Welcome to AOL Cars' Road Test of the Year. We've assembled our favourite cars from the last 12 months and headed to the rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons for an ultimate showdown. As you'll see from our road test of each of the contenders, coming throughout this week, the cars assembled are a disparate bunch, with the only criteria being that they're fun to drive. As such, our £650,000 motley crew consists of some of the most exciting cars currently available.
Up first is the Jaguar F-Type, a car that has the unenviable task of living up to one of Britain's icons - the E-Type. Next up, another Jaguar Land Rover stablemate, the Range Rover Sport. The SUV combines luxury, sporting ability and go-anywhere credentials like nothing else on this planet.
From Germany we have the new Audi RS6 - the fastest way to transport dogs in the world - and the BMW M6 Gran Coupe with an amazing frosted-blue paint job. But you really don't care about the paint, do you? Also from the Fatherland is the Porsche Cayman S.
From the Crewe corner comes the house-priced Bentley Continental GTC Speed. And our wild card comes from Ford. The potential giant-slaying, er, Fiesta. Yes, you read that right, Fiesta. This is the ST - a turbo-charged little firecracker that serves up driving thrills as big as anything else here. It may cost less than £20k but it holds its head high in this company.
The entire Shell garage had been brought to a standstill, locals had never seen such a collection of metal in one place at one time and it was causing quite a stir.
A man dumped his Astra van on the side of the road and wandered straight over, making a beeline for the Azure Purple Continental I was pumping hundreds of pounds-worth of unleaded petrol into.
"That's lovely, that," said the van man in a thick Welsh accent. "I bet it set you back a few quid," he added. Yes, Mr Van Driver, the car theoretically set me back quite a few quid... £188,685 to be exact.
But this is the impact a car with a Beluga hide and linen interior has. The mere whiff of those seats and the hand-stitched steering wheel has bystanders positively salivating, eyeing up the driver and questioning what you do for a living. Women get down on one knee, men want to kill you.
You may be thinking that a big, expensive Bentley looks out of place amongst the lithe sports cars and performance saloons we have here on the tight, twisting routes of Road Test of the Year, and you would be right. Despite being a Speed iteration of the iconic GT and notwithstanding the fact it sports an enormous 6-litre W12 engine that produces 616bhp, it still lacks the dynamism of say, the BMW M6 or the Audi RS6.
But nothing up here on the Beacons can match the Bentley's opulence; it simply oozes quintessential British style and charisma. One only needs to slide into the front seat to realise the number of man-hours invested in an interior like that of our car.
Performance-wise, the GT Speed unfortunately disappointed, given the company it was in. Hop out of the Porsche Cayman S and the Speed's wallowing chassis and vague steering are highlighted, then jump in the RS6 and it soon becomes apparent that spleen-bursting acceleration and pant-staining top speeds are both achievable in a machine that can transport an entire family and their accoutrements.
But as I sat atop a blustery hill looking out over the rolling countryside that south Wales has on offer, the Bentley's built-in television chattering in the background, I realised that every single person pulling into this gravelled car park was eyeing up the purple continent crosser.
There were no jaws dropping to the floor, no whoops of delight at the crackling engine, just sincere nods of approval from fellow enthusiasts who can still spot quality a mile off. And for that reason, the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible remains a very special car.
Bentley Continental GTC Speed
Price: £188,685 (as tested)
Engine: 6.0-litre, W12 twin-turbocharged petrol
Power: 616bhp, 800Nm
Max speed: 205mph
MPG (combined): 19.5