Motoring

Recapping a year of revolutionary change in the car industry

If 2019's taught us anything, it's that internal combustion engines are so last decade

15 December 2019 - 00:00 By
Audi could have made the E-tron more radical in its design, but decided customers would prefer a traditional Q look
Audi could have made the E-tron more radical in its design, but decided customers would prefer a traditional Q look
Image: Supplied

The penultimate year in the second decade of this millennium soon comes to an end. Nearly 20 years ago some were bracing for Y2K bugs that never materialised. How severely would your paranoia had peaked if, in 1999, you had been told that cars in 2019 would drive themselves, be intelligent enough to hold conversations and receive their propulsion from batteries?

As we survey the happenings of the past 12 months, it is certain that this automotive revolution is about to hit full stride. Yes, even on our small, southernmost tip of Africa. Consider, for example, that the vehicle gracing the January edition of this motoring column was the Audi E-Tron.

We had sampled the all-electric sport-utility vehicle in Dubai - an oddball in a region flush with fossil fuels. This first attempt at the genre by the Ingolstadt-based firm is poised to arrive on local shores next year.

It would not be far-fetched to predict a continued proliferation of self-driving wizardry. Heck, maybe the Volkswagen Polo Vivo of 2035 will be able to pilot itself, too

Another event signalling a shift was the launch of the latest, seventh-generation BMW 3-Series in March. It ushered in semi-autonomous driving functionality. Not a new thing, but certainly a first for the medium-premium sedan segment.

The irony was not lost on us: the model was always billed as the top pick for an enthusiastic driver - and here it is encouraging slightly less involvement. A sign of things to come.

It would not be far-fetched to predict a continued proliferation of self-driving wizardry. Heck, maybe the Volkswagen Polo Vivo of 2035 will be able to pilot itself, too. Hopefully without the antics that current drivers of the model are known to perpetrate.

On that note, the same brand revealed in September what could be the most important car of the next five years. The ID.3 was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show. And its makers claim that it will become as significant as the Beetle and Golf have been, since their mandate is to democratise electric mobility.

At the same exhibition, company stablemate Porsche previewed its initial entry into 100% battery power with the Taycan. It is a transition it is viewing seriously, especially after the announcement that its next Macan, which accounts for notable sales volumes, will be motivated by volts and not pistons.

In February Mercedes-Benz gave us a taste of its EQC, which involved a picture session at a filling station.

The roadside service centre of the future will involve plugs, not pumps, as Jaguar iterated when it invested in an impressive network of countrywide charging facilities this year, supporting its I-Pace.

The EQC is the first production electric vehicle from Mercedes-Benz.
The EQC is the first production electric vehicle from Mercedes-Benz.
Image: Supplied

Indeed, the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 have gained company in the zero-emission car space. And the number of offerings available to consumers will only get bigger.

So, you get the gist: 2019 will be marked as a year in which technological floodgates opened wider. But what about the other wares that were launched - the more contemporary, rather than future-forward specimens? Odes to traditional, petrol-powered, hands-on motoring, in other words.

There were many fine cars released, across different segments, from sensible hatchbacks to affordable crossovers and capable pickups. But since it's my birthday this month, I am sure the editor of Lifestyle will forgive me for my one-dimensional focus on the thrilling niche of the high-performance coupé.

There were some real treats this year. Like the Porsche 911 (992), which had us wondering if it would even be possible to improve on something so nigh-on perfect when the next series comes around.

Then there was the Toyota Supra. Its sprightlier performance, rigid, fixed-roof structure and gorgeous looks saw us declaring that it was a more desirable effort than the BMW Z4 it shares a platform and engine with.

The 2019 Porsche 911 (992) is just about perfect.
The 2019 Porsche 911 (992) is just about perfect.
Image: Supplied
The Toyota Supra's great performance and looks was a 2019 treat.
The Toyota Supra's great performance and looks was a 2019 treat.
Image: Supplied

Ford enhanced its popular Mustang, but "enhanced" is a term we use loosely. It remains a rudimentary yet endearing brute, especially in V8 guise.

But if sheer brutishness is what you seek in entirety, we learnt in September that the V12 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera delivers with peerless ferocity.

Anyway, before we get too misty-eyed in our affection for such beasts, a sobering reminder: internal combustion engines are so last decade ...


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