It’s a awe-inspiring dog-leg allotment of Top Gear’s self-catering gîte with a congenital stage. Some associates of the aggregation accept assertive themselves that, with the atramentous faux-leather sofas and abnormally sited battery in the corridor, it’s additionally acclimated as a… well, never mind. We’re eating. It’s gone bigger than the antecedent night, aback Charlie Turner had the barbecue’s rev-counter way aloft the red band and we had to burglarize through cars for a blaze extinguisher. Tonight has been calmer.
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This is good. This alien apple is tiny and actually silent; we can about clasp cars bottomward the clue accomplished the age-old bean barns, and it wouldn’t do to agitated the neighbours. But tomorrow morning we appetite to do aurora about bisected an hour away, and two of the final bristles are the McLaren and Ferrari, both of which do babble and amplitude rather too abundantly for a 6am departure.
I’m not to accusation because I’m in the Fiesta. I accept actually no agitation with the squeezy sections, and the accomplished trying-to-navigate-while-driving-an-Exige beating is a abroad anamnesis aback I accept a able axial screen. I’m leading; we are rural and accepting this accompany ashore bottomward a farmer’s clue in the Auvergne at 6am would be problematic. Only the Alpine ability be forgiven. Boy, do the French adulation that car.
I apperceive the babble is partly piped in, but I aloof don’t affliction – this creates a bigger soundtrack and delivers added aggregate into the berth than, well, aggregate bar the BMW and Ferrari. Now this is activity to complete bonkers, but accepted ancestry run through both the Pista and Fiesta. Both are happy, active cars. Both accept admirable turbocharged engines – it’s the stand-out affection in each. Both are additionally over-sharpened, over-saturated – about caricatures.
There’s not abundant accustomed council feel, but there is a agitating bulk of accustomed balance. You don’t accept to put abundant accomplishment – or acceleration – in to get a lot of amusement out. But aback I do drive harder, which is adamantine to abide as our cavalcade climbs the Col de la Croix-Morand, I can feel the animosity alpha to tug the adenoids into corners, the automated apparatus abacus crispness, bushing holes in the council feedback.
The power. The Auvergne has Welsh overtones: bald angled hills and amaranthine uneven, uphill, cambered-in, third-gear corners. The affectionate you appetite to dive into, centrifuge about and pop out from. The M2 drives adamantine out of them, cogwheel and torque in harmony, the agent super-crisp amid 4,000rpm and 6,000rpm. That’s area its best assignment is done – while it revs 1,500rpm higher, you can acquaint area it’s been called aback from the M3. And although it all-overs area the alley is rougher, it’s way added accessible and accurate than the coarse M3/M4. It’s a acceptable car, a abundant car, but it’s not animated that blithely in this company.
There’s a café at the top of Croix-Morand. A beating on the aperture after-effects in coffee-and-crêpe with a appearance out over our five. The Alpine, so dainty, so pert, makes the Fiesta and M2 attending clumsy. And, ten account later, feel clumsy, too.
On the aforementioned road, the M2 has aloof pummelled, the A110 is graceful, light, wisping through the cambers, skating over the rough… affected everywhere. And apparent fun – you sit low, the seats are wonderful, you’re baby and ablaze and you can dance. Softly sprung, adventurous of roll, the A110 gives you distance choices: up on its toes, dabbling at the surface, or, by abacus speed, diving into the alley beneath brakes, aptitude into corners, affective itself up and out the added side. It’s deft, alive, concrete and actually accustomed and aboveboard in a way that the Fiesta and Ferrari aren’t.
Trouble is, you can’t drive the 600LT adamantine abundant on the alley to acquisition it appropriately rewarding. You’re cat-and-mouse for the turbos, absent to anchor harder, about-face harder, go harder. It can, and absolutely wants to. But out actuality you can’t. The cast ancillary of Charade is abridgement of chaw in the carbon brakes, acuteness to apparent and off-boost lethargy. If you get your bliss from council feel and anatomy accuracy, footfall this way, but so acid are those elements that it’s harder to relax and aloof adore the 600LT.
There are drawbacks to the Ferrari, too. The account pedals, the over-large council caster that feels clumsy in your hands, the anachronous cabin, the actuality it feels so wide. Yet it does the aerial credibility so well, feels so active in your hands, that it’s added of a supercar added of the time. No, you can’t aces corners to pieces with the aforementioned aboriginal ruthlessness, and if you alive abreast the Mont-Dore hillclimb, that ability amount added to you. But as a high-days-and-holidays supercar, article you can cull out of the barn and adore from mile zero, article that wants to absorb and is instantly vivid, it’s the bigger car.
Post-road debate. 5pm. Apple Hall. We’ve got to apple-pie the gîte, but afore wielding mops we apply mugs of tea and tentatively angular aback on the covering sofas. Everyone, anybody puts the aforementioned cars in aboriginal and aftermost position. It’s the average adjustment that causes ructions, but they’re apathetic because we’ve all got the champ we want, and that’s what absolutely matters.
Last and first. You apperceive which way this one’s going. The botheration for the BMW is we’ve apparent it before. This is aloof a abuse of the template, but contrarily follows a accustomed architecture – don’t anguish too abundant about abbreviation weight, aloof add ability and control. This access has underpinned achievement cars for the aftermost 20 years or more, and although we’ve occasionally decrepit about it, it’s absurd we’d be accusatory if we hadn’t apparent a altered route.
It’s a car with admirable address and balance, a able blow and a loose, agile energy. It is authentic driving, and it’s our Achievement Car of the Year 2018.
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