London spoiled me. I knew the car scene was crazy—it’s hard to miss the Youtube compilations of exotic supercars showing off outside high-end hotels—but the amount of jaw-dropping machinery that I spotted on a daily basis was beyond my wildest dreams. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and McLarens constantly prowled the streets, while I walked past Aston Martins, Rolls-Royces, and Bentleys on my way to and from class each day. The London car scene was so insane that Porsches, BMW M cars, and Mercedes-AMGs began to feel commonplace.
The overabundance of flashy rides meant narrowing a dozen top picks for this list was incredibly tricky. Check out what ranked from 12th to 7th below, and check back later for the top six spots.
Unveiled back in 2013, the Aston Martin Rapide S was getting long in the tooth—the high-performance AMR version, new for 2019, aimed to give the Rapide an extra lease on life. The AMR gained aggressive carbon fiber bodywork—a front splitter, side skirts, rear diffuser, and lip spoiler—as well as a revised grille and Zagato-esque circular running lights. Machined carbon fibre badges were a unique touch, while the subtle grey paint job with lighter grey stripe on this example is a welcome change from the loud green/neon green color combo that the car debuted with. Under the skin, the V12 saw a 43 bhp bump to a total of 595 bhp, propelling the AMR to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph. A mere 210 AMRs were produced, making this muscular super sedan an even cooler find.
The Aventador has been top dog at Lamborghini since 2011, but with rumors circulating about an upcoming hybrid replacement, Lamborghini upped the ante as its naturally-aspirated V12-powered supercar nears the end of its production cycle. The track-focused SVJ arrived last year sporting aerodynamic enhancements: a carbon fiber wing and central fin, a massive diffuser, and a mustachioed look thanks to vents flanking the famous bull logo. Power increased by 20 bhp over the SV model to 759 bhp, with 40 percent more downforce than the SV courtesy of the upgraded aero. While the 0-60 mph sprint didn’t drop from the SV’s 2.8 seconds, that extra downforce allowed the SVJ to set a new Nurburgring production car lap record, beating the Porsche 911 GT2 RS by two seconds and the SV by a whopping 15 seconds. Production has been limited to just 963 units, but this purple SVJ wasn’t the only example I saw while in London—a bright red SVJ surprised me one day when I didn’t have my camera.
Japan dominated the World Rally Championship in the 1990s—all but one of the drivers’ championships were won with Japanese cars during the decade. Built on the bones of ordinary compact cars, these epic rally machines inspired road-going high performance specials, like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Finnish star Tommi Mäkinen took four straight titles at the wheel of the Lancer Evo WRC car, prompting Mitsubishi to create the special Tommi Mäkinen Edition seen above. The Evo’s turbocharged four-pot made 276 bhp and 275 lb-ft of torque, while the special edition added Enkei wheels and a unique bumper that replaced the fog lamps with bigger intakes to feed air to the engine. This made the already aggressively-styled Evo—with its doubled-vented hood, protruding wheel arches, and towering rear wing—look even meaner. All white headlamps indicate that this example is a Japanese import (British versions featured orange turn signals), making this rally special even more of a neat spot.
You’ve likely never heard of Alvis, given that the British luxury manufacturer went defunct back in 1967. I hadn’t either until I stumbled this stunning TE21 one morning—built from 1963 to 1966, the TE21 was Alvis’ second-to-last production model. The dignified bodywork, with upright double-stacked headlights and a thin chrome grille, was crafted by coachbuilder Mulliner Park Ward. The classy styling was backed by a 3.0 liter straight-six making 130 bhp, allowing the Alvis to top 100 mph. Only 352 were ever made, and the noble appearance of this 1965 TE21 made it stand out on the streets of Marylebone.
Weighing in at three tons, stretching over 15 feet long, and towering seven feet high, the Volvo TP21 is an absolute behemoth. Affectionately nicknamed the “Sugga” (sow in Swedish), the TP21 was a military vehicle based on the PV800 Series, a sedan that dominated the Swedish taxicab market in the 1940s and ’50s. With a utilitarian passenger car body sitting atop chunky tires, the TP21 looked ready for any terrain, making the SUVs of choice for the London elite—Range Rovers, Bentley Bentaygas, and Lamborghini Uruses—look positively weak. While the inline-six produced 90 bhp and 159 lb-ft of torque, measly numbers next to those of modern SUVs, the engine was reliable, perfect for a go-anywhere military vehicle. Only 720 were built, but this is definitely the only Sugga tearing up the streets of London.
When the 599 GTO debuted in 2010, it took the crown of being Ferrari’s fastest ever road car. Despite being based on the 599 GTB Fiorano, a grand tourer that favored luxurious cruising over carving up corners, the GTO managed to lap the Fiorano circuit a second quicker than the mighty Enzo supercar. This blistering pace was thanks to 661 hp—up from the GTB’s 612 horses—and 457 lb-ft of torque from the naturally aspirated V12, shooting the GTO to a top speed of 208 mph and to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds, still an impressive stat nine years later. Visual changes from the GTB were minimal and focused on airflow, with a diffuser and lip spoiler providing downforce and redesigned vents helping cool the oily bits. Ferrari churned out just 599 units of this gorgeous sports car, which looks especially mean in black.
2 thoughts on “The Dozen Best Cars I Saw In London: Part 1”
I want an Alvis for my next birthday.
There is an Alvis club in the UK as you no doubt know, Elliot. I am sure they will support you if you want to establish a Chapter in the US. I first became aware of this mark when I read Le Carré’s “Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy” because Jim Prideaux’s favorite car was the Alvis. Recall Jim was a second-tier MI6 operative in that Smiley series.