Do you feel the need to upgrade your wheels this year? You’re probably spoiled for choice, but to focus, here’s our pick of the best of the new generation, from all-electric hyper-sedans to traditional sports cars and cruisers.
It’s not the first time McLaren has taken the hybrid route, but as the Artura is the British supercar maker’s first attempt to get a petrol-electric machine into production, it marks an important step into the future. It’s also the first production McLaren to ditch V8 power: instead it gets a high-revving 3-litre V6 behind the driver’s seat, but boosted to 577hp by 97hp from the electric motor, which is integrated into the clutch housing. What’s up? An eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox (no reverse – the electric motor does the work) replaces the old seven-speed unit, the carbon fiber single-cell has been completely overhauled and there’s an all-new transmission system. suspension with intelligent adaptive dampers. Only the styling looks somewhat familiar, while the jaw-dropping performance – 0-200km/h in 8.3 seconds and 330 max – certainly rings some bells too.
Although electricity is clearly a priority at Audi these days, the people of Ingolstadt haven’t completely neglected fossil fuels – and fans of the company’s 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine should be Glad to hear that epic engine lives on in the latest iteration of one of the hottest sedans of them all, the RS3. Now in its third generation, Audi’s little bomb no longer gets in the way of power (and with 394 hp on tap, it really doesn’t need it), but it does feature a new adaptive suspension, a rear-wheel torque, a mind-boggling choice of seven drive modes (plus one that can be customised) and even the option of ceramic brakes. With a 0-100 km/h acceleration time well under four seconds and a boost of around 290, the performance is on par with supercars. And if that weren’t enough to whet the appetite, this super-hatch is so easy going, you’d have no trouble driving it to the supermarket.
Unveiled late last year and only now venturing onto the region’s roads, BMW’s new iX ‘compact’ electric SUV is Munich’s current take on what the future of the car looks like. automobile. Yes, it’s huge – far bigger, in fact, than we’d ever imagine from the photos – but that expansive footprint means acres of real estate inside; and as its xDrive50 all-wheel-drive system involves two electric motors that together summon 516bhp (plus, of course, the instant torque delivery that electric guarantees), this Bavarian juggernaut can change gears quite quickly too. Carbon fiber reinforced plastic body panels keep weight down and the car is packed with travel-friendly tech, from exterior camera batteries to computers. Don’t mention range anxiety either, because with distances of 600km possible on a fully charged battery and fast charging that can fill it up to 80% capacity in just over half a time, these worries are a thing of the past. Granted, it might not be the prettiest Beemer we’ve ever seen, but we can’t help but be impressed.
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS
Porsche’s Taycan is already charting a credible path towards an electric future, but thankfully the company hasn’t neglected its roots, or its sense of fun. On the contrary, with the new 718 Cayman GT4 RS, it positively revels in the past – because what other automaker these days would consider launching a track-focused road car that it gleefully describes as “irrational”? How irrational, you ask? Well, let’s just say a naturally aspirated 4-litre flat-six borrowed from the 911 GT3, which produces a mental power output of 493 hp and revs to 9,000 rpm, propelling it from a standstill to 100 km/h in 3 .4 seconds and delivering a maximum of not far off 315. As far as we know this is the fastest Cayman ever and although a manual gearbox is not part of the offer (it is not only comes with the seven-speed PDK), we don’t care: we want one.
Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4Matic
Another utterly compelling alternative to Tesla’s now-tired Model S, the EQS 53 4Matic has “future” written all over its sensational four-door coupe styling. AMG’s high-performance version of Mercedes’ full-size EQS electric limo also comes in two versions – the 53, with 649bhp and 950Nm of torque, or the even meatier 53+, which gets over 100 more horsepower. and a phenomenal 1,020 turn units. Both feature an electric motor on each axle, with variable all-wheel drive, which, if driven relatively sensibly, can deliver a range of over 500km from a fully charged battery. Expect interior fittings and comfort to be of S-Class standard – and as the car is fitted with Ride Control+ suspension, which combines active dampers with rear axle steering, dynamics driving should almost certainly set the standard for electric-powered luxo barges.
For those despairing of Maserati making an exciting car again, here’s the MC20 to prove those fears wrong. Because not only is this the brand’s first in-house mid-engined supercar in decades – we’re not counting the 2004 MC12, as it was essentially a rebodied Ferrari Enzo – but it also marks the Maserati’s triumphant return to engine building: Beneath the shapely tail of this magnificent machine is a compact, twin-turbocharged 3-litre V6 that produces an impressive 621bhp at a relatively frantic 7,300rpm, which sounds like to the dream of an enthusiast. The story isn’t just about the engine, as there’s a bag of super light and strong carbon fiber in the construction of the car – and as the chassis was developed with racing car specialists Dallara, who live just up the autobahn near Parma, we suspect the MC20 will handle as well as it looks. It’s the one we can’t wait to drive.
We’ve long been fans of BMW’s 3 Series and its 4 Series coupé and convertible variants, and among the ever-growing range of alternatives we think of the recently relaunched M440i – it combines a superb 3-litre six-cylinder engine with sparkling performance and handling, and the everyday usability that perhaps lacks in the more hardcore M4 – is one that hits the sweet spot. Now treated to a host of styling and technology upgrades that bring it in line with other 4 Series models, the 440i is particularly attractive in four-door Gran Coupe guise, but honestly the one we’re on would put our money in would be the convertible, which we think is one of the nicest ways to enjoy convertible driving for four.
Audi RS e-tron GT
With all three German manufacturers now going electric, we think 2022 marks when Tesla starts to face stiff competition. And while looks alone were all that mattered, we also reckon Audi’s stunning new RS e-tron GT would win the contest hands down. Add to its sensually flowing lines the technology shared with Porsche’s incredible Taycan, a staggering 637 horsepower from two motors (one in the front, the other in the rear) and ultra-precise handling thanks to rear axle steering, and this just might be the machine that changes your mind about electric motoring completely.
Since the 1950s, Mercedes’ SL badge has been synonymous with “the quintessential luxury sports grand tourer”, and this latest eighth-generation leicht sport seems to stay firmly in that tradition. And as it was developed at AMG, Merc’s performance subsidiary, the new SL not only marks a return to the sporting roots of the original car, but also looks like a credible rival to Porsche’s 911 Turbo. Under the hood of both launch models is AMG’s glorious 4-litre V8 – the SL 55 produces 469 hp, while that of the SL 63 makes 577 – both mated to a nine-speed automatic, and as the chassis is equipped with all sorts of dynamic systems, this new model should behave as flawlessly as it does in a straight line. As for luxury, which has long been an integral part of the package, think of the latest S-Class, only a little reduced. In other words, the SL is back – and it’s better than ever.
This story first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore.