Cars to look out for in 2017

bugatti_chiron

We’re well into 2017 now, and the faint glimmer of new metal is twinkling on the horizon. A whole raft of new or updated cars are due this year, some so-so, some truly exciting and game-changing. Here’s a brief rundown of what I’m really looking forward to…

FIRST, HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Of course, there’s no way I can cover all the cars that are coming out in 2017, there are simply too many. So I’ve had to be brutal. Before I get stuck into the tremendously exciting stuff, here’s the best of the rest we can expect in 2017:

  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Hopefully the resurgence will continue after the stellar Giulia. Although I do seem to be the only one that thinks the Stelvio looks a bit porky and, well, unpretty. I’m also outraged they’ve named an SUV after one of the great driving roads. AN SUV. Still, it’s an Alfa, so excitement.
  • McLaren P14. The 650S replacement is an enormously important car for McLaren. Effectively a direct rival for the Ferrari 488GTB, it has some seriously big shoes to fill. McLaren have hit home run after home run over the last few years (P1, 675LT, 570S, 570GT, 540C – all magnificent). If the P14 gets anywhere near the might of the 675LT, Ferrari will be very, very worried.
  • Alpine Vision (or whatever they call it). Finally, it’s only been about 1,000 years. Looks fab, could be too expensive. French. So could be utterly beguiling or maddeningly weird. Hope springs eternal.
    Alpine Vision Concept
    The Alpine Vision concept. We’ve been hearing about it for a couple of years. Release it, already.
  • Hyundai i30 N. The Korean heavyweights are launching their ‘N’ performance arm with what promises to be a most interesting hot-hatch. Rumours abound of a 230bhp (ish) standard car and a 350bhp Golf R/Focus RS rival. If they get the price and handling right, the big boys could be running scared. Potentially the beginning of a new world order.
  • Bugatti Chiron. No, it’ll never have the Concorde-like impact that the Veyron had, but my word it’s a stunning piece of engineering. It’s definitely more striking than pretty. And after seeing it running at 2016’s Good Festival of Speed, I’d certainly say they’ve played it safe with the noise. Still, it’s difficult to argue with 0-62 in less than 2.5 seconds, a (limited) top speed of 260mph, 1,479bhp and  1,180 lb-ft of torque. Especially when it’s wrapped in the kind of opulence usually reserved for 19th century Czars.
  • Maserati GranTurismo. Still one of the most striking cars on sale. Spec it in Grigio Granito (Granite Grey) on 20″ Neptune Nero wheels and it’s basically Batman’s daily driver. Utterly gorgeous. For all it’s mechanical and dynamic compromises (it weighs as much as a small planet and is renowned for ropey gearboxes), not much else sounds or looks this good. Here’s hoping the new one ups the ante by keeping the looks, noise and fury and adding quality.
  • Nissan Leaf. Five years ago, I’d never have believed I’d be writing this, but the new Leaf has the potential to be a serious game-changer. With battery capacity rising, the recharging network increasing by the day and production costs tumbling, I think 2017 could be the year the electric car really takes off.

SECONDLY, A RAFT OF MEH

Naturally, there’s also a load of worthy but fairly boring cars coming our way. Here are a few semi-notable things to, well, note…

  • The VW Golf has been updated to MkVII.5, so they’ll be filling our highways and byways pretty soon. Unsurprisingly, the emphasis on diesel as the fuel of choice for everyday Golfs has been quietly switched to new 1.5 litre turbocharged powerplants, which is promising. Both for smoothness and air quality.
    2017 VW Golf GTI
    This is the 2017 VW Golf GTI. The single most obvious and boring choice you can possibly make. It is good though.
  • Middle management rejoice! A gut full of refined and slightly rehashed BMWs, Mercs and Audis are due. The Mercs will be luxurious, the BMWs will be the driver’s choice and the Audi will be all aloof and solid of suspension. Really, does anyone care? Really?
  • Nissan appear to have made a good Micra. Seriously. It not only looks fairly good, but early reports are that it even drives well and that interior materials quality is no longer on a par with Quality Street wrappers. Just go easy on the customisation options. Nissan have gone all Mini and are offering all manner of colours, options and excesses of sticker. There’ll be some shockers on the road.
  • If there’s one car everyone can agree on, it’s the Ford Fiesta. Great to drive, decent quality, roughly as expensive as fish and chips. It is looking a bit tired inside and out now though. So a new one’s due, with shiny new infotainment, better quality and (all being well) the same handling verve and chutzpah. Here’s hoping the ST’s another cracker. Also, note to Ford, we’d like a 300bhp, AWD RS version please and thank you.
  • Vauxhall have completely redone the Insignia. They’ve also called it the ‘Insignia Grand Sport’, presumably because they didn’t like all that white space on the boot. In better news, it’s up to 200Kg lighter (depending on spec and model, naturally), looks reasonable and, if the latest Astra is anything to go on, will probably handle fairly well. In other news, Heinz will probably still be making baked beans.
    Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport
    No, I have no idea where “Grand Sport” came from. Maybe the marketing guys were asked to think of two words to describe exactly what it isn’t…

NOW, ONTO THE TRULY EPIC CARS

Right, now we’ve got all that out of the way, what cars should we be truly, madly, deeply excited about in 2017? Well, it’s only my opinion, but (in no particular order) I’d start with these:

Aston Martin DB10
Change the mirrors and the wheels and this is, pretty much, the new Vantage.

ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE

Aston know how to make pretty cars. They always have. Now they’ve teamed up with Mercedes, they also have access to some of the world’s finest engines.

The original Vantage V8 was, and remains, a very pretty car with almost perfect proportions. Don’t expect Aston to muck about with the basic formula too much. We’re still awaiting final specs and information from Aston, who are infuriatingly tight-lipped, but I’d be amazed if we weren’t looking at a development of the twin turbo 4.0 V8 from the AMG GT.

The picture above is James Bond’s DB10 from Spectre. In reality, it’s a thinly-veiled Vantage concept. Expect the final thing to look pretty close to this. Knee-tremblingly pretty, in other words. Of course, Aston has Matt Becker (former handling guru at Lotus) in their leather driving gloves now, so we can expect it to handle as well as turn heads. Honestly, I can’t think of a car I want to drive more in 2017.

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
Good heavens! In one generation the Panamera has gone from vomit-inducing to PHWOOAARRR.

PORSCHE PANAMERA SPORT TURISMO

The Mk1 Panamera is not a pretty car. Which is kind of like saying World War 2 was “a bit of a skirmish”, but you get the point. Porsche addressed this with the recent Mk2 Panamera, which is quite nicely designed, has a lovely interior, probably the best show-off rear wing on any car ever, and is generally less of an ocular assault.

Job done. Or so you’d think? How to make a nice-looking, fast car approximately 1,000% better? If the words “estate” or, preferably, “shooting brake” aren’t going through you head right now, then you need to take another look at your life.

Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
And from the back it’s even prettier. I need to go and have a lie down.

As all true petrolheads know, fast estates and/or shooting brakes are better than other fast cars. Fact. And the addition of a more practical rump has certainly done wonders for the Panamera. As I said, the Mk2 was already significantly prettier than its forebear, but the Sport Turismo makes it a real object of desire. There’s a very good chance that the Turbo version (using the standard Panamera Turbo’s 4WD, 542bhp twin-turbo 4.0 V8 drivetrain) will end the “all the car you ever need” argument once and for all. I’m pretty confident this will be the finest way to cross continents with the contents of your entire house. And a dog.

2017 Honda Civic Type R
Grrrrr! Angry Manga Honda is ANGRY.

HONDA CIVIC TYPE R

The last Civic Type R was a bit fighty. Basically, it was a FWD touring car, released onto public roads. This made for exciting, fast but, it has to be said, rather crashy and uncomfortable progress. Granted, much of this was probably down to Britain’s horrifically broken roads, but still.

Nevertheless, there was a great car lurking underneath. A mad (if boomy) engine and seriously trick handling made it a complete weapon in the right hands. Not that bloke in the blue one I was following down the A32 last year, he was useless (sir, you were bested by a 120bhp Mazda 3 and should be ashamed of yourself).

Anyhoo, Honda have built a new one. And this one is even more fighty, with lots of mad (but apparently genuine) aero, an even more bombastic engine but, thankfully, the promise of both great handling and a more comfortable ride. Early reports from those that have driven the 180bhp 1.5 turbo are promising.

What can we expect from the final thing? Well, we’re promised a six-speed manual (thank goodness, Honda make some of the best in the business) and a bit more than the previous model’s 306bhp (expect 325bhp+) still pushed through Honda’s trick FWD system.

I think it’s an utterly mad looking thing. If the handling and ride hold up to that bonkers Manga-esque exterior, this will definitely be on my list when I’m looking for a new car in early 2018.

Jaguar I-Pace
Pictures really don’t do the proportions of this car justice. It’s just so very right.

JAGUAR I-PACE

This is the game changer. Potentially. Of all the cars due in 2017, the I-Pace is the one that fascinates me the most. Not for any other reason than the concept seemed to come from nowhere and because Ian Callum (Jaguar’s design director) has said that, basically, what we saw on the stand is the production model.

If that’s true, it’s a striking, astonishingly proportioned car that builds a car around an EV drivetrain, instead of the usual method of shoe-horning EV tech into an existing (or recognisable) vehicle. The result is a drag co-efficient of 0.29 (low, so good for both economy and speed), an increased wheelbase for better interior space and near perfect weight distribution.

Jaguar I-Pace back
If this is the future of electric cars, sign me up.

Don’t think this is some vainglorious attempt at tree-hugging either, this will be a seriously rapid car. Expect almost 400bhp, more than 500 lb-ft of torque and a 0-62 time in the region of 4.0 seconds. That’s devastatingly quick for such a big vehicle. And that’s the thing, the proportions hide the fact that the I-Pace is a roomy machine – think of it as a full-size SUV (Cayenne, X5 or Q7) in a mid-size SUV footprint (Macan, X3 or Q5) and you’re on the right lines. With a rumoured £60-65K OTR price, it’ll be a bit of a bargain too. Tesla will certainly be nervously looking over their shoulder.

Jaguar says that the I-Pace is just the start of a parade of EV models streaming out of the Midlands factory. If they’re all as beautiful and inventive as the I-Pace, I say bring them on.

Maserati Alfieri
I’m not sure I’ve seen a prettier car for many, many years.

MASERATI ALFIERI

I have a serious soft spot for Maseratis. They’re gorgeous (we’ll ignore the Ghibli and Levants as aberrant moments of madness), go like stink and sound utterly glorious. I’d definitely have a previous generation Quattroporte and a current GranTursimo in my “if money were no object” dream garage. If you don’t get it, go and find a video of a Maserati GranTurismo at full chat, crank up the volume and revel in the pomposity and glory of a crackling V8 on the over-run.

Nevertheless, they haven’t been on the best form lately. The current Quattroporte is not as pretty as its predecessor, the GranTurismo is older than my actual gran, the Ghibli is a bit ugly and the less said about the gopping whale that is the Levante, the better (I understand the economics of making an SUV, but did it have to be so unyieldingly ugly?). Still, they’re Maserati. Like Alfa, that badge and history buys a lot of goodwill. That and the fact that when they get it right, they get it very, very right.

Enter the Alfieri. It will sit just below the new GranTurismo in the Maserati range (that will be moving upwards slightly), taking on the might of the Jaguar F-Type, Porsche 911 and Mercedes AMG-GT. Maserati certainly appear to have taken their brave pills.

Still, it would be difficult to argue with the looks. Crikey, of the concept is anything to go by, it’s an absolute jaw-dropper. From that aggressive, shark-like face to the long, sinuous bonnet and muscular haunches, the Alfieri is a magnificently pretty, well-proportioned thing. If this is a true reflection of the showroom, Maserati will sell a bucket-load based on looks alone. If they can give it go, noise and poise to match the looks, this will be nothing less than the finest Maserati in decades. And that’s something every petrolhead wants to see.


Agree? Disagree? Think I’m a raving loon. Let me know below.

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