As wine is mulled, presents unwrapped and new toys played with, the Drive Cult team look ahead to what 2011 might, and might not, bring...
Hybrids that aren’t sanctimonious, dull ecomobiles
Formula One is planning to use hybrid power alongside the reduction in engine capacity in order to boost performance, but we’ve yet to see a road car that follows that principle instead of being targeted at monied, self-righteous worriers wracked with middle-class guilt about the carbon footprint of the flights for Parsley and Honeysuckle to attend a foreign boarding school, or the food miles that their out-of season organic fennel has racked up being shipped halfway round the world because it’s what Nigel Slater says must be in this winter’s salads.
Instead of carting around several hundred kilograms of toxic chemicals on the skinniest, lowest grip tyres possible in the name of unrealistic headline figures on fuel economy, both Honda and Porsche have tried to make hybrids a bit more sexy. The CR-Z looked fairly cool and made you feel naughty by turning the rev counter red, but the £20k starting price is a bit steep when you look at what else is available for that money.
Porsche’s 911 GT3R Hybrid came within a valve spring of winning the Nürburgring 24 Hours at its first attempt, but onboard videos show that for the driver it’s like sitting next to a spazzy Dalek. Fine for a noisy racing car once you’ve convinced yourself that the huge flywheel isn’t going to break loose and bounce around in the car, but not so good when your partner is relegated to the back seats with no chance of conversation. Although, now that you mention it…
So 2011 is the chance for hybrids that people actually want to come to the fore. At the very least, let's see hybrid technologies that help the engine, are completely unnoticeable, and don’t demand badges around the car showing the neighbours that they can enjoy your Christmas fennel and cranberry salad guilt free.
Lotus to introduce more cars, actually build none
Like a 12 year old boy fusing car parts randomly to create some automotive Frankenstein, Lotus is expected to announce more models based on playground oneupmanship rather than a business plan or solid engineering reasons.
“The new car will be lighter than an Elise but with the engine out of an F40, and suspension from an F1 car!” Lotus's Dany Bahar proclaimed breathlessly. “Or, or, or it’ll have a 3 litre F1 engine that can produce 700bhp, but only need servicing every 20,000 miles, and have a big boot for when I go to Toys R Us, and every one will have a sticker on the rear bumper saying ‘Ferrari are pooheads’ Hahahahahahaah.”
Spies at Lotus have identified a white board with the following scrawled across it…
Mercedes R Class – Bit fanciful, no one buys them?
2 door massive saloon. Lol. Who’d buy that? Seats four, doors for two. The CL?
Sports Utility Actvitiy Concept Overland Kompressor. More 4x4s need superchargers!
Hybrid city car, small, luxury. Cygnet but better. Better and more expensive.
Porsche 911 998
Disguised 998 spotted out testing
Another subtle iteration of the motoring classic, the 911. More of the same, ‘clever’ jokes about Porsche design laziness to be made on TV motoring shows then repeated ad infinitum on Internet forums, road tests to claim ‘Best 911 ever!’, cars to be slightly better than the last in most respects, all other 911s to take a useful knock in residuals. Launch events at Porsche Experience Centre will fail to be gatecrashed by Drive Cult, or Kaloff Demtri, the premier Ukrainian motoring journalist who looks a bit like Drive Cult in a bad wig and stick-on moustache.
Audi to launch another RSzzzzzz
In a move which even Porsche designers have labelled 'a bit obvious' Audi will launch the RS1 as a response to the BMW 1M. It'll be spec'd in a manner which will not suprise even the most junior middle management type with a credit rating boosted by four credit cards and a gym membership; 1.8 turbo engine with the wick turned up to 300bhp, Haldex four wheel drive, attractive but rather dull styling and a crashy ride.
As part of the 'ownership experience', purchasers will be eligable for 10% off Audi merchandise, allowed to stand near the Audi hospitality area at motorsport events, and dealers will take a wobbly photo on their Blackberry for the owners to upload onto their Facebook or Linkedin page to passive-aggresively gloat about their new purchase to 'friends' and work colleagues.
In other small car news, a small group of M-Sport engineers in Munich have a 1M mule tucked away in their workshop, with the M3 V8, a carbon roof and a proper seating position. After agreeing that no one person could handle a car of such awesomeness, it was broken into four pieces and hidden at the extreme corners of the world. One engineer has started a quest, but has had to delay it while he works on the X3M between vomitting in dispair at what his professional life has become.
So then... those are our predictions for this year, what are yours?