Cars and Trucks to Watch in 2018

Every vehicle launch is a big deal to the manufacturer that’s spent millions of dollars to design, build, and promote a car or truck it hopes will find success in an incredibly competitive marketplace.

But of the vast number of new, redesigned or refreshed vehicles that come to market every year, few are truly notable, whether in the context of an automaker’s history or the market at large. Here are the cars and trucks whose arrival we’re most looking forward to in 2018.

Lamborghini Urus

Lamborghini is set to launch its second-ever SUV model – remember the tank-like LM002 of the 1980s? – but this time it’s appealing to the same pavement-pounding, luxury-loving crowd that the Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne are aimed at.

Expect the Urus to be popular around the world, but especially in crossover-crazy North America: Lambo expects to double its sales in Canada with the Urus and provide a massive boost to the company’s bottom line. Incidentally, the Urus is also Lambo’s first modern four-door, four-seat model, offering what look to us like a pair of perfectly usable rear seats.

Power comes from a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 making 650 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque, which Lambo says will propel the Urus to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and on to a (claimed) best-in-class 305 km/h top speed. But the company hastens to add that the Urus is not all about on-road speed: they’ve produced a series of short videos showing the high-performance vehicle performing impressively in sand, snow, and off-road settings.

There will also be a V12 engine, because why not? Lambo says a plug-in hybrid version will arrive about a year after the car’s Canadian launch in the third quarter of 2018.

BMW Z4/Toyota Supra

We’ve been hearing about this duo for what feels like years now. Toyota’s trying to re-establish itself in the sports car arena, and BMW is hesitant to spend too much money developing a successor to the Z4, so the companies are teaming up. The Supra is a much-revered nameplate among fans of 1990s sports cars, making the decision to revive the name a rather daring one, in our view.

Look for both manufacturers to install their own four- and six-cylinder engines into their respective variants. There’s a rumoured hybrid setup, too, but we’re not sure which manufacturer it would come from.

We have no doubt this joint effort will produce a fun, sporty car. What we’re really eager to find out is whether Toyota can turn it into something worthy of the Supra’s glory days of the 1980s and 90s.

Ford Ranger

Lately, Ford has played a wait-and-see game before jumping into certain segments, particularly the mid-size pickup category. The company has presumably been watching North Americans gobble up GM’s Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models and the Toyota Tacoma, and now seems ready to get in on the party with a new truck that will bring back the Ranger name.

Ford says the Ranger won’t actually reach dealerships here until 2019, but we’ve included it in this list because we’re keen to see if Ford can do a not-huge truck that’s as pleasant to drive as the GM twins.

There are also rumours going around that Ford will set its SVT team loose on the Ranger to create a Raptor variant, to appeal to hardcore off-roaders.

Ford F-150 diesel

Ford’s other truck news is the addition of a 3.0L V6 diesel engine to its light-duty F-150 models, years after Ram began offering one in its 1500 model. It’s one of a number of new engines added for 2018, but arguably the most significant, given that it could solidify Ford’s dominance in the full-size pickup market.

So far, Ford has been coy about the new diesel’s specs, but our guess is it will top 250 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque, if for no reason other than to allow Ford to boast better output than Ram’s diesel.

Whatever performance the new motor offers, it will be interesting to see how it is received in a post-VW diesel emissions scandal industry. But torque is a truck driver’s friend, and a lot of truck drivers like the F-150, so we can’t see Ford’s first light-duty diesel engine being anything but a hit.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla made big news when it announced its intention to build a more affordable car called the Model 3 with a starting price of US$35,000, intended to take high-performance electric cars into the mainstream. It made news again more recently when the company revealed it wouldn’t come close to meeting the production targets it had set for the end of 2017.

That advertised price is a big deal for a speedy, all-electric car that promises 350 km of driving range, but more powerful motors, a longer-range battery and all-wheel drive will add a lot to the base cost. Still, the buzz surrounding this car is not for nothing: other car companies are promising future electrics that will perform like this, but Tesla is building one now.

While the Model 3 is already in production, it won’t come to Canada until late 2018, after Tesla begins making entry-level models that will carry that attractive price tag.

Jaguar I-Pace

One of the Model 3’s strongest rivals will be Jaguar’s first all-electric model, the I-Pace, which will reach the marketplace around the same time as Tesla has promised the Model 3 to Canadians.

Key among the I-Pace’s specs are its 90 kWh battery, which Jag says will enable 386 km of driving on a single charge and provide enough juice for a 4.0-second 0–100 km/h sprint, thanks to 400 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque.

While the I-Pace sports a design that is Jaguar’s own, it’s clear the British company had upstart Tesla in its sights when it drew up the five-seat I-Pace. Its compact footprint houses front and rear cargo holds for extra practicality.

Jaguar has seen success with recent models like the F-Type sports car and the popular F-Pace crossover, positives that have come as the result of significant financial investment by Jaguar’s corporate overseers at India’s Tata. Tesla may be good at generating buzz, but we think the I-Pace will be Jaguar’s opportunity to show them a thing or two about how the auto industry actually works.

Hyundai Veloster N

Last year, we watched with no small measure of awe as Hyundai rolled out the Elantra Sport, a hotted-up version of that little sedan that proved it had the chassis chops to keep up with more-established sport compacts like the VW GTI.

Next year, Hyundai will follow up that offering with the first car to be sold under the brand’s oddly named N performance banner with a zippier version of the next-generation Veloster. That asymmetric three-door hatchback came in a quick Turbo model in its first gen, but if it builds on the excellent Elantra Sport, the new Veloster N should have what it takes to put up a serious fight against the likes of the hard-edged Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS.

Depending on who you ask, the 2.0L turbo four-cylinder expected under the hood will put something like 250 or 275 horsepower to the front wheels.

Jeep Wrangler

Crossovers and SUVs are so common now, it hardly seems noteworthy when a new one comes along or an existing one is redesigned. But it’s impossible to ignore news of a reworked Jeep Wrangler, whose launch always entails months of rumours, conjecture and, finally, when the real deal is revealed, plenty of strong opinions.

But while we’re keen to find out how much refinement Jeep has added with this redesign, we’ll have to wait until 2019 to sample what we’re really excited about: a diesel engine, something that would have made sense in this off-roader a long time ago. In the meantime, the optional powerplant is a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder, a ubiquitous configuration that will add hybrid assist to cut fuel consumption (something we’d bet the diesel will do better) and generate 295 lb-ft of torque. Again, the forthcoming diesel V6 will make way more, but it will also almost certainly be a pricey option, making the four-cylinder the most economical way to get your torque on.

Honda Clarity

While Honda made a plug-in hybrid version of the ninth-generation Accord, that car never came to Canada, so the Clarity will be the company’s first-ever PHEV model for the Canadian market. That’s why we’ve included it in our list of cars to watch for 2018 even though it reached dealerships in this country in mid-December.

This is Honda’s most ambitious mass-market electrified vehicle yet, with a 17 kWh battery pack that will recharge in as little as two hours (at 240 volts) and promising as much as 76 km of driving range before the car’s gas engine comes on.

Given the streak of successful designs Honda has cranked out lately in cars like the Civic and Accord, we will be very surprised if it hasn’t knocked another one out of the park with the Clarity.

Aston Martin Vantage

Aston Martin says it wants to get back to building pure drivers’ cars and it’s setting out on that road with an all-new generation of its Vantage model. We like what we see in the design, which suggests a Jaguar F-Type coupe got busy with a Mazda MX-5, though this car’s performance will be much more in line with the former.

The UK prestige automaker is powering the Vantage with a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 sourced from Mercedes-Benz’s high-performance AMG division, making this car an interesting hybrid of German and British engineering.

Among this car’s nods to performance are a stiffer chassis that favours at-the-limit handling over keeping road noise out of the cabin, and an electronically controlled differential whose side-to-side torque distribution varies depending on what drive mode the driver selects.

Aston Martin says its aim was to create its best-handling car ever, and we look forward to seeing if it has achieved that goal when the new Vantage reaches Canadian dealers in mid-2018.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

While the seventh-generation Corvette solidified this iconic American model’s position as a world-class sports car, apparently we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet, at least not like the 2019 Corvette ZR1 that arrives next year in coupe and convertible forms.

Chevy says this is the fastest, most powerful Corvette it has ever made, a believable claim considering its supercharged 6.2L V8 (code-named LT5) is good for 755 hp and 715 lb-ft of torque. The inclusion of a convertible variant is notable too, as there hasn’t been a droptop ZR1 since the original ne plus ultra ’Vette rolled off the assembly line in 1970. This will also be the first ZR1 offered with an automatic transmission, an unavoidable sign of the times.

Key specs include aerodynamic cues that Chevy says combine to generate 70 percent more downforce than the next-best Z06 model, with an optional, adjustable high rear wing capable of 431 kg(!) of downforce for high-speed stability.

Chevrolet says its early performance testing shows the automatic ZR1 will do 0–96 km/h (60 mph) in less than three seconds and cover the quarter-mile in less than 11. Reading between the lines, we figure the self-shifter will be the version to buy if bragging rights are what you’re after.

BMW 8 Series

In its recent history, BMW has produced two coupes worthy of the title of “modern classic”: the original 6 Series sold from the late 1970s through to the end of the 1980s, and the 8 Series that replaced it and lasted for about a decade. There’s no doubt the 8 Series was the more prestigious of the two, even wearing less-elegant styling that set the tone for the brand’s 1990s lineup.

Now BMW is gearing up to launch its latest high-end coupe with an all-new 8 Series that we think will become another classic. So far, the Bavarian automaker has only shown the car in concept form in a reveal staged at May 2017’s Concorso d’Eleganza in Italy. We expect the production car will bear a stronger resemblance to the company’s latest designs, like the 5 and 7 Series, but we’d be very surprised if the final product didn’t sport nearly the same profile as this concept.

All the major launches and changes you should keep your eye on. 1/2/2018 10:00:00 AM