BEN’S BEST CARS OF 2016

Wheels Asia - - Ben’s column - TEXT AND PHO­TOS BEN CHIA

Busy man Ben looks back at some of the most mem­o­rable cars he’s driven over the past year

n the blink of an eye, an­other year has come to a close. 2016 has been a rather in­ter­est­ing, and busy, year for me per­son­ally, filled with ups and downs and plenty of mem­o­ries, both good and bad.

2016 marks my first full year as a free­lancer, and writ­ing for this mag­a­zine has af­forded me plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to sam­ple a large va­ri­ety of cars. I’ve driven dozens of new stuff over the past 12 months, some more mem­o­rable than oth­ers, but a se­lect few stood out, for vary­ing rea­sons, all of them good.

I guess the first one that comes to mind in­stantly has to be the one that came early in the year. When I drove the new Mazda MX-5 in Jan­uary, it was pretty much the ful­fil­ment of a dream. I’ve al­ways wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence what an MX-5 felt like, hav­ing read so much about it grow­ing up. They do say never meet your he­roes, for you could be dis­ap­pointed. Well, the MX-5 proved very much the ex­cep­tion to that rule. It was as good as I’d ex­pected it to be, maybe even bet­ter. The driv­ing

Iex­pe­ri­ence can only re­ally be de­scribed as ‘pure’, and while the MX-5’S phi­los­o­phy of Jin­bai It­tai, or “horse and rider as one”, sounds like mar­ket­ing malarky, you ac­tu­ally do feel like you’re an in­te­gral part of the car, meld­ing along in sync as you take on what­ever chal­lenge that comes your way. The MX-5 was ev­ery­thing I’d thought it would be, and if cir­cum­stances per­mit I would most def­i­nitely slap money down for one, right now.

Sim­i­larly pure, but per­haps in a slightly dif­fer­ent way, was an­other out­stand­ing car that I’ve drove this year: the BMW M2 Coupe. Now, I’ve al­ways been a big fan of the 2 Se­ries Coupe, as it some­how had a ‘just right’ ap­proach to its en­gi­neer­ing, feel­ing just right for some­one like me, some­one who ap­pre­ci­ates the pure joy of driv­ing and noth­ing else.

The M2 adds more power and ag­gres­sion to the recipe, and while it might seem like a bit of an overkill given that the stan­dard 2 Se­ries is al­ready ‘per­fect’ in my eyes, some­how it all seems to come to­gether and just, works. Yes the M2 is pow­er­ful and can be a bit of a ma­niac, but it can also be eas­ily tamed if you show some re­straint. The de­light­ful thing is, you don’t even have to be util­is­ing the M2’s full power in order to have fun, such is its great bal­ance and amaz­ing well-en­gi­neered setup. A stan­dard 2 Se­ries will prob­a­bly suf­fice for me, but cer­tainly if you of­fered me an M2 I def­i­nitely would not re­ject.

I’m not usu­ally a big fan of high­pow­ered su­per­cars though. Per­haps in Sin­ga­pore’s con­text, with highly re­stric­tive roads and reg­u­la­tions, there re­ally doesn’t seem to be much point to them. But there’s al­ways room for ex­cep­tions, and one such ex­am­ple is the Audi R8.

The new R8 is one of those cars that I guess you can say was truly highly an­tic­i­pated. When I first saw the car at the 2015 Geneva Mo­tor Show, my al­most im­me­di­ate thought was, “Damn, what a car. I can’t wait to drive it”. Well, it took nearly two years since then for

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