Magazine article The Spectator

Best and the Rest

Magazine article The Spectator

Best and the Rest

Article excerpt

'What do you think is the best car in the world?' asked my fellow rail sufferer as our train approached London Bridge like a reluctant glacier. I, too, have a stock list of evasions: where the railways plead signalling/track/points 'difficulties', I plead that such questions are meaningless, impossible, like asking who is the world's best sportsman, dependent on what you want a car for, etc. etc.

For some the best car would be the £600,000 Mclaren F1, the fastest road car ever (240mph) and beautiful to behold. For others it might be the 1989 Peugeot 205 spotted recently on a garage forecourt, with clean bodywork and interior and ten months' MOT for £125. What more do many drivers need?

But it's not only about need. It's also status, comfort, aesthetics, driving pleasure, engineering integrity and the aura of good craftsmanship. For my current requirements, the best car would probably be a Range Rover (£45,995-£60,995) because of its superb driving position and interior, its effortless towing capability, its untiring Tardis-like drive and its roominess. For the rest of the world I might suggest the Mercedes E-Class E320CDi saloon or estate (£34,060-£35,885), despite recent rumours of a decline in Mercedes build quality. Not only is the 320CDi an excellent, economical and effortless diesel, but I preferred the E-Class cabin and drive to those of the more expensive S-Class.

'I asked what you thought was the best car in the world,' my companion repeated, 'not for a selection of what you think might be best for other people.'

Which qualities, then, should the best car in the world have? (Rolls-Royce once claimed the title for themselves, before I believe - the first world war, but not since.) It would have to be a production car, not a sports car or a specialist or one-off. It should do all the conventional things, such as carry four adults plus luggage, better than most other cars, and some better than any. It should be made as well as its makers could make it, with little or no regard for expense. It should go well, last well, feel good and look good.

The £56,863 Lexus LS, VW's £68,260 Phaeton and the BMW 7 Series don't look the part. VW's much-heralded and very costly Bugatti promises much but keeps failing to appear. Bristol's £205,625 Fighter is more striking than aesthetically pleasing, and too little known for comparison. The mighty £243,780-£281,380 Maybach looks like an overblown Rover 75 but lacks the proportions of that excellent car, and so that too loses on aesthetics. …

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