Looking forward to 2015


Have you yet read anywhere that 2014 was a vintage year? Of course you have – it’s that time of year when everything is being reviewed and re-run because it’s easier than thinking up a new angle and if you call it a vintage year there’s just a chance that someone will believe you and read the story that follows.

Was 2014 a vintage year? If you like million-pound hyper cars then yes, otherwise absolutely not. Indeed if you look at the cars shortlisted for the annual European Car of the Year award – the Ford Mondeo, Citroen C4 Cactus, Mercedes C-class, BMW Active Tourer, Nissan Qashqai, Renault Twingo and Volkswagen Passat – you might think it a year of unimaginative steady-as-she-goes products that move the game on not at all, and I’d not disagree with you. If there have been any superstars at all, they have been among the unaffordable dreams not just like the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918, but the Ferrari 458, Mercedes-AMG GT and BMW i8.

My car of the year? Of the all-new designs, it would be between the BMW i8 and the Mini Cooper which was entirely overlooked by my fellow Car of the Year jurors, two BMWs in the year it also produced the M4 which, admittedly only relative to expectations, was one the most disappointing cars of the year.

So is 2015 looking any better? I think it probably is and to explain why here are the 10 cars I am most looking forward to driving in the next 12 months. Note these are not the cars I think likely to be the best, but the most interesting, either for what they are or their significance to the company that has created them.

1. Alfa Romeo Giulia

Apparently it’s not going to be called Giulia any more but in any event, this new mid-sized Alfa saloon is the most important product in recent Alfa history. And yes, I know that’s claimed for every new Alfa that comes out, but this is the car that must break America. If it fails to establish a credible reputation for Alfa Romeo on the far side of the pond after decades away, the plans for the brand’s revival will lie in tatters.

2. Aston Martin Vantage GT3

Astons are always at their best when at the extremes of the marque’s range. So on one wing sits the comfortable and luxurious Rapide while as far in the other direction as you can go will be this new GT3 Vantage. Details are sparse, but expect it to be lighter, more powerful, more expensive and limited in number. If Aston Martin gets its sums right, it could be the most exciting road car ever to wear the badge.

3. Honda Civic Type R

I know I should be more moved by the return of the NSX with its doubtless revolutionary hybrid powertrain, but having driven an early prototype, it is the Type-R that excites me more, just because it will come within the reach of normal people. Will it be the fastest front-drive hatch in history as promised? And will it still command a generously accessible price point? Will it look as mad as the concepts seen to date? If Honda gets it right, the Type-R will join the NSX and the company’s return to F1 and play an integral role in restoring Honda’s once-vaunted reputation as an engineering powerhouse.

4 and 5. Jaguar XE and XF

Having turned Land Rover around, JLR’s attention now falls firmly on the Jaguar side of the business, which is about to enter a year of unprecedented product-launch intensity. Not only is there the all-new XE and XF, but a four-wheel-drive F-type, a manual F-type, a thoroughly revised XJ and probably a sight of its new sporting SUV. But it’s really about the XE: if it succeeds Jaguar has the capacity to be a significant global player once more.

6. Ford Mustang

For the first time ever, a right-hand-drive Mustang will officially go on sale in the UK and that alone is cause for celebration. I expect to be among the minority in lamenting the fact that Ford has come over all sensible and given it a proper independent rear end.

7. Tesla Model X

Limited range aside, I was completely taken by the Model S saloon, but it is the Model X SUV that will take sales to the next level. America in particular is screaming out for a high-quality all-electric car with seven proper seats and four-wheel drive.

8. Mazda MX-5

On paper this should be the best small roadster since the original MX-5 broke cover 25 years ago. Small, lighter, stiffer, quicker and more responsive, there is no reason this should not be as wildly successful as those that have gone before it. The real question is whether any rival dare to go up against it – only a few have tried in the last quarter century (remember the Fiat Barchetta and last Toyota MR2?), and all have failed.

9. Volvo XC90

This may seem to be just another large SUV; in fact it’s Volvo’s entire future all in one car. It uses its new powertrain strategy which means no Volvo engine will have more than 2-litres or four cylinders and it comes mounted on Volvo’s new scalable architecture which will be used for every one of its medium-sized and large cars. In short Volvo has bet the house on a massive gamble, which simply has to pay off.

10. Porsche 911 GT3 RS

It’s a new 911 GT3 RS. If you need to ask why one might choose to look forward to that, you may be on the wrong website.


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