A 585 hp rear-wheel-drive supercar and a rain-soaked Hockenheimring – venue for the German F1 Grand Prix, and a track I’ve never previously been to – are ingredients that pretty much guarantee the day ahead will be anything but dull. Throw in a man named Bernd Schneider, a hard-pedalling five-time German touring car champ, as a pacemaker and you can bet fireworks are in store.
Open-topped cars have been an integral part of Porsche’s DNA ever since the first 356 burst onto the scene back in 1948. Porsche ditched fully open cars and went down the Targa route in the early 1960s due to US safety regulations, but the ragtop format was reprised with the debut of the first 911 Cabriolet at the 1982 Geneva Motor Show.
The past year has been major when it comes to midsize sedans — if you can call that niche major any more. All-new versions of the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord debuted in 2018, and their sales have already stagnated as consumers increasingly gravitate toward crossovers. Meanwhile, Ford and GM announced plans to kill off their sedan models in some markets entirely. That means the segment, shrinking or otherwise, will continue to be dominated by the Japanese, especially now that Nissan has debuted their all-new Altima.
With the rise of crossovers dominating over every other automotive niche, there was a glaring hole in Honda’s local line-up that cars like the Nissan Kicks, the Renault Duster and the Ford Ecosport have been playing for the past few years. That gap has now been filled with the introduction of the Honda HR-V, reviving a nameplate that’s been dormant here since the turn of the millennium.
A couple of months ago, if you remember (before the whole debacle over Nissan’s CEO pay in Japan that has nothing to do with the products), some new variants of the Patrol Y61 were launched just for the GCC, joining the Patrol Super Safari that debuted a year earlier. We actually drove some of these new models, marking our first time properly driving a Y61 after all these decades in the UAE.
Cadillac debuted their new entry level SUV, the little XT4, at this year’s “Sole DXB” event in Dubai Design District. It is the first model release from their new plan to introduce a fresh model every six months all the way till 2020. The XT4 will sit under the XT5 as the smallest crossover offering.
Ford made headlines a few months ago when they announced that they’ll stop selling sedans and hatchbacks in the United States due to high costs and low profit margins compared to crossovers and SUVs. The Mustang will survive there too, but everything from the Fiesta to the Taurus will get the axe in a couple of years. It is entirely possible that the same strategy will be followed in the Middle East, as the car line-up doesn’t get much attention any more, and the next-generation Focus will not be launched here (which we drove and liked). Anyway,
Audi is late to the electric-car game, although it’s never too late in the Middle East, considering EVs are yet to take off here. So it’s interesting that the German carmaker decided to hold the international media launch of their first mainstream all-electric vehicle — the E-tron — in Abu Dhabi.
The Volkswagen Touareg has always occupied an awkward niche in the midsize SUV segment. Not quite mainstream, but not quite premium either, it’s left to do battle with everything from Jeep Grand Cherokees to BMW X5s, while even targeting lower-end Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols in terms of price (and VW admitted as much). Now there’s a new-generation Touareg in town, and its objectives are clearer.
Aston Martin has been moving fast to update their line-up in recent times. We recently had a chance to drive the 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, the third release in their “new” lineup. The first being their DB11 grand tourer, followed by the sportier two-seater Vantage.
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