By Zaid Hamid

Change is all good and well. Cars are safer to crash, less harmful to fluffy polar bears and more accessible to the masses than ever before. There is no denying that for the good of the world and the universe, things are better than ever before. On the flip side of the coin, cars are more boring, choked and numb than ever.

That brings us onto AC/DC. Electricity is something that is here to stay and that is not the best news for us enthusiasts. This is arguably the biggest single change in the history of the automobile that we have seen since the first car was built by one Karl Benz in Mannheim in 1885 – it had a combustion engine. Having a fire burning fossil fuels that create a bang is no small feat and immediately translates to tangible feel and life in a car.

Many cars from as recently as the late noughties didn’t feature a rev counter, but you instinctively know when you have to change gear as there is a raw connection between the buzzing vibrations and the sound coming from under the bonnet. You can feel the strain on the engine, you can hear it and that adds to the connection you have with a car. If you don't, go grab a pair of noise cancelling headphones and drive with them on. It’s a bit weird. It’s the same with electric cars, just worse. Keep your headphones on and then don a pair of wellies because there is not an ounce of pedal feel. The brake pedal will feel bizarre with the forces of regen at work, and the brakes overheat under the pressure of having to slow down the gargantuan weight going down hill. Oven gloves will complete the look and help to emulate the absence of even the vaguest hint of steering feel. There is no sensation, manufacturers promise that these are teething problems, teething problems they have 3 hours to tell you about as you wait for the few hundred batteries to charge, lithium batteries that are difficult to build and ones that nobody knows how to dispose of as they ooze a liquid that Mr Fluffy Polar Bear certainly wouldn’t want in his G&T.

Porsche Cayman GT4 RS

Enough of the bad, what inspired us to say that we are in the golden era of automobiles? Well, the cars that we’ve been seeing role off the production line in the last year or two, cars that make your hairs stand on end and make you sit up and pay attention. On the small boxy Japanese end of the spectrum is the GR Yaris from Toyota, a car that is based on something you would expect to see holding up traffic being driven by an OAP, or festooned with magnetic L plates. Not the GR though, oh no, those are more commonly seen either pulling ABSO warranting handbrake turns, or taking corners so hard and fast that you would be forgiven for thinking you were sat on the side of a rally stage… as if they were the rally car for which they were homologated for. On the more punchy and German end of the spectrum is the Porsche Cayman GT4 RS. Oh boy, the GT4 RS is one of the most exciting cars we’ve ever had the pleasure of piloting. The noise in the cabin is like nothing we’ve never experienced before. From 4,000 there is a gruff tone that begins to transform into that howl that we know and love from this engine, but with a sharper, serrated edge. Get to 8,750 and hang onto 9,000, if you dare. At this point the cabin is filled with a noise that must be felt and heard to be understood. That’s when your foot is flat, but the engine is interesting, intriguing and intense at any revs, something that cannot be said for the standard GT4/GTS six-cylinders. The way the intakes react to even the slightest change in input is marvellous. At full put there is a full on gasping for air as the engine fills its lung, but those six throttle bodies open from no throttle as gradually as you depress your right foot. There is a sucking and whooshing that is fascinating. You do play it like an instrument.

It is elements such as the hooliganism of the GR and the ability to make music in the GT4 RS that lead us to think that we are experiencing joys in machinery that simply cannot continue into the future where the days of the combustion engine are numbered. It is no surprise that GMA are the T.50 and Aston Martin the Valkyrie now, surely they would not be able to in future, particularly when considering the international and governmental legislations that hang over the combustion engine.


Moving back across to somewhere in the middle of the spectrum came a drive in Spain with the BMW M2 Competition. The M2 is fairly old school in its approach, a chassis focused, rear-wheel-drive car that was pencilled to be exciting: the M2 is the entry point to the BMW M family so it’s not necessarily about speed. We drove both the manual and DCT and both were an absolute joy. Why? There’s enough power and torque to break traction and a chassis set up on a short-wheel-base car that is out to have a good time. It wants you to play and it won’t chop the ends of your fingers off if you take it a bit far. It’s the optimal balance between power, speed and handling. It obliterates its RS3/A45 rivals, not on paper, but in the real world where it matters.

BMW E46 M3 - Cayman GT4 - 911 GT3

Think about the foundations of the driver's car: rear-wheel-drive, lightness, an engaging gearbox, strong engine and tangible connection between car and driver. Put all of those juicy ingredients into a blender and chances are you’ll have a Porsche GT3 smoothie, that’s my chosen drink anyway. A Cayman GT4 or similar would also suffice, cars that all feel different and invite drivers and passengers to sample different flavours, not only when flooring it, but when you’re doing the most mundane of school runs or shopping trips. You’ll struggle to say that EVs today feel, sound or even look radically different for one another.

Autonomous driving is flavour of the month, in our minds that’s just as exciting as sitting in a taxi. Yes, it may be great for a daily, traffic plagued commute, but we would rather have our lattes with a shot of tomato ketchup than have a Tesla drive us to the opera.

Exciting cars with personalities are not going to be around for much longer. The trio we’ve just mentioned have already been contaminated by regulations and have been made quieter, cleaner and extremely efficient, but still manage, through passion and engineering magic, to be engaging and ask you to be a better driver and reward you when you are. Hybridisation, automation, EVs and stricter controls will surely result in the death of such exciting and involving machines. As enthusiasts, we crave and need the thrill and intoxication of the magnetic pull the keys to a fun car have. We fear that EVs and cars choked by political decisions will mean that the want to get up, pick up a person you want to share special moments with and drive just, will be abolished. In a decade we’ll look back at the cars we’ve spoken about in this story, shaking our heads whilst turning to one another uttering ‘those were the good old days’ waiting for our EVs to juice up. We have our fingers crossed that we’ve got this all wrong, lost the plot and that the future will prove us wrong. Until then we’ll chase Sunday sunrise drives with a smug smile on our faces knowing that we are enjoying what may be the golden age of the drivers’ car. That’s what we, here at Shooting Brake, are trying to preserve: the ability to buy and sell cars that are more than methods of transport, but cars that stir the soul and are enjoyed and used to not just cover miles, but also to make memories.