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8 new cars to look out for in 2018
DESPITE some obstacles on the road ahead, the motor trade is revving up for another busy year.
2018 sees a zero-growth policy for the vehicle population kick in and the start of the pollution-penalising Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES). Yet there are more than 70 new cars coming to our shores this year, about the same number as there were in 2017.
Naturally this number includes everything from budget runabouts to the thick end of luxury, but at every price level and segment there are standouts - here are eight to put on your shopping list this year.
Audi A8 L
It's no surprise the Audi A8 will have enough technology on board to do everything except make you coffee. As the brand's flagship luxury limousine, it has more than 40 different driver assist and safety systems, plus enough sensors, processors, and chassis technology to emulate a ground-flying jumbo jet. It'll even do autopilot: It's the first car to pack Level 3 autonomous drive tech, which means it can self-drive (with driver supervision and certain limitations). Although the final specification and abilities of the A8 will be revealed at its Singapore Motorshow (Jan 11-14) debut, we will receive 3.0 V6 and 4.0 V8 models, both in extended wheelbase, with smaller engine choices to follow later in the year.
BMW i8 Roadster
We all know that electrification is the way to go, from hybrids to plug-in hybrids and full electric vehicles, but it's an almost unspoken law that such vehicles tend to be as sexy as a potato sack. The BMW i8, a plug-in sports coupe, showed that to be false and 2018 sees a variation that sends even more sparks flying: The convertible version, called the i8 Roadster.
Due for a Singapore debut in the second half of 2018, it loses the Coupe's miniscule rear seats but gains much more by going topless with a fabric folding roof and beautiful rear deck. The engine is still a 1.5-litre, turbocharged unit, but like the 2018 Coupe model, the Roadster has a more powerful electric motor (for 374hp in total). Best of all, it can travel almost the entire length of Singapore on battery power alone.
Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers are mightily on-trend now, especially for luxury carmakers. 70 per cent of Porsche's sales come from SUVs, while sales of Jaguar's big SUV, the F-Pace, are almost equal to those of its other models combined. Jaguar hopes to bottle that lightning once again with the smaller, less expensive E-Pace model. Lined up for a first-quarter launch, the E-Pace will come with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive and two power outputs (250hp and 300hp) that should ensure no shortage of cat-like, straight-line pace. Jaguar also promises an improved interior and technology accoutrements (like a new 12.3-inch infotainment panel), which should help the E-Pace claw off German rivals.
A longtime choice of heads of industry, the Lexus LS luxury limousine has always been the very best at one thing: imperious refinement. 2018 is the year we see the LS promise owners something much, much more. It looks like a LS pulled through hyperdrive, for one, but even more exciting is the fact that it drives like it looks, too. But what might really boost the LS to the level of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a new, modest engine choice: Besides 415hp 3.5-litre turbo V6 and 354hp hybrid variants, for the first time there's an entry-level 3.5-litre V6 model that should lower the barriers to ownership considerably over the preceding model when it launches in February.
The first Mercedes-Benz CLS kicked off the whole four-door coupe segment back in 2001 - since then competitors have proliferated, and it even birthed the smaller Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, which went on to be a Singaporean best-seller thanks to its sleek appearance. The larger, more expensive and more exclusive third-gen CLS launches in the second-half of 2018, and it not only pushes the segment design expectations into new directions, it also carries cutting-edge tech such as a new in-line six-cylinder engine and mild hybrid system. With underpinnings related to the new E-Class, it also has refinement and plenty of room for five people.
As mentioned, SUVs make up a hefty 70 per cent of Porsche's sales, and one out of every three Porsches sold is a Cayenne, the big SUV of the model range. Why? It might have something to do with the fact that the Cayenne has space for a family of five with luggage to spare - something only the newly-introduced Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo (launching at the Singapore Motorshow) wagon can boast. Blend that sort of practicality with the enjoyable face-numbing level of performance the 550hp Cayenne Turbo is capable of, for example, and you'll understand why the third-generation Cayenne is very likely to be a strong seller on its debut in March.
To the ear, the Toyota C-HR is nothing special: It's a small crossover in a segment fast becoming overcrowded. But a crossover with the right appearance is a recipe for big sales, and the C-HR would be dead set for the car version of Vogue, if there was one. While it's been on grey import sales lists for some time, the official model (sold by authorised dealer Borneo Motors) has a 1.2-litre engine that marks the return of turbocharged power to the Toyota brand. It's likely to take a bow at the Singapore Motorshow, where its blend of futuristic looks, peppy power and the assurance of official support might make it a big sales hit.
See the Jaguar E-Pace, Porsche Cayenne and Toyota C-HR for the backstory, and once you do, it comes as no surprise that Volvo is bringing the XC40, its smallest SUV/crossover, to Singapore. It breaks from the larger XC60 and XC90 models, though, with a funky design that's far less restrained than the usual pared-down Swedish elegance. The XC40 will be introduced here in the first half of 2018, with a 250hp 2.0-litre engine. Smaller, less expensive engines are on the horizon, but for those who don't mind that, the XC40 will prove that the safest experience doesn't need to be a boring one.