One of the motoring-shaped benefits of living in the UAE is that we get access to a wide range of European, American, Japanese, Korean and Chinese vehicles. Even so, there are some tantalising prospects that we miss out on. Here are our top eight picks that aren’t sold here – at least for now.
1. CHEVROLET COLORADO
The Colorado is a robust pick-up that offers the utility of larger trucks without lane-hogging girth or gas-guzzling V8 engines. The top-dog ZR2 version is the one we fancy, because it gets a broader, higher stance via cutting-edge suspension that enables it to scamper across the desert at high speeds. It also scores locking front and rear differentials, aluminium bash plates and 31-inch rubber for serious off-road cred. Sadly, there are no plans to bring the Colorado here, though. Chevrolet Middle East spokesman Ronald Balit says: “At the moment we’re focused on pushing the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado and upcoming Tahoe RST [Rally Street Truck].”
2. DODGE CHALLENGER DEMON
We already thought Dodge had lost its marbles with the insane – yet wildly entertaining – 707hp Challenger Hellcat. Clearly, they are even crazier than we thought, because the company followed up with the Challenger Demon, packing a loony 840hp from its supercharged 6.2-litre V8. And get this: it foregoes front passenger and rear seats to save weight. That said, you can order each of these as US$1 (Dh3.67) options. That isn't a misprint. The Demon rockets to 160kph in 5.1 seconds and is so powerful that it can lift its front wheels off the ground on launch. Tragically, it remains a United States-only proposition.
3. FIAT 124 SPIDER
This compact rag-top is a Latin counterpart to the Mazda MX-5 – the two cars share their platforms. However, the Fiat is distinguished by its unique styling, slightly larger dimensions and torquier 1.4L turbo engines. It seems a desirable convertible, serving up cheeky thrills at a price that won't break the bank. The good news is that the 124 Spider's local absence is temporary because it launches here in April, according to a company spokesman. Better still, we will get the top-spec Abarth version, which wields a 170hp punch for a 6.8-second 0-to-100kph split.
4. FORD FOCUS RS
The Volkswagen Golf R-rivalling Focus RS is propelled by a 350hp 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo engine that takes it from 0-100kph in 4.7 seconds and 265kph flat out. But the piece de resistance is its clever all-wheel-drive system that allegedly makes the RS behave like an entertaining rear-wheel-drive car with massive grip. There’s even a "Drift" mode that enables you to indulge in tail-out hooliganism without completely deactivating the electronic safety net. Sounds fun, but the UAE may never know, because the official line from Ford Middle East is that the Focus RS “is not suitable for the weather conditions here”.
5. HONDA CIVIC TYPE R
Unlike the Focus RS, the ballistic Civic Type R eschews AWD yet still manages to transmit 306hp to the tarmac. Want proof? How does a 7-minute 43.8-seconds lap of the perilous Nürburgring Nordschleife sound? That was a new benchmark for front-drive cars and on par with the best times a Lamborghini Murciélago LP670-4 SV and Nissan GT-R could post in 2010. The bewinged Type R is a far cry from the ho-hum Civics we get here, embodying all of Honda's motorsport nous. There is cause to celebrate, gladly, because the Type R may land here next year, according to a Honda Middle East spokesperson.
6. NISSAN TITAN
GMC, Ford and Dodge have found a solid niche in the region with their oversize trucks, but Nissan hasn't joined the fray with its aptly named Titan. Although wearing Nissan badges, the XXL Titan was designed and engineered in the US, with North American buyers in mind. That gargantuan snout houses a 390hp 5.6-litre V8 (largely the same unit as the flagship Patrol) and the Titan is offered in single- and dual-cab formats. The behemoth would be an appealing proposition for some buyers here, but Nissan Middle East seems content to give us the Patrol and Navara Pickups.
7. OPEL GRANDLAND X
The pint-size Mokka X is sold locally, but we miss out on the larger Grandland X, which shares its underpinnings with the latest Peugeot 3008. That said, there are no visible clues to the Grandland X’s French connection, because it is in keeping with the Opel design ethos. In Europe, it competes against the likes of the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai. It is a lucrative segment here, too, so no surprise that Rimoun Hanouch, group general manager of Liberty Automobiles, says that discussions are underway to evaluate the Grandland X’s potential in the UAE. Stay tuned.
8. TOYOTA C-HR
The futuristic-looking C-HR is a relatively recent addition to Toyota’s line-up, slotting in below the larger, more conventionally styled Rav4. Designed and engineered specifically with European buyers in mind, the C-HR is reportedly taut in the handling department, but its steeply sloping roofline is said to compromise luggage space and rear passenger headroom. The C-HR is offered in Europe with a hybrid power-train pairing a 1.8-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, but there are currently no plans to bring it here.