Perhaps it’s a sign the business cycle is peaking and showrooms are becoming bigger battlefields. Or that advances are giving designers more room to take risks. Or that sweeping environmental regulations around the world are finally resonating. But 2019 produced an unusual amount of radically new and redesigned light vehicles. Here are our picks for the 10 most notable new sheet metal.
Aston Martin DBX
Is there room at the polo club or on the Vegas strip for another exotic and ultraluxury SUV? Struggling Aston Martin is banking on it. The Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus and Rolls-Royce Cullinan have demonstrated what SUVs, no matter the looks, can do for even the most exclusive brands (Read: Increase volume). It’s hard to imagine the DBX not being a showroom success, ducktails and all.
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Is the Mustang badge, synonymous with sporty, affordable coupes with long hoods, enough to carry another lookalike crossover, this one powered only by a battery? Where it failed to pitch EVs before — think the short-lived Focus Electric — Ford is banking on Mustang lore and crossover styling to draw more than the green crowd.
Elon Musk has made driving an EV fun, sexy and politically on point, but we still haven’t figured out what he hopes to accomplish beyond capturing Blade Runner, James Bond and Terminator fans with his first pickup. No matter, the truck — the fevered dream of 40- and 50-somethings and no fan of the wind tunnel or aerodynamics lab — has people all over the world talking about Musk and Tesla again.
The German engineering house over the famed 911 starts another key chapter with its first all-electric sports car. Porsche fans are racing to line up for it, much as they did with the groundbreaking Cayenne crossover and, more recently, the Macan.
Land Rover Defender
Americans are loving SUVs all over again, and Land Rover’s reincarnation of perhaps the granddaddy of them all arrives at the perfect time to challenge the Mercedes-Benz G class and Jeep. Moreover, it will give Land Rover, one of few brands on track to post a solid U.S. sales gain in 2019, a seventh nameplate to peddle to all of those off-road enthusiasts.
EV startup Rivian grabbed headlines with a blockbuster deal to supply retail giant Amazon with 100,000 delivery vans. This was on top of a partnership with truck heavyweight Ford Motor Co. If those two projects can’t sustain the company against a slew of other EV startups, what will?
One good thing to come out of Dieselgate? VW’s newfound love of electricity will bring a battery-powered compact crossover to the U.S. next year. The Golf-size ID3 is the tip of the spear of Volkswagen Group’s $66 billion global electric onslaught, but it’s only for Europe. ID4 is coming to America in late 2020.
Honda’s e electric car maintains nearly all of the charm and gadgets of the original concept. The urban EV, available only in Europe at launch, reminds us of the very first Civics — which debuted stateside in the 1970s — that helped blaze a trail of success for the brand.
If Toyota justified investment strategies on sales volumes, the fuel cell-powered Mirai wouldn’t have been due for a makeover until about 2065. It doesn’t, especially on leading-edge technical experiments such as the Mirai. The redesigned body will give it a much more upscale feel, one more suited to its price point and futuristic powertrain.
Chevrolet, hoping to draw younger enthusiasts, takes another bold step — a midengine layout — to reposition the storied Corvette franchise and peel off fans of European exotic brands. With sports cars — and cars in general — fading from consumer shopping lists, will it inspire more bigger changes down the road, such as a Corvette SUV?