PH 2020 | Brave Pill of the Year

A download of the pharmacy database reveals the most popular pills of the year

By Mike Duff / Saturday, December 26, 2020

It seems unlikely that anyone will look back on 2020 and think the year was short on either drama or crisis. That’s true when it comes to current affairs – and even more so when it comes to this elite selection of Brave Pills, automotive delights from the classifieds that make your wallet twitch even as they fill your insides with ice water. Many of our lowlights have been highlights, but we’ve gone for a simple and democratic way of selecting our top 10: those which have earned the most views.

10. BMW M3 (May)

It seems strange that we managed to get nearly half way through the second year of Pill before featuring an E92 M3. Falling prices have given the V8-powered car a near unbeatable combination of value and risk, given its well-documented habit of digesting rod bearings if the engine hasn’t been warmed with the gentle care due a baby’s bottle. Our chosen Pill wore a substantial 120,000 miles, but was selected on the basis of a full main dealer service history and a single owner from new, suggesting just that level of love and attention had been lavished on it.

9. Bentley Continental GT (Aug)

Another “how did we miss that?” was August’s debut for the Continental GT, the first of its type to win selection thanks to the combined appeal of its almighty turbocharged W12 engine and a £19,000 pricetag. While prices have fallen into dangerously appealing territory, it’s fair to say the Conti’s ability to drop thermonuclear bills has not – even Rishi Sunak would struggle to keep up with the need to write the cheques necessary to keep an unloved example running. Credit to PHer livinginasia who noticed that the registration translated phonetically to “was a bodge”, a detail that entirely escaped me when writing the original story.

8. Porsche 911 Turbo (Jan)

The 911 is one of Brave Pill’s most regular guest stars, with three having been featured this year alone. This leggy 996 Turbo was the one that received most interest from the hognoscenti, with both a serious odometer reading and a £25,000 pricetag that made it the cheapest in the country not to have an insurance marker when we ran the story. Despite the combination of 420hp, 140,000 miles and the 996’s proven ability to vaporize saving accounts, many commenters reckoned it wasn’t actually courageous enough to deserve inclusion. PHer sr.guiri said: “Brave Pill only for the most nervous of people, maybe. For anyone else, it’s a no brainer.” Presumably while snacking on handfuls of nails.

7. Aston Martin Rapide (May)

The fact that earlier and leggier examples of the Rapide now cost nearly the same as the ugly duckling Cygnets that Aston collectors fight over, gave a useful jumping off point to our consideration of this bargain coupe-saloon – and triggered a forum scrap over the rights and wrongs of the Toyota-based supermini. While the rear of the extended DB9 will always be cramped and compromised, most agreed the Rapide remains a spectacularly good-looking answer to Dr. Bez’s demand his company produce a four-seater. The Rapide also marked another debut, being the first Brave Pill to still be (just) in production at the point it was featured.

6. Lamborghini Gallardo (Nov)

BP’s first Lamborghini came as recently as November 7th, with this early Gallardo being reckoned both brave and appealing enough on the basis of an asking price that slipped just under £60k and a 64,000 mileage that qualifies as minicabesque in this rarefied part of the market. As a 2007 car it had the more powerful 513hp version of the earlier V10 engine, and although it had the automated e-gear transmission it had also been given a new clutch just 3,000 miles earlier. Although it only scored the sixth-highest number of views it was a huge hit in the forums, winning more comments than any other Pill in 2020.

5. Audi R8 V8 (Feb)

In a fitting juxtaposition the Gallardo was narrowly pipped in views by this closely related R8 coupe that ran back in February. The Audi was under half the price of the Lamborghini, and came with a six-speed manual gearbox, albeit with a 4.2-litre V8 in place of the brutal Gallardo-shared V10 of the R8 Plus. With 91,000 miles our Pill was the cheapest R8 in the classifieds at the time, but its combination of a good colour, a proper transmission and an obvious abundance of care and attention won much love among commenters and got several openly considering purchase of this or a similar car.

4. Lexus IS-F (Feb)

It’s fair to say that the forum debate about whether a Lexus can ever truly be considered risky enough to earn the Brave Pill title was one-sided: the answer was a comprehensive no. But there was still plenty of debate about the merits of Lexus’s V8-powered super-saloon, one that struggled to be seen as a genuine alternative for the M3 and C63 in period, but which is now seen by many as a safer and stronger choice. Our Northern Irish Pill was the leggiest and cheapest in the classifieds when featured, but still looked like hugely attractive value at £12,500.

3. Alpina B5 (Apr)

While every Pill is chosen to combine risk and reward, some push those values higher than others. And none in 2020 managed to get further on each category than this Alpina B5, with the combination of a sub-£12,000 pricetag and 193,000 miles. This in a car that, to put it mildly, isn’t exactly famed for the long-term reliability of its supercharged engine. There’s plenty of mechanical jeopardy in the V10-powered E60 M5, but most commenters agreed that the Alpina added an extra level of hazard; like wearing high-viz to a firefight.

2. Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph (Apr)

There haven’t been many Rolls-Royce Brave Pills, but our scuzzy data-based journalism suggests they are among the most popular choices. When we did the same OTY retrospective last year a 150k-mile Rolls-Royce Phantom found itself on top of the pile as 2019’s most popular Pill. (A car that is still for sale, incidentally.) And this year’s runner-up is this Silver Seraph that ran back in April and which featured the doubly courageous combination of a 171,000 mileage and an interior so purple that Prince wrote a song about it. And while whitewall tyres remain a bold look, it’s one a Seraph can pull off better than anything else built in the 1990s.

1. Volkswagen Touareg R50 TDI (Jun)

While 95.7 per cent of the cars featured since the column began have been petrol-powered, it seems fitting that our Champion Pill for 2020 is one of the four exceptions to the rule. The diesel-fired Touareg V10 is the sort of car that lesser Brave Pills cross the road to avoid, the sort of car that even Chuck Norris would think twice before crossing. The mighty engine was one of the brawniest diesel powerplants ever fitted to a passenger vehicle – one that produced 627lb-ft at just 2,000rpm and which would blast this suburban SUV to a 146mph top speed.

But the V10 is also famed for both mechanical maladies and extraordinarily complicated repairs, with the huge motor needing to be removed for even some apparently simple procedures. So fitting that 2020’s most popular Pill was also, against tough competition, almost certainly the bravest.

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