memorable; the ones I still think about, weeks or even months after handing back the keys. The only order here is chronological, starting with the Toyota GR Yaris in February and ending with the Bentley Continental GT Speed in November.

Toyota GR Yaris: The rally homologation special

With internal combustion bans looming, we’re going to see a lot of ‘last-of-their-kind’ cars in the coming years, and the GR Yaris is absolutely one of them. A true homologation special, built to legitimize Toyota’s rally-going Yaris, the GR delivered on even the highest of expectations. Adjustable all-wheel-drive, 261 horsepower and a 0-62mp time of 5.2 seconds, this is the dictionary definition of a pocket rocket.

The interior lets the overall package down. But that doesn’t matter one bit when a prod of the accelerator catapults the Toyota out of every corner with such enthusiasm, and seemingly limitless traction. Small wonder that the waiting list is massive and a great many supercar owners picked up a Yaris GR for their collections.

Jaguar F-Pace SVR: The last of its kind

Another end-of-an-era, the second-generation Jaguar F-Pace SVR is powered by a muscular supercharged 5.0-litre V8 positively bursting with character. There’s 550 horsepower under your right foot – enough to dispatch 62mph in 4.0 seconds and hit 178mph if you find yourself on some derestricted Autobahn.

The latest model sees recalibration of the steering assistance, damper tuning and rear differential, while the interior benefits greatly from Jaguar’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system. Surely the last F-Pace SVR, at least without hybridization, the V8 SUV is remarkably good value too, at $85,950.

Radical SR1: Playing racing driver for the day

Apart from two laps of the TopGear track in a Kia Cee’d, I’d never driven a car on a race track before 2021. This all changed with an invitation from Radical to try out its entry-level racer, the SR1, at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. It rained all day and I was sharing the circuit with everything from Ferrari GT cars to a Toyota GR Yaris.

Thanks to the fantastic guidance of Sean Doyel, I had a blast and, despite the weather, the SR1 made me feel like a racing driver. Radical offers a broad range of cars and runs its own race series right across the world.

Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition: What the Vantage should always have been

One of three Astons I drove in 2021, the Vantage F1 Edition was the most memorable – not least because the color and new rear wing make it look like the F1 safety car. Away from the aesthetic and aero changes, the car features slightly more power than the regular Vantage, along with a tweaked chassis that sharpens and tightens the entire package.

The result, which I drove on an empty Silverstone Stowe Circuit, is arguably what the Vantage should always have been. What Aston has done here is what Porsche does in turning the base 911 into the 911 GTS. It’s not a full-fat Turbo or GT3, but something that is sharper and more focused, without sacrificing comfort and everyday usability. The Aston F1 Edition can even be had as a convertible too.

Caterham 310R: All hail the lightweight

Another personal milestone reached in 2021 was my first drive of a Caterham. I borrowed a 310R for a few days over the summer and loved it – but only once I’d got used to sitting so very low, legs straight out in front. Adjusting to the Caterham way of life took a couple of days, but once I’d got used to it I was in love.

The experience is so raw, so undiluted owing to a complete lack of electronic assistance. There’s no ABS, no power steering, no airbags, and the fold-away roof is a complete waste of time. But none of that matters, because with the harnesses tightened, the engine fired and the exhaust blaring right by the driver’s side, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. The Caterham bug has bitten me, and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of another example in 2022.

Jaguar E-Type Series III: Driving an icon

The Jaguar E-Type has long been a hero car of mine, ever since a 1:18 scale model of a red convertible sat on my bedroom shelf as a child. This year I was fortunate enough to drive my first and second E-Types, both Series IIIs. The first was the Unleashed restomod by E-Type UK, and the second was a wonderfully original Series III convertible belonging to Jaguar itself. Driven around the country roads of Sussex on a sunny afternoon, with my best friend in the passenger seat and tickets for Goodwood Revival the next day, this was a drive I will treasure.

Yes, the E-Type is slow by modern standards, and some might say the Series III is the least desirable, but that didn’t matter. I was driving an E-Type, in the sunshine, and for no other reason than to experience and enjoy an automotive icon.

Morgan Plus Four CX-T: Sideways is the only way

A rally Morgan shouldn’t work, but I’m happy to report how the CX-T absolutely does. And then some. Heavily modified by UK off-road racing firm Rally Raid, the Morgan not only looks purposeful, but delivers too. I drove the CX-T around the tight and narrow dirt track of Silverstone Rally School, and it was an absolute joy, sliding on command but never feeling wayward or untrustworthy.

It’s built tough too, soaking up serious punishment without ever feeling even slightly fragile. It’s a huge amount of fun, and I truly hope Morgan can find a way to financially justify building more than the eight examples it has planned. A less hardcore version of the CX-T, built in larger numbers, would be very special indeed.

Skoda Enyaq: The complete EV

It wasn’t all fun and games in 2021. I drove some sensible and no-less impressive cars, too. The most memorable was the Skoda Enyaq, simply because I handed it back thinking it probably represents the complete EV package. It is well-priced, impressive-equipped, offers good range (330 miles) and performance, and is handsome to look at.

It doesn’t have the speed of a Tesla, or the gimmicks of a Tesla either. But I prefer it to the Volkswagen ID.4, and look back fondly at the Skoda.

Ferrari Testa Rossa J: The ultimate plaything

This is the latest creation from The Little Car Company, and for me the most beautiful. Not that the company’s miniature Bugatti Type 35 and Aston Martin DB5 aren’t works of art in their own right, but for me the swooping lines of the pontoon-fender Testa Rossa are stunning to behold, at any scale.

Complete with Nardi steering wheel, Brembo brakes, Ferrari paint and leather, plus optional wire wheels from Borani, the Testa Rossa J is the real deal – and at 75-percent scale, it can be driven by adults and children alike, at up to 50mph.

Bentley Continental GT Speed: Simply magnificent

I adored my weekend with the Bentley Continental GT Speed, towards the end of 2021. From the muscular but hushed powertrain, to the composure of the ride, the finish of the cabin and even the quality of the Naim sound system, it was all magnificent. Money no object, the GT Speed would be guaranteed a place in my dream car garage, and I can see it being the one I’d use the most. It just does everything so well.