Top Gear’s Top 8: shocking curveball cars

By topgear, 07 September 2019

01 Porsche’s electric upstart

Porsche isn’t afraid of carpet-bombing the apple-cart with a few controversial decisions. Water-cooling the 911’s engine, building the Cayenne SUV, making the GT3 (briefly) automatic only… it loves a frothy headline. But now the age of the electric Porsche is here, with the battery-powered Taycan sedan, and that’ll have purists sobbing into their Porsche owners’ club polo shirts. Until they drive it, perhaps. Early prototype impressions indicate this could be the EV to rule them all…

02 AMG’s turbo shopping chariot

Think AMG, think big V8s, possible side-exit exhausts, and definitely a snakey trail of rubber once attached to a pair of unsuspecting rear tyres. AMGs are modern hot rods, offering a sledgehammer approach to keyhole surgery. And then, in 2009, AMG got into the hot hatch game. With no room for a V8, and no justification for rear-wheel drive, the resulting A 45 super-hatch took AMG into a new era of 2.0-litre turbo, AWD misbehaviour. And it’s just been replaced, with more power and Drift Mode. We’d expect nothing less.

03 BMW’s front-wheel drive hatchback

When it launched the original rear-wheel drive 1 Series, BMW’s marketing campaign gleefully fixated on how the only RWD car in its class was perfectly balanced, with photoshopped images of hares with giant front paws and videos of children struggling to ride front-wheel drive tricycles. So, quite the about-face then, when in 2019 the third-gen 1 Series swapped in me-too front-wheel drive to open up more cabin space and make parts-sharing with MINI easier. Awkward.

(Click HERE to read about our drive of the third-gen M135i xDrive)

04 BMW’s Ultimate-Driving SUV

In fairness, BMW has method in its madness. The new 1 Series may be shockingly ugly but few folks who drive it will notice it’s now FWD, and they’ll appreciate the space. The X4 and X6 are indeed hideous vehicles, but they were successful enough that Audi, Mercedes and even Porsche has copied them.

And way back in 1999, BMW’s decision to cook up a sporty 4x4 that was more for school run kudos than going off-road came in for some flack too. But the X5 worked out rather well for the company’s bottom line, huh?

05 Chevrolet’s mid-engined 'Vette

After seven generations, the Corvette has abandoned its front-engine roots. The new C8 Stingray is the future, and that future has the engine behind the seats. Still, if there’s one nation that can be relied upon not to massively overreact to a worthwhile policy change, it’s America.

06 Kia’s handsome My-First-M3 Stinger

What does Kia do to embellish that rep? Why, it poaches the head of BMW’s M Division, develops a 350bhp turbo V6 and shoves it in the nose of an extremely good-looking rear-wheel drive sedan that’s comfortable, fast, hilarious to drive and gives you more equipment for two hundred grand than BMW, Audi and Mercedes put together.

The Stinger GT is one of our very favourite sports sedans, and it comes from the marque that gave the world the Rio. And the Stonic. And the Carens. How the heck did that happen?

(Click HERE to read our review of the Kia Stinger 3.3)

(Click HERE for an owner's impression of the Stinger)

07 Lexus’s F1-inspired supercar masterpiece

The Lexus supercar. Lexus (def: slightly accountant-y Mercedes-chasers with stupendous reliability but too many Toyota Yaris switches); supercar (def: an exciting and extremely fast vehicle designed to shock and awe). And yet, when Lexus did finally create its signature masterpiece, the V10-powered, all-carbon LFA went straight into the stratosphere as one of the finest speed machines ever made.

(Click HERE to read about our LFA drive)

08 Lamborghini’s war machine

The 650bhp Urus is not Lamborghini’s first ‘SUV’. No, back in the 1980s it was preceded by this: the LM002, featuring two fuel tanks, an open cargo bed and the V12 from a Countach. It was the offspring of one of Lamborghini’s most epic fails: a misguided attempt to sell a vehicle to the US military. When its rear-engined Cheetah woefully failed in military trails, Lambo instead converted the rugged 4x4 to run supercar power and feature a leather and wood-trimmed interior.

STORY Ollie Kew