Road Test of the Year 2016: Verdict

And so to the verdicts. Beers sunk, plates of Italian food piled high and our mobile phones stacked in the middle of the restaurant table so there's no distractions from the argument that's sure to follow.

You see RTOTY rarely throws up one clear winner. So many great cars hit showrooms every year that there's never really one that stands head and shoulders above the rest – especially when you bring maths into the equation.
We like to do things properly. And that means voting, that means categories and it means leaving the results in the hands of a sum. A sum of all the parts of a table that's created from nine categories, with 10 points to be had in each and a total of 540 available per car after our six testers have cast their votes.

The nine categories are fun, desirability, styling, performance, handling, comfort, practicality, value for money and technology.

Before I begin, let's remember it's not an easy job for these cars to get here in the first place.

In fact, a slot at RTOTY is already a badge of honour. But one has to sit at the bottom of the table and this year that's the VW Golf Clubsport. Alongside this company, the humble hatchback – even in this sportier guise – was always going to struggle. In the scoring, its performance – it was the lowest-powered here – and its run-of-the-mill looks saw it lose the most points.

RTOTY 2016 Verdict
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RTOTY 2016 Verdict

Second from bottom, by just a point, is the Jaguar F-Pace. There's no doubt it's the car that Jaguar so desperately needed – and one that's very well executed – it just lacks the thrills to excite.

It top-scored in the practicality stakes though which makes a whole lot of sense when you consider its SUV credentials.

The Rolls-Royce Dawn comes in seventh. It's an utterly wonderful machine, smooth, refined like nothing else on the road and supremely comfortable. In fact it top-scored in this test in the latter. However, it's hard to see past that whopping price tag.

In sixth is the Mercedes C63S. It's a raucous, tyre-shredding saloon that's got the trousers to match the mouth, but more focused performance machines here saw it miss out.

Performance machines like our fifth-placed Porsche 718 Boxster. There are two testers on our team who declared it their winner – one describing it as a masterpiece.

I'd argue the brakes let it down and it's hard to love that all new four-pot thrum when you've got used to six glorious cylinders.

In fourth, just two points from the podium and just three off second place, is the utterly mind-bending McLaren 570S. Baby of the range it may be, but it has simply staggering performance that warps space and shatters your perception of speed. It topped the scores in both the styling and handling categories and rightly so.

In bronze position, though, is the BMW M2. Solid scores across the board from our testers, especially in the handling and fun segments, saw it climb to the top.

There's no doubt it's a great BMW and with typical M car looks will be a brilliant seller.

In second place, though, is a car of the moment – the Ford Focus RS. I was convinced it would win – in fact it did when I crunched my own personal ratings. I loved the handling, the excitement and the astonishing performance from a bargain basement priced hot hatch. It's a corker, this Focus, and it comes as no surprise there's a healthy waiting list for them.

But our winner for 2016 is the Audi R8. It was never going to be easy replacing what soon became an iconic car for the brand, but this second coming is easily as good as the first.

Yes, we miss the V8 option, and yes, we miss the manual, but the stonking performance from this V10 Plus, the incredible sound and the ridiculously quick DSG gear shifts more than make up for the loss. Throw in some brilliant new technology, like the digital dashboard, and a drive that will make you smile from ear to ear every time, and we have our worthy winner.

It was head and shoulders above the rest in the scoring and rightly claims the Road Test of the Year 2016 title. Bravo Audi, bravo.

Audi R8 V10 Plus: 399
Ford Focus RS: 383
BMW M2: 382
McLaren 570S: 380
Porsche 718 Boxster: 376
Mercedes-AMG C63S: 365
Rolls-Royce Dawn: 345
Jaguar F-Pace R Sport: 339
VW Golf GTI Clubsport 40: 338
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