I did eventually get Driveclub from CEX for a tenner and found it to be more accessible than Project CARS but not particularly fulfilling as driving/racing games go. Too limited in scope and so many of the good cars tantalisingly locked up in pricey DLC packs. However, this weekend I spotted The Crew: Ultimate Edition on the PS Store for £25 (so that's the original game, the two expansions plus the season pass and every DLC car) and thought I'd at least give the demo a go. I liked it. I liked it right up until I hit the demo time limit, so I went ahead and bought the full thing.
Yes, the cutscenes are dumb. Yes, the in-game currency system is confusing. Yes, the AI opponents do at times appear to be superhuman.
The open-world style is exactly what I wanted. The map is HUUUUUGE and varied. The cars on offer (and the different street, performance, dirt, raid and circuit specs for each) are lovely and have their own handling characteristics and decent sounds. I haven't done many of the missions yet because frankly all I wanted was loads of cars and a massive map to drive around in.
I don't know what issues there were with servers, handling, graphics or whatever when the game launched, but they seem to be fixed 3 years later. I can't imagine having paid £45 for this brand new but £25 fully patched with two expansions and a bucketload of free cars seems miraculous. The only problem now is that this is the first game to put a serious dent in my Destiny habit in the last 3 years, so now it's much harder to choose what to play of an evening..