Over the course of any given year, we at the PA Motoring team will drive hundreds of cars between us. Our coverage of the new car industry sees us drive all of the most important new releases to bring our verdicts on everything from superminis to supercars.
Naturally, each of us has our own preferences and can look back fondly on a few particular drives that really stand out. So with 2021 drawing to a close, PA Motoring’s three main writers have reminisced on the past 12 months and come up with their favourite car from the year.
Jack Evans – Skoda Enyaq iV
I was left seriously impressed by Skoda’s new EV. The Enyaq iV might share the same platform as cars like the Volkswagen ID.4 and Audi Q4 e-tron, but it manages to push ahead thanks to some uniquely Skoda-ish touches. I like how big the boot is and I like that it can charge at speeds of up to 125kW, too.
It’s comfortable as well, while Skoda has taken the clever decision to ditch the touch-sensitive-style buttons you get in the VW and the Audi in favour of much easier-to-use versions. The main infotainment screen is pretty good too and though it might not be the most in-depth of systems, it’s good enough in terms of responsiveness and ease-of-use.
Getting over 300 miles from a single charge is pretty handy, too. I drove an Enyaq from Inverness to the south coast back in the summer and it didn’t miss a beat. As far as electric cars go, for me, it’s pretty hard to beat.
Darren Cassey – BMW i4 M50
There have been plenty of incredible drives in 2021, and while the Porsche 911 GT3 was the car that blew my mind more than any other, it’s perhaps surprisingly not my top car this year. That honour goes to the BMW i4.
I attended the launch in Munich, Germany and wasn’t expecting too much. I do like electric vehicles but they all feel very much the same from behind the wheel. Furthermore, BMW had decided to stick an M badge on the model I’d be testing, and I’ve been consistently underwhelmed by performance-focused EVs.
That all changed with the i4. The driving position is spot on, just like in the regular 4 Series, and the steering and pedal weights are perfectly judged, so it feels natural to drive from the get-go. Its party piece is the suspension, though, as it’s incredibly comfortable and doesn’t suffer the stiffness common in other EVs.
Its intelligent regeneration is exactly what all regenerative braking technology should be, too. It reads the road ahead and checks the map to decide whether it’s better to coast when you lift off the throttle or apply the brakes to slow you to a stop for a junction or traffic, for example. It’s natural, and it just works.
Negatives? I’m not totally convinced it’s fun and capable enough in corners to truly be an ‘M’ car, the Hans Zimmer-designed powertrain noise is cool but needs some volume refinement, and the styling has a few awkward angles. And the non-M car might actually be the more sensible choice…
But overall? This is exactly what an electric car should be. Fast when you want it to be, comfortable when you don’t, with advanced technology that works exactly as intended. It genuinely feels like the beginning of the next generation of EVs.
Ted Welford – Porsche 911 GT3
As the youngster of the PA Motoring team, my age often limits me to the more ‘normal’ end of the automotive spectrum – something I’m actually quite happy with. In fact, I sometimes get a bit disgruntled if a colleague drives a new hybrid crossover, and not me…
But every now and again comes the opportunity to drive something really special, and for me my 2021 highlight was being able to get behind the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3. It’s currently the brand’s halo model and is quite frankly like nothing else I’ve ever driven before.
As we head towards an electric future, this GT3 is the absolute antithesis of all that, with its naturally-aspirated 4.0-litre flat-six engine laughing in the face of anything electrified. I’d never quite understood why anyone, even if rich enough, would pay such an inflated price for one – they typically sell for £100,000 more than their list price. But then I drove one.
With its addictive engine that encourages you to push it towards the redline, it’s without doubt the best-sounding car I’ve ever driven, while its seven-speed manual gearbox is an absolute joy to use, and again the best I’ve ever tried.
It’s safe to say the driving conditions weren’t ideal, and were completely representative of what you’d expect a mid-October day in the Yorkshire dales to be like – thick fog, cold and rainy. Driving a 500bhp supercar in that kind of car was a properly scary prospect for me, but I couldn’t actually believe just how easy the GT3 was to drive normally too – it’s not even that uncomfortable and you still get plenty of creature comforts.
I’m unlikely to drive a car as good as the GT3 in 2022 – or indeed ever again – and for that it will always be something worth remembering 2021 for.