Well, it’s a new year. A year full of exciting potential for the motoring world. While there are many upcoming vehicles to get all titillated about, let’s be like Letterman and focus on the top ten.
- Land Rover Discovery Sport – With the same 2.0 liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine as in the Evoque and a 9-Speed ZF automatic, the Discovery Sport is set to bring back the small, sporty off-roader. Just as all Land Rovers, the Discovery Sport is dripping with the latest off-road technology such as Standard All-Wheel Drive, Terrain Response System and a Haldex clutch on the rear axle, which works with the new 9-Speed to create a low-range, for crawling, in first gear. This LR2 replacement also looks tight and handsome, just like all Land Rovers, and is nicely trimmed on the inside as well. While the engine is from the Evoque and isn’t anything special, Land Rover is supposedly replacing it with an engine from their new Ingenium Engine line shared with, partner company, Jaguar.
Land Rovers have always been the best SUVs thanks to their luxurious cabins as well as their fantastic off-road performance. This new Discovery Sport will be no different; an affordable luxury Swiss army knife.
- Jaguar XE – Another Brit makes the list in Jaguar’s newest addition to their lineup. The XE is primed to take on the BMW 3 Series at its own game. Starting on a brand new platform , the XE with use a primarily aluminum chassis and body as well as all new engines from the new Ingenium Engine line. Jaguar claims this new XE is the lightest and most torsionally rigid sedan they’ve ever made.
Using the 3.0 liter Supercharged V6 from the current Jaguar engine line, the XE is said to hit sixty mph in 4.9 seconds which puts it right in BMW 335i territory. The power will run through the familiar ZF 8-Speed automatic and power the rear wheels, though all-wheel drive will be an option. Tee XE will also be brimming with tech, including stereoscopic safety cameras, heads-up display and a new traction control system designed by Land Rover called All Surface Progress Control (the most British name for a traction control system, ever). This all sounds fantastic and if Jag can pull it off, there will be another serious contender for the 3 Series’ throne.
- Jeep Renegade – Jeeps have always been plucky, fun, good looking SUVs meant to beat up dirt roads without batting an eye. Lately, they have been on a bit of a role with the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee and Wrangler all benefiting from Fiat’s new bankroll. Jeep is now set to release a baby SUV called the Renegade which is designed for no other purpose than to be fun. It looks cheeky and cute, it has actual off-road chops, it’s inexpensive and it’s available with a manual. What more could you want from a baby Jeep?
Engine options are a 160 horsepower, turbocharged, 1.4 liter four-cylinder or a 2.4 liter 182 horsepower four-cylinder. The 1.4 liter will be available exclusively with the 6-speed manual and the 2.4 liter with the new 9-Speed automatic. Both engines will be available with front-wheel drive, though two all-wheel drive systems will be available. The AWD systems are called Jeep Active Drive and Jeep Active Drive Low with the latter only available on the Trailhawk Edition Renegade. The Low version comes with a low-range crawl ratio while the standard version does now. Both versions, however, can send 100 percent of power to a single wheel if needed.
With its advance all-wheel drive systems, short overhangs and trapezoidal wheel arches, the Renegade should be a proper off-road weapon at a low price.
- BMW X5/X6 M – While Land Rover and Jeep are spending tons of time and money making SUVs to go off the road, BMW is spending time and money making SUVs go fast. Love them or hate them, the X5 M and X6 M are extremely polarizing vehicles. Both are big, almost three tons, behemoths with enough horsepower and torque to tug-start an aircraft carrier. Packing 567 horsepower, twin-turbo, 4.4 liter V8’s, the X M twins are far faster than they should be. Fitted with 8-Speed automatics and intelligent all-wheel drive, they also house some pretty nice tech. The 8-Speed has been tuned by BMW’s M Division and has multiple drive modes as well as paddle shifters. The all-wheel drive system can send up to 100 percent of the power to either axle as necessary.
With the X5 M starting at 98,700 and the X6 M at $102,100, they aren’t exactly cheap. However, the lucky few who can afford them will have a grin-inducing SUV that can scorch most sports cars at a set of stoplights. I don’t know how you can’t get excited about this.
- Mercedes AMG GT – With Porsche stealing most of the high-end sports car segment market share with its 911, Mercedes decided it wanted in. So out came the AMG GT packing an all-new 4.0 liter, twin-turbo V8 making 503 horsepower through a 7-Speed dual-clutch gearbox to the rear wheels. It can hit sixty mph in around 3.5 seconds and on to the quarter-mile in around 11.5. The numbers, though, only tell half of the story. Where the AMG GT excited is in the way it looks, sounds and feels. The V8, despite being turbocharged, sounds like a typical roaring AMG V8. And the looks, oh the looks. It has a very classic sports car look, giving off vibes of the Jaguar E-Type and Porsche 911. The interior is quite a lovely place to be as well, with leather, aluminum and carbon fiber adorning the cockpit.
Mercedes seems to have found the perfect formula to create an old-school sports car for today; front engine, rear-wheel drive, a long hood and sleek, streamlined looks. It brings back the romanticism of sports cars in the 50’s and 60’s, yet still manages to be a modern, high performance, two-seater. Seeing the AMG GT on the road is an exciting prospect, indeed.
- Volvo XC-90 – It may seem somewhat silly, putting a Volvo in the top ten, but the XC-90 has always been such a competent all-around vehicle that a new one is very intriguing. While the XC-90 was never light-your-hair-on-fire exciting, it’s always just so inherently pleasant.
This new XC-90 uses Volvo’s new Drive-E engine options, both of which are 2.0 liter, turbocharged four-cylinder’s and are both supercharged and turbocharged. The T6 variant makes 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The T8 variant combines this engine with an 80 horsepower electric motor at the rear to make a combined power output of 395 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque.The T8 models can run on full electric power or be used as a hybrid. Both variants will drive through a Volvo-made 8-Speed auto and power all four wheels. Combine that with seven seats, loads of cargo space, a comfortable ride and more safety tech than Iron Man’s suit, and you’ve got one hell of a kid carrier. The new XC-90 might not be the most exciting car in the world but, to parents everywhere, the new XC-90 is very exciting indeed.
- Porsche 911 GT3 RS – The King, the MacDaddy, the Champion of all sports cars. That’s pretty much what the GT3 RS is. As Richard Hammond of Top Gear says “It’s the best version of the best version of the best sports car in the world.”. Doesn’t get much better than that does it. No official word on the specs yet, but expect the RS to be a stripped out, lightweight GT3 with tons of cool aerodynamic bits on it. It’s also rumored to have the 4.0 liter engine, from the 2012 GT3 RS, which is considered one of the greatest road-car engines of all time.
Though information has only begun to trickle out about the RS version, it is still one of the most highly anticipated cars of 2015.
- BMW 7 Series – Last year, Mercedes reinvented the full-sized luxury car…again. The new S Class is simply phenomenal in every way. But now BMW has had some time to benchmark the new S Class and shape its new 7 Series into form. Replacing the old 7 Series, this new G11/G12 model will be a true flagship with all of BMW’s latest and greatest technology packed in. BMW has learned quite a bit about making cars lightweight recently, with the spectacular i3 and i8, so the new 7 will be almost 400 lbs. lighter. It will also feature a 9-Speed automatic made by ZF, wireless charging for mobile phones, laser headlights, a gesture based navigation system and even a self-parking feature on the keyfob.
The new 7, much like the new S Class, isn’t about making headlines with the way it looks. It’s more substance over style and I, for one, am happy BMW is putting the development dollars into what matter — the driving experience. When the new S Class debuted, everyone claimed it to be the best car on the market. I think, with this new 7, a new king will be crowned.
- Mazda MX-5 – I’m not sure there is any car in the world with the kind of cult following the Mazda Miata/MX-5 has. It’s not hard to see why, either. It’s quick enough for any circumstance, it is easily one of the most fun cars on the road, it’s available with a manual and hardly breaks your wallet. The Miata/MX-5 has always been/always will be one of the best performance-for-dollar cars on the planet.
The only real knock against the MX-5 was that it always looked a bit like a girls car. This new one, though, changes that. It seems to almost have been styled by Alfa Romeo, it looks so good. Then comes the engine — a 2.0 liter, 155 horsepower four-cylinder. While that doesn’t sound like much, in a car that weighs less than 3,000 lbs, it’ll do just fine. Pair that little, buzzing four to a 6-Speed manual and rear-wheel drive and you’ve got a recipe for big smiles.
The MX-5 has always been known for great steering, a balanced chassis and fun, tail-out action. This new model should be no different, if anything it should be even better. This is not only one my my most anticipated cars of the new year, it’s one of everybody’s.
- BMW M2 – Everyone loves small, BMW M cars. How can you not? They’re fast, crazy-good fun, comfortable enough for everyday driving and they both look and sound great. Currently the M235i, while not a proper M car, is making some big waves. It’s everything someone would want in a small performance BMW, but it just isn’t a full blown M car. So now BMW is giving the 2 Series to its M Division. Packing an uprated version of the N55 3.0 liter, turbocharged engine, the M2 should make somewhere between 360 and 380 horsepower. Being a true M car, it will be available with a manual and power only the rear wheels. Expect it to be lighter than the M235i as well and feature lightweight designs such as a carbon fiber roof. It will look better as well, with more aggressive fender flares, like on the M3, and wheels.
Overall, the M2 will be a lightweight, very powerful, rear-wheel drive M car. It simply doesn’t get better than that. Everyone has been complaining about the M3 getting too big and heavy and should go back to its E30 roots. Well this car might just shut everyone up. It’s not an M3, but it’s the closest we’re going to get to a modern E30 M3. That is why it’s the most hotly anticipated car of 2015.