MUSCAT DAILY 2019 ON WHEELS

Bent­ley, Fer­rari, an un­der­rated Polestar and a sur­pris­ing Lo­tus all made the cut

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

Af­ter a decade of au­tomak­ers of­fer­ing throat­clear­ing con­cepts and test­ing pro­to­types, the elec­tric-car era has be­gun - fi­nally! Over the past 12 months, car com­pa­nies have un­veiled more than a dozen new elec­tric ve­hi­cles, rang­ing from sports cars that look like mod­i­fied space ships from the fu­ture, Hum­mer-style elec­tric SUVs, and even a to­tally car­bon-neu­tral hy­per­car.

Pin­in­fa­rina gave us a first drive of the US$2.2mn Bat­tista; Tesla smashed the win­dows of its Cy­bertruck. Porsche fi­nally put its foot in the elec­tric-ve­hi­cle ring with the US$185,000 Tay­can; and so did Volvo, with its sharp, range-dom­i­nat­ing Polestar 1.

But elec­tric power was not a cure-all for ev­ery lux­ury brand: Mercedes has said it will de­lay its elec­tric SUV de­but af­ter un­der­per­form­ing sales - and even re­calls - of those from Audi and Jaguar. De­mand in China, the world’s big­gest elec­tric-car mar­ket, fell by dou­ble dig­its for months af­ter the gov­ern­ment scaled back EV sub­si­dies. Har­ley-David­son started, then tem­po­rar­ily halted, an elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle. And the Volk­swa­gen diesel scan­dal con­tin­ues. In Europe, car­mak­ers strug­gled. As­ton Martin in par­tic­u­lar strug­gled to re­gain its foot­ing at all af­ter a mas­sively flopped ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing… and then cre­ated a make-or-break SUV.

Mean­while, we saw Ford face Fer­rari again in true Hol­ly­wood block­buster style. We saw the big-money busi­ness rise of the In­flu­encer gen­er­a­tion. We saw the oblit­er­a­tion of a 482kmph world record. And Fer­di­nand Piech, the man who cre­ated the Volk­swa­gen AG em­pire as we know it to­day, died in Rosen­heim, Ger­many.

All of this, yes - but still no fully au­to­mated, driver­less, cars. Yet. Check back with VW, BMW and Daim­ler in about four years for that.

All told, car lovers and driv­ing en­thu­si­asts had plenty to re­joice over this year. Here are the 11 best ve­hi­cles I drove since this time last year.

Best Open-Top Thriller: Lam­borgh­ini Hu­ra­can Evo Spy­der

This is the mid-cy­cle re­fresh of the Hu­ra­can Spy­der line, but it feels like the one you'd want out of the en­tire lot, thanks to its plus ac­cou­trements for longer drives: am­bi­ent light pack­ages, smart­phone in­ter­faces, elec­tric seats, and ‘Lam­borgh­ini teleme­try’ for an en­hanced driv­ing feel as you round those hair­pin turns. The US$287,400 Hu­ra­can Evo does zero to 100kmph in 2.4 sec­onds. Top speed is 325kmph. To­tal power is 631hp.

Best Ital­ian Clas­sic: Fer­rari F8 Trib­uto

This US$270,530 coupé pays fit­ting trib­ute to the al­most-sa­cred V8 en­gines that have pow­ered the au­tomaker’s most suc­cess­ful cars since its first mid-en­gine V-8, all the way back to the 1975 Fer­rari 308 GTB. With a 3.9ltr, 711hp en­gine, a per­fect seven-speed gear­box, and 770Nm of torque, it’s more pow­er­ful and ef­fi­cient than its pre­de­ces­sor, the 488 GTB. The F8 Trib­uto weighs less than 1360kg and is lethally quick: zero to 100kmph in 2.9 sec­onds, with style to spare.

Best Elec­tric Sedan: Porsche Tay­can Turbo S

The US$185,000 Tay­can Turbo S is fast, pow­er­ful, prac­ti­cal and well-built. From be­hind the wheel and from the side­walk, it feels and looks like a real car, not an ap­pli­ance. The per­for­mance stats back it all up: 750hp; zero to 100kmph in 2.6 sec­onds; two ‘gears’ and a range of 419 elec­tric km on a sin­gle charge.

Best Town Car: Bent­ley Fly­ing Spur

Bent­ley re-eval­u­ated its iconic mar­que from the ground up this year, with a new grille, hood or­na­ment and crys­tal-cut LED head­lights, 22-inch rims and di­a­mond knurl­ing through­out. It re­tains the same 6ltr, twin-tur­bocharged W12 en­gine as the Con­ti­nen­tal GT, with a dual-clutch, eight-speed trans­mis­sion and the big­gest iron brakes in the world. That's enough to do a zero to 100kmph sprint in 3.7 sec­onds, with a top speed of 330kmph.

Best Af­ford­able Brit: Lo­tus Evora GT

This is the cheap­est two-door car on the list, but you can have more fun in it than in oth­ers that cost twice as much. The US$96,950 Evora GT has a 416hp, V6, su­per­charged en­gine that wheezes and hums as you drive, and at 1440kg, it can hit 100kmph in 3.8 sec­onds.

Best New Act: McLaren GT

The US$210,000, 612hp GT is spa­cious, smoother on the road, and dropdead good look­ing. The en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem has been im­proved, as has the stiff­ness of the chas­sis.

Best Hy­brid, Pe­riod: Polestar 1

Con­sider this the sleeper hit of the year. Volvo’s lux­ury sib­ling brand, Polestar, re­leased a US$156,500 plug-in hy­brid that gets the long­est driv­ing range avail­able on the mar­ket to­day: some 125km on pure elec­tric charge. Its 100 per cent car­bon-fi­bre body makes it supremely light­weight, and its com­plex sys­tem of mo­tors and en­gines can be driven in fully elec­tric mode, with two rear elec­tric mo­tors pro­vid­ing 232hp and 480Nm of in­stant elec­tric torque. To­tal com­bined out­put is 619hp and 1,000Nm of torque. All-wheel drive is also ac­ces­si­ble by the push of a but­ton.

Best Grand Tourer: Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT V8

The US$198,500 V8 ver­sion of Bent­ley's ex­cep­tional Con­ti­nen­tal GT grand tourer comes with a new en­gine, light­weight alu­minium body, and dou­ble-clutch gear­box. It comes with 542hp and 770Nm of torque and is heav­ily rear-wheel-drive bi­ased, es­pe­cially in Sport mode. Zero to 100kmph takes 3.9 sec­onds, with a top speed of 320kmph.

Best Gro­cery Get­ter: Audi RS6 Avant

There's space in the mar­ket for a pow­er­ful, well-ap­por­tioned wagon aimed at the well-off ad­ven­turer or cre­ative buyer, and Audi might as well be the one to make it. The US$113,000 RS6 Avant (es­ti­mated price) comes with a twin-tur­bocharged, 4ltr V8 that gets 591hp and 800Nm of torque. It has Audi's clas­sic Qu­at­tro all-wheel drive and eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion - and Audi says it'll get to 100kmph in 3.6 sec­onds, top­ping out at 300kmph.

Best Come­back Kid: BMW M850i

BMW stopped mak­ing the orig­i­nal 8-Se­ries in the 1990s. Since then, the M3 and M4 Coupés had to fill the gap for those who wanted a fast, pow­er­ful, true sports car they could drive com­fort­ably on a daily ba­sis. Now, with the US$112,895 M850i, you can bet­ter those other M cars. All in, the M850i will go to 100kmph in 3.6 sec­onds, with a top speed of 250kmph. It has such el­e­gant de­tails as a glass-knob shifter, seats draped in merino leather, and a 10.25-inch cen­tral in­for­ma­tion dis­play with a 12.3-inch in­stru­ment clus­ter.

Best Mo­tor­cy­cle For City Slick­ers: Zero S

Zero is do­ing what Har­ley-David­son had hoped to achieve. The com­pany has be­come ex­cep­tional in its abil­ity to pro­duce - and keep pro­duc­ing - sporty, re­li­able, and hand­some elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cles. The US$10,995 Zero S is its lat­est. The 150kg street bike has a thrilling rid­ing style and a driv­ing range of up to 360km in the city and 180km at high­way speeds.

Best Open-Top Thriller- Lam­borgh­ini Hu­ra­can Evo Spy­der

Best New Act- McLaren GT

Best Hy­brid, Pe­riod - Polestar 1

Best Town Car- Bent­ley Fly­ing Spur

Best Come­back Kid - BMW M850i

Best Gro­cery Get­ter - Audi RS6 Avant

Best Af­ford­able Brit - Lo­tus Evora GT

Best Elec­tric Sedan - Porsche Tay­can Turbo S

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