Talking cars – The ten biggest automotive news stories of 2019
As the year 2019 comes to a close, car magazines and communities begin talking about "car of the year". Awards have been won and reviews have been written. We've seen our fair share of interesting and controversial cars this year and 2019 was also a special year for a few major manufacturers celebrating their anniversary. Bentley definitely did everything it could to celebrity its 100th anniversary throwing what basically turned out to be a 12-month party. Bugatti (110 years) and Citroën (100) also celebrated in style.
There's a lot to talk about so what I thought I'd do is summarize the year with 10 news stories and things we've seen this year. Let me know what you think and what your favourite car/moment of the year was.
1. Porsche got serious about electric cars
In 2015, Porsche introduced the Mission-E at Frankfurt Motor show and then, a couple of years ago, they announced their plan to prioritize Formula E over endurance racing series. This should have been given competition a heads-up about the brand's intentions. Now it's 2019 and the first all-electric Porsche, the Taycan, is finally here.
The Taycan is first and foremost a Porsche, the brand's marketing and PR people have been saying this over and over from day one, and the fact that it's powered by electricity rather than petrol won't change that. The range-topping Taycan Turbo S (yeah, I know, "turbo") puts out 761 PS and 774 lb-ft of torque and it is equipped with a 93.4 kWh battery pack and, crucially, synchronous motors, which means the powertrain can deliver consistent performance figures without ever fading away.
2. We fell in love with the Ford Ranger Raptor
The 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor, to put it in cinematographic terms, has been received "with wide acclaim". Everybody seems to love it and I think I know why.
The nameplate Raptor has traditionally been used for the range-topping, high-performance versions of the Ford F-150 pick-up truck. The Ford F-Series truck is by far and away the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. and it has been the best-selling truck for 42 consecutive years but it has never been sold outside the American continent. On the contrary, the Ranger Raptor has more or less been built specifically for Europe precisely because the F-Series truck has never been officially available here. So Americans love it because they already know what it can do, and Europeans love it because we finally get the chance to drive it without having to rent it or import it.
3. Ford used the Mustang name for an all-electric SUV
Ford introduced the all-electric Mustang Mach-E mid-size SUV this year, one of the most controversial cars we've seen in years. A lot of people didn't like the fact that it's electric but even more people really didn't like the body shape, because it is essentially a crossover SUV. A bold call from Ford, a make or break moment for the brand's first ever all-electric car.
The Mustang Mach-E is powered by an electric unit with the range-topping variant capable of 459 hp and 612 torques. The Mach-E is currently available with a 76 kWh battery pack, a 99 kWh version will be available in 2021, with up to 300 miles of range. Prices start at $43,895.
4. The all-new Defender is here
The original Defender was developed in the 80s but it traces its roots back to the Land Rover series introduced in 1948. Production was halted in 2016 and that means it has been sold, pretty much unchanged, for 68 years running. JLR thought long and hard about a successor to the retired Defender and spent years designing and engineering it and then, in September this year, they've introduced the all-new Defender.
It is available with various types of engine from the Land Rover Ingenium family including a mild-hybrid I6 and I4 turbodiesels and it recaptures several design elements from the original Defender, including the front centre seat. It is also available with something called "Adventure Pack", featuring a 6.5 L water reservoir and a snorkel, which makes it look pretty cool.
5. Tesla introduced the craziest truck in the world
You never know what to expect from Tesla because you never know what to expect from its controversial CEO Elon Musk. There had been rumours and speculation over the first ever truck made by Tesla and when it finally arrived, the whole world was like, "what?!".
However, after a few minutes, most people realized that nothing should ever be surprising or shocking when it comes to Tesla. Not even the crazy Cybetruck unveiled during a private event in California in November. Tesla is going to build three variants with range estimates of 250–500 miles and a 0-60 time ranging between 2.9 and 6.5 seconds. Musk says the truck is extremely sturdy and strong, and decided to prove it by having the truck hit by a hammer, a ball made of lead and shot at. The result was more or less satisfying, even though the bulletproof glass was slightly damaged by a bullet.
6. Bentley has been celebrating its 100th birthday since January
Bentley began celebrating the brand's 100th anniversary in January and basically hasn't stopped since. To mark the occasion, the British car manufacturer (part of VW Group) decided to have a year-long party.
First, Bentley told its designers to let their hair down and came up with the wonderful EXP100GT concept, then it told its engineers to do the same by introducing the Bentley Bower continuation series, a "brand-new" car built as a hommage to the original Sir Tim Birkin's supercharged 4½-litre Team Blower race car from 1929. They also hosted events and gatherings in Miami in New York, as well as in California during the Monterey Car Week, and they introduced the new Flying Spur, the Pikes Peak edition Continental GT. The list goes on. Well done, Bentley.
7. Chevrolet introduced the first ever production mid-engined Corvette
Zora Arkus-Duntov, the father of the Chevrolet Corvette, began working on a single-seater mid-engined prototype in 1959, which eventually spawned the production version of the first Corvette. Sixty years later, his vision came true with the C8 Stingray, the first production Corvette with the engine in the middle.
It is a truly spectacular car, with great looks and stance, powered by a naturally aspirated 6.2 L LT2 V8 making 495 hp and and 465 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 takes around 3 seconds and the top speed of 194 mph. The C8 Stingray does all this with prices starting at around $60,000 and this, in today's world, is a truly incredible achievement.
8. Mercedes just keeps on winning
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team have once again dominated 2019 Formula 1 season by winning their sixth consecutive constructors' title, 235 clear of Ferrari, and sixth consecutive drivers' title, thus becoming the first team to achieve six consecutive title doubles. Since the start of the 2014 season, the first of the turbo-hybrid era, Mercedes have won 89 of 121 races (62 for Hamilton, 20 for Rosberg and 7 for Bottas).
The German brand also made its Formula E debut in 2019 and, perhaps unsurprisingly, their Formula E Mercedes EQ team are already ahead in constructors' standings with a double podium finish in Ad Diriyah race 1 and 2. There's still a long way to go, of course, but the fact that they're already up there proves that when it comes to racing, Mercedes know how to do it.
9. Bugatti introduced the most expensive new car in the world
Quietly but surely, Bugatti has developed an entire range of limited edition hypercars following the retirement of the Veyron, the car that marked the rebirth of the French brand founded in Molsheim in 1909 and owned by VW since 1998.
Having retired the Veyron in 2015, Bugatti built the Chiron, the Divo, and a few "spin-off" versions of the Chiron itself like the 110 Ans and the 300+. Production for all their cars is limited to maintain exclusivity but in March this year, in Geneva, Bugatti decided to top it all up with a one-off hypercar, literally limited to one unit only, called "La Voiture Noire", that also happened to be the most expensive new car ever with a price tag of $18-19M. Bugatti has also introduced the Centodieci (10 units, $8.9M) and the Chiron Noire Élégance (20 units, $3.3M) this year.
10. Detroit Auto Show will never be the same
Photo by Doug Zuba on Unsplash
The 2019 edition of the North American International Auto Show, commonly referred to as the "Detroit Auto Show", will go down in history as the last ever Detroit car show to take place in January because from 2020 on, the show is going to change format, style and dates, having moved from its traditional slot in January to June.
Times, they are a-Changin' and the car world has to change accordingly. The Detroit Auto Show started in 1899 and changed venues and shape several times until 1989, when it became what today we call 'NAIAS'. However, the traditional car show format is getting old and Detroit happened to be held on the same dates as CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, which features cars as well as technology, and organizers realized and accepted that it was going to be a losing battle in the long run. In the end, they decided to do what they had to do revolutionized the show. It's going to become a dynamic event, adding outdoor displays, test drives and street food.