RTOTY 21 Group 1RTOTY 21 Group 1


Road Test of the Year 2021: A celebration of this year’s finest cars

Time 1 month ago

It was one of the few occasions for the Car Dealer team to actually be in each other’s company rather than conversing through a piece of video-calling software.

But in 2020, the traditional procedure of convoying westwards and sampling the best cars of the year on technical Welsh roads had to be put on ice. Instead, we plumped for southern England, kept two metres apart from each other, and sterilised every steering wheel, gear lever and door handle in ways to make Kim and Aggie proud.

This time around though, with the world – and, indeed, the motor trade – getting back to some semblance of normality, road-tripping to Wales was very much back on the cards.

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The cars were booked, accommodation arranged, and the tight and thrilling lanes of Brecon in south Wales programmed into Google Maps.

Well, that was the idea up until the week preceding our departure date…

Despite the government’s protestations that there was no fuel shortage, queues at the pumps left stations dry. It was at its worst in the south-east, and with the Car Dealer team all based in various locations on the south coast, the idea of heading to Wales in some rather inefficient petrol-engined cars suddenly became rather unappealing.

In an interesting twist of irony, though, the electric contingent of our group of motors really came into their own. Last year saw the Porsche Taycan, Honda e and Polestar 2 represent cars with plugs – three quirky, niche and a little bit oddball cars. This year, just as dealers were reporting that electric car inquiries were going through the roof, we had three more mainstream electric cars, showing the pace of development in the EV sector. Two of them transported the crew from southern England to the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, as EV motorway charging points were generally considered to be more reliable and less stress- inducing than searching for a drop of petrol. Oh, what strange times we’re living in.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E is one of the year’s most highly anticipated new cars, without question. Let’s face it, a new car wearing a Pony badge is always big news, but of more interest is what it represents, both in terms of Ford’s future and how far the electric car market has come in a relatively short space of time.

Meanwhile, the Skoda Enyaq is here to fight the case of the electric car finally becoming a viable alternative to a diesel SUV for families, while the Audi RS e-tron GT should show if the concept of the fast, four-wheel Audi saloon is safe in an electric future.

The Land Rover Defender returns, not necessarily to defend its crown but more to show how the British brand has diversified its reinterpreted icon over the past 12 months. It’s added a plug-in hybrid version to the range, and at the same time as launching the PHEV, Land Rover also wheeled out a V8 model with a 518bhp 5.0-litre supercharged engine under the bonnet. We chose the latter for this year’s RTOTY.

BMW has been busy launching the M3 and M4 during the past 12 months, but it’s also found time to tinker with the pin-up poster child of its M division – the M5. Along with giving it a new matte-like paint job, lashings of gold trim and retro yellow LED daytime running lights, BMW has added a little more flair, power and pizazz to create the limited- run M5 CS. But is it really worth more than double an M3? That’s what we’ll find out.

Costing as much as the M5 CS’s set of carbon-ceramic brakes (almost, probably…), there’s the little Hyundai i20 N. It could be the Ford Fiesta ST’s worst nightmare – and the roads around Brecon will give us an answer.

Finally, there’s the Porsche 911 GT3. If we’re honest, a GT3 doesn’t need any justification for being on a road test such as this. But with the days of the highly engineered petrol sports car numbered, could the GT3 be the high water mark we’ll look back on fondly in the future?

I hope you enjoy reading about the best cars of the year.

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James Batchelor
Associate editor

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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