The 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 recently made its way to our local shores as one of the most anticipated cars of the year, received with mixed reactions before its limelight was stolen by far more retro Ford Bronco and maybe the upcoming Jeep Wrangler V8. We had a go at it on UAE sand to see if the modernised new model does justice to the nameplate.
If ever there were roads least suited to a hypercar, here they are. The ribbon of tarmac that stretches ahead is littered with an assortment of lumps and bumps, with some sections of bitumen having crumbled away altogether. The snaking route is also so narrow in parts that there’s just enough space for two cars to pass in opposing directions without rubbing shoulders.
We have been following the rise of Chinese cars in the Middle East with a lot of interest now. The barrage of new brands and models has been ongoing for the past decade now, but all the offerings have been lacklustre in one way or the other. They are getting better with every iteration though. So when we got the new Haval H2 for a test-drive, we were hoping China’s carmakers have finally caught up to the competition.
Hard to believe that it’s been 8 years since the Volkswagen Passat’s last full redesign in 2012. That was the year when the European Passat and the American Passat diverged into two distinct cars, as the latter became a larger car with class-leading space for a midsize sedan, but also less sophisticated in terms of execution and features. The GCC market gets the American one. And it’s now on its second facelift, the first one being back in 2016.
Mazda has built a bit of a reputation with enthusiasts on a budget. Building cars that drive well, no matter what category they play in, it is popular among certain younger buyers. Of course, the problem is most buyers aren’t of the enthusiastic variety, and Mazda has always been way behind when it comes to the basics of space and comfort, thereby giving up market share to brands which understand their respective segments better. Does the new Mazda 3 change that?
The Lincoln Nautilus is basically the facelifted version of the outgoing MKX. As the Ford-owned American luxury brand steers clear of the ill-conceived “MK-whatever” naming convention that was introduced just a decade ago, proper names are back on the tailgates of Lincoln models, all of which are now taking design cues introduced on the flagship Continental sedan and made familiar with the new Navigator.
The midsize sedan segment is a competitive one dominated by the Japanese. But Chevrolet has had a competent entry for a few years now that hasn’t gained traction, even with competitive pricing. The current Malibu garnered a decent review from us when it was launched in late 2016, but then the well-known Japanese trio all got redesigns as well, raising the bar for what a midsize sedan can offer. The Korean-built Malibu received a quiet facelift for 2019 though, along with a new engine that’s a huge improvement.
Renamed but little changed since it first launched 40 years ago, Lada’s legacy model remains the brand’s defining model as it makes a comeback to Middle East markets. Formerly known as the Niva, the diminutive Lada 4×4 is both precursor to the crossover segment and a highly capable off-roader. With uni-body construction, rugged four-wheel-drive, and coil spring double wishbone and live axle suspension, it was designed as an affordable people’s car for city streets and rugged rural Russian winters alike.
A complete mental recalibration is called for. This is just the first three-quarter-throttle squirt out of the pitlane and onto the front straight of the Dubai Autodrome, yet it’s already evident the forward thrust being served up here is on the gob-smacking end of the scale. It feels as though I’ve been implanted in a movie that’s playing in fast forward, and the grey matter is still trying to comprehend this madness.
It’s not often that the launch of a new car is held in the basement. But there we were, in the underground parking lot of the Ford Middle East HQ, getting an exclusive walk-around of the all-new 2020 Explorer. Only two US-spec pre-production cars are in the country at the moment, in Hybrid trim, and we were among the first journos to get a look at them.
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