Your hot ticket to the 2016 variety performance
FOR CAR builders and buyers alike, 2016 has all the makings of a bumper year. Manufacturers have a mass of new technology in their toolboxes that promises to make cars more efficient, safer and fit for the connected generation.
That’s not all. This year the choice of vehicles will be wider than ever: car makers have worked out how to build a huge variety of makes and models on a single platform, which allows them to diversify their range without increasing costs and, by economy of scale, offer more car for the money.
To guide drivers through this year’s showroom maze, with all its twists and turns, Driving has compiled the definitive list of the best vehicles on sale. These are models that have been driven and assessed by our contributors. For the first time our Top 100 Cars has no fewer than 20 categories, ranging from sensible city cars that will turn on a sixpence and sip fuel to showy supercars that will empty bank accounts quicker than a trophy spouse. This reflects the explosion in the variety of body styles that manufacturers are offering, as well as the number of great models that have arrived for this year.
Naturally, they don’t all fit neatly into place. There’s no official definition of a supercar, for example, or a prestige model. Many cars will comfortably wear several labels. Jaguar’s F-type could be accommodated in the sports car, coupé or luxury category. The terms “convertible” and “roadster” are often used interchangeably, so for our top 100 we’ve put two-seat dropheads into the roadster category and those with back seats into family convertibles. Supercars must be able to reach 60mph from standstill in three seconds or less. City cars must be 12ft or less in length to qualify for a place in our guide.
The challenge of categorisation is made more fraught by the appearance of such things as crossovers, four-door coupés and sporty SUVs, all of which attempt to combine the best aspects of hitherto distinct types of car. Ultimately, a choice has to be made, and sometimes it can seem arbitrary, so apologies if your chosen car isn’t where you expect it.
Before we name our top five cars in each category, let’s begin on these two pages with the most eagerly awaited models due out this year. The Sunday Times has yet to test-drive them, but if they live up to expectations, they will turn out to have been well worth the wait.
Price estimate £1.5m
On sale End of the year
It is 11 years since the million-pound Bugatti Veyron was launched, and the W16 quad-turbo supercar remains the fastest status symbol on wheels. But with all 450 Veyrons sold to power-hungry multimillionaires, it’s time to go faster still: Bugatti’s Chiron will be the next step up on the hypercar ladder. Many feared that a machine that is about excess in all areas would be culled by the management of the Volkswagen Group, which owns Bugatti, after Dieselgate. Yet it appears to have escaped cost-cutting measures.
What do we know about the Chiron’s performance? Its engine may develop as much as 1,479bhp, and Martin Winterkorn, the former head of VW, has said that it will have a hybrid powertrain.
Although the four-wheel-drive Chiron’s power output, acceleration and top speed remain a closely guarded secret, the likelihood is that it will be capable of getting from standstill to 62mph in 2.3 seconds and travelling at 288mph — more than four times the national speed limit. If that prospect doesn’t get 2016 off to a flying start, nothing will.
Price estimate £200,000
On sale Late in the year
In 1963 Ford unveiled the GT40, a car bred to break Ferrari’s dominance of the Le Mans 24 Hours. In 1966 it took first, second and third places. This year is the 50th anniversary of that victory, and Ford is celebrating by building a new GT, returning to Le Mans and racing wheel to wheel with Ferrari for 24 hours (it hopes). Loaded with carbon fibre and active aerodynamics and packing a twin-turbo V6 engine with 600bhp-plus, it comes with the promise of one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any supercar. Buyers must be quick: only about 1,000 are expected to be made.
Price estimate £18,000
On sale Spring
The Sportage has been a big hit: a good-looking SUV that seats five in comfort, is cheap to buy and run and comes with a seven-year warranty. The new version looks more heavy-duty than its predecessor. The company says buyers will appreciate its fresh interior and claims to have improved comfort and agility on winding roads. A plug-in hybrid model is expected after 2016.
Price estimate £50,000
On sale Spring
Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes, Porsche and Volvo already offer lavishly appointed, high-powered SUVs, so the only question for the bosses behind Maserati’s Levante is: “What took you so long?” Due on sale in March, the four-wheel-drive car is expected to come with turbocharged V6 and V8 petrol and V6 diesel units. The Kubang concept, above, is a clue to its looks.
FIAT 124 SPIDER
Price estimate £20,000
On sale Late summer
Note to Fiat: please, please don’t mess up the 124 Spider. To judge by the pre-production version, this reincarnation of the 1966 Pininfarina-designed classic is just what we’ve been waiting for. It’s an affordable two-seat roadster with the chassis from the excellent front-engined, rear-wheel-drive Mazda MX-5. Fiat is providing the bodywork and engines.
Price estimate £250,000
On sale Early 2016
Rolls-Royce describes the Dawn as a model fit for la dolce vita. Loosely based on the Wraith, the high-roller’s drop-top features a 563bhp 6.6-litre V12 engine, so the acceleration should be brisk. Its roof, however, is said to take a leisurely 21 seconds to open. All the better, perhaps, to tease onlookers keen to see how the other half lives.
ASTON MARTIN DB11
Price estimate £120,000
On sale Autumn
For its new range of 2+2 sports cars Aston Martin borrows badly needed modern technology from Mercedes – many gadgets from the flagship S-class will make it into the DB11 – and an AMG-built V8 joins the small British marque’s own uprated V12 unit. The chassis and bodywork will be all Aston. Expect some features from the one-off DB10, above, driven by James Bond.
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA
Price estimate £24,000
On sale September
Like a neapolitan ice cream in the sun, Alfa Romeo has melted away over the past decade: it offers just two hatchbacks and a sports car. But the Italian manufacturer is fighting back with the Giulia, a stylish saloon said to be good to drive, practical to live with and affordable to run. Let’s hope it stops Alfa becoming just an embarrassing drip on the shirt of the car industry.