UNDER $100,000 WINNER:

Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG

It only just scrapes into this category, with a $99,000 pricetag, but the go-fast version of Mercedes-Benz' little A-Class hatch deserves it for sheer madness.

AMG have managed to haul a whopping 265kW and 450Nm from a small two-litre, direct-injection engine. To do this it blows around 27psi boost through a pretty large turbo, but just the fact that it is possible to slap a warranty on an engine with this kind of comically large power output is impressive in itself. Think about small hatchbacks that hit 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds and it's a given.

AMG-built or tweaked suspension, steering and braking systems make it a pretty safe machine to drive, although even in 'comfort' mode it cracks and cackles like a bi-polar rally car, while providing levels of grip that just don't make sense out of such a savage package. A45 has singlehandedly rewritten the hot hatch handbook.


- Matt Greenop

PERFORMANCE Car of the year
OVER $100,000 WINNER:
Jaguar F-Type

It caused a stranger to propose, colleagues to queue for a ride around the block and so much head turning that even my chiropractor suffered whiplash.

The supercharged 5-litre V8 petrol engine had a phoar-inspiring 364kW of power and 625Nm of torque, and at $180,000 was a 'cheap' entry in this category. But the low rumble of the engine from the moment you started the engine to the ridiculously sublime 'crackle' it creates when the four pipes of actives sports exhaust are at work would make it worth every cent.

This vehicle is in the 'if I win Lotto' line up for me - not just for the engine but for the looks that is providing Jaguar is driving its design in the right direction.

- Liz Dobson

MOTORCYCLES of the year

Motorcycles are if anything harder to judge than cars, for there's an element of passion to their ownership that can mean a tester's personal favourite doesn't cut the objective mustard - take a bow, the characterful but flawed MV Agusta Brutale 800.

So my top three for 2013?

Honda's $10,495 CBR500 is an affordable recipe that's learner-approved but sufficiently nimble and practical to suit a more experienced rider seeking a commuter that'll also deliver a bit of back-roads fun.

Ducati's $22,490 Hyperstrada, for its torquey motor, supermotard dynamics and tour-ability courtesy integrated panniers. Full points for the excellent electronic 'Riding Modes' system backed up by traction control and ABS; adjustable on the move and able to register a wide range of rider size.

And Yamaha's $26,999 FJR1300, capable of close to sports-bike handling along with two-up long-distance comfort.

Two bikes that could have turned this list upside down but didn't make my garage in time: Kawasaki's Z800 naked middleweight, and BMW's always-impressive and now updated R1200GS.

- Jacqui Madelin