Porsche 991 Speedster

New limited-edition Porsche 911 Speedster debuts in Paris

Porsche 991 Speedster

Porsche has confirmed that the 911 Speedster will go into production next year, joining the new, track-only 935 as a final farewell to the current ‘991’ 911.

A second iteration of the Speedster Concept has just been revealed at the Paris Motor Show. The original was initially presented at Porsche’s 70th anniversary celebrations in Zuffenhausen on June 8 – 70 years to the day since the very first Porsche 356 was produced.

The Paris concept differs somewhat from the Heritage version shown previously, although it’s not without its own unique nods to the past. The most obvious difference is the Guards Red paintwork, intended as an homage to the G-Model 911 Speedster of 1988 – first revealed in the same hue.

The day-running LEDs in the headlights are highlighted in red, presumably for the show car only. Flashes of red also adorn what is quite a spartan interior. The infotainment screen is gone and the Speedster has a manual gearbox only.

Also new are the cross-spoke alloy wheels, inspired by those fitted to the GT3 R and 911 RSR racing cars. The ‘Talbot’ retro mirrors remain, though – let’s hope they make it to the production version.

Underneath, the Speedster has a GT3 chassis fused with a Carrera 4 Cabriolet body, plus bespoke Speedster modifications. That includes extensive use of carbon fibre for the bodywork, shortened window frames, lower top panels, smaller side windows and, of course, the iconic ‘double bubble’ deck panel.

Porsche 991 Speedster

Power comes courtesy of Porsche’s GT department. The seminal 9,000rpm-capable 500hp 4.0-litre flat-six with a six-speed manual ‘box is fitted as standard. As announced back in June, there will be 1,948 units produced, to mark the year of the first Porsche. Production will begin in the first half of 2019.

It’s the most wonderful time in a 911 life cycle. When mad run-out versions of the current model are stopping the presses while near-undisguised prototypes of the next-gen car do the rounds. There’s no word yet on the price of the Speedster, or indeed if the whole run is sold out. Our guesses are ‘a lot’, and ‘almost certainly’…

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Renault EZ ULTIMO

Renault wants to “re-invent life on board” with the EZ-Ultimo robot car

Renault EZ ULTIMO

Renault has unveiled its latest vision for future mobility: the EZ-Ultimo concept. The star of Renault’s stand at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, it’s described by the company as a “premium and shared robo-vehicle”. In reality, that makes it something like an autonomous first-class train carriage for the road.

What is the Renault EZ-Ultimo?

Renault says it wants to “re-invent life on board”, turning the car into a place for work, rest, play or relaxation. Anything we might do at home or the office should be possible on the move. We’re already getting others to do the driving for us, reckons the company, with the rise of lift-hailing apps and services.

Renault EZ ULTIMO

“As consumer trends change and people are enjoying ride-hailing services more and more, a new paradigm for mobility will emerge,” said Laurens van den Acker, SVP of corporate design at Renault.

The EZ Ultimo is the next logical step. It sounds very similar to Volvo’s vision of an autonomous pod, the 360c concept, which was pitched as a threat to the short-haul airline industry.

Funky French styling

Similar in ethos to the 360c, the EZ-Ultimo is also similar in silhouette. It’s very much a carriage rather than a traditional car, but futuristic wheels, angular flourishes and artistic lighting liven up the design. While the Volvo’s clean-cut Scandinavian lines are appealing, the Renault enjoys flashes of French flair.

“Inspired by contemporary architecture, and completely integrated in future smart cities, EZ-Ultimo will provide an exclusive experience for all. With autonomous, electric and connected cars, we are entering a new exciting era in automotive design,” says Renault.

A luxurious office on wheels

When the doors slide to one side, you get your first view of the cabin. It shares more with the living space of a modern apartment than a car. It’s high-class, too, utilising wood, leather and even marble for a “relaxing and enjoyable drive”.

By comparison with the Volvo, it does seem less versatile. There’s no bed for cross-continental overnight hauls, for example. Instead, you have office-style seating and workspaces. That, together with its new Augmented Editorial Experience (AEX), is how Renault aims to “re-invent travel time”.

AEX is what Renault calls a “realist immersive experience which combines personal premium content, multi-media experiences and mobility”. We take that to mean big screens for working and watching on the go.

Renault EZ ULTIMO

Overall, the EZ-Ultimo is a curious take on a future we’re still uneasy about. Nevertheless, such new types of car are giving designers freedoms many before couldn’t have dreamed about, and yielding interesting results.

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BMW 3 Series

New 2019 BMW 3 Series: everything you need to know

BMW 3 SeriesThe new 2019 BMW 3 Series marks a giant stride forwards for one of BMW’s most important model lines. It’s easy for brands to play it safe in this sector – witness the latest Audi A4. But then look at the meek market reaction to the A4, and Audi’s subsequent struggle for sales.

This, surely, has emboldened BMW with the new 3 Series. So here it is, the seventh-generation 3, the most stylistically different from its predecessor since the futuristic E36 version back in 1990. It’s the undeniable highlight of the 2018 Paris Motor Show.

This generation of 3 Series is known as G20 and will go on UK sale on 9 March 2019. It’s a measure of what an important car it is that BMW already has an on-sale date. And a price: it’s yours from £33,610.

BMW 3 Series

 

We’ll see it first as a petrol 330i and diesel 320d. Both will be four-cylinder turbos, and BMW will quickly follow them up with a 330e iPerformance plug-in hybrid. Six-cylinder performance versions? They’ll come, but they’re not the big news at launch. The rest of the 3 Series is. And it’s quite the story to tell.

2019 BMW 3 Series: outside

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

Creases and contour lines dominate the appearance. This is brave stuff, for a 3 Series. The front has an entirely new look, with a broad BMW kidney grille and intricately shaped headlights. Four contour lines on the bonnet feed into them, and the bonnet itself sits neatly flush with the lights and kidneys.

BMW is proud of the intakes for the aero-aiding Air Curtains on SE and Sport models, because they use a NACA design for the intakes, something more commonly seen on retro racing cars.

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

There’s a lot of design detail on the side profile, such as strong lines around the rear door handle and a bold lower contour that BMW says emphasises the rear wheelarches. The designers have also integrated the BMW ‘Hofmeister kink’ into the C-pillar, so the rear doors have a freestanding glass edge. And you thought simple frameless windows were cool…

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

Recent 3 Series rear ends have been forgettable, but the new model has a pronounced boot lid spoiler lip and dark-tinted L-shaped tail lamps. It’s slipperier through the air, too: the Cd drops from 0.26 to 0.23.

2019 BMW 3 Series: inside

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

BMW has rewarded loyal 3 Series customers who’ve had to put up with the humdrum, forgettable interior of the current car with nothing short of a revolution. Everything cool that’s been admired in umpteen 8 Series concept cars is in evidence here, from the all-new BMW Cockpit infotainment display to the intricate heater controls first seen on the new BMW Z4.

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

The design and layout is driver-focused and all-new trim materials are available, including open pore wood and mesh-effect aluminium. Electroplated trim strips add a quality feel, while BMW’s at last moved the starter button to a more convenient location next to the gearlever.

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant comes to the new 3 Series. We’ve explained what this does separately, and it means new 3 Series owners will be able to speak with their cars by saying ‘Hey BMW’, if they so wish.

It’s bigger all round, with more shoulder room in the front, more legroom in the rear and more space between the front and rear seats. It’s easier to get in and out, and all-round improvements to seat comfort will impress high-mileage users. A 480-litre boot is enhanced by 36 litres of oddment stowage.

Engines and suspension

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

The launch 2.0-litre engine range comprises 190hp 320d diesel or 258hp 330i petrol. The diesel does 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, or 6.9 seconds as an auto (an xDrive 4WD option has identical acceleration). It averages 64.2mpg as a manual and 67.3mpg as an auto, and costs from £33,610.

The 330i only comes as an eight-speed auto, and does 0-62mph in a swift 5.8 seconds, yet still claims 48.7mpg and emits 132g/km CO2. It’s priced from £37,660.

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

Suspension is overhauled, to take advantage of a 25 percent stiffer bodyshell (it’s 50 percent stiffer in key areas). Clever lift-related dampers are standard and spring rates are 20 percent firmer for a sportier drive. M Sport models have more focused suspension as standard, with a 10mm lower ride height; Adaptive M suspension with variable modes is an option.

The 330i M Sport has unique lightweight brakes, with aluminium centres and grey cast iron discs – spot them by their blue calipers. They are optional on the diesels as part of an M Sport Plus package, as is an M Sport differential.  

Trims and standard equipment

Because it’s ready to go on sale, BMW can tell us what each trim variant gets as standard. Here are some of the highlights in the kit lists over today’s cars.

  • The SE now has LED headlights with ‘eyebrow’ indicators, a reversing camera, 11-colour interior ambient lighting, three-zone climate control, a 40:20:40 split rear seat, acoustic glazing (including the side glass), 8.8-inch BMW Live Cockpit Plus and 17-inch alloys.
  • The Sport has heated leather sports seats, 18-inch alloys, high-gloss Shadow Line window surrounds, a high-gloss black kidney grille and high-gloss black interior trim strips.
  • The M Sport has a bespoke front bumper, side skirts and rear apron, Dark Shadow rear diffuser, another type of sports seats inside, anthracite roofliner and Aluminium Tetragon trim strips. It also has the all-digital BMW Live Cockpit Professional with a bigger 12.3-inch instrument cluster and bigger 10.3-inch central screen.

All cars have a standard 100-watt stereo with an optional 16-speaker 464-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound system available as an option.

There are 10 metallic colours, with one of them, Portimao Blue, reserved for M Sport models. Two non-metallic shades are offered.

2019 BMW 3 Series: did you know?

New BMW 3 Series (2019)

  • BMW has simplified the trim and options. There are now just six options packages and 10 individual options, to make the ordering process easier.
  • The optional electric glass sunroof is 100mm longer.
  • The optional head-up display’s projection area is 70 percent larger
  • The BMW Digital key has a motion sensor and, when it is put down on a table, switches into standby mode and stops transmitting, so the signal can’t be picked up by thieves with transmitter devices.
  • You can lock and unlock the new 3 Series with a smartphone, if you have a Samsung Galaxy with Android 8.1 and above. That’s because the BMW Digital Key has Near Field Communication tech: once you put the smartphone in its holder, the car will start. Owners can even share their key with up to five others.
  • Apple CarPlay is now standard on the 3 Series – but only for a year. After then, it will require a subscription, either for a year, three years, or lifetime.

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World Car Awards 2019

World Car of the Year 2019 contenders revealed

World Car Awards 2019The World Car Awards is the biggest automotive awards programme on the planet. Each year, it aims to discover the very finest cars on sale around the world.

The contenders for the World Car Awards 2019 were announced at the 2018 Paris Motor Show. One of these cars will win, and succeed the Volvo XC60 as reigning World Car of the Year winner.

An international team of jurors will now assess each and every car, before drawing up a shortlist next year. The winners will be announced at the 2019 New York International Auto Show. It’s called the road to the World Car Awards, and it starts in Paris…

World Car of the Year

Volvo XC60

The overall World Car of the Year award is the one everyone wants to win. To be eligible, cars must be sold in at least two continents, and several countries, and judges must be able to spend quality time with them to carry out assessments.

This ensures the results are robust: last year’s winner, the Volvo XC60, was another popular victor that followed on from another SUV, the Jaguar F-Pace. So who’s in the running for the prize this year? We start from the top – and it’s ‘A’ for…

2018 winner: Volvo XC60

Acura RDX

The Acura RDX is a very well-received compact crossover. Initial tests have shown it to be refined, able and appealing – a strong competitor for rivals such as the Audi Q5. Acura needs a boost, so could this be it?

Audi E-tron

The all-electric Audi E-tron is the firm’s first full production-ready EV. It follows the zeitgeist in being an SUV, but while it’s modern, it isn’t quite as futuristic-looking as its arch-rival, the Jaguar I-Pace. Audi is the most successful car maker in the World Car Awards, and the E-tron will surely be a contender this year.

Audi A1

Audi’s getting bold with the new A1 supermini. Where its predecessor was understated, this is crisp-edged and radical, with more creases and lines than we’ve ever seen on a small Audi. The interior is a step on, too – and all for a relatively accessible price. If it drives as well as it looks, it’s bound to do well.

Audi A6

The market may be erring away from large executive saloons (and estates), but Audi hasn’t let up with development of the latest A6. Under the watch of design chief Marc Lichte, it’s another new model from the brand that looks bolder than its predecessor. Early tests indicate it drives well.

Audi Q3

The long-awaited replacement for the trend-setting Audi Q3 small SUV, this new model is, you guessed it, more distinctive and eye-catching than its predecessor. And its interior is another leap forward, even by the high standards of Audi. It’s a strong World Car Awards line-up from Ingolstadt this year, that’s for sure.

BMW 3 Series

One of the strongest contenders in the 2019 World Car Awards is one of the biggest new models to launch in 2018: the BMW 3 Series. Arguably Munich’s most important model, the 3 Series is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser already, with its edgy new look and futuristic interior. Can it keep the momentum going to the New York finals in April next year?

BMW i8 Roadster

The BMW i8 Roadster is a little less headline-grabbing, but it’s still a welcome addition to the range. Adding open-top allure to BMW’s plug-in hybrid sports car, we expect it to give the i8 a new lease of life.

BMW X2

If the BMW X1 is a bit too ordinary for you, BMW’s here with a more coupe-like X2 small SUV. It’s perhaps not the most successful example of a concept transitioning into a production car, so we’ll watch with interest to see what the judges make of it.

Cadillac XT4

Another U.S.-focused brand with a new downsized crossover, the XT4 is proving a great addition to Cadillac’s range. It looks the business and drives smartly. Is that enough to scoop some silverware?.

Citroen C5 Aircross

At long last, Citroen has a family-sized SUV that’s unique-looking and desirable enough to consider alongside a Nissan Qashqai or Renault Kadjar. This is the car Citroen dealers have been crying out for.

Dacia Duster 

The new Dacia Duster is a big advance over the original. It’s more refined, nicer to drive and more sophisticated inside – you can even get Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity. Prices remain as value-focused as ever, too.

Ford Focus

Twenty years on, Ford aims to recreate the magic of the original Focus with this fourth generation car. A ground-up fresh design, its styling has divided opinion, but core strengths include a roomy interior, a sportier yet more refined drive, more equipment and a vastly improved dashboard layout. It’s certainly a contender.

Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

The original hybridgen fuel cell Honda Clarity was an ingenious car, but one ahead of its time. The infrastructure still isn’t here to support it. So here’s one that works today – using a plug-in hybrid petrol powertrain. Is it the right sort of fix?

Hyundai Santa Fe

The original Santa Fe was one of the cars that put Hyundai on the map, and this latest one pushes it even further towards premium sector appeal. It still – just – has prices on its side, too.

Hyundai Nexo 

This futuristic-looking model was born as a concept, but is now entering production. And the Hyundai Nexo has a suitably futuristic hydrogen fuel cell drivetrain to match its head-turning looks. The question is, as with the Honda Clarity, is it too far ahead of its time?

Infiniti QX50

Infiniti has been waiting for a breakthrough car for a long time. The QX50 could be it. Distinctively styled, it also has one of the world’s most advanced petrol engines under its bonnet, and the driving dynamics to match. One to watch.

Jaguar E-Pace

The Jaguar E-Pace is a downsized F-Pace, a former World Car Awards winner. It’s cute, but early drives suggest it doesn’t quite have what it takes to be a front-runner. More is on the way, though, promises Jaguar, so it could still cut through. We shall see.

Jaguar I-Pace

The Jaguar that everyone’s been talking about is the remarkable I-Pace all-electric SUV. A rival to the Tesla Model X, it’s a premium-brand EV that’s beaten all its German rivals to market. Not only that, it’s a brilliant car to drive. This has got to be a surefire front-runner for 2019.

Jeep Cherokee

Jeep has given the previously disappointing Cherokee a full overhaul to try and bring it up to scratch. But we’re not sure it’s enough.

Jeep Wrangler

The all-new Jeep Wrangler is a much more exciting car to consider for the 2019 World Car Awards. Land Rover still can’t bring us a new Defender, but Jeep’s managed to recreate the Wrangler for the modern era – and with some success, too.

Kia Ceed / Forte

This understated-looking car is an important model for Kia. Its move into the mainstream, as a genuine alternative to a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, sees it perform almost entirely without fault. It’s an impressively able all-rounder.

Kia Niro EV

The headline here is a 301-mile electric driving range. That’s more than almost anything on the market, yet Kia’s managed to maintain its usual solid value for money as well. A half-price Jaguar I-Pace for the real world? A sales pitch like that could see it do rather well.

Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is another car that’s been lifted for 2019, but we can’t see it standing out – not when the Niro EV captures the mood so much more ably.

Lexus ES

Lexus is getting serious, and wants to take on the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 across the globe with its petrol and petrol-electric hybrid ES. It takes over the mantle from the dreary GS and, hopes the firm, will prove much more engaging to car buyers. And World Car Awards judges?

Lexus UX

The other new Lexus for 2018 is more exciting: the junior crossover SUV UX. Sitting below the NX, this aggressively-styled machine is right on target in terms of looks, and the hybrid engines beneath its bonnet make all the right noises too. Watch out, Audi Q3.

Nissan Altima

A car focused on North American dominance, the latest Altima is extremely stylish, packed with technology – and already seems to be storming up sales charts in the U.S.

Nissan Kicks

The Nissan Kicks is a global crossover aimed at a value-seeking audience. It’s a more practical, better-value alternative to the ageing Nissan Juke, and a high-profile market launch has seen it already win many fans.

Seat Arona

Seat can do no wrong at the moment. European buyers love their small crossover SUVs, and the launch of the Arona was perfectly timed to capitalise on this. It’s a car that’s won praise from critics and it will be interesting to see if this momentum carries into the 2019 World Car Awards.

Subaru Forester

Subaru hasn’t forgotten why people love the Forester with its 2019 redesign – but it has added appeal for those who haven’t warmed to previous models. More stylish and standout, with some cool options packs, it’s a global car that has a warm following in many markets.

Suzuki Jimny

It already seems to have won the popular vote: motoring journalists who attended the first drive of the Jimny came back in raptures. Here’s to finding out how the rugged-look 4×4 tiddler fares in everyday use. Will it make the final running?

Toyota Avalon

The big Toyota Avalon is a large four-door saloon that dominates the North American full-size sedan market. Many buyers see it as a value-priced Lexus: that’s how comfortable and sophisticated it is.

Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Toyota has completely redesigned the Corolla for 2018 – and, in Europe, also revived the Corolla name, replacing the Auris. It’s a far more competitive compact family hatchback and, if it can carry some of the momentum generated by the C-HR crossover, it could do well.

Toyota RAV4

Another Toyota dullard that’s been given a new lease of life for 2018 is the RAV4. Again, it’s more distinctive and interesting, while the hybrid drivetrains are consumer-friendly. Yet another car we can’t wait to drive.

Volvo S60/V60

All the momentum for Volvo in recent years has been SUV-shaped. The S60 and V60 are its attempts to take on the formidable Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Early signs are that it could yet muscle in on the sector dominated by the Germans.

Volvo XC40

The Volvo XC60 won the overall World Car Award last year, so it’s with interest that we’ll drive its smaller sibling, the XC40. Surely the Swedish firm can’t do the double – and make it three years of SUV victories in a row?

World Luxury Car

Audi A8

That’s the exhaustive list of contenders for the overall World Car Award,  but the prizes don’t stop there. The luxury car market is booming across the world and manufacturers take this category seriously. Last year’s victor, the Audi A8, set new standards. How will the 2019 contenders fare?

2018 winner: Audi A8

Audi A7 Sportback

The pioneering four-door luxury fastback is all-new for 2018. Audi has high hopes for the A7 Sportback – but it’s not the only contender…

Audi Q8

Indeed, the Audi Q8 luxury SUV coupe is perhaps an even more formidable competitor. It takes all the excellence of the Q7 SUV and adds in genuinely head-turning styling and an imperious, sports-infused drive. Don’t be surprised to see it shortlisted.

BMW 8 Series

We’ve been looking forward to this for years. Replacing the underwhelming 6 Series, the return of the 8 Series takes BMW’s high-end coupe upmarket – it’s a car you’d consider instead of a Porsche. Built from a platform that takes in much of what made the 7 Series – a former World Car Awards luxury car winner – we think it’s going to do battle royal with the Audi Q8.

Mercedes-Benz GLE

The old Mercedes-Benz GLE was once called the M-Class and was an SUV with a bit too much emphasis on the ‘4×4’ part. Mercedes-Benz has gradually been refining it, though, and this latest GLE, which draws from so much of the current E-Class, is the most expertly-honed iteration yet.

Volkswagen Touareg

Volkswagen has excelleed itself with the latest Touareg. It’s a car that shares an architecture with the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga, and, if asked to choose, we’d take the VW and save the cash. That’s what an impressive luxury car it is. All it’s lacking is a suitably luxury badge…

World Performance Car

BMW M5

Judges always love assessing the World Performance Car contenders. Last year, the amazing array of models included the prize-winning BMW M5, and this year’s line-up should make for some equally thrilling test drives.

2018 winner: BMW M5

Aston Martin Vantage

The exciting Aston Martin Vantage is a car that’s been designed to offer a vibrant alternative to the Porsche 911. Front-engined, packed with power and looking like a million dollars, you can even get it in eye-piercing lime green. This car means business.

BMW M2 Competition

The final iteration of the acclaimed M2 is a very special machine indeed. You sense this is a car the M engineers have pored over, to send the M2 out on a high and get car collectors lining up to snare one. In years to come, this could be considered a landmark car.

Hyundai Veloster N

Everything that made the Hyundai i30 N so exciting, in a cool little four-door coupe body. But will the fact Europe isn’t getting it limit its success?

Kia Ceed GT

Europe is getting the Kia Ceed GT, however, which the firm says is a new type of performance car. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have the full-fat 2.0-litre turbo engine of its Hyundai i30 N sister car, but the downsized 1.6-litre turbo still puts out more than 200 horsepower, which Kia insists is enough for real-world, value-priced appeal. Is it?

McLaren 720S

And if you thought the Aston Martin was exciting, McLaren is here with the extraordinary 720S – one of the fastest and most intense supercars ever launched. A truly global performance car, we just know it’s going to do well.

World Green Car

Nissan Leaf

The World Car Awards committee was one of the first to recognise advances in eco-friendly new cars on a global stage. The World Green Car prize is now well-established and last year’s winner, the Nissan Leaf, is making its mark on the new car sales charts. Contenders for the 2019 prize are stronger than ever.

2018 winner: Nissan Leaf

Audi E-tron

The first electric Audi is not just a contender for the overall prize, it’s also up for the World Green Car award. In a real sign of the times, it’s one of many dual runners…

BMW i8 Roadster

The i8 Roadster is arguably the world’s greenest sports car. Can losing its roof see it triumph in the 2019 World Green Car prize?

Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Giving the Clarity plug-in tech means it has another chance for success in the World Green Car awards.

Honda Insight 

The latest Honda Insight revives a name from the past as a modern-day Toyota Prius rival. It has similarly sharp styling to the latest Civic and will do amazing MPG. Is it an award-winning revival, though?

Hyundai Nexo

Hyundai means business with the Nexo. The South Korean company thinks the hydrogen fuel cell’s time has come, so is going big with the pretty Nexo. The judges will listen with interest.

Jaguar I-Pace

The most significant Jaguar in decades – the I-Pace is a landmark all-electric performance SUV from the British brand, and as appealing to drive – and be driven in – as it is to look at. A favourite, we think.

Kia Niro EV

As mentioned, the Niro EV is a half-price I-Pace that democratises long-range electric crossovers. We are very much looking forward to seeing how it performs.

Lexus ES Hybrid

The familiar Lexus hybrid drivetrain is offered in the latest ES. Can it make the big new saloon a winner?

Lexus UX Hybrid

Again, we prefer the look of the new-for-2018 UX to its bigger ES brother. And, as it too is offered as a hybrid, it gets to appear in the World Green Car list.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The Avalon Hybrid is similar to the ES Hybrid, at least on paper. Can it spring a surprise when judges get round to testing it?

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Still among the few compact hybrid SUVs, Toyota is taking all it learned with this car’s predecessor and making the all-new RAV4 Hybrid even better to drive and even more efficient.

World Urban Car

Volkswagen Polo

The World Urban Car is a relatively new prize, one aimed at responding to the growth of the world’s megacities. In just a few years’ time, most of the world’s population will live in an urban area, meaning these cars will become increasingly important. Who’s in the running for 2019?

2018 winner: Volkswagen Polo

Audi A1

The exciting Audi A1 is an overall contender and also a World Urban Car contender. The old model did little wrong, so the judges will look forward to testing its replacement.

BMW X2

Urban environments favour small, compact cars, but also ones with high seating positions and tough, dent-resistant bodywork. The urban SUV is a growing sector, and BMW will be hoping the premium allure of its new X2 finds favour among the World Car Awards judges.

Kia Soul

One of the original urban SUVs, Kia has upped its game with the latest Soul – but has it done enough?

Seat Arona

The Seat Arona has been incredibly well received so its inclusion in the World Urban Car category seems obvious. Another high-riding machine, it has value pricing on its side, as well as good looks and a sophisticated interior.

Suzuki Jimny

The brilliant retro-designed Suzuki Jimny could be the ultimate urban warrior. Tough enough to take everything in its stride, it can off-road with the best of them, but it also has the onboard technology every sophisticated urban dweller needs in 2018. We look forward to seeing how it fares.

World Car Design of the Year

Range Rover Velar

Finally, the annual World Car Design of the Year. This is a prize that’s assessed by an expert panel, who release the front-runners later in the competition. With so many beautiful and striking designs launched in 2018, they’ll have a tough job on their hands to draw up a shortlist.

2018 winner: Range Rover Velar

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2019 Porsche Macan Facelift Paris Motor Show

Revised 2019 Porsche Macan: the biggest surprise is the engine

2019 Porsche Macan Facelift Paris Motor Show

Following an official unveiling at the Shanghai Motor Show in July, the 2018 Paris Motor Show is the first chance for European buyers to see the facelifted Porsche Macan.

If you expected dramatic surprises outside, you might be disappointed. This is a subtle exterior nip and tuck, with the biggest change happening at the back. The new three-piece LED light strip across the rear hatch is meant to embody classic ‘Porsche design DNA’. It gives a distinct signature at night, and is matched with new LED headlights at the front.

Beyond the lighting, you’ll need to really know your Macans to spot the revised front bumper. New classic Porsche colours such as Miami Blue, Mamba Green and Crayon might be more recognisable.

But that’s not to say the latest Macan doesn’t have the ability to raise eyebrows…

Hybrid theory

2019 Porsche Macan Facelift Paris Motor Show

Although subtle outside changes were predictable, a revolution beneath the bonnet was thought to be on the cards. Porsche has recently made a show of the decision to abandon diesel power for good.  With the larger Cayenne SUV offered with a hybrid powertrain, along with the Panamera, the junior Macan seemed ripe for hybridisation.

Instead, the revised Macan simply features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, similar to that in the Volkswagen Golf GTI. A gasoline particulate filter is part of the revisions, along with other tweaks to improve efficiency. Tellingly, power output has dropped from 252hp to 245hp.

Despite the small power reduction, 0-62mph takes the same 6.7 seconds as before. Four-wheel-drive is standard, as is a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox.

At least for now, that’s it on the engine front: just a 2.0-litre turbo petrol – no V6 petrol, no plug-ins and certainly no diesels. Is it a sign of the times?

Widescreen dreams

2019 Porsche Macan Facelift Paris Motor Show

Inside, the big story is the enlargement of the HD multimedia touchscreen to a substantial 10.9-inches. The Porsche Communication Management system allows for easy connectivity with smartphones, whilst the ability to create a WLAN hotspot is standard.

A cloud-connected navigation system allows for real-time traffic updates to be taken into account, whilst those drivers who venture off-road can record their exploits with a dedicated app.

Drivers who want to feel like they are in a 911 can now specify an optional GT sports steering wheel. The design of it is influenced by the iconic Porsche sports car, and can feature a button to engage Sport mode, providing you tick all the relevant boxes. An air ioniser, with a dedicated cabin air filter, is another addition to the lengthy options list.

Strength in numbers

2019 Porsche Macan Facelift Paris Motor Show

Whilst it might be easy to still treat the idea of a Porsche SUV with a modicum of contempt, the Macan and larger Cayenne are credited with the financial success of the German firm. Building cars like the Macan, means projects like the crazy retro 935 creation announced last week, can happen.

Zuffenhausen sold some 97,000 Macans last year, making it the best-selling Porsche model. In fact, more than one in three Porsches sold in 2017 was a Macan. That underscores how important the compact SUV is to the firm, and to allowing for wild 911 versions to exist.  

New Macans are already rolling off the production line, with the first cars heading to the important Chinese market. UK buyers can place orders right now, with a starting price of £46,344 – an increase of less than £500 compared to the current car.

Skoda Vision RS

The Skoda Vision RS is the hybrid hot hatch of the future

Skoda Vision RS

Skoda’s vRS performance offshoot has produced some compelling and innovative cars over the years. The old Fabia and Octavia made a strong case for sporty diesels, for instance. Now oil-burners are out of vogue, Skoda is teasing a different kind of fast, eco-friendly future: meet the hybrid-powered Skoda Vision RS concept, debuting at the Paris Motor Show this week.

What is the Skoda Vision RS Concept?

The company says it “envisages sporty Skodas of the future” – and we certainly see potential for a hot Fabia or Rapid here. Big wheels and angular styling mark this concept out even before you clock the ‘RS’ badging and aero details. Up close, a flash of red at the rear, sporty carbon elements, a big splitter and a rear wing make it look purposeful. Jagged LED lights aren’t dissimilar from much of Skoda’s – very handsome – current range.

Inside, it’s typically very sporty and up-to-date. Bucket seats all-round are a fun feature, and the large screen and virtual dials are attractive. There’s Alcantara everywhere, plus quilted leather and ‘Skoda’ splayed out across the steering wheel, giving a very premium look. Vegan materials and recycled carbon fibre fortify the eco appeal.

Innovation under the skin

Skoda Vision RS

The Vision RS is also quite familiar in terms of styling, though. It’s certainly not the most extreme-looking machine in hothatchdom. So where’s the innovation? Under the skin, of course. It joins the 500hp Peugeot 308 concept from a couple of years ago in being a hybrid hot hatch.

Admittedly, it doesn’t pack the Peugeot’s heady punch, but a comparatively measly 245hp sure sounds a lot more realistic. Providing that power is a 150hp 1.5-litre petrol engine connected to a 75kw electric motor. It produces just 33g/km of CO2 and will go 46 miles on electricity alone.

None of this sounds beyond the realms of production possibility. It’s all stuff we’ve seen on other cars, just nothing with a performance pretence. This is a car that could be in showrooms within a year, minus some of the sillier concept garnish. Rear bucket seats, we’re looking at you…

Hybrid hot hatches on the horizon?

Skoda Vision RS

So, should we expect a hot hybrid Skoda? You could be forgiven for wondering why hybrid hot hatches haven’t come to market sooner. Electric power is proven as a viable provider of truly epic performance – see the plethora of Tesla ‘Ludicrous Mode’ videos.

Expense is likely one reason. What’s more, current hot hatches, while being fearsome performance machines, are relatively clean and efficient. A modern Golf GTI is as clean as your average hatchback from 15 years ago. No need for cleaner electric power just yet, then.

But we reckon this Skoda is evidence that hybrid hot hatches are well on their way and, truthfully, we’re as excited as we are concerned. Electric power can mean limitless torque vectoring. On the minus side, it also means lots of weight. If the Skoda packs an extra 200kg of paunch for the privilege of hybrid power, it’ll need more than 250hp to make waves.

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Phone driving

Over 8 million Brits get distracted by their phone while driving

distracted driver

A study by dash cam manufacturer Nextbase reveals that as many as eight million UK drivers admit to texting at the wheel. The shocking finding headlines a list of what distracts us the most – and three out of the top 10 are phone-related.

In spite of the increased six-point and £200 fine penalty for using a phone while driving, texting came fourth on the list. As many as 20 percent say they get distracted at the wheel by instant messaging.

Just below that at number five is answering the phone to your ear. Never mind the obvious issue of the distraction, it’s what will most likely get you caught. Fully 18 percent of those surveyed said they still do this.

“This study raises concern as to just how dangerous some drivers can be, with figures showing that 18 million motorists can’t help but get distracted when they drive,” said Richard Browning, director of Nextbase.

distracted driver

Overall we’re prone to being distracted by a lot of things behind the wheel. Fiddling with the stereo was top of the list (47 percent), with resetting the sat nav third, on 33 percent. Worryingly, the second biggest distraction is pretty scenery – 33 percent of us are prone to mid-drive daydreaming.

Driving doesn’t get in the way of some of our romantic urges, either. In at ninth, with 11 percent admitting to it, is kissing a passenger, while 18 percent get distracted by attractive pedestrians. As we reported recently, men are somewhat more prone to that.

As many as 10 percent of us get distracted by dancing behind the wheel, too.

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Ferrari SP1

Paris Motor Show 2018 preview: all the must-see new cars

Ferrari SP1

The first International Automobile Exhibition was held on the terrace of the Jardin des Tuileries in 1898, making this the 120th anniversary of the Paris Motor Show. This year, the show is as notable for the list of absentees as it is for the manufacturers in the French capital showcasing their latest metal. But there’s no shortage of debuts to get excited about, as our preview gallery reveals.

Ferrari Monza SP1 and SP2

Ferrari SP2

The new Monza SP1 and SP2 models are the first in a new segment called ‘Icone’ and draw inspiration from Ferraris of the 1950s. The SP1 (top) is a single-seat road car, while the SP2 (above) does away with a tonneau cover and adds a second protective screen to become a two-seater. Each one will hit 62mph in just 2.9 seconds. They’re likely to be the biggest draws at this year’s show.

BMW 3 Series

2018 Paris Motor Show

In the real world, this is the probably the most important new car at the Paris Motor Show. Some 14 million BMW 3 Series have been sold since its launch in 1975, making it the best selling premium executive car the world has ever seen. It’s not hard to imagine what it will look like – even in full camo-wear – while the tech will be lifted from the 5 Series and 7 Series. The hours spent at the Nürburgring should ensure it retains the driving pleasure of its predecessors.

Peugeot e-Legend concept

Peugeot e-Legend

The Peugeot e-Legend concept is an all-electric, fully-autonomous show car inspired by the famous 504 Coupe. A fitting tribute for a car celebrating its 50th anniversary, but the e-Legend has its eyes firmly on the future. Powered by 100Wh batteries, the 462hp concept has four-wheel drive, a 136mph top speed and will sprint to 62mph in less than four seconds. It also offers 442 miles of range.

Hyundai i30 Fastback N

2018 Paris Motor Show

The Hyundai i30 Fastback N is another car with countless Nürburgring hours to its name, and we’re confident that it will be every bit as good as its hatchback sibling. It’s the third N model after the five-door i30 N and the Veloster N, and we expect the performance figures to be similar to those of the hot hatch.

Suzuki Jimny

2018 Paris Motor Show

Suzuki is rolling into Paris armed with an antidote to the rise of the needlessly oversized and brutish SUV. The new Jimny tips its hat to Suzuki models of old, featuring the likes of round headlights, independent indicators, rear combination lights and a tailgate-mounted spare wheel. Power is sourced from a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, with two transmissions available. We’ll be driving a new Jimny before the Paris show…

DS 3 Crossback

2018 Paris Motor Show

As the new suggests, the new DS 3 Crossback will be a smaller sibling to the DS 7 Crossback (pictured) and will do battle in the hotly contested compact SUV segment. Although little is known about the new car, we do know that it will use PSA’s small Common Modular Platform and that an electric version is on the cards.

Porsche Macan

2018 Paris Motor Show

Fresh from its launch at the Shanghai Motor Show in July, the new Porsche Macan will be making its European debut in Paris. Sensibly, Porsche has retained much of the original car’s styling, adding a LED light strip across the back, standard-fit LED headlights and a new 11-inch touchscreen infotainment system. There’s also a new range of exterior colours, including Miami Blue, Mamba Green Metallic, Dolomite Silver Metallic and Crayon.

Mercedes-Benz EQC

2018 Paris Motor Show

If looks could kill, the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace could be in for a nasty surprise. Questionable aesthetics aside, the Mercedes-Benz EQC is the firm’s first fully-electric SUV, featuring an 80kWh lithium-ion battery providing a 280-mile range. Alternatively, if you’re not too fussed about overall range, the 408hp EQC will sprint to 62mph in just 5.1 seconds.

Skoda Kodiaq vRS

2018 Paris Motor Show

This is the first SUV to wear a vRS badge, with the hot Skoda Kodiaq powered by a 239hp twin-turbocharged diesel engine, making it the most powerful production diesel in the firm’s history. In June, a Skoda Kodiaq vRS driven by Sabine Schmitz set a record for the fastest time for a seven-seater SUV around the Nürburgring, lapping the famous circuit in 9:29.84 minutes. This should come in handy on the school run.

BMW 8 Series

2018 Paris Motor Show

The new BMW 8 Series isn’t making its debut at the Paris Motor Show – racegoers will have seen it at the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours race – but we’re a little closer to seeing the first cars on the road. It’s based on the same platform as the 5 Series and 7 Series, but BMW has treated the 8 Series to a brand new, bespoke interior. Yours from £76,720.

Kia ProCeed

2018 Paris Motor Show

In common with the five-door Ceed, Kia has dropped the apostrophe (and the underscore) from the Proceed, with Paris our first chance to see the new five-door estate version. Kia is calling it a ‘shooting brake’, but we’re not sure it can live up to such a grand and noble tag. That said, if the 2017 Kia Proceed Concept is anything to go by, it’ll be quite a looker. Ding dong.

Peugeot 508 SW

2018 Paris Motor Show

The Peugeot 508 SW is the estate version of the 508 saloon and inherits all of the good looks of its stablemate. The sleek styling comes at a price – at 530 litres, the boot is 30 litres smaller than the old 508 SW, although this can be extended to 1,780 litres with the seats folded down. It makes the Volkswagen Passat estate look a tad outmoded.

Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid Concept

2018 Paris Motor Show

The Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid Concept will make its global debut in Paris – the first stage in the brand’s ‘energy transition offensive’, leading to 100 percent of the range having an electric option by 2025. The C5 Aircross features Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions and Advanced Comfort seats, two innovations we’ve experienced in the new Citroen C4 Cactus.

Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

2018 Paris Motor Show

The European-designed and striking Corolla Touring Sports follows the unveiling of the Toyota Corolla hatchback revealed earlier this year. It also heralds the UK return of the Corolla name, replacing the outgoing Toyota Auris. A brand new 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain will be available, along with a 1.8-litre hybrid and a conventional 1.2-litre petrol.

BMW Z4

2018 Paris Motor Show

BMW chose Monterey Car Week to give the all-new Z4 its global debut, but Paris will be the first chance for the European public to cast its eyes over the roadster. Co-developed with Toyota – a new Supra is also on the way – the Z4 has a 50:50 weight distribution, a low centre of gravity and a wide track. We’ll have to wait for the full specs, but the M40i will be powered by a six-cylinder twin-turbocharged engine producing 340hp.

Mercedes-AMG A35

2018 Paris Motor Show

The new entry-level Mercedes-AMG A35 is based on the standard A-Class (pictured) and will sit below the A45 in AMG’s bonkers range of cars. Little is known about the A35, but we’re expecting a power output in excess of 300hp, a £35,000 price tag and countless opportunities to tempt Focus RS drivers into an impromptu traffic light Grand Prix.

Lexus LC Limited Edition

2018 Paris Motor Show

Lexus will unveil a new aptly-named LC Limited Edition in Paris, distinguished by its Naples Yellow paintwork which, the company says, is “achieved through [a] painstaking selection of layered paint and primer colours.” But it’s not all Tony Hart, because the LC LE also features the performance and handling features from the flagship LC Sport+ specification.

Audi A1

2018 Paris Motor Show

The new A1 is Audi’s most configurable car ever, making it the ‘pick and mix’ of the supermini sector. “Customers can combine exterior and interior lines however they like,” says Audi. Be prepared for some rather outlandish creations when the new A1 hits the streets.

BMW X5

2018 Paris Motor Show

You’ve already seen the photos, but this will be our first chance to get up close and personal with BMW’s luxury SUV. Predictably, the new X5 is longer, wider and taller than its predecessor, which means more cabin and luggage space. It’s available to order now, with prices starting from £57,495.

Audi A4

2018 Paris Motor Show

With a facelifted Mercedes-Benz C-Class on sale and a new BMW 3 Series waiting in the wings, Audi had to do something with the A4. The response: a subtle new look, standard-fit sat nav and a small number of interior and tech upgrades.

Lexus RC

2018 Paris Motor Show

According to Lexus, this isn’t the new RC, it’s the “reimagined” RC. The company has even given the coupe its own hashtag, so you can follow its launch via #SharpYetSmooth, which sounds a little like a tagline for a beer or cider.

Skoda Karoq Scout and Sportline

2018 Paris Motor Show

The Karoq isn’t new, but Paris will be your first chance to see two new trim levels of the SUV formerly known as the Yeti. The SportLine will be offered exclusively with the most powerful 190h 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine, along with 19-inch ‘Vega’ black polished alloys, sports bumpers, black sports seats and stainless steel pedals. Meanwhile, Karoq Scout trades kerb appeal for off-road ability, featuring four-wheel drive as standard and a more rugged appearance.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class saloon

2018 Paris Motor Show

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class saloon boasts a Cd drag factor of just 0.22 which, when combined with a compact frontal area of 2.19 metres squared, makes it the most aerodynamic new car in the world. You can order your new wind-cheating A-Class now, with deliveries expected in early 2019.

Renault Kadjar

2018 Paris Motor Show

“New Kadjar makes progress in all areas. While respecting traditional SUV design codes, it has a more attractive, stylish look, with dynamic contemporary lines,” says Renault. Makes progress in all areas? This sounds a little like a school report written by your French teacher.

Mercedes-Benz GLE

2018 Paris Motor Show

Mercedes-Benz is waging war on being uncomfortable, with a car that delivers “extraordinary” ride comfort. The new GLE features optional active air suspension that can scan the road ahead to counteract bumps before they are reached. A seven-seat option is a GLE first, but if you can live without the extra seats you’ll enjoy a boot that stretches from 825 litres to over 2,000 litres.

Audi E-tron

Audi E-Tron

 

With the Jaguar I-Pace hitting the road and the Mercedes EQC poised to make its debut in Paris, Audi is in danger of being left behind in the electric SUV race. The E-tron is the firm’s first all-electric series production model and will offer a driving range of at least 248 miles. It made its world debut in San Francisco ahead of its European debut in Paris.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Paris Motor Show

“The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class puts the emphasis on the sports part of Sports Tourer,” says Mercedes, with the new car featuring a sharper exterior, along with greater agility and more comfort than before. With safety functions carried over from the S-Class, the new B-Class should be one of the safest cars in its class.

It promises to be a busy show for the German giant. Naturally, we’ll be there to bring you all the latest news and gossip, straight from the show floor.

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BMW Cockpit

BMW iDrive is no more: say hey, BMW Cockpit

BMW CockpitThe long-running BMW iDrive infotainment system is being phased out: future BMWs, including the new 3 Series revealed at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, will use the BMW Cockpit system instead.

BMW’s new infotainment system is described as more driver-focused than ever. The BMW Cockpit uses all-new software called the BMW Operating System 7.0, and also integrates the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant for the first time. 

Saying, ‘Hey BMW’ brings it to life…

BMW Cockpit

There will be three levels of BMW Cockpit:

  • BMW Live Cockpit
  • BMW Live Cockpit Plus
  • BMW Live Cockpit Professional

The top-line Professional system will have a full digital instrument cluster in addition to the centre touchscreen that features on all systems – BMW calls this the Control Display, with the digital cluster being the Info Display.

BMW Cockpit

The Control Display is now fully configurable. It’s based around tiles, and from two to four can be displayed on each configurable ‘page’: up to 10 pages can be configured. 

Instead of being optimised around the rotary controller, the new BMW Cockpit’s primary optimisation is for touch, although the iDrive Controller does still remain. Gesture and voice control are also available. 

BMW says the new system is much simpler and faster to use. The menu structure is ‘flatter’ than with iDrive, so submenus can be accessed with fewer steps. The setup is also contextual, displaying relevant options where necessary.

BMW Cockpit

If it’s all still a bit overwhelming, the new BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant can help. Say ‘Hey BMW’ prompts it to life, and it will even understand natural language – if you say, ‘take me home’, it will set the navigation for your home address, for example. 

You can be pretty casual, promises BMW. If you say, ‘Hey BMW, I’m cold’, it will adjust the cabin temperature. It’s going to continually evolve too, with technical upgrades bringing more preferences and settings. 

Speaking of which, BMW’s added Remote Software Upgrade to the new system, for automatic over-the-air updates. 

All newly-launched BMWs will get the new BMW Cockpit system. It’s already in production on the BMW X5, 8 Series and Z4, while the 3 Series will be its high-volume showcase when it goes on sale in early 2019.

BMW iDrive: a gamechanger

BMW iDrive

BMW first introduced iDrive on the 2001 7 Series. At the time, it was revolutionary, replacing multiple dashboard buttons with a multi-function rotary controller and a colour central display.

While not perfect, it nevertheless proved to be a trend-setter, and BMW evolved it over the years into arguably the finest automotive infotainment system of all.

Now, the final iDrive system, ID6, is being replaced by BMW Cockpit and Operating System 7.0. While it will be a new system to learn, BMW’s hoping the intuitiveness of the setup means it won’t be too much of a headache to learn…

2018 Toyota Corolla XSE

The Most Popular Sedans in America in 2018

2018 Toyota Corolla XSEWhile it may be true that sedan sales are declining as SUVs and trucks take over the marketplace, Americans still bought millions of ‘em. The traditional family four-door is a ubiquitous sight on our roads and will continue to be so for years to come.

We looked at sales data for the last five years to see which are the cars we’re buying. MIdsize and compacts are whomping the fullsize family sedan. Prices are lower for smaller models, and they’re cheaper to own and operate. If we do buy big cars, we like them with plenty of attitude and power.

These are the sedans with the biggest sales over the last five years overall, by segment. We include the yearly totals so you can see the trends.

Full-size: Dodge Charger

2019 Dodge Charger

Five year total: 426,717

  • 2018 YTD: 52,429
  • 2017: 88,351
  • 2016: 97,110
  • 2015: 94,725
  • 2014: 94,099

Starting MSRP: $28,995

The Dodge Charger may have four doors, but it definitely has a reputation as a muscle car. Improvements for 2019 include track-friendly chassis upgrades, an induction hood, race-bred seats, and other go-fast goodies on the GT and R/T models, hardly items necessary for a family sedan. This focus on performance and attitude keeps the Charger fresh, desirable, and in the public eye.

Base models are powered by a 3.6-liter with 292 or 300 horsepower, depending on trim. Moving up the trim ladder unleashes a stable of V8 engines: a 5.7-liter V8 with 370 horsepower, a 6.4-liter with 485, and the 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 with a mind-boggling 707 horses and 650 lb-ft on tap.

A wide variety of trim offerings (currently nine) means that there is a Charger to fit any budget or whim. Even with a sporting reputation, base models start at $28,995, and well-equipped all-wheel drive versions with 300 horsepower and 8.4-inch connected infotainment are a reasonable $32,995. V8-powered Chargers start at $35,495.

Full-size: Nissan Maxima

2018 Nissan Maxima

Five year total: 250,620

  • 2018 YTD: 29,263
  • 2017: 67,627
  • 2016: 62,970
  • 2015: 40,359
  • 2014: 50,401

Starting MSRP: $33,270

Buyers like the forward look and value pricing of the 300-horsepower, V6-powered Nissan Maxima. Even paired with a standard CVT, acceleration is an impressive zero-60 in six seconds. Nissan has added sport suspension and a proprietary shifting logic that allows rapid shifts at high throttle and detects high-G cornering, allowing for maximum smooth acceleration upon exit.

The interior focuses on the driver and puts key controls in easy reach, such as fingertip display and command controls. Standard sport seats are heavily bolstered and power adjustable eight ways for the driver, four ways for the front passenger.

Stepping up to the SL trim ($37,690) adds a panoramic moonroof to the mix, along with an 11-speaker Bose centerpoint sound system and advanced safety features. Leather appears on the SR ($38,530) and climate-controlled seats on the Platinum ($40,940) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the model range.

Full-size: Toyota Avalon

2019 Toyota Avalon Touring

Five year total: 232,337

  • 2018, YTD: 24,429
  • 2017: 32,583
  • 2016: 48,079
  • 2015: 60,063
  • 2014: 67,183

Starting MSRP: $35,500

Toyota’s full-size Avalon has been a crowd favorite in the segment because of value for money, V6 power, and a stellar reputation for longevity. 2019 brings an all-new model that adds a dash of flair to the party.

Four conventional models are currently offered, the XLE, Touring, and Limited, as well as the sporty XSE. The base XLE comes with a 301-horsepower V6, an enviable standard infotainment suite, and modern advanced safety features. Upper Touring and Limited models have—ye gods—a 1,200 watt JBL sound system powering 14 speakers.

Hybrid variations of all but the Touring are just $1,000 more. Net system horsepower drops to 215, but the fuel economy is astounding: 43/43/43 (city/highway/combined MPG) for the XSE and Touring models, and 43/44/44 for the XLE.

Toyota’s safety suite comes standard on all models, with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.

Full-size: Ford Taurus

2018 Ford Taurus

Five year total: 226,171

  • 2018, YTD: 29,392
  • 2017: 41,236
  • 2016: 44,098
  • 2015: 48,816
  • 2014: 62,629

Starting MSRP: $27,800

After years of “will they, won’t they” rumors, Ford has finally announced it will kill the Taurus. The 2019 model soldiers on unchanged from the 2018 version, which carried over from 2017, which was a repeat of 2016  . . . (yes, there were a few color and trim updates).

Oddly, its declining status may actually be helping sales. As we reported previously, buyers can often find steeply discounted models at dealerships. We especially like the performance-oriented SHO model with its 350-horsepower turbo V6, though shoppers would do well to compare it to more modern vehicles from other competitors.

Production of the Taurus will cease in March, 2019.

Full-size: Chrysler 300

2019 Chrysler 300C

Five year total: 210,914

  • 2018, YTD: 30,533
  • 2017: 51,237
  • 2016: 53,241
  • 2015: 52,695
  • 2014: 23,208

Starting MSRP: $28,995

The combination of big style and big power in the Chrysler 300 has kept the model a staple in the large sedan segment since its introduction in 2005.

2018 brought a new naming convention, new amenities, and a power boost for the 300C model. Except for a change in wheel finish, the 2019 model carries on unchanged.

Like the Chrysler Pacifica, the entry level 300 model is the Touring with cloth seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a 292-horsepower V6 mated to rear- or all-wheel drive. Amenities are quite good with dual-zone climate control and an 8.4-inch infotainment system.

A 363-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V8 backs up the attitude promised by the design and is available in the 300S ($36,295) and standard in the top-of-the-line 300C ($40,995). Up in that rarified trim level air, options like BeatsAudio for the 300S and Harman Kardon premium audio for the 300C become available, along with dual-pane sunroof, power sunshade, and navigation, depending on trim.

Midsize: Toyota Camry

2018 Toyota Camry SE

Five year total: 1,868,907

  • 2018, YTD: 235,247
  • 2017: 387,081
  • 2016: 388,618
  • 2015: 429,355
  • 2014: 428,606

Starting MSRP: $23,845

Long the haven of the safe and sensible dollar, the Toyota Camry built its reputation on reliability, low cost of ownership, great resale value, and overall value for money. Toyota has sold tens of millions of them over the years, and the model has been the best-selling car in America for the better part of two decades.

As the current NASCAR champion, the Camry has a new swagger in its design and powertrain. Styling now approaches edgy and Toyota has paid attention to driving dynamics. The steering is noticeably brighter than previous models and body roll is nicely contained in turns. The chassis is involved with the driver. While it’s a far cry from a sports sedan, there is finally fun to be had.

There are ten models to choose from, from plain Jane L with cloth seats and a peppy 184-horsepower four-cylinder, to the range-topping XLE V6 ($34,050) with 301 horses, a panoramic moonroof, and premium JBL audio.

Midsize: Honda Accord

Five year total: 1,601,504

  • 2018, YTD: 189,942
  • 2017: 322,655
  • 2016: 345,135
  • 2015: 355,357
  • 2014: 388,435

Starting MSRP: $23,570

The Honda Accord has been around for 43 years and sold over 13 million copies, making it one of the long-running nameplates in American automotive history.

The latest generation has a wheelbase stretched two inches compared to the previous model, and offers more room for passengers and cargo. A low cowl and thin A-pillars set back relative to the driver offer a forward view that is nearly panoramic.

Standard power comes in the form of a delightful 1.5-liter turbo with 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque on tap. An optional 2.0-liter turbo offers 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. Both can even be paired with a six-speed manual transmission, a blessing to gearheads.

The Accord Hybrid has 212 total system horsepower and starts at $25,100.

The inside features thoroughly modern tech like an eight-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless charging, and 4G LTE in-car wifi.

Midsize: Nissan Altima

Five year total: 1,386,150

  • 2018, YTD: 154,732
  • 2017: 254,996
  • 2016: 307,380
  • 2015: 333,398
  • 2014: 335,644

Starting MSRP: $23,250

Over five million Nissan Altimas have been sold since the model’s introduction in 1992. Buyers have long appreciated the value for money, economy, and reliability.

The newest models offer something their predecessors were not known for, though: style and sophistication. Exterior design clearly says “Nissan.” The interiors are crisp, with ample amenities in upper trim levels.

Current 2018 models come with either four or six cylinders, with 179 or 270 horsepower, respectively. The all-new 2019 model, expected at dealerships this fall, comes standard with a new 2.5-liter four with 188 horsepower.

In addition to the new longer, lower, and wider design, the big story for 2019 is the availability of a trick new variable-compression 2.0-liter turbo. The engine uses a multi-link setup to raise or lower the pistons’ reach, changing the compression ratio between 8:1 (for high performance) and 14:1 (for high efficiency). The new unit delivers 248 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque.

Midsize: Ford Fusion

Five year total: 1,191,579

  • 2018, YTD: 109,086
  • 2017: 209,623
  • 2016: 265,840
  • 2015: 300,170
  • 2014: 306,860

Starting MSRP: $22,840

The Ford Fusion comes in an almost dizzying array of configurations. There are five standard grades and four engine choices. Front- or all-wheel drive is offered. In addition to a hybrid drivetrain, there’s also a plug-in hybrid version.

The base S model comes with a 175 horsepower, naturally-aspirated four cylinder paired with front wheel drive only. SE and SEL models come standard with a 1.5-liter, 181 horsepower turbo and front-wheel drive, with the option of a 245-horsepower 2.0-liter with all-wheel drive. The Titanium model comes standard with the 2.0 and AWD, while the V6 Sport has a 325-horsepower. 2.7-liter V6 and AWD. Hybrid models comes in SE, SEL, and Titanium grades, while the Energi plug-in hybrid is Titanium only.

For 2019, all models debut new standard drivers assist technologies: automatic high beams, blind spot information, lane keeping assist, rear backup camera, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go function for traffic is optional.

Midsize: Chevrolet Malibu

Five year total: 873,458

  • 2018, YTD: 76,417
  • 2017: 185,857
  • 2016: 227,811
  • 2015: 194,854
  • 2014: 188,519

Starting MSRP: $21,680

The latest generation of Chevrolet Malibu wins buyers with its elegant sheetmetal and excellent ride.

A 163-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbo paired with a continuously-variable transmission is standard for 2019 on all trim levels but the Premier and Hybrid. The Premier ($31,985) steps up to a 2.0-liter turbo with 250 horsepower and a nine-speed automatic. The Hybrid ($28,795) gets up to 46 mpg in the combined cycle and features Chevrolet’s first application of Exhaust Gas Heat Recovery, which uses exhaust heat to warm the engine and cabin, improving efficiency.

The Malibu has a new front and rear on the outside for 2019, and now features an 8.0-inch reconfigurable color driver information center and 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment.

Advanced safety features such as blind zone alert and rear cross traffic alert are only offered on LT grades ($26,095) and above, and active safety features like forward collision alert, lane keep assist, and automatic braking with pedestrian detection are only available on the Premier.

Compact: Honda Civic

2019 Honda Civic Sedan

Starting MSRP: $19,450

Five year total: 1,635,908

  • 2018, YTD: 230,230
  • 2017: 377,286
  • 2016: 366,927
  • 2015: 335,384
  • 2014: 326,081

The latest generation Honda Civic is a crowd and critical favorite, engaging to drive, and well-appointed across the model range. The popular model has been refreshed for 2019 and looks a bit more upscale than before.

Standard modern amenities like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto accent the thoughtfully laid out interior. We found driver’s controls and displays well placed and intuitive to use. The greenhouse is airy and the seats are comfortable, making store runs or road trips a breeze.

Powering the lineup is a 2.0-liter, 158-horsepower naturally-aspirated four-cylinder or a 1.5-liter turbo with 174 horsepower on tap, depending on trim. The 2.0-liter is perfectly tractable and pleasant with ample power, but we found the 1.5 to be a delight.

Honda’s safety suite is now standard on all sedans, and includes forward collision warning, lane departure warning, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control with low speed following.

Compact: Toyota Corolla

Five year total: 1,602,526

  • 2018, YTD: 214,371
  • 2017: 329,196
  • 2016: 356,129
  • 2015: 363,332
  • 2014: 339,498

BASE MSRP: $18,700

The Corolla has been a best buy for decades and has sold more than 43 million examples since 1966. For 53 years, the model has offered excellent value for money, unimpeachable reliability, low cost of ownership, and excellent resale value.

The latest generation features rigid unibody construction that improves handling and allows the suspension to work efficiently. Noise reduction is built in and further enhanced by strategic use of insulation and acoustic glass.

Though small, the Corolla makes the most of its interior space. Leg and headroom are generous for both front and rear passengers.

A 1.8-liter engine under the hood produces 132 horsepower in all but one trim level, and is paired with a continuously-variable or manual transmission depending on grade. LE Eco models ($19,535) get a high-compression, 140-horsepower version that will do an EPA-estimated 40 mpg highway.

Toyota’s suite of safety features is standard on all Corollas and includes lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, dynamic cruise control, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection.

Compact: Hyundai Elantra

Five year total: 999,214

  • 2018, YTD: 128,956
  • 2017: 198,210
  • 2016: 208,319
  • 2015: 241,706
  • 2014: 222,023

Starting MSRP: $17,100

The Hyundai Elantra gets good customer reviews for value pricing, high efficiency, and great reliability. The model gets a mid-cycle refresh for 2019 and should prove to be more popular than ever.

In bare-bones base SE trim, the Elantra starts at just $17,100 with a manual transmission. The standard engine is a with a 147-horsepower 2.0-liter. A 1.4-liter turbo is offered in the Eco ($20,950). The manual transmission can also paired to a 1.6-liter turbo on the Sport model ($22,400).

Standard infotainment is a 5.0-inch touchscreen with steering wheel audio controls and Bluetooth. Premium amenities are available in higher trim levels, such as Qi wireless charging, 8-inch multimedia navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Infinity premium audio. There are leather seats to be had, alloy pedals, and dual-zone climate control.

On SEL trim ($19,400) and above, Hyundai’s safety suite is now standard and includes forward collision avoidance assist, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, and driver attention alert.

Compact: Nissan Sentra

Five year total: 968,289

  • 2018, YTD: 148,352
  • 2017: 218,451
  • 2016: 214,709
  • 2015: 203,509
  • 2014: 183,268

Starting MSRP: $17,790

The current generation of Nissan Sentra has been with us for five years and keeps buyers coming with value pricing and excellent economy. This is the recipe has kept the model going for more than 35 years.

For 2019, Nissan offers the Sentra in four basic trim levels and two sporting ones. The base S model is cheap and cheerful transportation, and shares its 124-horsepower 1.8-liter four with the SV ($19,090), SR ($20,590), and SL models ($23,020). The base S can be had with a manual transmission; all the rest have a CVT as standard.

The Sentra SR Turbo and Sentra NISMO share a 188-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine. Both models feature a tuned suspension, reinforced body, and other performance accoutrements.

All but the S model now come with Nissan’s connectivity suite featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Upper trim levels can opt for an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system powering eight-speaker Bose premium audio.

Compact: Chevrolet Cruze

Five year total: 952,980

  • 2018, YTD: 77,691
  • 2017: 184,751
  • 2016: 190,876
  • 2015: 226,602
  • 2014: 273,060

Starting MSRP: $16,975

Chevy’s sporty Cruze has proven popular with buyers thanks to modern tech and amenities. The model is restyled for 2019 with a new front end, rear lighting, and wheels.

A 153-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbo engine is standard and returns up to 39 or 40 mpg highway, depending on trim. The six-speed automatic is programmed brilliantly and feels relaxed and refined. There’s plenty of torque, even at freeway speeds. 

A 1.6-liter turbodiesel can be ordered as well, and is an economy star: an estimated 47 mpg highway.

Like its midsize Malibu stablemate, the compact Cruze rides like a big American car, ready and eager for the open road. The chassis, suspension, and powertrain work well together and leave driver and passengers refreshed.

Seven-inch touchscreen infotainment is now standard equipment for 2019, along with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, 4G LTE connectivity, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.