The simple things

Hybrid? Self-driving? Nah. While the rest of the world powers ahead at full steam, Jake Groves and these four revel in ravishing, rear-drive, petrol-guzzling retro

NISSAN 370Z

A face only a mother could love?
Hardly; it’s growing old gracefully. The Z’s a modern performance car icon complete with wide, low stance and half a century of heritage.

Facelift in 2017 injected yet more Botox into the near-ancient Z, with this GT model benefiting from 19-inch rims and a couple of luxuries.
Is the engine the heart and soul?
It’s why you’re here. A free-breathing 3.7-litre V6 designed to be exercised close to its redline, there’s a progressive spread of power and a bassy wail all the way to the top. Least gutsy engine here, though, so you have to really thrash it if you want to get a wriggle on.
And in bends? Ballet dancer or bricklayer?
Impressively precise steering, while the well-balanced ride is neither too crashy for UK roads nor too stodgy for a B-road blast. Meaty manual shift, heavy but satisfying clutch action, ultra-keen throttle response.

BMW M240i

A face only a mother could love?
Only hardcore BMW fans will recognise that this 2-series means business. Twin exhausts, chunky wheels and blue M brakes are the key diferentiators over a well-specced M Sport 220d. Want more drama? You’ll need a £50k M2 Competition.
Is the engine the heart and soul?
There’s more to the 240i than performance, but the engine is a gem: a straight-six staple boosted by two turbos and shoehorned into the dinky 2-series frame. Loads of torque from hardly any revs and progressive punch as you wind her up. Power drops of near the redline but you’ll enjoy the racket as it does so.
And in bends? Ballet dancer or bricklayer?
Lightning gearshifts, the steering is almost as sharp as the Nissan’s but nicely weightier in feel, and the limits are high enough for ham-fisted plebs (like me) to not immediately chuck it in a ditch. Feels tiny on the road, which is nice.

JAGUAR F-TYPE

A face only a mother could love?
No sir. Callum’s modern classic still stirs the soul, the loins and the web browser for finance ofers. Four-pot P300 models have one central exhaust and generally smaller wheels but this is still a car to file under ‘drop-dead gorgeous’.
Is the engine the heart and soul?
It’s a curveball, for sure. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder is the smallest engine here and the least powerful, but it fights back with more torque than the Nissan and feels just as quick. Noise takes some getting used to but the meaty, aggressive bark when you’re trying isn’t without appeal.
And in bends? Ballet dancer or bricklayer?
She’s a good ’un, the Jag excelling on point-to-point sprints through the countryside. Less weight on the nose compared to V6 and V8 makes for a keen turn-in but steering is more GT than sports car; aggressive selfcentring can make the rack feel overly-assisted.

CHEVROLET CAMARO

A face only a mother could love?
Road presence trumps almost everything you’ll ever meet, even in this sober colour. Ultrarare status only adds to the stop-and-look behaviour of pedestrians. Don’t buy one if you’re not a fan of excessive attention.
Is the engine the heart and soul?
Vast unblown 6.2-litre V8 is proof that the US still likes to throw displacement at the problem. It’s a corker. Power drops of at the top end so revel in the lazy torque, in any gear, and take full advantage of an exhaust capable of waking the dead.
And in bends? Ballet dancer or bricklayer?
Feels wider than Verstappen’s Red Bull on UK roads but combination of well-judged steering, unobtrusive torque converter auto and stonking performance makes for fast, easy progress. Agile and grippy, which encourages you to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.


NISSAN 370Z

Like a Cold War fighter jet inside?
2005 called; it wants its everything back. Funky details like angled gauges do little to ofset harsh plastics, incomprehensible infotainment and no DAB radio. But there are at least sockets for your Sega Mega Drive.
Performance tech to impress superficial friends?
No performance modes to firm/sharpen anything up other than an ‘S mode’ button to activate rev-matching. You don’t buy a Z to spend half an hour setting it up.
Weekend plaything or weekday workhorse?
Strictly a two-seater but there’s a usable space behind the front pews and the boot is spacious enough for actual things. But the rear tyres roar like a wounded lion whether you’re at 20mph or 120mph, the vertical door handles are awkward, visibility is poor and there’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, so good luck.
VERDICT
A hoot behind the wheel, which counts for a lot. Enough to forgive the foibles? No.

Old school rear drive Quick Group Test 1

 

BMW M240i

Like a Cold War fighter jet inside?
Familiar interior is dating fast now. iDrive a doddle to use, extra-thick steering wheel feels reassuringly purposeful and seats most supportive here by some margin. Handsome dash just needs de-contenting.
Performance tech to impress superficial friends?
Optional adaptive dampers come to life when prodded into Sport mode, which keeps the BMW flat during hard cornering. Sport+ has a half-of traction control mode for giggles without the big accident.
Weekend plaything or weekday workhorse?
Civilised and refined, and therefore the best of this bunch to live with day to day. You can just about get adults in the back and the boot is a decent size, but you have to pay extra for a ski hatch or rear folding seats. Great visibility all round, but the mighty engine does like a drink.
VERDICT
A slick and fun powerhouse you can use every day. Why aren’t we all driving one?

JAGUAR F-TYPE

Like a Cold War fighter jet inside?
Claustrophobic but well-designed cockpit. InControl infotainment behind the curve but all the important stuf’s right, while the rising dash-top air vents add a welcome sense of theatre.
Performance tech to impress superficial friends?
There are Dynamic and Wet/Snow drive modes for the traction system and gearbox but suspension is passive. Torque vectoring via an open diferential helps put the power down, wet or dry.
Weekend plaything or weekday workhorse?
Two seats only and cockpit not exactly brimming with plentiful storage options. Unlike the drop-top, the coupe’s boot is at least capable of carrying items bigger than a ham sandwich but bulky suitcases will be a struggle. Since you sit so far back, be sure to option the front parking sensors.
VERDICT
Best-selling F-Type derivative also has the sweetest chassis, but £51k buys a nice two-seat German coupe…

CHEVROLET CAMARO

Like a Cold War fighter jet inside?
There’s some generic GM bits but the Camarao embarrasses rivals with quantity of equipment and its simple but handsome and efective layout. Infotainment works well, with a super-glossy screen. Nav can get lost.
Performance tech to impress superficial friends?
Magnetic ride system works with four drive modes: Tour, Sport, Track and Wet/Ice. (Ice? Are you nuts?) Active exhaust means you can pick and choose your moments. V8 has cylinder deactivation and a heinous thirst regardless.
Weekend plaything or weekday workhorse?
Vast blind spots and left-hand drive can make merging interesting but the engine’s bombproof and UK dealers Ian Allan Motors ofer a three-year warranty. Rear seats fold flat but boot aperture is weirdly shaped, excluding boxy items – Camaro guys don’t buy white goods.
VERDICT
Diferent, bombastic and genuinely tempting for the money. But consider also: Mustang.

NISSAN 370Z GT

> Price £34,285 (£34,860 as tested) > Engine 3696cc 24v V6, 324bhp @ 7000rpm, 268lb ft @ 2000rpm > Transmission 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive > Performance 5.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 26.6mpg, 248g/km CO2 > Weight 1496kg > Example insurance quote* £948.67 > On sale November 2018 > Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

BMW M240i

> Price £37,375 (£45,215 as tested) > Engine 2998cc 24v turbo 6-cyl, 335bhp @ 5500rpm, 369lb ft @ 1520rpm > Transmission 8-speed auto, rwd > Performance 4.8sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 38.7mpg, 167g/km CO2 > Weight 1560kg > Example insurance quote* £796.63 > On sale November 2018 > Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

JAGUAR F-TYPE P300

> Price £51,210 (£57,735 as tested) > Engine 1997cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 296bhp @ 5500rpm, 295lb ft @ 1500rpm > Transmission 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive > Performance 5.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 35.8mpg, 179g/km CO2 > Weight 1525kg > Example insurance quote* £1094.17 > On sale November 2018 > Rating ★ ★ ★ ★

CHEVROLET CAMARO

> Price £39,170 (£45,120 as tested) > Engine 6162cc 16v V8, 446bhp @ 5700rpm, 455lb ft @ 4600rpm > Transmission 8-spd auto, rear-wheel drive > Performance 4.4sec 0-62mph, 180mph, 25.4mpg, 252g/km CO2 > Weight 1659kg > Example insurance quote* £723.94 > On sale November 2018 > Rating ★ ★ ★ ★

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