Modern machines that could be the classics of tomorrow
If only you’d bought that E-type. Or that Porsche 924. Or that Ford Escort RS Cosworth. Or, you know, pretty much any classic car in its heyday, before it became famous and too expensive.
Alas, there will always be the ones that got away, but rather than reflect solemnly on the impossibility of time travel, why not do a bit of future-gazing, instead?
Buy yourself one of these 14 modern-day marvels and as well as having a great car to drive, you’ll be able to smile smugly when everyone else gets wise to its appeal in a few years.
After all, every classic car was new once.
1. Subaru BRZ
Back in 2012, Japanese legends Subaru and Toyota came together to create two of the most exciting drivers’ cars of recent times: the BRZ and GT86.
The recipe was simple: combine a light, agile chassis with rear-wheel drive, a limited-slip diff and an engine just powerful enough to be fun, while keeping the end product affordable.
Identical besides a few subtle styling cues, the machines were hailed as two of the best-handling cars of the decade.
Subaru BRZ (cont.)
Choosing between them is the hardest part, but we’d tip the rarer BRZ for future classic stardom. Power output is ‘only’ 197bhp, but the spec sheet tells just half the tale: fantastic balance, excellent weight distribution and a relatively low kerbweight mean the BRZ is more engaging and rewarding to drive hard than quicker – and more costly – opposition.
Second-hand examples are around, usually cherished by enthusiasts. Want to buy new? We’d suggest the WR Blue Pearl finish, inspired by the shade that adorned those iconic World Rally Championship Imprezas of the ’90s.
2. Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo
What’s in a name? If the name is Giulia and it’s attached to an Alfa Romeo, quite a lot.
The Italian marque has been trading on past glories and an evocative badge for far too long, but at last we have a new one fit for the moniker: the Giulia Quadrifoglio 2.9 V6Bi-Turbo.
Remember those great rear-drive Alfas? This one is better. It’s predictable, poised, and incredibly wieldy for a near-1600kg four-door, with wonderfully responsive steering and monstrous grip from the tyres.
Oh, and its Ferrari-derived power unit fires a faintly ridiculous 503bhp through the rear wheels.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo (cont.)
Slip into the BTCC-ready driving position, turn the dial to ‘Race’ and the inner devil is released, overscored by an angry cackle from the exhausts, spitting in disgust if you short-shift and urging you to the redline despite the whopping low-down torque.
The pace is outrageous, smashing 60mph in less than 4 secs and tramping into three figures in a heartbeat.
After the disappointing Giulietta revival, the Giulia more than lives up to its name: gorgeous, intensely brilliant to drive and dripping with desirability, it’s the best Alfa for a generation.
3. Volkswagen up! GTI
Hot hatches have grown a lot since their ’70s inception, getting bigger, more powerful and more complex.
Volkswagen’s plucky up! bucks that trend: low on power and weight, this tiddler lives up to the weighty expectations of the fabled GTI badge, harking back to the pioneering machines that defined the breed.
Based on the diminutive up! – an affordable city car with a tiny footprint – the GTI takes things, er, up a notch, with lower ride height, 17in wheels, a slick six-speed manual and a turbocharged motor producing 114bhp.
Volkswagen up! GTI (cont.)
On the road, its performance belies those pint-sized power figures, thanks to a low kerbweight, punchy torque, communicative steering and lively handling – all of which make blasting out of roundabouts more fun than chasing the redline.
At around £1000 more than the top-spec standard up! it makes a compelling proposition as a second car, and with Lupo GTIs holding their value, the signs are good that the up! GTI has the makings of a true classic. In the meantime, the weekly shop will rarely be more fun.
4. Dallara Stradale
Price: £130,037 (plus taxes)
Giampaolo Dallara’s firm has built thousands of racing chassis and worked on everything from the KTM X-Bow to the Bugatti Chiron, but the Italian outfit only got round to building its own road car in 2017.
And, as you’d expect from the world’s foremost maker of motorsport machinery, it’s quite a thing: designed for the track but legal on the road, it’s sold as a modular package powered by a retuned, 395bhp version of the 2.3-litre turbo from the Ford Focus RS.
Dallara Stradale (cont.)
A doorless, carbonfibre lightweight (think 810kg) that takes more than a few cues from Lotus, it pairs swelling turbocharged power with sharp throttle response, brilliant unassisted steering and a rorty soundtrack.
It’s really rather capable and, in full racing trim, proves little short of hardcore.
It’s not perfect – the engine doesn’t feel special for the price and luggage space is non-existent – but, with no more than 600 to be built, exclusivity is guaranteed, especially given that the Stradale will likely be the only road car ever to carry the Dallara name.
5. Ford Fiesta ST
A hot hatch should, by definition, be small, powerful enough to get into mischief and happy to rev. And of course it should also handle like a go-kart – which pretty much precludes all modern, hefty hatches.
Whether the Fiesta ST qualifies is up for debate, but whatever league it’s in, it’s the best: edgy, luxurious and easy around town, some 200bhp has been wrung from the turbocharged 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine, along with bags of torque. It can be both hooligan and economical cruiser.
Ford Fiesta ST (cont.)
Less aggressive in its looks than previous models, in town traffic only those ST badges remind you of its preferred pursuit. When you hit country lanes, though, its responsive chassis and fantastic steering make it a slippery, jinky thing – with pops and crackles to match.
Price-wise it’s par for the course, starting at just under £20,000 for the entry ST-1 up to £23k for the all-the-trimmings ST-3. But if you’re after the best in class, entertainment on tap and future classic potential, it’s worth every penny.
6. Alpine A110
There was nothing else like the A110 in the ’60s, and there’s nothing like it today. Unlike most retro revivals, the reinvention of the Alpine is a design masterclass, seamlessly integrating the original’s iconic features in an ultra-modern shape that’s distinctive, beautiful and, above all, desirable.
Beneath that sumptuous skin, the A110 is a technological tour de force, featuring a mid-mounted, 1.8-litre turbo motor.
It’s light, too, hitting the scales at a featherweight 1103kg, thanks to extensive use of aluminium, hollow anti-roll bars and weight-saving elsewhere.
Alpine A110 (cont.)
As a result, every one of its 248 horses is felt when you plant the throttle – but it’s when you go cross-country that it truly excels, serving up superb grip and cornering ability, without any of the firmness found on heavier rivals.
Renault, then, has played a blinder. For a car to come from nothing and be breathtaking to look at, brilliant to drive and utterly unique is rare indeed, and makes the A110 an instant classic.
Add in superb build quality, exclusivity and Gallic flair, and you have the makings of a legend. Again.
7. Jaguar F-type SVR
Is the F-type the modern-day E-type? The ingredients are certainly there: besides several styling nods to the ’60s icon, it delivers the performance of more exotic rivals at a realistic price.
There’s 567bhp on offer from the SVR’s supercharged 5-litre V8, which translates to slingshot pace in any gear: 0-60 is a 3.5-second affair and 200mph is reachable.
Thought the standard F-type was noisy, hard and rapid? The SVR is noisier, harder and a whole lot more bonkers – and that supercharged whine is addictive.
Jaguar F-type SVR (cont.)
Traction is outrageous in four-wheel drive form, gripping and going whenever you put the power down. It’s composed, controlled and immensely supple, while the beautifully weighted steering serves up more feedback than most modern systems, with delicious accuracy.
The way that it nips at the heels of impractical mid-engined supercars, yet doubles as a continent-crossing GT, capable of ferrying occupants unruffled and relaxed, brings to mind another legendary two-seater.
No, not that one: a Ferrari ‘Daytona’. High praise indeed and surely good news for the investment-minded.
8. Kia Stinger GT S
No, the world hasn’t gone mad: that really is a Kia. The flagship GT S version of the new Stinger, to be precise, of which the Korean firm expects to sell just a few hundred.
A statement car in every respect, it’s the first model Kia has created purely for people who love driving. Just look at the spec: a twin-turbo 3.3-litre V6 up front, powering the rear wheels, with the option to disable the electronic aids completely.
Kia even poached former BMW M man Albert Biermann to hone the Stinger’s chassis at the Nordschleife.
Kia Stinger GT S (cont.)
So is it a cut-price M5? No, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a fast, well-equipped coupé that lives as a comfortable mile-eater, but which becomes a tyre-smoking muscle car with the turn of a dial.
It’s not without its flaws – transmission, cut-price cabin elements – and we’re not suggesting it’s the next BMW 3.0 CSL.
Rather, it’s a modern-day Ford Capri: a stealthily capable, boldly styled and seriously quick interpretation of the GT concept. It’s undoubtedly going to win a loyal band of supporters, especially when it becomes a second-hand performance bargain.
9. Mercedes-AMG G63
Softer-edged, bigger and built around an all-new chassis and drivetrain, the new G-Class is certainly, well, new.
But don’t worry: it also retains the soul of the iconic 1979 original. The doors need a slam, the central locking thunks like a rifle bolt and you look through an upright windscreen.
It’s on the road where things have changed most. At the G-Wagen’s core is a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 making 577bhp – enough to shift this 2.5-tonne behemoth to 60mph in 4.5 secs.
Its noise, like most things about the car, is ludicrous yet wonderful.
Mercedes-AMG G63 (cont.)
The way it goes is laugh-out-loud entertaining: the tail squats, the nose lifts and it powers forwards. What’s remarkable, though, is how it deals with that pace.
Gone is the vintage bounce of old, replaced by a firm but supple ride and astonishing poise for its mass. Behave with some decorum and this huge machine will cover ground at an alarming rate.
It’s not very practical, and not very sensible, but since when did a classic have to be either? This update to a German legend is all about the theatre – and it puts on quite the show.
10. Ford Bullitt Mustang
Ford’s iconic pony car didn’t need an appearance in Bullitt to become a legend, but it certainly helped. Little surprise, then, that 50 years on from that seminal chase scene the Blue Oval decided to grace the latest Mustang iteration with a makeover on the theme of McQueen.
Most obvious are the visual changes, from the stunning Dark Highland Green paint job and menacing blacked-out grille, to the non-standard splitter and gloss black wheels that echo the Torq Thrusts of the original. But the tweaks are more than cosmetic.
Ford Bullitt Mustang (cont.)
Besides a raft of options, the Mustang’s 5-litre V8 has been breathed on by Ford Performance, taking power up to 453bhp. Fire up the V8, enjoy the purposeful growl, then plant the throttle to spin up the wheels.
And you can forget those stereotypes: this thing is now a well-appointed, well-rounded GT. Lazy when you need it to be, devastatingly quick when you don’t, it’s a true jack of all trades and now available in right-hand drive.
Well, it would be, if the UK’s allocation hadn’t already been accounted for…
11. Honda NSX
The original NSX was Honda’s first supercar, a pioneering machine refined by Ayrton Senna – in loafers, no less – and capable of taking on the world’s greatest performance cars.
Despite all that power, though, it was still easy enough to drive that you could use it to nip down to the shops and reliable, too.
Does the new one carry the torch lit by its cult-hero predecessor? You bet: from the dark, subdued cabin to the restrained yet special exterior styling to its sheer technological brilliance, the revived NSX stays sure and true to the original ethos.
Honda NSX (cont.)
At its heart lies a twin-turbo, 3.5-litre V6 and three electric motors – not for eco goodness, but to boost performance. The result is an all-wheel drive machine with instant power delivery and brutal acceleration. Think 0-60 in 3.3 secs and 191mph flat out.
The only problem? £142k is a lot of money, which means the NSX is rare. Which is good. There was a time when an early NSX could be bought for £15,000; if history repeats itself, we’ll be watching the classifieds very closely.
12. Suzuki Jimny
Price: £17,999 (for SZ5, as tested)
What makes a classic – and, by extension, a future classic? In some cases it’s a new performance benchmark, perhaps revolutionary packaging, or simply rarity. But the one thing all true classics have in common is character, and this beguiling little box from Japan has it by the bucketload.
Calibrate your expectations and it’s also rather capable. Off-road it feels confident and nimble thanks to a spec of which a grown-up 4×4 would be proud: ladder chassis, low-range transfer box, 210mm ground clearance, hill-descent control and coil-sprung rigid axles at either end.
Suzuki Jimny (cont.)
This newcomer also manages to combine undeniable cuteness with the rough-tough appeal of a Tonka toy – but, happily, it doesn’t ride like one. Compared to the more agricultural end of the market it feels very civilised and truly excels around town.
Sure, it’s a bit old-school, with a bruising gearchange and plenty of plastic, but what did you expect from a mini-SUV that starts at £15,499? Add in five decades of heritage and you’ve got a proper bargain with classic potential.
13. Abarth 695
The Abarth 695 Rivale is a celebration of the creative talents of two Carlos: Abarth of the cars and Riva of the yachts. Just 350 will be made – half soft-top, half hardtop – and each will come in a two-tone Riva Blue and Grey finish. And every Abarth enthusiast will know exactly what it is. And be envious.
See, this £26,000 compact hot-hatch is undoubtedly the best-sounding of its type and matches it with arrestingly old-school, careful-where-you-tread performance unlike any other.