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2018-01-01 06:00

Lance Branquinho

Image: Newspress

Cape Town - Last year confirmed that the design input and consumer trend away from sedans and hatchbacks, towards crossovers and SUVs, is the destiny guiding all automotive design. 

As such, expectations for 2018 are dominated by vehicles with a useful amount of ground clearance and five-doors. The noteworthy announcements for this year are to a fault, nearly all SUVs and crossovers. Although this design direction is lamented by some, the truth is that for South Africans it’s great news, as our outdoor lifestyle, richness in adventure destinations and abundance of gravel roads all lend themselves to the SUV/crossover theme better than almost any other market. 

With that said, there are a few credible sportscars which are set for reveal this year too – rekindling fond names of the past. To tension some anticipation for the motoring year ahead, we’ve compiled a list of the most important products for 2018.

BMW X7

Yes, there’s a new M5 due this year and an i8 Roadster too, but the future direction for BMW will be signalled by X7, it’s most controversially styled car since Chris Bangle’s fourth-generation 7 Series.

An enormous SUV, X7 will feature the most spacious cabin of any production BMW and three rows of seating – which is quite unusual for a ‘Werke product. Positioning is to directly counter Range Rover Vogue, Mercedes GLS and Bentley’s Bentayga. Oh, and it’s hybridised too, with a petrol-electric engine.

 

Ford Fiesta ST

There are few cars, of any price, that rival the driving appeal of Ford’s fantastically sorted compact hot hatch. Fiesta ST has cultivated a loyal following and the latest version promises to be the best yet, despite losing a cylinder and 100cc of engine capacity.

Now powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged triple, enthusiast need not worry, as engine output has increased by 13 units to 147kW. Aggressively styled 18" alloys, Recaro seats and terrific agility.

New Fiesta ST could be the giant-killer of 2018. 

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Jaguar E-Pace

Although SUVs are an anathema to the storied history and brand values of Jaguar, they’ve also salvaged the brand’s sales in South Africa. F-Pace is the best-selling Jaguar by a fair margin and it follows to reason that its smaller sibling, the E Pace, should capture a new market of customers for Jaguar.

Set to rival Audi’s Q3 and BMW X1, E Pace will feature an advanced cabin design and range of engines, with the most powerful option being a 221kW turbocharged 2-litre, driving nines-speeds through an automatic gearbox. Interestingly, the entry-level E Pace models will become the first Jaguars since the ill-fated Ford Mondeo derived X-Type to have front-wheel drive. 

Toyota Supra

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A Japanese sportscar icon which is dearly missed after it went out of production at the turn of the millennium.

Immortalised in the Fast&Furious movie franchise, Toyota’s finally listened to market demand for something with 86’s coupe styling and driver appeal, but a lot more power.

Exact specification is unconfirmed, but Toyota’s promised that its fourth-generation Supra will happen this year, and fascinatingly, just like 86, it will be a joint venture project. Whereas Toyota partnered with Subaru for the 86, the collaboration on new Supra will come from BMW – with the possibility of hybridised power too, borrowing technology from Toyota’s TS050 Le Mans cars. 

Volkswagen Polo 



A cross version of VW’s hugely popular Polo already exists, the obviously named CrossPolo, but it’s styling remains too much hatchback and not sufficiently mini-SUV to convince buyers. The solution to this problem is VW’s keenly anticipated T-Cross.

Riding on an evolved platform of the new Polo (launching in South Africa this month), T-Cross should feature a range of impressively efficient and powerful 1-litre engines and mini-Tiguan styling.

This proper SUV version of the Polo will up VW’s non-hatchback/sedan offering to nearly half of its available range. 

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