The year ahead promises to be exciting and hectic for the car industry, with the continuing rise of electric cars, major industry shifts and a host of new metal due to arrive.
Here, the Autocar team pick what they’re most enthusiastic about for 2019.
Some new cars being launched...
The past 12 months have been the quietest in recent memory for new car launches. So much of that has been down to the introduction of the new WLTP fuel tests: car makers simply didn’t have the resources to get their existing ranges certified to the new standards, let alone new models. The good news, though, is that this means a bumper crop of new models to look forward to in 2019.
The Urban EV is tipped for a Geneva motor show reveal in spring. The concept version was one of the most popular cars of the Frankfurt show in 2017. The retro-styled electric supermini from Honda won’t go on sale until late in the year, but in the meantime, I’m intrigued to see how close to the concept Honda’s designers have managed to keep it.
We’re told the production version is very similar, thanks to the public’s positive reaction to the concept. While range won’t be its forte, with a predicted run of 150 miles or so, it’ll no doubt sell well regardless if it can keep those good looks,
Rachel Burgess – deputy editor (digital)
Toyota's revived sports car is finally due for an unveiling in January at the Detroit motor show. The new Supra has been a long time coming (the project began all the way back in 2012) and promises to deliver a very different driving experience from the convertible BMW Z4 with which it shares a platform.
I'm sure it will be a hoot to drive, thanks to its BMW-sourced straight six engine, rear-wheel-drive set-up and 50:50 weight distribution, but it remains to be seen if Toyota can make it feel different enough from the Z4 to justify the existence of both cars – and if it'll truly be worth the expected £20,000 premium over the already brilliant GT86.
Tom Morgan – deputy digital editor
Land Rover Defender
Has a new car ever attracted so many opinions before it has been launched as the new Land Rover Defender? So strong is the body of opinion before we’ve even had more than a hint of what it will look like that I hesitate to describe the new Defender as being even polarising. In an age of social media and instant responses, this is a car that threatens to be damned by traditionalists and those minded to be preset to dislike things before it has even had the remotest of chances to stake a claim for itself.
The waiting should finally be over in 2019, though, and as we all roll up our sleeves and prep ourselves to weigh in, I’d like to advocate that we all approach it with open minds, questioning but receptive to the justifications as to why it looks how it does. The upside of all this pressure is that if they get it right, it will surely be one of the greatest triumphs of automotive design in living memory.
Jim Holder – editorial director
Hybridisation of supercars
Next year will usher in a substantial number of new electric cars, bringing the revolution to the mainstream buying public and taking it out of the hands of the well-off. That should be exciting in itself although, as my colleague Dan Prosser suggests, we're still yet to see an EV convince us that it can be a true driver's car. But it’s hybridisation that has the potential to excite in 2019, as manufacturers use the technology to eke out the best performance and efficiency possible from the internal combustion engine.
Supercar makers in particular, such as Lamborghini, are expected to turn to electrification to extend the glorious, naturally aspirated V12's lifespan rather than turn to turbocharging. Let's hope similar systems can expand the life of the V8s and V10s still in existence. If the petrol engine's life is finite, let's have it go out with a bang.
Lawrence Allan – news editor
A new age for Lotus
Maybe it’s too soon, but I’m hopeful that in 2019 we’ll start to see evidence of the new era at Lotus, under Geely ownership. If it can combine its engineers’ innovative ways of thinking with the kind of money the company has never seen before, I’ll be fascinated to see what’ll come out of it.
I’m also quite excited about the prospect of taking a Jeep Wrangler into a disused quarry in the east of England next year and filming just how far it will go before it gets stuck.
Matt Prior – editor-at-large
Tesla Model Y
Tesla is due to unveil its Model Y SUV in March, ahead of it going on sale in 2020, and it’s going to be fascinating. With the major car firms all upping their EV game with various models labelled ‘Tesla killers’, I’m intrigued to get a sense of whether Elon Musk’s firm is still ahead of the game in producing electric cars.
I’m also ready for the ruckus that will inevitably follow the Model Y’s launch, with avowed Tesla fans proclaiming it as seminal as the Ford Model T and arch Tesla sceptics proclaiming it an overrated device to soothe one man’s ego. It won’t be either of those extremes, of course, and I’d be even more excited for 2019 if I felt that it would be possible to have a grown-up, nuanced conversation about Tesla, its products and its leader.
James Attwood – deputy editor
Porsche 911 (992)
The model life cycle time of a Porsche 911 is probably the closest thing we motoring hacks have to an astronomical unit. Ask any of us which 911 was around when we got our first job (996), wrote our first big test (997), made our first big career move (erm...) or whatever and I bet you they’ll instinctively know. It’s not that we’re partial (obviously, ahem); more that this ‘rear-engined anachronism’ has spent so long as the world’s outstanding, defining driver’s car that we all tend to navigate by it a bit.
As I vividly remember, one of the first Autocar road tests I wrote avidly, pretty much from front to back, was on the 991-generation 911 in early 2012. It wasn’t my first full road test full stop, but it was the first one I remember seizing as if it were a gourmet steak sandwich and I was a man who hadn’t eaten in a week. That job felt like my little bit of Autocar history, and I was very happy to be very selfish about writing it.
Next year will bring the 992-generation 911. Another chance for an Autocar road tester to selfishly write a page into automotive history, then. I’d love for it to be me, but I’m hoping to have a bit more competition for the privilege this time around. Here’s hoping the car’s worthy of every bit of the attention that’s lavished upon it.
Matt Saunders – road test editor
I’m softening up the blu-tac, because 2019 has already got the air of being a great year for the revival of the car poster, à la my schoolboy bedroom circa 1995. Vive le hypercar! We’ve already had sneak peeks of the McLaren Speedtail (I like it, okay!), the Aston Martin Valkyrie and the Mercedes-AMG One that will follow shortly after. Each has an iconic stance that, to me, will stand the test of time, just like the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR, Porsche 911 GT1 and McLaren F1 that once adorned my walls.
These new hypercars will break unfathomable boundaries in head-scrambling ways and I, for one, can’t wait to see them finally in action. Here’s hoping we get to film some of them for Autocar’s YouTube channel.
Mitch McCabe - head of video
Finding hope for the driver's car
More than anything, I’m looking forward to someone or something convincing me that the slow demise of the internal combustion engine doesn’t necessarily mean the demise of the driver’s car. I happen to adore noisy petrol engines, but I’ve seen and experienced enough in recent years to believe that an electric driver’s car is a technical possibility.
So far, electric cars have either been small city runabouts or bigger luxury cars. We have also had a tiny number of very expensive performance cars, such as the Rimac Concept One, but as yet nobody has gone out to build a reasonably affordable electric performance car. The day that car arrives will be the day I believe that an electric future and my love for driving needn’t be mutually exclusive. Until then, I’m not at all convinced.
Dan Prosser – contributing writer
The possibility of a BMW M3 Touring
In the same fashion that Christmas dinner is followed by a nap, BMW’s new 3 Series saloon will inevitably be followed by an estate.
Now, it’s not the 3 Series Touring (which is expected to be revealed at the 2019 Geneva motor show) that I’m necessarily excited about. It’s the fact that BMW insiders have been making noises about the possible arrival of an M3 Touring.
For any fan of fast estates, this is good news of the highest order. Aside from the one-off proof-of-concept prototype E46-generation M3 Touring back in 2000, which is now only rolled out by BMW on special occasions, a production version has never really been on the cards. Supposedly, the Americans are to blame for this: BMW seems to think they don’t have the appetite for an M3 estate.
The new Land Rover Defender has to be front and centre, for sure. I was recently discussing with design boss Gerry McGovern that this might just be the most eagerly anticipated car in history, given that the company killed its predecessor three years ago and we’ve been seeing disguised prototypes and speculating on its make-up for – believe it or not – six or seven years. I find myself hoping McGovern and Land Rover score a king-hit with it, and that the designer (whom I’ve always liked and rated) enjoys every moment.
Apart from that, there’ll be excitement to burn. A new Volkswagen Golf is always really interesting and important. Can they strike that unique quality of ‘everyman sophistication’ they’ve managed in the past?
I’ll want to try the new BMW 3 Series, due on the UK market soon. Hopefully, the Tesla Model 3 will make a proper entry here. McLaren must have a couple of things up its sleeve if it’s to keep to its Track 25 timetable. (Maybe we’ll get a taste of its hybrid plans.) And as a lover of Mercedes-AMG’s A 45, I’ll be dead keen to have a go in the slightly more emollient but quick-enough A 35.
Meanwhile, Lotus will have to start talking in 2019: what does it have in store? And how will Aston Martin keep its bold plans on track? Will we finally see progress with TVR? There’s so much to enjoy in 2019 that it’s almost scary…