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The 9 most important cars for Singapore this year

The electric car market could finally take off in the year ahead, but expect fossil fuel cars to have their last hurrah.

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Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

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Volkswagen Golf.

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Honda Civic.

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Ferrari SF90 Spider.

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BMW M3 (left) and M4 (right).

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Lexus LC500 Convertible.

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Audi e-tron GT.

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MG HS PHEV.

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BMW iX3.

Singapore

IF 2020 dealt the global car industry a body blow, carmakers have come out swinging as 2021 gets underway. The year ahead promises a slew of noteworthy cars across various market segments, with electrification playing an increasing role in keeping the business relevant in a world that is growing increasingly hostile to fossil fuels.

Closer to home, incentives worth up to S$45,000 in combined tax rebates for zero emissions cars came into effect here this year.

That means 2021 could be the year that powers up the electric car market in Singapore.

Just don't expect fossil fuel to go quietly. Traditional high performance cars are still around to thrill driving enthusiasts.So, here are the most exciting new cars to look out for this year.
 


The Stalwarts - quintessential cars that represent the best of their breed

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

The king of luxury cars makes a regal return in early 2021, when the all-new Mercedes S-Class rolls into town. Mercedes-Benz has sold nearly 3,000 of its flagship here over the years, which makes it by far the most popular vehicular signaller of wealth in Singapore.

As usual, the S-Class leans heavily on tech to pamper occupants. It adjusts its suspension 1,000 times a second to glide over the road, for example. It has huge digital screens inside and an Augmented Reality head-up display system, as well as 3D cockpit effects that Mercedes chief executive Ola Kallenius described to The Business Times as "super cool."

But what will the rich and successful make of its toned-down styling, which Mercedes calls a "post-opulence" interpretation of luxury? For buyers in search of an even less traditional expression of glitter, Mercedes is working on an all-electric sister car called the EQS (likely to appear only next year). In the meantime, fans of battery power can expect the EQC, an electric Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) to arrive soon. The EQA, a compact electric SUV, goes on sale here this year, too.

Volkswagen Golf

The Golf is the backbone of Volkswagen's range, epitomising its maker's habit of taking fancy features from expensive cars and democratising them. Accordingly, expect the eighth-generation Golf to have VW's excellent Travel Assist semi-autonomous driver aid system. It's a boon in gnarly traffic.

Inside, the new Golf has few individual buttons, with haptic switch panels and digital screens galore taking their place. Of course, the legendary GTI nameplate returns, and brings with it a 245 horsepower engine. That's the kind of democratisation that makes driving enthusiasts rub their hands.

Honda Civic

A new Civic arrives in the second half of the year, bringing cleaner lines and bolder styling to one of the most highly-regarded cars in its segment. Seen only as a prototype so far, the new Civic will come in both sedan and hatchback form - the latter is important because it forms the basis for the steroidal Civic Type R, a machine for driving purists.

Honda has released few details so far, but the new Civic will have a more modern interior with fully digital instruments, a freestanding touchscreen infotainment system and a slick dashboard with neatly integrated air-con vents.

Before the Civic gets here, Honda is kicking off its year with an all-new version of the Jazz. It retains its masterful space-packaging but will also be available with a clever new hybrid drive system that should bolster the hatchback's reputation for frugal motoring.


The Fast and Furious - cars that make you hang on for dear life

Ferrari SF90 Spider

Ferrari's most powerful car loses its top, which is apt because you might do the same when you see the bill for your SF 90 Spider after choosing from the irresistible options catalogue: expect it to cost more than S$2 million in Singapore.

Still, the money buys you a 1,000 horsepower supercar, with a plug-in hybrid system for smooth, quiet commutes on pure electric power.

BMW M3 and M4

Think of the M3 and M4 as the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series on steroids. To be sold here in Competition trim this month or next, they both get by with a high-revving, twin-turbo six-cylinder engine with 510 horsepower.

But with its own engineers and designers, BMW's M division does more than bump up the horsepower. Both the M3 and M4 have special brakes, suspension and driver aids, and they look distinctive with wide fenders, aggressive bodykitting and a front grille design that can be seen from 20,000 leagues. With electrification starting to spread to high performance cars, who nose if the M3 and M4 will ever run on pure combustion again after this?

Lexus LC500 Convertible

Another machine that might be a poster for combustion power's last hurrah is the Lexus LC500 Convertible. It gets Lexus' year off to a glamorous start, combining a snarling 5.0-litre V8 engine with otherworldly looks and wind-in-what's-left-of-your-hair driving pleasure.

In fact, the Lexus might well come to symbolise the passing of an era, not only because roaring V8s are a dying breed, but because luxury convertibles themselves are falling out of favour. But if the sun is setting on one kind of motoring, it is rising on another. Lexus is also launching its first electric car, the UX 300e, in Singapore in the second half of this year.


The Electrifying - cars you charge that also charm

Audi e-tron GT

None of the Tesla-killers concocted by legacy carmakers has been particularly deadly, but it won't stop them from continuing to try. Audi has five new pure-electric cars on the way here this year, the most exciting of which is the e-tron GT, a shapely four-door four-seater.

Audi says the e-tron GT, which it has only shown off in prototype form so far, was the fastest car to reach production in the brand's history. Sharing major components with Porsche's Taycan undoubtedly helped to speed up its development, not to mention the car itself: 590 horsepower motors propel it to 100km/h in around 3.5 seconds.

It should travel more than 400km on a single charge, and also has the Porsche's 800-volt architecture, which permits the fastest charging in the business - assuming Audi and Porsche's high-speed chargers eventually win approval for sale in Singapore.

MG HS PHEV

British brand MG has quietly flourished under Chinese ownership. Sales have risen spectacularly in Europe, and it sold 313 cars in the first 11 months of 2020 in Singapore.

Before its relaunch last January, there were only 126 MGs in the country. The brand's ZS EV could be considered the first electric car for the everyday motorist in Singapore, while the HS, a petrol-powered SUV, is its best-selling car by far. A new plug-in hybrid version of the HS bridges both propositions: it has an electric motor and enough battery power to cover the average driver's daily distance in Singapore, as well as a 1.5-litre turbo engine for longer journeys. With 284 horsepower, the HS PHEV is something of a hot rod, too.

BMW iX3

The iX3 embodies BMW's approach to future mobility: making its cars available with every kind of tech and letting customers choose whichever works for them.

When it arrives in the second half of 2020, the iX3 will add an electric option to the X3, an SUV that is already on sale here with petrol or plug-in electric power (with diesel in other markets).

BMW claims a 460km range for the iX3, which has 286hp and scampers to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds. It builds the car in China, which carmakers view as the centre of the electric car world.

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