It's a weird dog bone part of Top Gear's self-catering gîte with a built-in stage. Some members of the team have convinced that with the black faux leather sofas and incredibly placed shower in the hallway, it is also used as a … yes, do not worry about it. We are eating. It's been better than last night when Charlie Turner had the grill tear-counter far beyond the red line and we had to rifle through cars for a fire extinguisher. Tonight has been calmer
This is fine. This remote village is small and quite quiet; We can barely hug the cars down the track past the old stone foxes, and that would not upset the neighbors. But tomorrow we want to make sunrise about half an hour away, and two of the last five are McLaren and Ferrari, both of which make noise and width quite too generous for a 6am departure.
We have discussed pushing them out and leaving them on the other side of the village for the night, but then it became quite late, we were full of merguez sausage and garlic cloves (get us …) maybe have had a beer or three and so decided on our usual tactics: departs 10 minutes after schedule in a stomp of chaos and tears.
I can not blame I'm in Fiesta. I have absolutely no problems with the squeezy sections, and the entire attempt to navigate-while-run-en-Exige debacle is a distant memory when I have a real central screen. I lead we are rural and get this convoy stuck on a farmer in the Auvergne at 6 o'clock would be problematic. Only the alps can be forgiven. Boy, make French love that car.
Fiesta would have escaped anyway. It has a manual handbrake and is not afraid to use it. This time in the morning, these roads, I could leave the others for dust. I'm doing a couple of minutes just looking over a hedgerow, open the torque, tipping it in a few corners of the sad way you can when your car is this slim, friendly and maneuvered, and the following headlamps seemingly reversed.
I know the sound is partially moved, but I just care – this creates a better soundtrack and gives more volume in the cabin than, yes, everything was BMW and Ferrari. Now it's going to let bonkers, but common moves go through both Pista and Fiesta. Both are happy, vibrant cars. Both have dazzling turbocharged engines – it's the stand-out feature in each. Both are also overshadowed, oversaturated – almost caricatures.
In Fiesta this manifests itself as an eagerness from the first turn of the key. Even at 6 o'clock on dark roads, you are asking for misconduct – that's why I accelerated away from the others, why I'm now bordered on a light landscape, crying easily through the gears, listening to the exhaust pipe, feeling how keen the rear end is to engage in the swing process.
There is not much natural control, but there is an incredible amount of natural balance. You do not have to put much effort – or speed – to get a lot of enjoyment. But when I'm driving harder, which is hard to resist when our column climbs Col de la Croix-Morand, I can feel that diff begins to pull the nose in the corners, the mechanical components sharpen and fill holes in the control feedback.
It is perhaps the best-suited car for this environment, its behavior as bright and fresh as tomorrow – a toothpicking zing of energy and enthusiasm.
I really like driving it more than the M2 competition, I really do. Just like Ford, BMW's control is inert in your hands compared to the best ones – McLaren and the Alpine – but when you discover resistance building you are well connected. You feel the sharp nose, short wheelbase, the will to turn and engage the corner. And then you come to the good bit.
Power. Auvergne has Welsh harmonics: only rounded hills and infinite uneven, uphill, cambered-in, third gear. The type you want to dive in, spin around and pop up from. M2 drives out of them, differential and torque in harmony, the engine is super sharp between 4000 rpm and 6000 rpm. That's where their best work is done – while turning 1500 rpm higher, you can tell where it has been linked back from the M3. And while the fidgets where the road is uneven, it's very wieldy and credible than the sketchy M3 / M4. It's a good car, a good car, but it does not shine so strongly in this company.
There is a cafe on the top of Croix-Morand. A slap on the door results in coffee and crepe overlooking our five. The alpine, so delicious, makes Fiesta and M2 look lumpy. And ten minutes later, you also feel clumsy.
The Alps amaze me. I could not have imagined a scenario where we hold two 50,000 pounds tickets in one test, one of them is a BMW M car and does not get away with a kidney-grilled winner. The A110 blended me on the circuit. That is really the word for it. I could not believe a car that flowed so well – photographer Mark describes it as poetry – can also carry so much speed and drive with so precision and precision.
On the same road, M2 has just pummeled, the A110 is graceful, light, wisping through the chambers, skating over roughly … elegantly everywhere. And usually fun – you sit low, the places are wonderful, you are small and easy and you can dance. Slightly sprung, afraid of rolling, the A110 gives you choices: up on the toes, dabbling on the surface or, by adding speed, dives into the asphalt under brakes, leans into the corners and rises up and out on the other side. It's nice, live, tactile and completely natural and open in a way that Fiesta and Ferrari are not.
I had expected Pista to be more steely-eyed, but instead it will come across as a lighter, sharper, more exclusive 488 GTB
I continue driving it over to Mont-Dore, then up the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert. Nothing fazes it. OK, the gearbox is not as sharp as BMW, the engine's note is common, but it's so the fleet, delivering so much speed for so little effort that even the supercars struggle for breath.
They are an exciting couple, and now, on the armco-lined D36, the location of the stunning Mont-Dore hillclimb, 600LT and 488 Pista get it out. Judgment? Points win to … Ferrari. I know it went elsewhere on track, but as a road car, the softer, more playful and vibrant Ferrari has the harder, tougher McLaren slicked.
The problem is that you can not drive 600LT hard enough to find the right reward. You wait for turbos, who want to brake harder, get harder, go harder. It really can and will. But here you can not. The backside of Charade is lack of bits in the carbon brakes, surface sensitivity and off-boost lethargy. If you get your kicks from steering errors and chassis tightness, then climb, but then honed are the elements that are more difficult to relax and just enjoy 600LT.
I love the deep view, zero extinguishing and the McLaren are better designed inside – much better value too. But it has not moved the game in the same way that the 675LT did. McLaren's exponential improvement in recent years means that it was a step forward, this is a push. And a nudge in a very specific, track-oriented way.
There are also disadvantages to Ferrari. Offset pedals, the big rat that feels clumsy in your hands, the dated cottage, it feels so wide. Nevertheless, it makes high points so good, feels so energetic in your hands that it's more of a super car more of the time. No, you can not pick the corners of the same wild ruthlessness, and if you live near Mont-Dore hillclimb, it may mean more for you. But as a super-day-and-a-time super car, something you can pull out of the garage and enjoy miles zero, something that wants to entertain and is live alive, that's the better car.
I had expected Pista to be more steely-eyed, but instead it will come across as a lighter, sharper, more exclusive 488 GTB. The fact that it is still riding with diligence is a joy that the brakes bite and the gearbox bursts and the engine – oh, the engine – snaps … that makes it all with Pista feeling extremely urgent. And I love what it looks like, the stupid front and straked back treatment that draws attention from the gaping side days.
Post-road debate. 05:00. By Hall. We have to clean the gîtes, but before we carry pugs we drive cups of tea and carefully lean back on the leather sofas. Everybody, everyone puts the same cars in the first and last position. It's the middle order that causes gaps, but they are half-hearted because we all have the winner we want, and that's what really matters.
Second, third and fourth, then. Filled with the cheapest and most expensive cars. Voting places McLaren a sniff in front of Fiesta, Ferrari before both. For a tenth of the price we all agree, ST is a belt. Mature than its predecessor, but infused with the same spirit. With a victory between track and road, it would be easy to call it honorary group even between McLaren and Ferrari, but we're giving pleasure to Ferrari. It is a more joyful mediation.
Last and first. You know which way this is going. The problem with BMW is that we have seen it before. This is just a tweak of the template, but otherwise follows a well-known format – do not worry too much about reducing weight, just add power and control. This approach has substantiated performance cars over the last 20 years or more, and although we sometimes mumbled about it, it is unlikely that we would complain if we had not seen another route.
The problem with Alpine is that buyers are now conditioned to respect power in particular. But see: six people with very varied tastes, ages and abilities voted at the top, everyone loved their peace, goodness and communication. I have never pushed a better lightweight advertisement. Nothing else moves like this, flowing like this. The new alpine is a part of French philosopher, part Zinedane Zidane (and yet not Eric Cantona).
It's a car with wonderful poise and balance, a cool touch and a loose, limber energy. It's clean driving, and it's our year's performance car 2018.
To read more from TGs Speed Week 2018 click here