This week Autocar.co.uk is highlighting the new-for-2012 offerings from each manufacturer and assessing each car’s prospects in a market that is becoming increasingly hotly contested.
The fifth and final part of our feature highlights luxury cars, SUVs and crossovers. If you missed part one, which covered city cars and superminis, click here to read it.
Part two examined all the family cars and MPVs, and you can read that by clicking here.
The third instalment rounded up all the hot hatches, coupes and executive cars we’re looking forward to seeing. You can survey those launches by following this link.
Part four uncovered the supercars and performance cars that will be rolled out during the next 12 months. Click here to read it.
For the full 18-page run-down of new cars for 2012, don’t miss this week’s Autocar magazine, which is on sale now.
Audi A8 hybrid
Last August, Audi released details of the 44mpg and 148g/km Audi A8 hybrid, but the latest information suggests an early 2013 launch in the UK. The powertrain consists of a 201bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine mated to a 45bhp electric motor and lithium ion battery pack. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but the hybrid is likely to come in at around £65k.
Caddy has high hopes for the XTS to battle German luxury imports such as the Audi A6. It’s likely to make it to Europe at the end of the year, although UK sales have yet to be confirmed; the Cadillac XTS will be left-hand drive only. Based on a stretched Vauxhall Insignia platform, the XTS replaces two models in the US line-up: the DTS and STS.
If you want to own the kind of luxury saloon the Hollywood glitterati are choosing in increasing numbers, an adventurous choice might be the revolutionary Fisker Karma, a Mercedes CLS-sized four-door propelled by a pair of rear-mounted electric motors producing 403bhp between them. There’s a 260bhp turbo four in the nose driving a generator to feed an on-board battery bank, and then the rear wheels.
The Karma will do 95mph on electric power alone, but if you want it to really percolate, start the engine. Then the 0-60mph time improves by two seconds (to 5.9sec) and the car will hit 125mph flat out.
The really good news is that the Karma is imposing and luxurious in a Porsche Panamera kind of way. It really handles — Fisker proved that to us last year in Los Angeles — and it’ll be available in the early months of this year, just as soon as Fisker appoints an official UK distributor. Orders are numbered in dozens, Fisker says, even though there are no plans for right-hand-drive versions.
The next-generation Maserati Quattroporte takes a step upmarket to make space in the range for a smaller saloon aimed at top-end BMW 5-series models. Maserati says the Quattroporte will be based on a “new platform”, which might share some of its parts with the new Chrysler 300C. A higher-quality interior is a key part of the strategy. The V8 engines are understood to be carried over from the current Quattroporte, with V6 petrols and diesels reserved for the forthcoming smaller Maserati saloon. The reveal is slated for Paris, sales start in early 2013.
The buzz ahead of a new Mercedes-Benz S-class launch will start in late 2012, although a reveal at Detroit in 2013 is the latest intelligence. The world’s best-selling luxury car will add to its desirability with new levels of safety, powertrain, chassis and telematics technology, some of which wil be trailled next year. A variant of Merc’s new modular platform that already underpins the E and M-classes, the new S will remain dimensionally close to today’s model. The outerskin will be more dramatically styled and the interior is said to be a significant hike in quality. Suspension is new — front wishbones and a multi-link rear — with Magic Ride active control for the dampers. Engines will largely be carry-over, with the addition of two diesel hybrid S400 Bluetec models.
Porsche Panamera GTS
The harder-edged Porsche Panamera gets a 30bhp power hike from its naturally aspirated 4.2 V8, taking peak power to 424bhp and torque to 383lb ft. The 0-62mph dash is down to 4.5sec — just 0.3sec slower than the Panamera Turbo. A Turbo-look body and lowered suspension complete the £90k package. It’s here in February.
BMW 7-series facelift
A mild styling tweak will nudge the BMW 7-series in the direction of the new 5 and 3-series. Engines will be brought in line with those new models, possibly including the return of the 728i with a 242bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four. Expect it in September.
SUVs and Crossovers
Audi Q5 facelift
A mild tweak for the handsome Audi Q5 SUV will be revealed at the Paris show in September. The refresh will bring the Q5 more in line with the Q3 and improve its chances against the BMW X3.
BMW X6 facelift
External styling tweaks and some minor interior improvements will freshen BMW’s strong-selling SUV coupé coupé in June.
Chevrolet/Vauxhall Juke rival
Vauxhall will preview its new Nissan Juke competitor at the Geneva show in the spring, with Chevy’s version following later in the year, at the Paris show. Sales, however, won’t start until late in the year. Based on the next-gen Corsa platform, the five-seat soft-roaders are platform twins with some brand-specific differentiation. Both are expected to be built in Asia. An important interior detail will be a hi-tech infotainment system that is also due to be launched on the Junior city car.
Citroen C4 Aircross
The first compact 4x4 to be launched by Citroën, the C4 Aircross is a Gallic version of the Mitsubishi ASX light-duty SUV. At 4.3m long and 1.63m high, it will battle the Nissan Qashqai with a range of two diesel engines, a single 1.6-litre petrol and a choice of 2WD or 4WD transmissions. The diesels — Citroën’s 110bhp and 150bhp HDi units — will be mated to six-speed manual gearboxes, while the entry-level 1.6 petrol makes do with a five-speeder. Prices will span £21k to £25k and it will break cover in September.
This year the right-hand-drive version of the Dacia Duster finally hits our market as part of a new two-car Dacia range, accompanied by the Sandero five-door hatchback. The Duster is slightly longer than a Skoda Yeti, at 1.82m long, and almost exactly the same width. It will be available with a choice of two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and can be powered by either a 1.6-litre petrol or a 1.5-diesel engine, with a six-speed gearbox. In four-wheel-drive guise, it is billed as a geniune off-roader.
The Duster is built in Chennai, India, and the right-hand-drive version comes with a better-designed dashboard than we’ve so far seen, although the striking looks and excellent road behaviour should be as sampled earlier this year. The company is already predicting entry-level prices of below £10,000, and it estimates that a mid-spec diesel 4x4 should cost £12,000.
Ford’s five-seat, car-based SUV is growing in size as the design moves to a fully global model as part of the ‘One Ford’ strategy. About 100mm longer than today’s car, the new Ford Kuga will address criticism of the current car’s poor rear legroom and small luggage space. The engines will be Focus-derived diesels and Ecoboost petrols. The car’s unveiling is scheduled to happen at the Geneva show in the spring, with sales starting in November.
An all-new Honda CR-V will start rolling out of Honda’s UK plant in Swindon in a few months’ time, with cars in dealers this summer. The bigger, roomier, fourth-generation CR-V is better finished, despite a dashboard of hard-touch plastics. A new 118bhp, 120lb ft 1.6-litre diesel will be the big seller. Intelligent all-wheel drive and easy-fold rear seats feature.
A more compact seven-seat 4x4 will replace the Santa Fe in a few months’ time. The name is going, too, probably to be replaced by the iX45 moniker. More fuel-efficient downsized diesels will feature, including the 134bhp 1.7-litre unit recently launched in the i40. A show debut is planned for next week at Detroit.
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8
This hot Jeep Grand Cherokee undercuts rivals by tens of thousands of pounds. Its 6.4-litre Hemi boasts 470bhp and 465lb ft, enough for 0-62mph in 4.8sec and 158mph. Prices start at £60k; on sale in May.
It looks as though Italy’s answer to the Porsche Cayenne is farther off than we thought; late 2013 is the latest indication. The Maserati Kubang is based on Jeep Grand Cherokee underpinnings, with power from a Ferrari-built Maserati V8. Styling is by Fiat Group design chief Lorenzo Ramaciotti and features the Maserati hallmark window graphic and trident-badged chrome grille.
This will be the first car from Mazda to incorporate the full suite of SkyActiv green technologies, such as a lightweight steel body and a frugal turbodiesel engine. The Mazda CX-5's body is almost a spaceframe construction and the 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel does away with a NOx trap yet can meet EU6 emissions regulations. Prices will range from £22k to £29k and expect to see it in May.
The second-generation Mercedes-Benz GL luxury off-roader has been comprehensively re-engineered in a bid to raise its competitiveness against the Range Rover and potential new rivals from the likes of Bentley. It gets less aggressive looks than its predecessor and shares it engine line-up with the latest ML. It’s set to make its public debut at the New York show in April, before reaching the UK towards the end of the year.
Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG
The 518bhp AMG-tuned Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG will face up to the Porsche Cayenne this spring. Powered by a twin-turbo 5.5 V8, its peak torque of 516lb ft is delivered from just 1750rpm and is transmitted through a seven-speed, dual-clutch auto.
Mini Countryman John Cooper Works
The hot Countryman will draw parallels with the Mini rally cars. The power output of its uprated 1.6-litre turbo engine is expected to be around 215bhp. There a rumours that Prodrive, which runs Mini’s WRC campaign, will tune the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works, although whether that would arrive in 2012 or 2013 is unclear.
We’re likely to see Mini’s rival to the three-door Evoque in late 2012, although sales won’t start until early 2013. The Mini Paceman will be positioned as a performance coupé and feature only the most powerful engines from the Mini range. The underpinnings are borrowed from the five-door Countryman, with the windscreen cut down by 20mm. The rear lights are a significant styling change; they follow a horizontal graphic in defiance of Mini’s heritage of vertical rear lamp shapes.
Nissan has recently committed to making the second-generation Nissan Qashqai in the UK, but it looks as though the model won’t go on sale until 2013. A concept is possible at the Paris show in late 2012.
Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4
Using a 163bhp 2.0 diesel and 37bhp electric motor, the £27k entry Peugeot 3008Hybrid4 (on 16in wheels) boasts 99g/km and will be here next month.
The most radical and technically advanced model in Land Rover’s history will feature aluminium body technology and Evoque-derived styling, including a sloping roofline. With a slightly longer and wider footprint than today’s model, the new model puts much of the interior focus on the rear seats to satisfy the burgeoning ranks of chauffeur-driven Range Rovers. Interior quality is said to equal or better Bentley’s. Engines will largely be carried over, while the alloy body will reduce the kerb weight by about 450kg, to improve fuel economy and cut emissions. Given the hugely improved spec, prices are set to climb considerably. High-spec models will easily break the £100k barrier when the Range Rover is unveiled in the autumn.
Range Rover Evoque Sport
Engineers are testing a more powerful Range Rover Evoque Sport with up to 300bhp from a high-boost version of its 2.0 turbo Ford engine. The go-ahead may come in 2012, although production is more likely for 2013.
A much-needed boost for ailing Subaru comes in the shape of the Impreza-based Subaru XV, a Nissan Qashqai competitor, that will be here in April. All-wheel drive only, the XV will feature a choice of 2.0-litre petrol and diesel boxer engines at its launch, with a price-leading 1.6 petrol tipped to arrive in the autumn. Prices will span £21k to £25k.
A 5+2 people-carrier version of the hybrid Prius promises CO2 emissions of 99g/km and combined fuel economy of 65mpg, here in May. Based on the US-only five-seat Prius V, the European Toyota Prius+ gets more efficient lithium ion batteries and a third row of child-sized seats. Expect a £1500 premium over the five-seat Prius.
Vauxhall Zafira Sports Tourer
The order book is open for Vauxhall’s new seven-seat MPV and first deliveries are in March. Based on the new Astra platform, the Vauxhall Zafira Sports Tourer is bigger than today’s Zafira and features a roomier, higher-quality cabin and an easier-to-operate version of Vauxhall’s Flex 7 seating system. This also allows the centre seat in the middle row to fold down and move inwards to boost shoulder room. The doors are hinged conventionally, unlike those of the smaller Meriva. The basic 1.8 model will cost £21k, about £1000 less than the cheapest Ford S-Max.