What's not to love about British cars in 2016? From the heritage and craft of Morgan's retro roadsters to the high-performance ingenuity of McLaren supercars, every automotive fancy is accounted for. Now, cue the rock music and press that pedal into the floor…
Morgan Plus 8
A Spitfire flipping a victory roll is the only sound more impressive than the latest Morgan Plus 8. This retro roadster might feature a 4.8-litre BMW engine but it's quintessentially British to the very core.
Hand-built in the same Worcestershire factory for more than 100 years, a Morgan still looks like it has been driven off the page of The Wind In The Willows – with an angry Mr Toad at the wheel.
Most buyers opt for the modest 2.0-litre 4/4 Classic model – beautifully shaped and enough fun for a weekend jaunt through the countryside. However, the raucous Plus 8 is the hairy-chested macho alternative.
Squeezing a 390bhp engine into a bodyshell this small makes it one of the lightest V8 passengers cars in the world. And while it's as fast as a Porsche 911 – 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds – the Plus 8 has none of the driver aids you will find in a modern car.
Consequently, the 8 is an absolute brute and should really come with a health warning. The back end has a mind of its own in wet weather – I was only saved from oblivion by huge brakes.
The Plus 8 is unrefined, noisy, uncomfortable and leaks even with the mohair roof up. Yet after a 1,000-mile tour of Ireland, I can't think of a more exhilarating car.
In an era of driver aids and mollycoddling safety features, the Plus 8 sticks two fingers up at the politically correct and shouts 'we're going to have some fun!' Only the £70,000 price tag is more outrageous.
Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible
The only feature missing from the £185,000 GT Speed is a butler – although an extensive list of personalised options is equally as indulgent. Heated steering wheel, quilted/air-conditioned seats, this model has everything.
The fastest Bentley on the block is also equipped with a whopping engine. The 6.0-litre W12 produces 626bhp and will propel the soft-top along at an extraordinary rate of knots without any fuss at all.
There was very little about the top-of-the-range Conti that didn't impress me, except how often I was forced to stop for fuel. It's difficult to achieve anything over 19 mpg – considerably less if you are tempted to hit 0-60 mph in 4.1 memorable seconds.
Of course, it's quite possible to steer the Speed around the countryside in 'gently Bentley' mode too, enjoying the superb suspension, armchair seats and Naim sound system.
However, if you are buying a Speed, the 'Sport' setting on the auto gearbox demands to be explored. The car instantly picks up a gear, supported by an exhaust system that produces an outrageous soundtrack.
Built in Crewe, the Speed is the perfect antidote to the Morgan Plus 8 – at a huge price. At least you can hear the sound system along the way…
Caterham Seven 620S
Caterham owners might be tempted to punch every buffoon who thinks the Seven is 'just' a kit car. True, you can buy a 'self assembly' version but most are screwed together at the factory in Dartford.
And the top-of-the-range 620S is so high performance that Caterham insists on building it in-house anyway. An expensive weekend track star costing £45,000, there's no better handling car. Period.
There are plenty of Caterham models to suit your pocket – all offering exciting levels of performance. Even the entry level 160 is a blast at £16,000, while the 620S is supposedly a milder version of the 620R race car.
The S is a supercharged 2.0-litre rocket that churns out 310bhp. Even a Golf R can almost do that, except the Caterham weighs just 610kg. The automotive equivalent of a sweet wrapper.
It makes this Seven scary fast and a real handful. I went sideways on more than one occasion and in the wet it's a slippery nightmare. When the windscreen wipers packed up it became even more of a challenge.
There are absolutely NO luxuries in the 620S. The seats are carbon fibre buckets, there's no radio and the fitting the roof in a hurry with your missus could lead to divorce proceedings.
Stripping a car down to the bare minimum has its benefits though. The S flies to 60mph in 3.4 seconds and sounds like a very angry bee whenever you tweak the accelerator.
Not for the faint-hearted, the 620 is best described as a motorbike with a roof. You have been warned…
McLaren 650S Spider
How loud do you want a supercar? The 650S isn't for shy retiring types – the exhaust pipes announce your arrival long before that spaceship-shaped body comes flying into view.
Even with the hard-top neatly stowed, or the rear-screen lowered, you just don't appreciate the roar of this British supercar until you're covering your ears.
The source of all the drama is a 650bhp, 3.8-litre V8 that nestles neatly behind the cockpit. You won't have time for a speed check because the 650 blasts to 60mph in 3 seconds and keeps on going, and going, and going.
McLaren has sorted the gremlins that niggled owners of their earlier roads car, although I still had 'issues' with a radio that refused to play. That said, I could happily live with the engine soundtrack any day.
The Spider is as beautiful as any car I've driven in the last 12 months and it is ridiculously rapid. One of those cars that can leave everything else for dead and constantly threatens points on your driving licence.
Built at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, it is difficult to think of a more rounded package for £215,000. Drive it once and you will always keep coming back for more.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe R
Despite all the hype at launch in 2013, the F-Type was never going to achieve iconic status like the original E-Type. It's still a damn fine car, though, and for once the coupe is far prettier than the convertible.
The R is near the top of the pack, with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 that will blat past a Porsche 911 S on its way to reaching 60mph in just 4.0 seconds. This year Jaguar has brought in all-wheel drive and a manual gearbox option too.
The interior ambience of the coupe is a genuine treat and you even get some decent luggage space. It's not a 2+2 but you don't want a coupe like this for practical reasons do you?
The F-Type is hard to fault if you want a high performance sports car at a reasonable price. Some find the touchscreen infotainment system niggly and the cabin cramped but the this is a coupe you will always want to drive.
The latest John Cooper Works is the fastest accelerating and most powerful Mini to date. An impressive 228bhp has been squeezed from the 2.0-litre BMW engine – thanks to a new turbocharger and other tweaks.
John Cooper was the legendary engineer responsible for the original Mini Cooper, back in the 1960s. He son has had input into the design of this latest car too, which costs £23,000 in basic form.
Add some desirable extras and you can easily push that up to £30,000. That includes must-haves like sat nav, heated seats and climate control.
The JCW isn't outrageously quick but thanks to the Mini's go-kart handling and entertaining engine, it feels considerably faster than it is. 0-60mph in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 153mph if you are brave enough.
There are spoilers and decals all over the bodywork but inside the JCW has a more upmarket feel. It's beautifully put together and feels much classier than the cheaper, but more entertaining Ford Fiesta ST.