The year ahead looms as a battle for the hearts, minds and consciences of car buyers at the luxury end of the market.
On the one hand, expect a brigade of look-at-me sports, super and hyper cars to continue to clamour for attention; their combustion-fired business model may be on borrowed time, but they’re set to go out swinging.
On the other, a growing troupe of all-electric or hybrid models will continue to build legitimacy. Some believe 2020 will prove a pivot point for electrics, with well-funded and engineered models from respected brands such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz ready for full-scale sales.
And through it all, an ever-diversifying assortment of SUVs will keep filling the brands’ coffers and putting cars in suburban driveways.
The kilowatt club
On the excitement side of motoring, they’re dying but still trying. Brawny V12s are on the nose, snarling V8s are steadily losing the battle to more fuel-efficient twin-turbocharged sixes, and electric boosting or hybrid arrangements are emerging to supplement or even replace displacement.
Jaguar has already unveiled a face-lifted F-Type that is available for 2020 in coupe and convertible; Porsche has the RS version of its Cayman GT4; BMW will add the 4 Series coupe to its 3 Series four-door with the promise of a new-and-improved M4; and Alfa Romeo will refresh and improve the landmark Giulia sports sedan.
There will be a lot of noise around the world’s hypercar flagships such as the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE, of which only a handful are likely to make it to Australia. Another is the Brabham BT62 – which was conceived by Sir Jack Brabham’s son David as a weekend track-day rocket, but is now being certified for road use – at around $1.8 million.
The electric company
With the Porsche Taycan and Mercedes-Benz EQC both ready for full-scale sales, and other leading brands also readying their Tesla rivals, there will definitely be more activity and more interest on the battery-electric front.
Plug-in hybrids, too, will be making an impact as they promise silent electric running for up to 40 kilometres in cities teamed with regular petrol power away from home. Every prestige brand has promised major electrification of their showroom fleet by 2025, and that begins in a big way in 2020.
Audi has promised that every electric model, starting with the battery-powered e-tron Sportback SUV and an all-new sports car, will be fast-tracked to Australia.
Mini is also ready with its first fully-electric car, the Cooper SE, as well as a Countryman plug-in hybrid. Battery power should be ideal for the go-kart Mini, a car that has been a perfect inner-city runabout since the 1960s.
2020 will also see Jaguar present its new electric flagship, the latest development of the classic XJ, and Aston Martin will unveil a similar luxury contender - the Rapide E – as it re-launches its Lagonda line-up as an electric-only sub-brand to suit the growing requirements for zero-emission driving in the centre of European capitals including London, Paris and Berlin.
The electric sales numbers in Australia will still be tiny in 2020, but with big growth numbers expected off a small base amid increasing choice and affordability.
SUVs shoulder the load
The rise and rise of SUVs in Australia will continue in 2020 at the expense of traditional passenger cars, despite the excellence of new arrivals such as BMW’s 3 Touring wagon.
At the top end, Aston Martin has its good-looking new DBX to shake things up. It promises car-like handling and comfort, and the unboxy body styling is a standout.
It’s a massive contrast to the Jeep Gladiator, which looks like an escapee from a Transformers movie. The heavyweight American off-roader will be the centrepiece of a renewed push for traction in Australia from the Jeep brand.
Elsewhere in the SUV space, Audi is ready with an update to the Q7, Alfa Romeo has the smaller Tonale model to sit below the Stelvio, and Genesis – the upmarket South Korean offshoot of Hyundai - starts its SUV drive with the GV60 to rival the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
And then there is the Land Rover Defender. It might not look luxurious, but will be finding plenty of homes in upscale neighbourhoods around the world. It’s been completely overhauled for the first time since 1948 and is already sold out for 2020, even ahead of full details being announced for local models.