A cliche-shattering hatch rewrites the rules and wins
IT came down to history’s hottest hatch, the best Porsche south of a 911 and an SUV of almost schizophrenically diverse abilities.
Porsche’s Cayman S with PDK transmission is at least three-quarters as good as the iconic 911, having some 50 per cent commonality and about 50 per cent of the price tag.
One moment Range Rover’s top-spec Sport with its supercharged V8 is slicing through C-roads like a hot scimitar through butter, the next it’s tipping down a 15-degree mud slope under its own sure-footed electronic guidance.
Either might have won Carsguide’s Prestige Car of the Year if not for a casting vote that gave it to a paradigm-smashing five-door that rewrites the rules both for hot hatches and for prestige cars.
1. MERCEDES-BENZ A45 AMG
AT $74,900 MercedesBenz’s A45 AMG is not only the cheapest product of Benz’s tuning house by some 50 per cent but it’s also pound-for-pound the best.
The achievement of the A-Class in bringing in a fullblown Benz for Mazda3 money is feat enough but the AMG version is a historic event.
Consider that next to the $150K C63, AMG has halved its cylinder count to four, reduced its capacity by 4.2 litres and transferred the drive wheels from rear to front (with ondemand all-wheel drive) and given us a car that will leave its other wares behind on a tight, twisting road.
This is a supercar in hot hatch form, one that future-proofs this noble line against the eventual legislatively driven extinction of throbbing V8s.
That its value component is among the A45’s chief assets says it all for the way in which Benz Australia has come to lead the prestige charge.
At $75K, only fancy paint, sunroof and a bit of cosmetic frippery is optional. Off the line, it bashes up almost anything this side of $250,000.
The world’s most powerful four-cylinder production engine is abetted by all-wheeldrive that’s only part-time but fully able to put down its formidable 265kW/450Nm.
2. PORSCHE CAYMAN S
FANCY a new Porsche 911 for less than $140,000? Well, you can’t have one. You can, however, have the magnificent Cayman S.
Just as its topless Boxster sibling was Carsguide’s Prestige Car of 2012, the hardtop almost repeats the feat in 2013.
There is nothing entry-level or declasse about the new Cayman. It’s a fully fledged and distinct Porsche sports car in its own right.
No 911 owner would willingly step down to a lesser model. However, the Cayman is so complete as to make one wonder about the wisdom of stepping up.
The full-cream S deploys the a slightly milder tune of the 3.4-litre flat-six used in the 911 Carrera to propel a kerb weight of some 50kg less.
The Cayman S’s manual has six speeds rather than the 911’s unique seven but, really, who cares? At $145,200, the top-spec S uses precisely the sevenspeed twin clutch PDK auto of the senior car to achieve 100km/h from standing in less than five seconds.
The Cayman is a performance bargain but the equation is made murky by the obvious question: Why does Porsche charge more for the Cayman coupe than its roadster sibling Boxster? The answer is, of course, because it can.
3. RANGE ROVER SPORT V8
The glorious 5.0-litre supercharged V8 (375kW/ 625Nm) is $161,600 in HSE Dynamic grade and $182,400 as Autobiography Dynamic, yet still are subject to an extra ask for some options.
But what a device. What an unfeasible, broadly talented thing this is, one that has you asking repeatedly: How can the same car be so variously outstanding?
Dynamically, the supercharged Sport V8 keeps pace with a Porsche Cayenne.
At some 5.0 seconds to 100km/h it is by some distance the fastest ever Land Rover.
Yet it crawls on rocks and wades to almost a metre’s depth as readily as the doughty Discovery.
At last the Cayenne has a rival, at least until the road surface goes to pot then the Rangie is out by itself.