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Drive & Ambition

BMW i8 Roadster

Price: from $163,300

Half-a-decade since the introduction of BMW’s i8 gas-electric hybrid supercar and there’s still nothing else like it on the road, in looks or ethos. This new drop-top roadster version looks set to cement that position, with a number of updates to make this, and its coupé cousin, as desirable as ever.

Under the hood, the 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo gas engine puts out 228hp while the battery capacity has been beefed up to 11.6kWh upping the electric motor’s output to 141hp. Thanks to that and its low 1.6-ton weight, it promises a 0-60mph time of 4.4 seconds and a 155mph top speed. We loved the i8 when it first arrived in 2014, and the lack of any similarly powered hybrid competition even now underlines how daring it was then and indeed still is today.


Price: from $36,400

X marks the spot for BMW with the new X2, sitting imaginatively between its baby brother X1 and latest X3, all alongside the Bavarian firm’s current X4, X5 and X6. A further addition coming early in 2019 will be, you’ve guessed it, a new larger seven-seater X7. BMW is nothing if not thorough in appealing to all levels of the booming crossover and 4×4 markets.

The X2 is a sportier driving experience than most family-oriented cars of the sector, with both two- and four-wheel drive models.  In the US it’s available with BMW’s peppy 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder, and other diesel and electric versions will join the roster in time.  We’re just not convinced about the extra BMW roundel on the C-pillar behind the rear door echoing the CSi of the 1970s.

Volvo XC40

Price: from $33,200

Volvo has arguably two of the hottest 4x4s in showrooms right now with the latest XC60 and larger XC90, so this new and smaller XC40 was always only going to be a matter of time. Borrowing styling cues from its big brothers with a sharp kick-up on the side window line and gorgeous rear lights, we think it’s stunning.

The initial offering is powered by an in-line 4-cylinder turbocharged gas engine, but given Volvo’s announcement last summer about all of its new models having electric power from 2019, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see plug-in and hybrid versions eventually. It’s also one of only two Volvo models – the other is the S60 – to be sold in the US under the Care By Volvo subscription plan, wrapping up all of your car’s costs including insurance and maintenance into one monthly payment.

Infiniti QX50

Price: estimated from $36,550

The 2019 edition of the QX50 has been awhile in the making, but the newest baby of Infiniti’s crossover range certainly has the looks to stand out in what’s becoming a competitive area of the market. Under the hood is just the choice of one engine, however:  Infiniti’s VC (stands for variable compression) turbo generating 268bhp, which Infiniti calls “revolutionary,” claiming it can give gas-engine performance with the grunt and economy of a diesel.  And while the engine seems to deliver on the promise of refined power-versus-efficiency, the overall performance is hampered by its inconsistent CVT automatic transmission.

Jaguar E-Pace

Price: from $38,600

For traditional Jaguar fans, the E-Pace could make them bite through their pipe stems in rage. The British firm might be known for its elegant sedans and sleek sports cars, but following the hugely successful larger F-Pace, it’s this new E-Pace that’s likely to become Jaguar’s bestseller. Jaguar’s electric I-Pace is also coming down the road too.

Up against the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, the E-Pace enters that fierce small premium crossover market, and has immediate good looks, a strong engine line-up and sporty, involved on-road handling. It’s this latter fact that sets it apart from its prestige rivals and our first experiences behind the wheel have only been positive. It’s also larger inside than it looks on the outside, which is a bonus.

Audi A8

Price: from $83,800

It might be hard to believe, but this is already the fourth-generation of the Audi A8. Not so hard to believe is that the four-ringed badge’s flagship sedan continues to get better and better. Along with even more luxury and four-wheel drive on all models, this latest A8 has also been developed with a higher level of automated driving abilities than ever before.

The perfect driving world may still be ahead of us, but this Audi is a definite window into all of our futures behind the wheel – if there still is one. Expect this new A8 to offer mild-hybrid plus plug-in hybrid models, as well as more traditional versions.

Lexus LS

Price: estimated from $75,200

Lexus has always ploughed its own furrow when it comes to the luxury market, but it seems that now it’s really getting into its stride. Along with the latest sporty LC coupé, this LS shows a confident independence in Lexus’s styling that has been somewhat lacking in its capable-but-sometimes-bland past. And while that over-sized hourglass grille might not be to everyone’s tastes, we love it and you certainly won’t mistake it for an S-Class.

As you’d expect, hybrid technology is on offer under the hood and the build quality and on-road refinement are close to faultless. That confident exterior styling extends to the LS’s inside, but then again, this Lexus sedan has never been a car for those who just want to follow the usual Teutonic crowd – and that’s just the way we like it.