THE CHAL­LENGERS

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story -

The back end of 2015 will bring a num­ber of im­pres­sive new­com­ers, from the baby Skoda Fabia through to the mus­cu­lar Ford Mus­tang, big­ger Hyundai Tuc­son and youth­ful Jeep Rene­gade. For now, the best of the bunch looks like this:

AUDI Q7

This car could be as im­pres­sive, in its own SUV style, as the Volk­swa­gen Golf Mk7. It’s first with the me­chan­i­cal pack­age that will go un­der sev­eral VW Group ar­rivals, in­clud­ing the next Porsche Cayenne and Bent­ley Ben­tayga. So we’re ex­pect­ing class lead­ing com­fort, qual­ity and a great fam­ily drive.

FORD MUS­TANG

If the born-again Mus­tang is half as good as the hype it will be a se­ri­ous COTY con­tender. Early drives in the US point to best-yet dy­nam­ics for the first ’Stang with fac­tory right-hand drive. There is even a four-cylin­der EcoBoost en­gine. More than 2000 Aus­tralians are paid-up and wait­ing for their car to ar­rive, some­time in Novem­ber.

JAGUAR XE

This one needs to be more than good to chal­lenge the Audi A4, BMW 3 Se­ries and Mercedes C-Class. But Jaguar learned bit­ter lessons from its X-Type, which was no more than a re­bod­ied Ford Mon­deo, and is push­ing hard with an XE that gets ev­ery­thing from an alu­minium back­bone to newage en­gines. In Aus­tralia, the key will be in the pric­ing and equip­ment.

MAZDA MX-5

The world’s favourite sports car is odds-on for a COTY spot. It’s been com­pletely re­worked for 2015 de­spite a body that could only be an MX-5. It’s promis­ing a much-needed im­prove­ment in cabin space and over­all re­fine­ment, as well as Skyactiv

en­gine tech­nol­ogy that al­ready works in Mazda’s main­stream mod­els. Add the light­weight body and sharp pric­ing. There is al­ready a queue for early de­liv­er­ies.

FORD RANGER

The all-new Mit­subishi Tri­ton and Nissan Navara for 2015 are good but not great, which leaves the Ranger to chal­lenge the all-new Toy­ota HiLux for the bench­mark in utes. This midlife up­date is more than just a mild makeover. It has new pan­els, tweaked driv­ing dy­nam­ics and on the flag­ship model it has tech­nol­ogy that would make a Ger­man SUV blush.

TOY­OTA HILUX

More than just a truck, the HiLux has been Aus­tralia’s favourite ute for more than a gen­er­a­tion, not just be­cause it scores with min­ers but be­cause it can be most things to most peo­ple. The new HiLux prom­ises ev­ery­thing from a new turbo diesel to car-like qual­ity and re­fine­ment.

VOLVO XC90

It’s been a very long time since the first XC90, which has given Volvo — af­ter its change from a Ford sub­sidiary to Chi­nese own­er­ship — plenty of time to de­velop a bench­mark up­scale SUV. Ex­ten­sive work on ev­ery­thing from cabin com­fort and qual­ity to best-in-class safety tech­nol­ogy — wrapped in a good-look­ing new body­work — should make the XC90 some­thing spe­cial and a ’15 stand­out.

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