The good (mostly cars), the bad (mostly Trump), the future (mostly hope!)
You want to know about 2017? Let me tell you about 2017. Here’s the short version…
No wait. C’mon there were some good bits… somewhere… in there…
Cars! Brilliant. Let’s talk about those. Can’t go wrong with cars, can we?
In a future not too far away, Cars will soon not run on fuel but on fizz – and I don’t mean the James May kind, I mean electrifizzication.
In fact, a lot of countries this year announced they will ban traditional petrol and diesel-engine cars about a couple of decades from now.
This year we also discovered an increasing numbers of Cars that can already drive themselves, and cars that even crash themselves.
Yeah, let’s not dwell on that.
So driving will probably soon be banned too.
Oh this is not going well at all. Let’s bring it back to present day.
Actually cars are better, they are more efficient, cleaner, friendlier, more comfortable and safer than ever. But does all work and no play make Jack a dull car? Yeah kinda. They’re all getting so samey, so standardised to peddle, that none truly stand out as being special anymore.
Trying to think of my favourite car this year is like trying to recall my favourite banana of the year. When was the last time you had a bad banana? Right? They’ve all been genetically honed to perfect packaging.
And so it goes with cars. There’s very few if any bad ones. But there’s also very few stand-out and memorable ones. That’s why I’m sitting here kinda struggling to recall my best drives of the year.
Tell you what, let’s start with most recent.
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio – say it with a really bad accent, it’s a must!
Nearly 500bhp from a twin-turbo V6 – that actually started out as a Ferrari V8 block and had two cylinders lopped off.
This is a family car where when you get home you have to peel your children off the side windows! I tell you what, there’ll be none of that – ‘are we there yet?’
It’s a fantastic thing – but Alfa have a lot of work to do in this region to change perceptions and even create awareness of their brand.
Would I have the Stelvio QV? Nah, I’d have the prettier and even more thrilling Giulia QV which is what it’s based on.
I tell you what else I got sideways – several times, on a track that normally scares the shit of me – the Lamborghini Huracan Performante at Yas Marina Circuit. Stick it in Corsa and it’s one hairy beefy supercar that likes to play and make you look like a hero.
So much performance, so accessible, and such a ridiculously clever rear wing that can vary downforce depending on which way you’re going around a corner.
I really loved driving this thing, even more than the Aventador S I thrashed around the same circuit at the same time.
But I still miss the utter insanity of the Gallardo Superleggera – That used to be like – ‘Go on! I dare you to change gear with your foot buried, go on do it!’
‘Alright then I will – arrghhh!!!! I’ve dislocated my entire rib-cage yep all of it. My spleen is where my heart was. Screw it, I’m going for the next gear. Arrghh!!!!’
Talking of nutty Italian cars – I got to drive the Ferrari 812 Superfast up Jebel Jais as well – yep manhandling pretty much 800bhp up the tightest tarmac we got, hitting banned for life speeds just between the corners.
But my favourite Ferrari up Jebel Jais was actually one I reviewed last year – the 488 Spyder, which is the car that restored my faith in supercar driving. It’s a brilliant tool, beautifully balanced.
There was one at the same event, so I made off it, as you do – can you blame me? Roof down, wringing it back up the hill – it wasn’t quite as quick as the 812 – but not only was I laughing more, I somehow grew a thick Magnum moustache by the time I got to the top.
I also found I was suddenly wearing an Hawainn shirt and amazingly there was even a very stern-faced Higgens waiting for me at the top
Respect, by the way, to the John Benedict Hillerman the actor who played him and who passed away this year in November.
The 488 is my current favourite Ferrari, and my current favourite supercar full stop. And before you say McLaren, I’m sorry, but they don’t seem to want me to drive their cars anymore, so I have no idea if they’re any good.
Doesn’t surprise me since every time I had one in the past it kinda fell apart – and all those influencers they keep giving them to won’t tell you that.
One car nearly died on us coming back from Jebel Jais a few years ago and we had to leave it at a mall and tell them to come pick it up.
And another MP12D/44C-C3PO, subsection A, addendum 74, whatever – thank God they don’t still do the silly microwave oven names – anyway that car gave me the fright of my life the first time I drove a McLaren.
So here’s what happened… picked up the car, headed up one of my known roads, where I could open it up, and as I got deeper into the lock-you-away numbers I suddenly heard an almighty bang at the front!
Flipping nearly gave me a heart attack! I thought I’d smashed into a passing falcon or a miniature camel or something. I pulled over sharpish, and jumped out expecting to find a massive gash in the front of the car.
Nah – it was just the bloody windscreen rubber seal had come away and had smacked back into the roof that’s what made the noise. And it wouldn’t stay in place after that, and I spent the whole time with my hand out the window holding it in place.
I got sunburnt on my hand!!
Anyway, back to this year’s cars…
If in today’s automotive landscape you still yearn for something that offers the absolute purest experience of driving you go buy a Lotus or a Caterham – which is also actually also a Lotus, really. So I like to able to drive a Lotus at least once a year to reset my car-testing barometer.
And sure enough the Evora Sport 410 I got to thrash this year, was sublime. There is nothing that feels more alive in your hands and more communicative than a Lotus, and this Evora Sport 410 was particularly hard core.
A bit too hard core actually. The race seats did my back in. But you can get it with the regular pews I believe, and that’s what you should do.
This car focuses your senses tightly, I tell you what if Bond went back to driving a Lotus again he wouldn’t be calling up Miss Moneypenny to book his next shaving session with her whilst in a high speed car chase with a mad henchman hellbent on ripping that absurd pout from his craggy face.
In fact he’d be like, sod the mission, I’m driving the Lotus for the rest of the movie cause the plot is pointless and the only thing anyone will ever remember about this movie is the Day of the Dead parade and the building demolition sequence at the beginning.
Boy have we digressed!
Anyway let’s move onto two Chevrolets. Yep Chevys. Not just one, but two. Two American muscle machines on my very short list of a cars that stuck in my head long after I had driven them this year.
That’s actually quite remarkable.
Let’s start with the Camaro ZL1 – a 650bhp V8! In a fearsome muscle car that actually knows more than a thing or two about handling. You can run it on a drag strip or point it at the twisties and it will simply do its thing both times.
I thought the regular Camaro SS was frankly brilliant, especially dynamically compared to the previous version, but the new ZL1 is power you can deploy.
You can actually channel all that torque into forward momentum without obliterating expensive rubber and deconstructing tarmac one chunk at a time. And it slices it up apexes like Edwards Scissorhands, just snip snip straight through.
But for something even tighter – with the same fricking power unit but less weight… a bit like going from Xena the Warrior Princess to Wonder Woman – we come to the gorgeous and sensational Corvette Z06.
And the car I got to drive was just about the best version of it possible – convertible and with a 7-speed manual transmission. I was in utter heaven driving this car.
So excited did I get about this thing, that I did the video review with the roof down in the middle of the UAE summer!
Totally mental but utter joy.
And that’s it really. I’d would’ve like to put the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 in this line-up but I really only briefly drove that and not on particularly interesting roads – so that experience doesn’t quite get up there.
So that’s it for cars. Pretty sparse right? The question is, is it because cars are just not that exciting anymore, or because I didn’t drive enough of the right kind of cars this year?
Well here’s a gauntlet… okay well a glove… and I throw it upon the floor at your feet, you manufacturers you, now it’s up to you to pick it up and prove me wrong. I have another set of driving gloves ready and waiting.
What else? Well a couple of key moments of pride for me and Team Motoring Middle East actually. For the second consecutive time we ran the Ignition Live Talks at the Dubai International Motor Show – this time with double the number of talks – 26 shows and nearly 60 guests in total over five days! Hectic hard work, but so satisfying.
All the talks went brilliantly and were a hit, but for me personally the ‘Best Car Ever’ session on Friday night will be a highlight of the entire year.
We absolutely rocked the place, and I whipped the massive crowed into a frenzy, bringing the house down, they were screaming and shouting – and even hurling insults at each other, to choose the best car ever.
Which turned out to be… nah, go back and check out our video to find out! It’s on YouTube.
Secondly Motoring Middle East – us, me and my partner Imthishan – got profiled in a brilliant interview in the media industry magazine Campaign Middle East. It was an excellent piece by the editor in which we were allowed to let loose and really tell it how it is.
So if you want frank and honest insight into the state of the automotive media in the region – go read it. Click this link.
So what else can we talk about this year? Politics? Sheesh.
The world is so screwed isn’t it? Wars, poverty, genocide, forced migration, severe environmental flux…
Guys I’ve been watching a lot of BBC World News this year, and I have to say, if there’s one thing that comes across when you watch that much news, it’s that we humans suck!
If Alien tourists visited our planet, their Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy entry for ‘Third Planet from the Sun’ would be ‘nice place, shame about the people’.
And then there’s Trump, the guy that single-handedly brought Idiocracy five centuries forward. And if you haven’t seen that movie you absolutely must.
Trump is like the ultimate baddie who very quickly escalated from B-movie-villain to taking over the world. Muahhahah…
And he did. Well kind of. And so that’s that.
Frankly it’s a wonder we all still alive and the world hasn’t blown itself up already. Certainly feels like it wants to. Or rather the people on it do.
You see the problem seems to be that there is this tidal wave of tension that has swept across the world very much channelled by social media in fact, and which has whipped up this cacophony of fear and hate that is pulling us further apart in animosity, and creating an environment conducive, to a third world war.
And I’ll tell you this much folks, if it does all kick off, none of us will be making it through to the other side. It will be total annihilation.
It’s not Skynet becoming self-aware, it’s moronic world leaders being totally unaware that’s going to bury us in the end.
So here’s my prediction in 2018 – the world will end.
Happy New Year and Goodbye.
Nah, nah guys. I’m just kidding with you.
That’s a horrible way to end this video. We surely have at least till 2019!
No but seriously…
Going back to motoring terminology… think of it this way.
It’s a bit like getting into a tank slapper slide when you’re leaving a car meet in an over-exuberant manner in a powerful rear-wheel drive machine.
You plough into a load of people, you kill in a child in a wheelchair, who’d begged his reluctant dad to take him to see all the cool cars just that morning. You go to jail, you’re life is ruined, you can’t live with yourself anyway and you hang yourself.
All for a moment of hubris.
Instead you recognise the limits of your abilities, you give it a few crowd pleasing revs, and move off in a controlled manner. Everyone waves and smiles. You attend another meet the next weekend. Life carries on.
All because you calmed your shit down.
See what I’m getting at? It’s not rocket science, it’s not space x science, it’s not even nuclear missiles from North Korea science… it’s simple self-preservation common sense.
So let’s try this again. Here’s wishing less hate, and more love for 2018. Let’s make cars not war.
Live long and prosper everyone.