JOHANNESBURG - It's the end of another decade, and it has certainly been an eventful one. The motor industry has embarked on a rapid shift in an attempt to meet society's growing expectations for less polluting modes of transport, and it's looking quite likely that the next decade will see as much change as we've seen in the last 100 years.
But despite the ground shifting beneath the auto industry, the car companies haven't forgotten how to produce cars that instantly bring a smile to the face of those driving them, and it's those cars that we're celebrating on this page.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the cars we find most memorable from the last decade - 2010 to 2020.
In today’s world of shared engines across multiple brands, scalable platforms and widespread parts commonality, the Lexus LFA stands proud as a truly bespoke supercar created for its own sake rather than because some bean counter was convinced that the sums would add up.
Rather than just tinker with its own V8 engine, Lexus teamed up with Yamaha to develop a 4.8-litre normally aspirated V10 engine that would be completely unique to this car. Not only that, but the rear-mounted motor would be a screamer of note, with a red-line of 9000rpm and outputs of 412kW and 480Nm. That, and the car’s lightweight carbon-fibre reinforced plastic structure allowed it to accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 3.7 seconds at sea level.
But this car is as much about the overall experience as it is about the outright performance, and Lexus even went as far as specially appointing an acoustic design team called “octave harmony” to perfect the car’s F1-like soundtrack.
Just 500 Lexus LFA supercars were ever made, all hand-assembled, and only three of them made it to South Africa, each with a price tag of around R5 million back in 2011.
BMW M2 Competition
Cars like the M2 Competition are becoming a rare commodity in this day of age, and now almost unheard of among the mainstream car manufacturers.
In a motoring world that’s all about more power with less feel, the M2 Comp stands out as a compact, rear-wheel-drive thrill machine that requires a skilled driver who understands the art of oversteer. It’s even available with a manual gearbox, which is becoming a rare option in the sports car world, although BMW also sells an M-DCT auto version for those who have come to appreciate a good dual-clutch set-up.
Its 302kW turbocharged straight six engine is a detuned version of the 317kW motor that you'll find under the bonnet of its larger M4 sibling. Activate launch control and the M2 Competition will launch from 0-100km/h in just 4.2 seconds, when fitted with the automated ‘box, and 4.4 seconds in manual form if you’re good at snap-changing.
But much of the thrills are to be had in hard cornering, meaning this is a car that you simply must take to the track if you’re lucky enough to own one.
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
We were a little torn between this and the more powerful turbocharged GT2 RS, but in the end the old-school charms of the normally aspirated GT3 tugged our heartstrings with little more vigour.
Revs, revs, glorious revs; the GT3 RS is one of the most satisfying road cars to drive in anger, said Pritesh Ruthun of our sister title Drive360 after driving it on some of the Western Cape’s best roads.
“Stretching through the gears from a standstill means you can touch 9000rpm on the rev counter before grabbing another gear for the drama to begin again. It’s PDK too (with seven forward ratios), which means you don’t have to negotiate with a third pedal when pressing on.
“Floor it, pull the right flappy paddle, and let the symphony unfold as you turn 95 unleaded into Pantera’s greatest hits.”
The GT3 RS’s manic 4-litre naturally-aspirated flat-six engine thumps out 383kW at 8250rpm and 470Nm at 6000rpm, and Porsche claims a 0-100km/h sprint of 3.2 seconds, a 0-160km/h sprint of 6.9 seconds and a maximum velocity of 312km/h.
The Swedish hypercar specialist claims that the One:1 was the world’s first ‘megacar’ when it was unleashed back in 2014, because it had precisely one horsepower for every kilogram that it weighed. To put that into perspective, that’s a total of 1341 horsepower (or 1000kW in metric speak) tasked with pulling 1341kg.
Although its even more powerful (as in 1014kW) Agera RS sibling became the world’s fastest production car when it hit 447km/h back in 2017, the One:1 stands out for its exclusivity (only seven were ever made) and it was the first car to break through the magical 1000kW barrier.
But hard as it is to believe when we’re discussing a 440km/h car, Koenigsegg claimed that top speed was not a priority when developing the One:1 - rather the focus was on making it a track-focused car.
But it certainly seems to have that aspect taped - on road legal production tyres, the One:1 has 2G of cornering capability and 610kg of downforce at 260km/h thanks to advanced active under- and over-body aerodynamic systems.
Tesla Model S
Most of the cars that we’ve featured in this list so far have been traditional performance cars of the kind we’re going to miss one day when everyone is floating around in soulless, driverless, shared pod cars. It’s why we sometimes cringe when manufacturers use words like ‘mobility’.
But we can’t deny that the world is changing rapidly, and there’s been a shift towards electric cars that’s possibly going to explode in the coming decade. Which is why we can’t ignore the Tesla Model S as being the first vehicle that taught us that electric vehicles can be cool, desirable and insanely fast too.
With their instantaneous torque delivery, electric cars are exceptionally quick off the mark, but in P100D form, the Tesla Model S is particularly impressive, running from zero to 100km/h in just 2.7 seconds. The range is not bad either, with Tesla claiming it’ll cover 550km between charges.
It might not be available in South Africa at this stage, but the Tesla Model S, along with its more affordable Model 3 sibling, is certainly on the wishlist of many an electric car fan.
Despite the market having moved towards softer and more car-like SUVs, Suzuki stuck to its guns with the new-generation Jimny and while it has been totally reloaded in a funky new package, it’s still just the right blend of old-school and contemporary.
Its boxy and retro design pays direct homage to the original LJ and SJ series 4x4s from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and it certainly appears to be a hit judging by the amount of attention it garners out on the street.
On the downside, the new Jimny is not as practical as other modern crossovers that you might find at its price level, which is between R279 900 and R336 900 depending on the amount of spec you can live with (or without) so for the sake of getting your money’s worth, hitting some hardcore off-road trails is a compulsory requirement if you buy this vehicle!