DUE TO the coronavirus pandemic, the pool of choices for Jeremy Clarkson’s best-reviewed cars of 2020 isn’t as vast as in recent years, with a great number of his column inches taken up by tales of entertaining exploits on his farm in Oxfordshire.
However, there have still been a decent number of cars that have inched trepidatiously through the iron gates of Diddly Squat farm to await his judgement, and they’ve come in all shapes and sizes: superminis, SUVs and supercars, in both internal-combustion and electric guises.
Here are five of Jeremy Clarkson’s best-reviewed cars of 2020 (as selected by Driving.co.uk based on star ratings and general enthusiasm).
1. Alfaholics GTA-R 290
Star rating: 5/5
Jeremy Clarkson has a long-standing love affair with Alfa Romeo, and while he’s not been a fan of some rebadged models like the Arna (based on a Nissan Pulsar) and Mito (based on a Fiat Punto), his love for classic models like the GTA and GTV, which Clarkson drove in a Scotland-based episode of The Grand Tour, is unconditional. Which is good because it means he overlooks the many problems he is known to have with classic cars in general, such as the fact that they break down regularly and were mostly designed before “ergonomics” was a consideration.
But when Bristol-based outfit Alfaholics presented the £320,000 GTA-R 290, a GTA that has been updated with a bored-out four-cylinder engine from an Alfa 75 — producing “240 horsepower, 200 torques and a noise that makes even your eyebrows tingle” — as well as carbon fibre components, creature comforts such as Bluetooth and air conditioning, and a few other modifications that take the company’s dedicated workers 3,000 hours per car.
The result, says Clarkson, is a car that he “adored… more than is decent, or even healthy”.
Read our overview of Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the Alfaholics GTA-R 290 here, or read the review in full at thetimes.co.uk.
2. Mini John Cooper Works GP
Star rating: 5/5
For the last couple of years, Jeremy Clarkson has chosen two winners at The Sunday Times Motor Awards: his Supercar of the Year (more on that later) and his People’s Car of the Year. You would, perhaps, expect the better of the two recipients to be the the former. Not in this case. For Clarkson, the Mini John Cooper Works GP is “much, much more fun than a car 10 times the price”.
That’ll be down to the fact that there’s about 300bhp channelled towards the front wheels of the GP, by an engine broadly the same as that in the BMW M135i. That, says Clarkson, is roughly analogous to shoving the “blood-red heart of a mutant wolf into the body of a mouse”. As you may imagine, fun ensues.
Read an overview of Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the Mini John Cooper Works GP here, or the review in full on thetimes.co.uk.
3. Bentley Flying Spur
Star rating: 4/5
Jeremy Clarkson has handed out a few four star reviews this year. On paper, the Bentley Flying Spur didn’t do any better in his estimations than five or six other cars. However, it does end up a cut above the rest, because Jeremy Clarkson purchased one.
Clarkson loved that the Flying Spur, which is replacing the Mulsanne as Bentley’s flagship limo and is therefore decked out with the best of the best Bentley can muster, can shift at a pace that defies its 2.4-ton heft. Thanks to the its W12 engine, it goes from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds. A V8-powered version, which is £20,000 cheaper, is only 0.2 seconds less eager to 62mph. Safe to say, the Bentley Flying Spur packs as much punch as it does poshness.
Clarkson said: “You put your foot down and, when you glance in the rear view mirror and see all that trinketry, you can’t help thinking: ‘How is this even possible?’”
Read an overview of Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the Bentley Flying Spur here, or read the full review on the thetimes.co.uk.
4. Eagle Lightweight GT
Star rating: 4/5
Like the Flying Spur, the Eagle Lightweight GT received four stars, but also like the Flying Spur it has an advantage over other cars with the same star rating. No, Clarkson hasn’t bought one of these (that we know of). Instead, he gave it an award.
Specifically, the Lightweight GT was named Clarkson’s “Supercar of the Year” at the Sunday Times Motoring Awards 2020.
You may remember Eagle from a memorable segment on Clarkson-era Top Gear, when he called its Speedster the “most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”. The Essex-based car maker for the most part restores classic Jaguar E-Types but every now and again it comes out with a new E-Type-based model of its own, of which the Lightweight GT is the newest.
Clarkson’s approval of the car may have been slightly by the fact that he had just driven a Porsche Taycan Turbo, which is at the opposite end of the sports car spectrum, being electric (and therefore heavy) and ultra high tech. Also, it’s no secret that Clarkson isn’t a fan of electric cars.
“You can drone on as much as you like about how your [car] does a million miles between charges and how nothing but baby hedgehogs come out of its rear end,” he wrote, “but when you put your foot down in a carb-fed straight-six, and that long bonnet rears up slightly, you know what’s missing from your motorised vacuum cleaner.”
Read an overview of Jeremy Clarkson’s review of the Eagle Lightweight GT here, or read the full review on the thetimes.co.uk.
5. Ford Puma
Star rating: 4/5
At the more reasonably-priced end of the four star reviews is the Ford Puma, which Clarkson didn’t especially like the look of, but loved the practicality — especially the washable well in the boot. “It’s almost as though this car was designed by an actual person who leads an actual life,” he wrote. And the engineers actually like driving, too, “because, unlike almost every other small SUV, this one is a laugh when you’re in a hurry.”
The conclusion: “It could have been just another fridge-freezer in a long line-up of other white goods, but it’s not.”
Clarkson’s best of the rest cars 2020
Other cars that Clarkson has given four star reviews to this year include the McLaren GT, which he said could be “just what you’re after,” if you’re into the now-mostly-defunct upper-class pastime of driving to the French Riviera rather than simply flying.
He also said that he almost thought that the Mercedes-AMG GLE was competing in his estimations with the Range Rover — the car with which he compares every luxury SUV — due to its comfort, smoothness and the fact that, at £81,000 for the version he drove, its cheaper than many Range Rovers. It only fell back below the Range Rover when he realised that the stiffness that made it great on-road proved to make it rather uncomfortable off-road.
The Land Rover Defender had almost the opposite issues. It’s not incapable off road – it’s quite the opposite, in fact, and good on road, too — but Clarkson took issue with the £62,000 price tag of his model, and “can’t see the point of it”.
He also liked the Renault Clio — especially in its most reasonably priced guise, rounding off Jeremy Clarkson’s best-reviewed cars of 2020.
If you enjoyed this list of Jeremy Clarkson’s five best cars of 2020, don’t miss Clarkson’s five worst cars of 2020.