Electric cars are once again generating the biggest automotive headlines, and Tesla’s Model 3 is possibly the most eagerly awaited automobile launch in history, never mind next year. But traditional automakers are starting to catch up to the Silicon Valley interloper: Jaguar is set to launch an all-electric SUV purported to be cheaper, faster and sexier than Tesla’s Model X, with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz not far behind. Anticipation doesn’t begin to describe the wait for mass-market EVs given that some experts predict they will have a quarter of the market by 2030. But good old-fashioned internal combustion hasn’t gone out of style quite yet, in part due to some innovative thinking that continues to surprise and delight. For example, Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio is an Italian sport-ute that marries the practicality and space of a full-blown crossover with a Ferrari-based engine, while Honda’s Odyssey is the most family-friendly minivan yet. What else is coming over the horizon? Here are the ones to watch for.
1. Alfa Romeo Stelvio
What is it? A mainstream Alfa Romeo.
Why it matters The Giulia was Fiat Chrysler’s first salvo in transforming Alfa Romeo into a mainstream luxury brand. A BMW 3 Series fighter, the Giulia’s only weakness was that it was a traditional sedan, a segment slowly going the way of the dodo. The Stelvio, on the other hand, is a beautifully rendered luxury sport-ute. And, following the BMW model, the Stelvio (and the Giulia) has a pedestrian 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in base form, but can be had in an ever-so-mad 505-horsepower QV version powered by a turbocharged V6 that is based on the V8 powering the Ferrari 488.
When is it coming? Later this fall.
How much will it cost? The base version starts at $52,995, but don’t expect much change from $100,000 if you go for the full-zoot Quadrifoglio.
Should I buy it? If you’re one of the lucky people who can afford a QV, you’ll have one of the fastest SUVs on the planet and one that can claim Ferrari lineage.
2. Jaguar I-Pace
What is it? Jaguar’s first electric vehicle and the first effort aimed at Tesla by a luxury European marquee. It’s also yet another coup from Ian Callum, Jaguar’s chief designer extraordinaire.
Why it matters Tesla has had the premium EV segment all to itself for far too long, and the I-Pace’s performance stats are impressive. Jaguar claims acceleration to 100 kilometres an hour in just a little more than four seconds. Range is purported to be 500 kilometres — albeit using the hopelessly optimistic European NEDC cycle; 350 km by more realistic EPA standards. The I-Pace comes with a 90-kilowatt-hour battery and two 200-hp electric motors. This crossover is quite an achievement, especially for a name that three short years ago seemed to be the luxury segment’s perennial also-ran. Most impressive is the use of space. With the internal combustion engine gone and the battery in the floor, Callum has moved the axles to the extremes of the body and lengthened the cabin. The new cab-forward design liberates some serious legroom inside the mid-sized I-Pace. Expect it to be the roomiest Jag this side of a long-wheelbase XJ.
When is it coming? Despite being new to the electric game, Jaguar is being very aggressive with its schedule, so you should be able to buy one sometime in 2018.
How much will it cost? Jaguar is rushing forward to get to market before the German giants, so pretty much everything is in flux. The company, however, has intimated it will cost less than Tesla’s Model X.
Should I buy it? Assuming all the regular EV caveats — the range-versus-recharging-time question, limited recharging stations, etc. — why not?
3. Tesla Model 3
What is it? The son of the Model S is probably the most anticipated car by many of this — perhaps any — year.
Why it matters The Model 3 is, at least by hype, the electric revolution delivered to the masses. It’s beautiful, it’s powered by a battery and, most important of all, it’s a Tesla with a US$35,000 price tag. Of course, very few will actually hit the road at that price (US$50,000 will probably be closer to the norm), but that hasn’t stopped 400,000 true believers from ponying up the requisite US$1,000 down payment.
When is it coming? Canadians who put down deposits can expect deliveries to start next summer, though with Tesla’s propensity for missing production deadlines, it’s anyone’s guess as to when they will actually arrive.
How much will it cost? As mentioned, 35,000 greenbacks is the opening bid, but most will option out around 50 large. Canadian-specific pricing is not available yet, but using current exchange conversions, a fully optioned Model 3 — with a longer-range battery, enhanced autopilot and various premium interior appointments — should max out at more than $70,000.
Should I buy it? That depends on how long you are willing to wait. Tesla is ramping up production now, but has a history of missing deadlines. On the other hand, for those with patience, there’s no bolder way to proclaim one’s greenness.
4. Jaguar E-Pace
What is it? Jaguar is the first company to warrant two mentions in this same year’s Top Ten list, but the E-Pace, though not quite as revolutionary as the I-Pace, is still mondo significant.
Why it matters Essentially, the E-Pace is a brand new, premium-branded competitor for BMW’s X3 and Audi’s Q5. It’s based on the Range Rover Evoque and comes with an upgraded suspension, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four and a nine-speed automatic. Base models boast 246 hp, but there’s an extra-pressurized version with 296 ponies. Expect class-leading performance and sex-on-wheels styling.
When is it coming? Mid-next year.
How much will it cost? Jaguar Canada is promising it will be the least expensive car in its lineup and, with a starting MSRP of just $42,700, it should be very competitive with its German rivals. Even the high-performance 296-hp versions are relatively cheap compared with the Germans — we’re looking at you, Porsche Macan — with the top-of-the-line T-Dynamic HSE expected to retail for $57,300.
Should I buy it? We won’t drive the E-Pace until January, but Jaguar has a history — with the F-Pace — of making crossovers very sporty. The only caution is, at that price, you may have to fork over extra money to get the full Jaguar interior experience.
5. Kia Stinger
What is it? Yet another Asian challenger to the BMW 3 Series throne.
Why it matters Kia’s been dancing around the luxury segment for a few years, but the Stinger is its first really serious attempt at competing with the Germans. It’s sexy, sporty and, equipped with the turbocharged V6, quite sprightly (a 2.0-litre turbocharged four is also coming). Like BMW’s baby sedan, the Stinger will be available in rear- and all-wheel drives and has an eight-speed transmission. The suspension is adjustable, the brakes are by Brembo and the interior is appointed to keep up with its competitors.
When is it coming? The 365-hp, 3.3-litre turbo V6 GT version should arrive this fall.
How much will it cost? If Kia Canada is smart, it will undercut the 3 Series a tad, so expect a starting price of around $35,000 for the 2.0-litre version when it arrives next summer and a little less than $47,000 for the GT.
Should I buy it? No matter how competently Kia engineers the Stinger, its badge won’t have nearly the impact as BMW’s blue-and-white roundel. On the other hand, Kia has been JD Power’s top-rated brand for two years running, so if quality and customer satisfaction is your thing, it might not be a bad buy.
6. Lexus LS
What is it? The remake of the car that revolutionized the Japanese luxury sedan.
Why it matters Last year, the Lexus LC 500 was expected to be one of the most significant introductions of 2017. Mission accomplished. Here comes its four-door sibling, and it should very much rekindle the respect Lexus’s flagship sedan has let fester in recent years. Combining beautiful styling, performance (from a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V6) and economy (a hybrid version of the LS 500 will be available, also using a 3.5-litre V6 but mated to Toyota’s electric Synergy Drive), it also marks a return to the opulence recent LSs had sacrificed to compete with the German automakers. The new LS features softer seats, more generous shoulder-, head- and legroom, and an opulent ride.
When is it coming? The base twin-turbo version of the LS should be in showrooms this fall; the hybrid version will arrive later.
How much will it cost? Don’t expect much change from $100,000.
Should I buy it? If you’re in the market for a large luxury sedan, give the LS a real look, especially if you’re tired of the me-too-ness of the German triumvirate, it might be time to take another look at Lexus.
7. Toyota Camry
What is it? North America’s most popular family sedan rejuvenated.
Why it matters From the beginning of time — okay, since 1983 — the Camry has been the quintessential Japanese family sedan: completely competent, ruthlessly reliable and extremely frugal, but with a face only an accountant could love. This refreshed Camry has a profile that borders on the, well, sultry — longer, lower and far more extroverted than the seven generations that preceded it. Ditto inside, which receives a “younger” design motif and Toyota’s Entune 3.0 infotainment system. Even as other manufacturers — such as Honda — drop V6s from their family sedan offerings, Camry’s incredibly reliable 3.0-litre V6 returns, now with a more robust 301 hp. Even the tried-and-true 2.5-litre four-cylinder boasts more than 200 ponies — 206, in XSE guise with its quad exhaust outlets. Another version of the 2.5 helps power the Hybrid model.
When is it coming? November.
How much will it cost? The new L trim entry-level model starts at $26,390, while the top-of-the-line XLE V6 goes for $40,690. Hybrid models start at $31,290 and top out at $40,990.
Should I buy it? The most reliable car ever made is now sexier and sportier, making it the no-brainer of the year.
8. Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
What is it? Officially “the most powerful SUV in the world.” Or as Tareqhassan.ca’s Brian Harper said after test-driving it, “Nailing the throttle opens up a giant can of whoop-ass!”
Why it matters An SUV with 707 horsepower and 645 pound-feet of torque is a mad, bad thing. It’s so crazy that, by rights, it shouldn’t exist. But as Carroll Shelby once opined, there’s no such thing as too much power; just not enough traction. Essentially, Jeep took the supercharged 6.2-litre V8 from the Challenger Hellcat — the only production car that accelerates so hard that its front wheels leap off the ground — and shoe-horned it into a four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle. Despite weighing more than 2,400 kilograms (exactly 5,393 pounds), Jeep says the Trackhawk can accelerate to 60 mph (96 km/h) in just 3.5 seconds and generate almost 0.9 gs in cornering.
When is it coming? You can order one now.
How much will it cost? Yes, the $109,995 is expensive for a Jeep, but chicken feed compared with the Porsche Cayenne Turbos it can humiliate.
Should I buy it? If the days of internal combustion truly be numbered, then something as foolish as this is an incredible swan song. Sooner or later, this crazy horsepower race has to come to an end. In the meantime, bask in the insanity of what is basically a Pro Stock drag motor powering a production SUV.
9. Honda Odyssey
What is it? The ultimate hauler for the totally modern family.
Why it matters With second-row seats that slide side to side, the all-new Honda Odyssey is the easiest minivan yet to stuff your growing family in. And, because Honda knows you’re a “helicopter” parent, the 2018 Odyssey even includes an interior CabinWatch camera that monitors all the kidlets in the second and third rows, projecting their shenanigans onto the infotainment system’s LCD screen. Even more convenient is an electronic CabinTalk feature that allows you to talk to/scream at said offspring even when they’re hooked into the rear-seat entertainment system through the headphones and the third-row speakers. Parental (driving) bliss, thy name is Odyssey. Oh yeah, the minivan also sports a new nine- or 10-speed transmission (depending on the model) with a 3.5-litre VTEC V6, but who cares when preternatural calm rules the Odyssey cabin?
When is it coming? It’s already at dealerships.
How much does it cost? Base Odysseys start at $34,890, but if you want the all-singing, all-dancing Touring model with the slip-sliding seats, kidlet spyware and other trickery, you’re looking at $50,290.
Should I buy it? Well, it is a Honda and it is a wonderful minivan, but it also costs about $4,000 more than last year’s model. That said, there’s more equipment, and it is cheaper than Chrysler’s Pacifica. It’s also worth noting that, except for Dodge’s Grand Caravan, there are no more cheap minivans.
10. Toyota Supra
What is it? The remake of a drifting/tuner legend.
Why it matters Toyota steps up to the plate twice in this year’s Top 10, but the Supra very much deserves the accolade even though it will be a limited production model. For one thing, the Supra is legendary, the air literally deflating out of Toyota’s sports car market when it was discontinued in 1997. For another, Supra marks the beginning of an association with BMW since the Supra and the upcoming Z4 are being built on the same platform. Little else is known about the new Supra. Conjecture is that BMW’s 2.0-litre four and 3.0-litre inline turbos will power it, though there may also be a new Toyota engine in the works. Whatever the case, the new Supra should be primo, especially if, as promised, it emulates the FT-1 concept car’s design.
When is it coming? Toyota is likely to unveil the new Supra at October’s Tokyo Motor Show so it may be as late as next summer before you can buy one.
How much will it cost? There’s more speculation that BMW and Toyota will divvy up the spoils by making the Z4 the premium offering (natch) and Toyota working the lower end of the market. If that’s the case, somewhere in the $35,000 to $55,000 range might be a safe bet.
Should I buy it? The last generation of Supra Turbo was absolutely epic. Whether Toyota/BMW can live up to that heritage is the question.
11) One for the bikers: Harley-Davidson Softails
What is it? A complete revamp from head to foot — or, more accurately, steering stem to swingarm — of two iconic platforms.
Why it matters Essentially, Harley-Davidson’s existing Dyna models — Low Rider, Fat Bob and Street Bob — and Softails — Softail Slim, Heritage Classic, Deluxe, Fat Boy and Breakout — have been rationalized into one line. Retaining the Softail name, they mate last year’s transformative Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 engines to an all-new chassis. Now monoshock’ed with better suspension — greater wheel travel and easier adjustability — the new Harleys handle better, ride smoother and, thanks to their lighter weight and more horsepower, accelerate with something approaching style.
When are they coming? The entire lineup of eight new Softails should now be in dealerships.
How much will they cost? About two grand more than in the past: the low-cost Street Bob starts at $17,999 and a 114-cubic-inch Fat Boy goes for $24,799.
Should I buy it? Absolutely, especially if you’ve been sitting on the fence about wanting to buy a Harley-Davidson but not willing to accept the handling/comfort compromises. The new Softails pretty much address all the previous models’ limitations. FPM