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Ten questions for the new year

  1. It’s shaping up to be a big year in the car world. The LaFerrari is landing, F1 has shaken up its rule books, Porsche is back at Le Mans… and Top Gear will soon be back on your tellyscreens.

    But 2014 is a year that brings questions. Many questions. Questions about the shifting political landscape of our planet, about the stability of the entire Western economy, and whether we can all maintain interest for yet another year in feeding faintly famous people insects in Australia.

    But mostly 2014 brings questions about cars. Here are the 10 most pressing issues to be answered in the next 12 months. What’s your big question for 2014?

  2. Can the LaFerrari possibly top the Porsche 918 and McLaren P1?

    We’ve driven two of the three hybrid hypercars contenders in what will surely be the automotive battle of the decade, and can happily report that the Porsche 918 and McLaren P1 are utterly astonishing, in very different ways.

    Can Ferrari’s petrol-electric LaFerrari match - or even outgun - the Porsche and McLaren? We know the Enzo’s successor is packing the firepower: a combined 950bhp courtesy of a 790bhp 6.3-litre V12 alongside a 160bhp electric motor. We know it’ll do 0-62mph in under three seconds and 0-124mph in less than seven. We know it looks like… well, like that.

  3. Is this the year of the dragon?

    Global superpower it may be, but China is yet to impose itself on the wider car world. So far in the UK, our Chinese takeaway has been limited to some pretty average MGs and the sturdy but not especially glamorous Great Wall Steed.

    But, fresh from a perfect five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests, the very tidy Qoros 3 is coming to Europe this year, hoping to give VW, Ford, and perhaps even the premium Germans a serious scare. Don’t reckon it’ll happen? Remember it wasn’t so long ago that we doubted whether the Koreans could stick it to the established Euro players. And look where they are now.

  4. Will F1 be another bore-fest?

    The 2013 F1 season, especially its second half, was the dampest of squibs, with Seb ‘Multi 21’ Vettel reigning dominant and the rest of the grid apparently going backwards. But it’s all change for the F1 rulebook in 2014, with the naturally aspirated V8s replaced by 1.6-litre turbo V6s.

    Can the shake-up dislodge Vettel and Newey from the front of the grid? Will Raikkonen fire at Ferrari? Can McLaren bounce back from their worst season in living memory? Or will it all be wrapped up long before the double-point-scoring final race in Abu Dhabi? Here’s hoping it’s fun finding out…

  5. Just how good will the BMW M3 and M4 be?

    The all-new versions of BMW’s super-saloon and super-coupe (the M3 is the four-door, the M4 the two-door) land early in 2014, and the big news is that the standard-bearer for high-revving natural aspiration has gone turbocharged.

    A twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six, specifically, making 431bhp and capable of getting the M3 and M4 from 0-62 in a fraction over four seconds. We’ve got high hopes: the standard 3-Series and 4-Series are fine drives, and if anyone can make a turbo with proper zip, it’s BMW’s brilliant engine boffins. Could the M3/M4 possibly be even better than that sublime 1M Coupe?

  6. Can Porsche upset Audi at Le Mans?

    This could be an epic year at the world’s greatest endurance race. Porsche - the most successful manufacturer in Le Mans history, with 16 outright wins between 1970 and 1998 - is back, armed with the hybrid 919 and the non-hybrid Mark Webber.

    But they’ll have to get past not only Audi and its new R18, but also Toyota’s LMP1 hybrid. Interestingly, the three big boys have all pursued different avenues in the hunt for La Sarthe supremacy: Porsche has a 2.0-litre turbo petrol plus electric, Audi a V6 diesel hybrid, while Toyota is likely to use a development of its V8 diesel hybrid. Who’s your money on?

  7. Can the Merc GT stick it to the Porsche 911?

    Merc has ditched its bellowing SLS supercar after just four years, and will soon reveal its 911-rivalling sports car, codenamed ‘C190’ and likely badged GT. On paper, it’s a fruity proposition: the front-engined GT is expected to boast a new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 making close to 500bhp and driving the rear wheels.

    Which sounds very promising. But, with the GT expected to weigh in around £100k or a little more, competition is fierce: there’s the 911 GT3 and Turbo, Audi’s R8, the new Jag F-Type Coupe, and BMW’s game-changing i8. Get ready for war.

  8. Can GM get itself under control?

    It’s been a strange few months for the world’s biggest/second-biggest-depending-on-how-you-measure-it carmaker. GM has axed Holden in Australia, pulled Chevrolet out of Europe, sold its stake in Peugeot and appointed a new boss.

    Can new CEO Barra get the General concentrating on building fine metal like our Not-A-Muscle-Car Of The Year, the new Chevrolet Corvette? Or is there more strife to come from the owner of Vauxhall and Opel?

  9. Will the Porsche Macan be a proper Porsche?

    Porsche is on the hottest of hot streaks right now. The Cayman is virtually unimprovable, the 911 GT3 unforgettable and the 918 genre-defining. In fact, so good is the entire range that we crowned Porsche our Manufacturer of 2013.

    Which means that the Macan, Porsche’s first foray into the world of small SUVs, arrives at a mighty interesting time. True, even if it drives like a Vauxhall Frontera from the mid-Nineties, the Macan will still shift like leather-lined hot cakes.

    But if Porsche can engineer a small SUV that truly feels like a sports car rather than an Audi Q3 - with which it shares many mechanicals - in a posh frock, that’ll be the final proof we needed that Stuttgart has access to some magical elixir of fast car goodness.

  10. Just how sideways will the F-Type Coupe be?

    The range-topping ‘V8S’ F-Type cabrio, with its 488bhp 5.0-litre V8 driving the rear wheels, is one of the lairiest, slidiest things we’ve driven in years, a car to make even the Mercedes E63 AMG look understeery and easy-going.

    But now the F-Type Coupe is on the way, and it’s not only even better-looking than the cabrio… but more powerful too. The ‘V8R’ coupe pumps out 542bhp, will do 0-62mph in four seconds flat and 186mph flat-out. And possibly sideways.

    Can it possibly control all that power? Or will 2014’s first autumn frost be marked by the sight of every F-Type V8R Coupe in Britain sticking out backwards from roadside ditches?

  11. When's Top Gear back on telly?

    Yes, you lot have asked this one a lot. And the answer is… soon. Very soon. Weeks, not months. We’ll have all the details very soon, but for now rest assured, Series 21 is shaping up to be an utter cracker. Get ready for a vintage year in cars…

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