It has been an interesting year for the motor car. The auto world has adjusted as it maneuvers the post-petrol age. Whereas eco driving used to mean compromising on style and performance – think the awkward-looking REVAi/G-Wiz – it appears we need not lose much, if anything, from the golden age of the motor car. As it happens, electric cars are an awful lot of fun to drive and the new mechanics allow for a great deal of creative imagination. It has been a quiet revolution, but we are finally seeing some considered and engaging products.
So, what impressed in the year gone by? Rolls-Royce gave us its first SUV. The Cullinan may not be entirely a project from the heart, but it is a confident addition in the fastest-growing sector and will no doubt make the company a handsome profit. The Cullinan bravely shuns extra flourishes, the sort of brashness that could have worked in some markets but would have been completely wrong for a marque so steeped in glorious history. Instead the design is clean and clear and a touch austere – a sort of blank canvas that, if the customer so wishes, can be made into something much more exotic. The Rolls buyer has dropped dramatically in age – and the company is responding accordingly as the CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös told me recently.
Elsewhere, McLaren Automotive proved it is possible to still create cars fueled entirely by love and idealism. The Speedtail is an ultra-exclusive hyper-GT and the purest expression of its function for a product that is a beauty to look at and, I’m sure, very special to drive. Others worth mentioning in the luxury field are the Bentley Continental GT Convertible. It continues the design theme introduced with the Coupé sibling last year, refining some of the more dramatic and bold elements of the original model, an instrumental product for the marque when it was introduced in 2003.
What really excited me though were the sustainable concept and production cars shown this year, some of which I was fortunate enough to experience. The I-Pace is Jaguar’s first all-electric car and an accomplished product. It looks progressive, while forging a subtle visual narrative with its gasoline powered siblings. I’m excited to see what Jaguar Land Rover do next as the marque has been creating some really interesting products recently.
Elsewhere, the latest hybrid-electric i8 Roadster was also huge fun to explore. BMW has been at the forefront of ecological thinking when it established the BMW i electric sub-brand seven years ago. The Roadster is the convertible sibling to the Coupé, exploring further the intriguing design of the original, while making great use of the advanced LifeDrive modular architecture that underpins all BMW’s electric cars. Others certainly worth mentioning here are the Audi E-Tron SUV, an electric car that is so advanced technically, yet could perhaps have risked looking a touch more radical. I suspect the company will be more daring with its future electric cars.
One of the highlights of the year was definitely Automobili Pininfarina and its first product, the Battista. This is a sustainably-developed, clean-powered hypercar to be built by 2020 from the new car arm of the legendary Italian styling house. I am yet to see the actual car, expected to be unveiled at the Geneva Show in the spring, yet the drawings certainly look promising.
Also worth mentioning here is the Prototype 10 by Infiniti. This elegantly-proportioned vehicle is an electric performance concept car to honor the evocative spirit of early Californian speedsters. It implies where the premium Japanese marque is heading visually in the next three years when every new model will benefit from some form of sustainable powertrain.
Looking a touch further ahead, Volvo’s 360c is a truly visionary concept. This mobile hub is at once a self-driving workstation offering hot-desking on the move, a space to socialize in with friends, as well as a tranquil bedroom-on-wheels – what the firm calls “road planes” to challenge short-haul flights.
On the whole, 2018 has proved to be an exciting year for speculative design and I am looking forward to seeing and experiencing these ideas as they progress into reality in the years ahead.
Source – https://www.forbes.com/sites/nargessbanks/2018/12/29/best-cars-of-2018/#d1c9fa11233c