Editors choice award
The Ars Astaroth GX takes top honors handily… it has a little understeer that does cost it a good line in corners if your not a little careful, but its flat out easy to consistently drive and even to recover if you make some minor mistakes. Once you’re a lot of laps in, it starts to feel like you could have a hair more power, but since this is the factory tune of a road car, thats probably a realistic and good thing that it has a little grip reserve, and no matter what I was doing on the track it had plenty of brake force. Only time it got squirrelly is turn in after very hard braking, and even then braking a little earlier totally mitigates this. It was also the only car that looked better in BeamNG than Automation, especally from the back where its overhang was lit up by the rear light bar. Handling Track: On the tighter track I was worried the slight understeer would become more present, but the Astaroth handling remains a thing of beauty. It still takes concentration to put a good lap time in, but instead of meeting a horrible end on bad corner lines throttle doctrine, you simply leave slightly slower than you otherwise would. It is however possible to overrun if you carry far too much speed into a corner. I wasn’t able to make it do a burnout, but the excellent aero\suspension tune and AWD really did shine in the BeamNG tests.
The runner up is the Hawker Typhoon Mk3… just like in automation numbers I did get a better lap time than the Astaroth, but driveability is much harder, with not only substantial oversteer under any power, it can throttle off oversteer or spin out if you touch bumps during a turn, although all got more neutral as you packed speed on, so it was far from undrivable. Yet I imagine this gets a lot better for drivers with actual pedals from more smoothness in application of power and transition onto and off the brakes… and it is quicker. However unlike the Astatoth where after more laps you want more power, the better you get and faster you lap the Typhoon, the more the brakes fade, and potentially fade unequally. My best laps where consistently done after a fresh reset… which happened plenty as trying to get lap times down resulted in good familiarity with the walls. Handling Track: Pretty much the same as the big track here in the regard the times where great, but you really work for it. Its almost worth using manual mode for more control, but I honestly didn’t beat my sport mode time. Turning ESC on makes it a little more forgiving to bad throttle application, but really brings out more of that oversteer, even under light throttle, bogs in corners, and I found it as hard or harder than ESC off on this one, although granted if you back off from the limit instead of shoot for times it becomes an easy to point and drive normally car with it on… which is probably more realistic for anyone on a normal fun drive without a death wish.
In third but not far behind is the Morton Sparrow. It too liked to oversteer, and I didn’t have issues with the brakes, but in part because unlike the Typhoon I struggled to get the same speed on. Turn ESC on and it was an absolute blast (although not much quicker) rotating under throttle instead of requiring you back out of the power… but using the ESC nanny also meant it bogged in the tight low speed corners and heated the brakes badly (although still not to the degree of noticeable effect on braking zone), so it was hardly a perfect fix. Handling Track: Without ESC things got a little better on the tighter course, with a respectable time, but still very preset oversteer, however with a bit of turbo lag it feels easy to fall off the peak power in the confined space, and turning ESC made this very present in many of the corners… you get good at picking shifts or you get stuck in 2nd for a lot of the track.
Forth is the H4 Evanto TS 4.5. Our CSR winner, its a true muscle car on the track. You can drive it around without drama, and when you can plant the gas speed piles on shockingly quickly, but I found myself squirrely on corner exit and otherwise needing to lift a couple of times each pass of the track, making consistent fast times beyond my ability. ESC could help you drive, but unlike the Sparrow killed most of the fun also. Like the Typhoon, I bet this car is a lot better with a pedal box, but for my part it only makes 4th. That said, Bruce far from missed out on having a performance car… this thing is a tire fire any time you want in manual mode, more pony than sports, but Auto-stralia is a market familiar with powerful inline6 engines. Handling Track: Firstly its a lot more fun in the smaller space, the sound is the best of any of the cars here, with the brief bursts of noise on downshifts. It once again feels a bit more neutral at this speeds also, with more understeer at throttle off making it controlable during the corner. However doesn’t do nearly as well as the FAAL in the respect it retains its squirrelyness on corner exit, which costs it a time on the handling circuit for last place… although far from least fun. ESC here only really works if your shifting manually, in D or S mode it shifts then brakes hard to prevent oversteer during corners or randomly bogs, making handling a mess… but with M mode and ESC I did put out an ok time.
Finally the FAAL Coupe 25TFE. Honestly I just think this didn’t translate well to the beamNG Automation big track at all, without ESC it was very hard to make a lap with any sort of gusto. I didn’t get to try the AWD offering as despite his mates advice bruce only was interested in RWD, but I suspect with only slight rear bias instead of full RWD it may have been a much more balanced car. As it was with either keyboard or controller I couldn’t tame it to get down anywhere close to its Automation in game track time, let alone chase the cars higher on the list. Still, its the only one here with 4 seats, it was the most economical and cheapest of the finalists tested here, so prehaps pure track times where you can’t see, hear or feel the inside of the car would be being pretty unfair. Leave ESC on and its driveable, but can still overrun pretty easy on corners if you come in too hot, and even spin out if you try steer with throttle, where the Astaroth shines with no ESC, and the Sparrow handles with it. Handling Track: The FAAL’s performance gets a lot better here, not placing an excellent time, but being very fun to throw around, and at the lower speeds very balanced, understeering off throttle and being easy to oversteer on power. I had few few crashes and would rate it pretty well in this more back roads style driving.