There’s a perverse joy to knowing you’re living through what’s sure to be a BIG chapter in the history text books of the future. 2020 has been ‘a bit much’ all told. If you really want to relive the horrors, have a go at recalling every major news event that happened. You’ll run out long before you remember that Harvey Weinstein was sent to jail, or that murder hornets were an actual thing.
2020 hasn’t been an entire bust though. It’s turned in to something of a vintage year for cars. On top of the announcement that after 2035 we won’t be able to buy cars with any form of combustion engine on board, and news that teams are fleeing Formula E at an alarming rate, we’ve been treated to some truly outstanding cars. And not just stories that they’re emerging at some point in the next couple of years, but motors you can actually go out (where allowed under government guidelines, of course) and buy today. Here are some that, if the world decides to become a just place, should go down as greats.
Land Rover Defender
Redesigning and relaunching something a sacred as a Defender is not an enviable task. Partly because of the huge internal pressure of making sure the car lives up to its forbear, and partly because people on the internet are pricks and will take any opportunity to be mercilessly cruel about something because they dislike one tiny aspect of it. After its unveil in 2019 you couldn’t help but feel for the crew at Land Rover – so much hard work was instantly rubbished by people who had yet to see the thing. It’s a good thing, then, that the new Defender is an absolutely stellar bit of kit. It drives brilliantly off road, as you’d expect not only from a Land Rover but something with DEFENDER written on its nose, and on road as well. Don’t go expecting something quite as smooth as the full fat Range Rover on asphalt, but you can convincingly get away with buying a Defender and using it as a proper family car on the daily. It’s a worthy successor to the original, and one that comes with elbow room.
While electric cars have been around for a while now, they’re still somewhat in their adolescence. Not quite for everyone, but a dedicated set can get the best out of them without issue at all in 2020. A little like real adolescents, come to think of it. 2020’s new EVs were a mixed bag, but the teeny tiny Honda e stood out. Yes, it is a little expensive, and no its 120-ish mile range isn’t going to get you from Scotland to the Isle of Wight on a single charge, but find its sweet spot and you’re laughing. Its sweet spot is town. Nipping to and from meetings (remember those?), popping to the shop for a pint of milk, or taking smaller facsimiles of yourself to swimming lessons or… something. It drives well, boasting a truly tiny turning circle, and peppy performance, but that’s not what leaves the biggest mark. That’ll be the thing’s looks. It’s so cute it causes people to stop what they’re doing and involuntarily make ‘squeeeee’ noises on sight.
Aston Martin DBX
A brand like Aston Martin moving in to SUVs is an odd one. On one hand, how can a marque so associated with elegance and style lower itself to something as crass as a big heavy people mover? On the other, its customers, the people whose money keeps the company afloat, have families and want to take them on journeys. No brainer, really. The fact Aston took so long to bring the DBX to market was a worry, but it simply meant there was more time to make sure the DBX felt like both an SUV and an Aston Martin at the same time. The result, wonky-looking rear end aside, is a perfect blend of Aston performance and big ‘ol dollop of SUV usability. If anything’s going to help get the firm out of financial trouble, this, hopefully, is it.
Toyota GR Yaris
This is a big one. Not for volume, and in no way for mass appeal, but it’s the kind of car that people with beards, flammable macs, and bobble hats are going to be talking about for the next billion years. It’s a true homologation special, which means the only reason it exists is so a race car can be built out of it. Or bits of it at least. That’s cool in itself, but throw in a truly excellent four-wheel-drive system, mad looks, and the most powerful three-cylinder motor in the world… you end up with a pocket-sized monster. The most bizarre thing about it is that while it was created so Toyota’s WRC campaign could have a more effective weapon, the WRC car was canned. So now it exists purely to be an ace car. Happily, it’s the kinda motor that’ll go down as one of the greats.
That, friends, is just four of the many ace cars 2020 threw at us. This should be something of a lesson to us all, really: no matter how bad the situation, there’s always some good somewhere. And, occasionally, murder hornets.
See you in 2021.