THE NEW year is a chance to shake the Etch A Sketch of 2010 and promise to do it better this time around. It’s a time when we huddle over piping-hot, chocolatey beverages and reminisce about last year’s wins, losses, triumphs and scandals. It’s a time when our gyms are invaded by pasty, varicose legs in formfitting spandex…at least until March. The new year also brings in a new crop of cars vying for our attention, our dollars and our dropping jaws. So here’s to a clean slate, and to our auto predictions about what could be in 2011.
Most likely to be a “Sweet 16” present
THE NEW generation of Ford’s C-segment fighter could not be more appropriately named. Being the only major American automaker to not accept bailout money, Ford had to sharpen its vision for the future. From the marketing campaigns to the technology packages, it is clear Ford wants Facebookers in this car.
While the design language and the new company motto, “One Ford,” has helped to create an inspiring shell, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The shining star of the Focus is Ford’s proprietary MyFord Touch infotainment center with voice-activated controls. MyFord Touch controls the climate, audio, Bluetooth and navigation through voice commands. If your phone is paired, you can even reply to incoming text messages from a list of preprogrammed responses, all without taking your eyes off the road. It’s not available yet, but a talk-to-text feature is the next enhancement.
Focus packages features that Generation Now wants in a vehicle their parents can afford…and allows them to electronically limit top speed, control audio volume and access traction-control settings. Isn’t technology great?
Audi Quattro Concept
Most likely to start a letter-writing campaign
THE PROPRIETARY all-wheel-drive system fitted to Audi’s rally racing cars in the 1980s was so effective, it literally changed the rules of the sport. From that emerged a sinister little machine dubbed the Quattro.
Paying homage to its predecessors, Audi premiered its latest concept of the same name for 2011. This gorgeous fastback leaves us salivating. The wide C-pillars and hunkered tail are nostalgic, while the squinting LED headlights and signature hexagon grille are completely modern. Using the incredible RS5 as a template, the body gets shaved: 6 inches in the wheelbase and 1.5 inches in the roofline. Audi shows love to the devoted ur-Quattro fans with touches like a four-ringed emblem stamped on the C-pillar and a right-side hood vent. The flared fender arches and aggressive styling show love to the rest of us. The appeal of the Quattro concept is undeniable, and hopefully so will be the requests to make it a reality.
Range Rover Evoque
Most likely to eat a Lexus RX 450 for lunch
THE RANGE Rover line has always comprised snarling behemoths that hulked around freeways and valet stands. Range Rovers were vehicles that were too vain for self-park and too Paleolithic for parallel park. Range Rover needed an evolution.
In concept form, it was called the LRX: a crossover SUV with upscale panache and urban attitude. Our excitement was tempered because in general, concepts suffer from overselling and underwhelming. But when the LRX debuted as the Evoque, the delivery was spot-on. A rising beltline and sloping roofline give this mini-Rover a taught, nimble appearance. From the interior, a panoramic glass roof makes this crossover seem absolutely cavernous.
While the coupe body style doubles the Evoque’s cool points, ingress and egress make one yearn for the giant hinged doors of an HSE. Evoque is Land Rover’s foray into the highly competitive luxury crossover segment, perennially dominated by the very sensible Lexus RX. However, Evoque’s unique style and Range Rover heritage give it the best chance at taking a big bite out of the competition in late 2011.
Most likely to sneak up from behind
LOTUS began its life on the racetrack. A winning philosophy of “less weight, more speed” soon made Lotus the semi-affordable go-to import for street racers. Sacrificing ride for handling and comfort for an astronomical power-to-weight ratio, Lotus has stayed a favorite niche marque for automotive die-hards.
However, under direction of the new CEO, former Ferrari VP Dany Bahar, Lotus is unleashing an all-out attack on the mainstream import sports-car industry. Bahar and his star-studded team of consultants, including famed GM executive and professional ass-kicker Bob Lutz, unveiled five—yes, five—new concepts they intend to produce over the next four years. This more than doubles the Lotus current portfolio of three.
And don’t expect any more one-ton go-karts with anabolically enhanced sewing machines for engines. The new range will start with a heavier and more expensive Elise with power sourced from a turbo four that produces 316 horsepower. A V-6 goes in the new Elan, which will crank out 444 horsepower, and a Lexus IS F 550-horsepower V-8 will sit in the top-of-the-line Esprit. Lotus will also make the Elite, a two-plus-two hardtop convertible aimed squarely at Maserati, and Eterne, a four-door super saloon designed to steal market share from the unfortunate-looking but incredibly popular Porsche Panamera.
Most likely to change everything forever
THE CHEVY Volt is perhaps the world’s most advanced mode of transportation to date. As a point of reference, Chevrolet claims its Volt has more lines of computer code than some of the Air Force’s most sophisticated fighter jets— most of which are devoted to optimizing the heart: a T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack.
For most, the main deterrent to buying an EV is range anxiety. No more with the Volt. Once the estimated 25-to-50-mile all-electric range is depleted, Volt charges itself while driving via a 1.4-liter gasoline engine. This gives Volt over 310 miles on a
Volt makes range anxiety so last year and in doing so, increases the American acceptance of EVs. If it works, the Volt could change the automotive industry forever.
Read more on the Drive Feature in the February issue of Instinct!