The golden era: a look back at Britain’s best motors

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Ferraris, Lamborghinis and foreign supercars often dominate discussions about the world’s greatest cars but Britain has a motoring heritage to be proud of too. Home to some of the fastest and most stylish cars on the planet, the UK has produced some of the finest cars in motoring history. Here are five of our favourites.

#5 Aston Martin DB9 (Gaydon, Warwickshire)

The Aston Martin DB9 is the car that began one of the greatest comebacks in recent automotive history,Aston Martin DB9 kick-starting Aston Martin’s renaissance. Refreshed in 2013, sales remain as strong as ever thanks to its sleek styling and racy V12 engine.

The DB9 can go from 0-62mph in only 4.6 seconds and its six-speed automatic gearbox is perfect at making those pacey gear changes. Plus, the roar of the engine means it sounds like it’s doing over 100mph even at low speeds, transporting you to automotive heaven if you’re a fan of throaty engine noises.

The automotive brilliance of the DB9 is matched only by the interior, which is a blend of bamboo, teak and cherrywood. The quality of the interior is truly astronomic, which you’d expect from an Aston Martin, and it’s all topped off by the starter motor which is a great point for those trying to impress.

The downsides to the DB9 are the running costs. With high insurance costs (group 50) and MPG in the low teens, it’s an expensive car to own. But when it looks this good and drives this well, does it really matter?

#4 Bentley Continental GT (Crewe)

Bentley’s decision to offer a V8 engine in the more recent incarnations of the Continental Bentley Continental GTGT was an inspired choice, offering drivers 500bhp. This V8, combined with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and the removal of 35kg from over the front wheels means that the Bentley Continental is almost the perfect GT car. Fast, agile and a joy to drive, the Continental GT is as brilliant as it’s ever been and, the harder you drive it, the better it feels.

On the inside it’s comfortable, beautiful and masterfully put together. From relaxed leather seats to dashes of carbon fibre, there’s something to please everyone, no matter what your personal style. Plus, with more controls and knobs than before, it feels like you have ultimate control. From chrome dials to a walnut trim, it really is stunning and it’s more than likely you’ll never want to leave.

As with the DB9, the Bentley is expensive to drive, as you may have expected. The V8 is easily the most economical version, however, achieving 28mpg, which is massively economical by Bentley’s usual standards. It’s hardly ‘green’, but it’s much better than the older version’s meagre 17mpg.

#3 Rolls-Royce Phantom (Goodwood)

Jeremy Clarkson once referred to the Rolls-Royce Phantom as ‘the best luxury car in the entire world’ and it’s hard to disagree. An intoxicating mixture of modernity and tradition, Rolls-Royce Phantomthe Phantom is stunning from every angle. Whether you’re driving the car yourself or being chauffeured, you’ll love the Phantom.

The Phantom may be a big car, but the turbocharged 12-cylinder engine does a great job of hiding it, making driving an ease. Plus, smoothness is provided in spades by the eight-speed automatic gearbox and a breathtakingly good suspension system. With the spinning Rolls-Royce wheel badges rotating as you drive, it’s hard to think of anything in the world that’s more luxurious than the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

With impeccable craftsmanship and a wealth of gadgets and luxury, the sheer extravagance the Phantom provides is astounding, and it really does feel like something very special. From the sumptuous wool carpets to the soft leather seats and the perfectly crafted wooden trim, everything about the interior of the Phantom feels ultra luxurious.

#2 MINI (Cowley, Oxford)

Launched in 1959 as the British equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle, the MINI MINIwent on to become a true British classic. In fact, the legacy of the original MINI meant that the last one wasn’t made until 2000, with 5.3 million made over this time, each near identical.

When you think of British motoring, you think of the MINI, and it’s as much loved now as it ever was. It’s even as cool (if not more so) than it ever has been in its history. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in driving brilliance, and you’ll struggle to find a classic car that’s more fun to drive than the MINI. For many, the MINI isn’t only a great British car, it’s the best car Britain has ever made.

It’s hard to disagree, but we believe that one car just edges it…

#1 Jaguar E-Type (Coventry)

Automotive styling has always been subjective, but love for Jaguar’s E-Type seems to transcend this, which is why it’s been named ‘the most beautiful car in the world’ on multiple occasions. Jaguar E-TypeThe E-Type is now over 50 years old, but it’s near impossible to think of a car that’s more visually stunning.

Cheap when first built (a mere £2,098), it redefined what a modern sports car was, changing the boundaries and still influencing automotive design to this day. An icon of the swinging sixties, 70,000 E-Types were sold between 1961 and 1975, making it the everyday supercar of its time.
The E-Type wasn’t only affordable, it was fast too. Jaguar claimed that the E-Type could reach 150mph. This was never experienced by customers outside of testing grounds but it was still fast, meaning E-Type owners regularly cruised on the motorways doing 100mph+. As a result, the E-Type was part of the reason why the 70mph speed limit was imposed on the motorway, giving it a unique place in British history.

Today, only around 5,000 remain, making them a real collector’s item and something sought after by petrolheads all over the world. In short, the E-Type remains the most iconic classic car that money can buy, and it was built right here in the UK. It’s an integral part of our country’s motoring history, proving we can indeed make some of the best cars in the world.

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