Renaultsport Clio 200/Clio 200 Cup
There may be a preponderance of hot hatches in this piece, but they're something the Euros have a particular handle on. The French especially seem to have achieved that fine balance of suppleness and dexterity with their pocket rockets. So when a new Clio from the Renaultsport division breaks cover, even British car snobs forget Agincourt and take notice. Mid-2009 saw two such models: the Clio 200 and the Clio 200 Cup. The names give a not-so-subtle clue as to how much horsepower they're packing in their 2.0-liter 16-valve engines. They also get body kits and lowered, tweaked suspensions. The Cup version rides even lower and harder, offers a better power-to-weight ratio than its sibling, and sports a higher-ratio steering rack. The normal 200 offers a higher level of standard equipment, but they're both reasonably priced while still being fantastic fun.
Alfa Romeo MiTo
Even though it looks as if Alfa Romeo might be returning to the home of the brave, thanks to parent company Fiat buying Chrysler, someone high up in Turin still has the old-fashioned mindset that Americans don't like hatches and only want sedans. That's why the Guilia (successor to the 159 four-door) is slated to be Alfa's mainstream debut model. Which means that the seriously pretty MiTo won't be providing any competition for the MINI. And the idea of missing out on an upcoming 230-hp GTA version makes us want to slap someone.
Audi Q7 V12 TDI
Regular readers will know that we love the gasoline-powered Q7, apart from the cost of being gasoline-powered. If ever an SUV was crying out for a decent diesel engine, it was this one. And those needs have been met with a perfectly adequate V6 TDI churning out 406 lb-ft of torque. But Over There lurks a beast of an oil-burning powerplant, the 6.0-liter V12 TDI. It develops an extremely useful 500 hp, but its crankshaft-twisting abilities redefine the concept of torque: 737 lb-ft. It creates the kind of surge that only world-champion surfers have lived to describe up until now. The Audi Q7 V12 TDI is, quite simply, the most powerful diesel-engined SUV in the world. No doubt it's not as thrifty as its V6 cousin, but to feel such heroic muscle and not need a fuel tanker to follow close behind must be one of the great European experiences.
The Polo is smaller than the current Golf/Rabbit, but consider this: it's about the same size as the first Rabbit to appear in the U.S. And with the trend to downsize making itself felt at least in cities on either coast, the Polo wouldn't be such a bad idea. Especially if it was kitted out like this Wörthersee '09 concept. Even if the 85-hp 1.4-liter engine is hardly a fire-breather, a lowered suspension, cool wheels and rorty exhaust note still introduce an element of hot hatch fun. VW calls this car's white leather upholstery Berry White. One change of vowel and that could have been the coolest name ever for car trim.
Lotus 2-Eleven GT4 Supersport
Have we kvetched about not having the Lotus 2-Eleven before? Well here's another reason: the GT4 Supersport version. It's a track-only car, developed to compete in the European SRO GT4 Supersports category. Power and torque is up from the normal model's supercharged 255 hp and 178 lb-ft to 270 and 182. In a car weighing almost nothing but still beautifully balanced, this is good. Factor in a sequential gearbox with an automatic change-down blip feature, adjustable Öhlins dampers, semi-slick Yokohama tires, aerodynamic body kit, carbon fiber race seats, Schroth six-point race harness with HANS, and the only reaction can be: elitist bastards.