Morgan Aero 8 America

The most visually distinctive car here, the Morgan Aero 8 may look old-fashioned but it's a precise and powerful sports car with an engine note to die for

Britain doesn’t have any volume motor makers of its own, but we have a thriving sports car industry. Three of our 20 finalists are home-grown machines.

But neither the Caterham nor the Lotus is anything like as charming as the Morgan Aero 8. Revised last year, it’s lost the unfortunate cross-eyed appearance, and the charismatic flowing lines are an evolution of the marque’s traditional look. Lined up against the other models here, it had by far the most distinctive profile.

But don’t be fooled by the retro style. This is a modern sports car with a bonded aluminium chassis. Ash still features in parts of the frame, including the doors and sills, and with good reason – the wood is flexible and highly shock-absorbent.

It also helps the car weigh in at only 1,350kg – that’s 100kg less than Porsche’s stripped-out 911 GT3 RS. As a result, the 4.4-litre BMW V8 has immense low-down urge – but the noise it makes is even more impressive. Push the start button and it roars, helped by the £1,175 optional side-exit exhausts. Nothing we tested, not even the Audi R8 or Lamborghini Gallardo, sounded better. Download the ringtone (below) to see what we mean…

Tractable from tickover, the big V8 means the Morgan was by no means intimidating to drive, despite the sensitive clutch and a seating position that placed the steering wheel a few inches from your chest.

So its image is a bit old-fashioned and the car is ergonomically flawed, but there’s nothing dated about the handling. Grippy, precise and beautifully balanced, it remained friendly even at the limit, and was very controllable. Due to a brake fault, we couldn’t time a lap, but a top-five finish was on the cards.

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