Cars making their debut in 2011
McLaren has been busy kicking the hype machine into overdrive but 2011 is when we'll get to find out for ourselves if the MP4-12C supercar is any good. It's bound to be stunning but for it to steal the Ferrari 458 Italia's crown it will need to reach out on an emotional level too. McLaren changed the supercar forever with the seminal F1 - here's hoping history repeats itself.
Aston Martin Cygnet
Has Aston Martin started to lose the plot? Many around the world think so because of this Toyota iQ in disguise that Aston says is to sate its clients' appetite for a premium city car. Around half of One-77 customers have placed their orders for Cygnets , so maybe it's on to something. We'll get to drive it this spring and then we'll decide.
We're still reeling in shock from the gorgeous RC-Z, but Peugeot is out to prove it's not just a one-trick pony with the 508. Light years ahead of the lamentable 408, it's good looking and has possibly the most inviting interior in its class, utilising quality materials, fine ergonomics and swish style. Expect petrol, diesel and hybrid variants - Peugeot seems to be on a roll.
The current (997 generation) 911 has been the most successful in the model's history and it's easy to see why: it's the consummate all-round sports car and is available in a plethora of engine and spec choices. Expect 2011's newbie to look similar but the tech to significantly move the game on when it's unveiled at the Frankfurt show in September.
There could be a battle on between Audi and Land Rover in 2011 when the Q3 takes the fight to the Evoque. Based on the VW Tiguan, it's a small SUV with style and street-cred by the truckload. And, like the Evoque, it'll be available in either front or four-wheel drive. With Audi's recent track record, it's bound to be another smash hit.
We have another three years to wait until the all-new Mini takes a bow, so BMW will be milking the current model for all it's worth, and 2011 will see the Coupe emerging with no rear seats, an enlarged boot and a low roofline. The Coupe should offer even sharper dynamics and plenty of visual appeal.
Ford Focus ST
A fully electric Focus will be here in 2012, but 2011 will see the hot one: the ST. After the much-loved RS, the ST needs to be brilliant, and the signs are promising. With Ford's new Dynamic Cornering Control technology, understeer should be all but gone and the new, turbocharged four-cylinder engine should keep the fun level sky-high. Could this be the new hot-hatch king?
How do you replace a model that's little more than a homage to past glories? At first glance, you wonder what's new, and then you spot the slightly lower and longer profile. But the real differences should lie in its driving, as it's now based on the Mk 5 Golf. It still won't be cool, though.
The Fox was pretty much unloved but the Up is what VW hopes will capture the imagination of the marketplace where buyers want something less than a Polo. It won't be quite the no-frills experience offered by ultra-cheap cars like the Tata Nano, but it will be built with VW's usual quality standards and should be fun to drive, too.
Audi's march toward world domination continues unabated in 2011, as you'd expect, and the new A6 will play a key role in this. Expect evolutionary styling and a million variants offering eight-speed automatic transmissions, lighter construction and greener credentials. Expect to see these everywhere.
BMW 6 Series
Chris Bangle has been put out to pasture after single-handedly turning BMW into purveyor of the world's ugliest cars. His replacement, Dutchman Adrian van Hooydonk (don't you just love it?), has been toning things down while keeping proportions in check. A convertible version of the 6-series will be first, followed by coupe and a Merc CLS-bashing GT for 2012.
The mighty, normally aspirated V10 is dead. Long live the twin-turbocharged V8. There's a lot riding on the new M5 because its predecessor, despite challenging looks, was a four-wheeled riot. The 2011 model will be less thirsty, more powerful and has a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. But will it be robbed of its all-important borderline psychotic character? We really hope not.
Range Rover Evoque
It started life as a Land Rover concept called the LRX and ended up being badged a Range Rover called Evoque. It's remarkably close to the original design and will be available in front and four-wheel-drive guises - a first for the company. Victoria Beckham has been hired as an "ambassador" to maximise worldwide exposure but, with or without her help, this has success written all over it.
Nissan claims to have 40,000 firm orders for the electric Leaf - the first mass-produced battery powered car in nearly 15 years (after the GM EV1). Strictly for urbanites thanks to its puny 160km range and eight-hour charge cycle, the Leaf will initially retail for a price not far short of an entry-level Porsche Boxster, but it's a brave stab at something genuinely different.
A hybrid hot hatch, the CT200h is fine in concept but the reality has so far proved to be a big disappointment. The inadequate performance lets down the potential offered up by the car's sporty looks and its ride is for masochists only. Cue last minute panic before launch date - can Lexus save it in time? We'll find out soon enough.
2011's Tokyo Motor Show is likely to be wowed by a Toyota that waves two fingers at hybrids and ticks all the right boxes for a younger generation. Developed in conjunction with Subaru, this should be a tail-swinging barrel of stylish fun that puts Toyota back on the sports coupe map and could dethrone Nissan's 370Z. We can't wait to try it out.
Hyundai Veloster Coupe
Pulling out all the stops to make the brand appealing to young drivers, Hyundai will reveal the Veloster coupe in the third quarter of 2011. Mixing the inner workings of the i30 with a new 1.6L petrol engine and funky, unconventional styling, this one has potential so long as the drive lives up to the looks.
Retaining a folding metal roof, the new SLK will look sleeker than before with a CLS-inspired face and an interior that apes the SLS supercar, all of which is very good news. There will also be the option of a light-sensitive glass panel for the roof which can turn from opaque to transparent in seconds - how cool is that?
The first proper SUV offered by the newly rescued Swedish firm, the 9-4X will be built in Mexico and have full-time four-wheel drive. It will be unmistakably Saab in its looks but with only one engine (V6 petrol) available, sales may well disappoint in markets where oil-burners and hybrids take the lion's share.
Lamborghini LP570-4 Spyder Performante
The Lambo we're all chomping at the bit to see is the Murcielago replacement that will be unveiled in the spring, but this Gallardo variant is more than enough to get us a bit giddy. Basically a Superleggera Spyder, it could turn out to be the world's most desirable convertible with lightweight construction, formidable power and nothing getting in the way of that mighty soundtrack.
Published: January 1, 2011 04:00 AM