The 21 most exciting, controversial new cars of 2021
Electric hypercars. Road-legal racers. More hot hatches. This year’s a BIG one…
BMW M3 / M4 Competition
Are you used to The Grille yet? We’ve stopped fainting, though the headaches continue. But now the initial shock of the hot 3 Series’ beavery-snout has subsided, we can start to pick over techy questions.
How will the heartland M car feel with four-wheel drive? Is BMW’s decision to fit an automatic gearbox – not a manual or even a DCT – a mistake? And at 1,730kg, is the new 503bhp M3 a little paunchy? Yep, there’s a lot more to argue over with this pair than just the uber-nostrils.Advertisement - Page continues below
Aston Martin Valkyrie
At long last, Aston Martin’s F1 car for the road lands on a street probably not very near you in 2021 AD.
Awkwardly, the collaboration with Red Bull Racing – with aero-telligence from the mind of F1 brain Adrian Newey – has taken so long to arrive that Aston Martin and Red Bull have split up in F1, with the British marque ending its title sponsorship of the energy-drink power rangers and becoming an F1 outfit in its own right, thanks to a canny rebranding of Lawrence Stroll’s Racing Point team.
Anyway, save the politics for Question Time. The notion of a naturally aspirated 10,000rpm V12 pushing along a 1,000kg capsule of downforce is still as mouth-watering as it was back in mid-2016, and it’s high time we found out if this thing really can manage F1-spec lap times while wearing a numberplate.
See, you wait a really, really long time for a delayed street-legal F1 car, and two come along at once. The chances, eh?
AMG’s hyper-flagship, powered by the 1.6-litre turbo V6 hybrid powertrain shaken down in the 2016 F1 World Championship-winning Mercedes racer, should make production in 2021. After vaulting numerous engineering hurdles, the engineers are busy testing the One on Mercedes’ private proving ground, and a Nürburgring lap time is supposedly on the horizon. Place your bets.
In the meantime, AMG’s boss has left to join Aston, the world’s hypercars have got faster still, and electric contenders have entered the fray. Some will say this thing’s no longer relevant. An expensive folly, or the celebration Lewis and co.’s monumental sporting prowess deserves? We’re reserving judgement until the One’s combined 1,000bhp+ rearranges our face.Advertisement - Page continues below
Tesla Cybertruck / Model S Plaid / Semi…
As ever, one year closes with many, many new Tesla products promised. The angular Cybertruck is still slated for production in late 2021, while the Roadster supercar was initially due to be delivered next year but has been pushed back another 12 months at least.
The Model S Plaid – a 520-mile tri-motor saloon good for 200mph – is mooted for 2021, while the production-spec Semi truck’s arrival time also appears a tad sketchy. If Tesla can pull it off, the internet may actually melt.
We’ve already driven the prototype of Hyundai’s first junior hot hatch, and we liked it plenty. If there’s any car that has a chance of challenging the sublime Ford Fiesta ST for super-shopping car medals, it’s Korea’s pocket rocket.
The recipe? 201bhp, a manual gearbox, 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and more modes than you can shake a red pinstripe at. Yum.
Audi RS e-tron GT
Audi’s taken the Taycan. Geddit? Haaaah. But seriously, this is the four-ringed version of Porsche’s electric super saloon, and if you want to feel like Tony Stark while you’re queueing up for your Covid vaccine, this is the £130k tool for the job.
Note that it’s going to be badged ‘RS’ – because Audi wants this 650bhp electric eel to lead its headlong plunge toward a family of faster plug-ins. What does that mean for the next R8 supercar, we wonder? Watch this space…
‘Course, there’ll be several more silent supercars in 2021. Rimac’s tricky second album is one of the leading lights.
Specs? 1,887bhp from four individual e-motors, 0-62mph on the vom-side of two seconds, and 258mph flat out. 150 wealthy people with iron stomachs have stepped up to pay the required £1.7m, and while the car was delayed for a year due to coronavirus, patient owners will have spent that time doing crunches to train their tummies for the G-force.Advertisement - Page continues below
What if you want a more comfortable near-1900bhp e-hypercar? Meet Italy’s alternative to the Croatian missile. Pininfarina’s contender uses Rimac mechanicals, but it’s tailored into a ‘hyper-GT’, leaning more towards comfort and refinement than lap times.
So, Italy’s most powerful road car ever only manages a pathetic 217mph flat out, with a claimed range of around 300 miles if you drive it sensibly. Which we won’t.
Cruelly denied to us limeys with our bad teeth and our quaint Queen (gawd bless you ma’am) is Ford’s fabulous-looking reborn Bronco. The classic 4x4 returns in 2021, and with trim lines called Big Bend, Black Diamond and Badlands, you just know this is going to be full ‘Murica at its stars’n’stripes-waving finest. Still want that Jeep Wrangler? Or a Defender? Or any other kind of car that ain't a Bronco?
We may need to sit down, and admire something sleeker...Advertisement - Page continues below
Yep, it’s a McLaren with a name, not an alphanumeric jumble of characters. Goodbye 570S, hello Artura, the entry-level McLaren for the 2020s. Power comes not from a V8, but a twin-turbo’d V6 supplemented with a dollop of hybrid boost.
Expect some low-speed silent running when you’re not in a hurry, or the usual organ-bothering punch from Woking when you are. Underneath, there’s a new carbon tub too. Could be about to make the Ferrari SF90 look very expensive, this thing.
“It accelerates differently to any other car I’ve ever been in. Because rather than the acceleration tailing off as you go faster, in the Lotus Evija it just keeps ramping up. The more speed you add, the more you’re pinned back into the seat. At some stage, physics dictates, it must let up. But when? 160mph down Goodwood’s back straight and the force multiplier still appears fully engaged.”
Top Gear’s brave test pilot Ollie Marriage had his head scrambled by a prototype Evija in the autumn of 2020. A short passenger ride in the 1,972bhp British entrant into the electric hypercar war – which was limited to a paltry 1,400bhp for the event – was enough to demonstrate the Evija’s ginormous potential. Finished examples should be ready in early summer 2021, which looks like it’ll be The Year of the Electric Hypercar, replacing the Year of the Ox in the Chinese Zodiac.
Porsche 911 GT3
Wonder if this’ll be any good? Porsche’s rather popular and not-bad-we-suppose 992-gen sports car is readying for its first track day with fresh front suspension, a swan-neck rear wing, a tickle more poke from its 9,000rpm naturally aspirated flat-six, and the option of a manual gearbox.
Judging by GT3s of yore it’ll almost certainly be an absolute heap of rubbish that doesn’t stand a chance of winning any kind of test or doing a decent lap time, but fingers crossed Porsche pulls one out of the fire for a change.
Cometh 2021, cometh the German Tesla-usurpers. There’s Audi’s RS e-tron GT, a fleet of EQ-badged Mercs, and from BMW, another beavery-faced slice of design nightmare with a massive grille it doesn’t strictly need. What’s that cooling, exactly? The driver’s skinny latte?
Mercifully, the i4 has a decent-enough spec to distract us from its gargoyle mug. After revealing this concept model of its electric 4 Series, BMW stated there’s 530bhp in full performance mode from a single rear motor. It should be good for 0-62mph in an M3-bothering 4.0 seconds, and when you’re not rinsing the not-so-loud pedal, manage for 370 miles on its 80kWh battery.
Is this the moment The Ultimate Driving Machine slaps the smile off the Tesla Fan Army’s face? 2021 will provide the answer…
Meanwhile at Mercedes, there’s a tantalising little in-fight brewing up. In 2020, we met the latest, greatest S-Class: one of the most outstanding marriages of new tech and old-school opulence ever to be offered with a steering wheel.
It’s undoubtedly one of the very best cars in the world right now, and yet in 2021 Mercedes itself will attempt to go one better, and build an even cleverer S-Class sans-engine. The all-electric EQS – previewed by this nearly-there concept study – will be the plug-in Benz final boss, with 470bhp and 560lb ft spread across both axles for torque-vectored all-wheel drive and 0-62mph in 4.5secs.
Mercedes claims a WLTP-tested range of over 400 miles and says the EQS can achieve an 80 per cent charge in 20 minutes. Inside, the cabin features more screens than a multiplex and recycled ocean waste living its best life. Either way, 2021 is looking like a decent year to get into chauffeuring.
Nearly there gang. This is almost the last all-electric super-limo we’re featuring. Promise. Just goes to show the times are a-changin’ – of the 21 most anticipated motors coming in 2021, ten are EVs. What’s a V8 again?
Lucid is the Californian electric start-up you probably haven’t paid a huge deal of attention to until now, but the company is looking to make its big break in 2021 with the Air: a 1,080bhp hyper-saloon. For $169,000 (or $161,500 after the USA federal tax credit, or around £125,000), the limited-volume Air Dream Edition will do 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds, top out at 168mph and achieve a range of 465 miles on its bespoke 21-inch wheels, or 503 miles on smaller 19-inchers.
Just below the Dream Edition is the Air Grand Touring, which will arrive slightly later, in mid-2021. At $139,000 before tax breaks it’s still a rather expensive option, but the key figure here is the EPA-tested 517 miles of range. That’s a lot. Oh, and there’s still 800bhp to play with. The standard Air Touring brings 620bhp and 406 miles of range to the party, and all models get the same fast charging setup.
Now, how about something a little less… grown-up?
Volkswagen Golf Mk8 R
Ja, das Golf. Usually about as grown-up as cars get. The Marks & Spencer neck tie of cars. And yet, the new 316bhp Golf R reckons it can muddle your prejudices, thanks to the next four words: Performance Pack. Drift Mode.
Optionally, the DSG-only AWD Golf R will be able to overpower its rear axle with the same sort of infamous party trick found on the old Ford Focus RS and current Mercedes-AMG A45S. It’ll powerslide. It’s as if Volkswagen decided the old Golf R made owners feel too-invincible with all its traction and grip. Forget Bitcoin: Top Gear’s 2021 profiteering tip is to buy shares in recovery trucks, insurance companies, and roundabout garden landscaping services. Every flowerbed in the land’s going to be brimmed with Golf Rs by spring.
Peugeot 508 PSE
A French car, on our Most Wanted list? And it’s not an Alpine? You’d better believe it. Peugeot is repositioning its go faster Sport division as an electrified sub-brand, and the first fruit of that is this Audi S4-chasing plug-in hybrid sports saloon based on the wacky (but secretly quite good) 508.
Handsome, innit? And well-specced. This all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid offers a respectable 355bhp and 384lb ft from its 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine and twin e-motors: enough for 0-62mph in a swift 5.2 seconds and 155mph top speed. Do you really need bigger numbers?
The steering, suspension, brakes and tyres have all been worked over by the Peugeot Sport boys and girls, and ooh la look, it’s also available as a wagon.
Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo
Right, we hear you. You want a faster low-emissions estate car. Got it. Step forward the station wagon electric Porsche.
Yep, the Taycan ST makes production in 2021. Expect Turbo S, Turbo and 4S versions all capable of propelling pedigree pooches from 0-62mph faster than you can say ‘get me to Crufts, stat’.
If you don’t drive your RS6 Avant more than 200 miles per day, Porsche’s leccy alternative could be a rather delectable understudy.
We’re guessing on the name – so far this turbo’nana is known only as the ‘Z Proto’. Yes, it’s the latest Zed car, successor to the 350Z and 370Z, and no we’re not bitter at all that this tightly-styled rear-drive, manual-shift sports car isn’t going to be sold in Europe due to dwindling sports car sales. Couldn’t care less.
Official word on the street from Nissan reads: “A shrinking European sports car market and specific regulations on emissions mean that Nissan was unable to build a viable business. In Europe, Nissan’s priorities remain its commitment to renew its crossover line-up and accelerate its range electrification strategy.”
So, all’s not lost boys and girls. We’re getting ghosted by Nissan’s drift-lemon, but we’ll probably get a revised Qashqai instead. Shut up, YOU’RE CRYING.
Don’t wipe those tears away just yet. Here’s the second Japanese sports coupe to block and report the UK: Subaru’s Mk2 BRZ. The 228bhp Boxer-engined coupe has returned with a five-stage stability control system (happily, one of those settings is ‘Off, Now Watch THIS’), a standard manual gearbox and rear drive via a limited-slip differential.
While Subaru has announced the BRZ won’t be sold to the UK, its sister car, the new Toyota GT86 (likely to be badged GR86 to slot in with the awesome GR Yaris) is likely to be Blighty-bound, and more hotly anticipated than a new series of The Crown. We know. We asked Prince Charles.
Last but by no means least, we welcome newcomer Rivian into our 2021 must-haves. It’s a part-California, part London-based start-up specialising in electric 4x4s, and the R1T is here to beat Tesla’s Cybertruck to the battery-powered pick-up punch.
Three battery sizes will be offered: 180kWh (400 mile range) and 135kWh (300 mile range) packs available at launch, and a 105kWh battery (230 mile range) offered six months later. Each one is said to feature “tough underbody protection” along with better cooling and an algorithm that learns your driving style to better optimise its charge.
Opt for the 135kWh battery and – allied to quad motors and torque vectoring and an actual truckload of total torque (10,325lb ft) – you’ll be able to see off 0-60mph in three seconds flat. You’ll also be able to go from 0-100mph in under seven seconds, with a top speed of 125mph. Old MacDonald never had a farm truck like this…