Telegraph Cars: 2016 preview

Stars of 2016
2016 will be a big year for electric cars, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo, while things can only get better for Jenson Button

The Telegraph Cars team look ahead to the major new cars and standout events of what promises to be a bumper year for British drivers 

The rise of Jaguar and alternative-fuel vehicles

In 2016 we should finally get answers to two questions that have hung in the air since Noah was in short trousers. Does Jaguar have what it takes to become a major player? And are battery-electric or hydrogen fuel-cell cars the future?

With the first, I fully expect the answer to be a resounding yes, because Jaguar is introducing the one type of car that’s almost guaranteed to fly out of showrooms – an SUV. Add in the fact that this new F-Pace trounces all rivals, bar the Porsche Macan, in the looks department, and it has the potential to double the company’s sales, despite being saddled with a name that’s the automotive equivalent of Tami-Lynn.

The F-Pace could double Jaguar's sales

True, the F-Pace could yet turn out to be so bad to drive that it scares buyers off. But given Jaguar’s recent track record, crisp handling and a well-controlled ride seem more likely. Either way, we’ll let you know in January.

It will be a little longer before we can come to a conclusion about just what’s going to replace the internal combustion engine in the long run. But with the Toyota Mirai and Honda FCV set to join the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell on sale in the UK in 2016, and Tesla expanding its all-electric line-up to include the Model X SUV and the more affordable Model 3, this is a very exciting time for alternative fuel vehicles.

The Tesla Model X is an SUV like no other

I’ve got to admit that until recently I was an electric car sceptic – blame a cold December weekend with a Nissan Leaf where I had to drive it in overcoat, scarf and gloves due to the catastrophic effect running the heater had on the already small range. However, the technology seems to be advancing rapidly now, and in the next 12 months many major manufacturers will reveal details of their own electric plans.

Steve Huntingford, Editor, Telegraph Cars

Classic car prices continue to soar

Wiser people than I keep saying the bubble will burst, but the classic car market continues to go from strength to strength. We’ll be following the first big auctions of the year during the fantastic Retromobile show in Paris.

The large auction houses such as Bonhams and RM Sotheby’s will all be holding sales between February 3 and 7 and there are already some outstanding consignments – I’d eat my hat (if I had one) if prices don’t continue to escalate.

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I’m also looking forward to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, the 84th running of the world’s greatest race. One would do well to study how the Automobile Club de l’Ouest continues to make it as relevant as it is exciting. Witness the amazing performance with economy of the cars, not to mention the incredible tyre life that’s attained while lap speeds rise.

There’s also a new LMP3 prototype class, aimed at making endurance racing more affordable and therefore more enticing to smaller teams. Porsche’s victory in the premier LMP1 class in 2015 won’t be taken lightly by serial Le Mans winner (and fellow VW Group brand) Audi, while former world champion Toyota will be aiming to come up with something special after the disappointment of last year’s race. 

Ford will return to Le Mans in 2016 with its GT

There’s also the intense battle in the production-based GT classes, with the return of works Ford cars to take on established manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche. My greatest hope for 2016, however, is that our insurer will be able to provide affordable cover for me to be able to drive some of the greatest classic road cars ever made so that I can continue to bring you the stories and video on them.

Paul Hudson, Deputy Editor, Telegraph Cars

Does more power really mean more fun?

Volkswagen? Enough said on this, perhaps, but clearly when we finally learn what went on and how and why, there will be lessons to learn.

My 1939 Peugeot motorcycle is now running, with a magneto spark you could weld with, and I’m planning to ride it to its native St Malo in France next May. Also my Triumph TR rally car is almost finished, so a navigation rally of some sort beckons this year.

Andrew English working on his Triumph TR rally car

Cars I’m looking forward to include the Ford Focus RS, with lots of power and four-wheel drive – it will be interesting to see if it’s as good as its specification suggests. In a similar vein is BMW’s M2, which debuts in two weeks. Since its less powerful sister, the M235i, is one of the most perfect expressions of power and balance, will more be more, or less?

Clearly a new Mercedes E-class is worth looking forward to. After all, this business express is the company’s best car, makes it the most money and uses the most research and development budget. A big step forward has been made inside and we’ll see the whole car at the Detroit motor show in January.

Fuel cells are now being taken seriously by the Government, and I’m expecting an announcement from Audi soon with a serious contender in the market rather than the daft hybrid concepts it’s so far teased us with. I’m hoping BMW will be producing something based on the i3, or possibly the mooted i5 SUV, and we’re also waiting for Mercedes to show its hand.

Andrew English, Motoring Correspondent, Telegraph Cars

A big year for Alfa Romeo, Honda and Jenson Button

My track record in predicting the future is poor. Last year I said Jenson Button would win the Formula One World Championship driving for McLaren-Honda, and that Honda itself would have a mammoth year, topped off by the new NSX supercar.

As it turned out, Button suffered the ignominy of trundling around at the back of the grid, but at least he did more miles than anybody managed in an NSX, which has been delayed more times than my commuter train.

Jenson Button will be hoping Chris's predictions are more accurate for 2016

I also relished the opportunity to drive anything to emerge from the rebooted Alfa Romeo from the middle of the year, which turned out to be nothing.

However, rather than consign my predictions to poor judgment, I am merely going to carry them over. Because, actually, everything that I claimed would happen in 2015 could well come true this year instead.

Honda, flushed with embarrassment at 2015’s performance, will come up trumps over the winter, allowing Button to do the business. We will finally drive an NSX for more than three minutes. And Alfa pulls its finger out and does something.

Will the Alfa Giulia live up to expectations?

I suppose I should make a few new predictions, too. So, a scandal-hit Volkswagen will bounce back, with sales in the UK stronger than ever by the middle of the year. And rumours of other companies employing the same kind of defeat devices to cheat emissions tests will subside (also, numerous polls will be released suggesting that people didn’t really care anyway).

What else? Ford will be forced to remove the “drift” mode from its new Focus RS as owners cause all kinds of havoc in empty car parks. And despite claiming to care about the environment, buyers will pretend not to notice developments in electric and fuel-cell cars, and instead pour money into luxury SUVs from Bentley, Jaguar and Maserati.

Chris Knapman, Contributing Editor, Telegraph Cars

Electric overload and a very fast Ford

In my opinion, 2016 will be the year we start to see mainstream car makers really jumping into electric technology with both feet. Porsche has already announced its Mission E will be produced as a rival to Tesla’s Model S. But expect more pure-electric models from prestige manufacturers as they seek to reclaim the initiative that was seized so unexpectedly by Tesla.

The Porsche Mission E has been announced as a rival for the Tesla Model S

Further down the food chain, plug-in hybrids will dominate. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half the new cars we see launched in 2016 come with a plug-in hybrid variant, and as public opinion turns increasingly against diesel after the Volkswagen emissions scandal, I expect petrol hybrids to fill the gaps.

Volkswagen has already realised this, which is why it will be talking a lot about electric and hybrid models – anything, in fact, to prevent the words “Volkswagen” and “diesel” appearing together in the press.

But it won’t be the only company pushing its electric range. Volvo and Ford are both making big noises about committing to electrification. Away from the electric overload, we’ll also see some serious attention being paid to having fun. The new Ford Focus RS will prove there’s still an appetite for utterly bonkers performance cars.

The new Ford Focus RS promises to be a thrilling drive

The car I’m most looking forward to driving, though, is the new entry-level Porsche 718s. A flat-four Boxster or Cayman might sound a bit anaemic, but Porsche knows how to make an engine that sounds exciting, so a raspy boxer unit could be the most characterful example of downsizing yet.

Alex Robbins, Consumer Editor, Telegraph Cars

More kids means more love for SUVs

With a growing family and a series of “lifestyle choices” to be made around four boys, SUVs have assumed a higher place on my agenda than I’d have otherwise liked, it must be said.

With that in mind, I’m probably one of the few journalists looking forward to the appearance of Maserati’s Levante SUV at March’s Geneva motor show.  At the other end of the scale, Skoda and Seat will be showing off their SUV offerings; the more the merrier, say I.

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I’ll be taking charge of the Telegraph Cars long-term Volvo XC90 in January, and am quite excited at the thought of seven very nice seats to take us all swimming on a Saturday morning.

Speaking of unspeakable luxury, I’m also rubbing my palms at the thought of driving the Rolls-Royce Dawn, the convertible that has helped push the average age of a Rolls customer down to a staggering 40 years.

The Rolls-Royce Dawn is the company's most affordable convertible in a generation

In 2015 I got back on a motorbike for the first time in six years, and really enjoyed it. I’m not sure if I still have the stomach for riding on public roads, but some track time would be great. And while we’re on the subject of bikes, I can’t wait to see how Michelin fares as the tyre supplier for MotoGP. I’m going to shamelessly use the 40th anniversary of the Volkswagen Golf GTI to get my hands on a couple of generations of this hot hatch. If I were minus kids, this would be my car of choice.

Finally, the automotive event I am most looking forward to is my youngest son moving into a booster seat. My back will be free of pain, and that is something to truly rejoice.

Erin Baker, columnist, Telegraph Cars

Car insurance and fuel bills set to rise

With costs only following an upward trajectory for what felt like decades, drivers have been spoilt over the past two years. The price of fuel has fallen and efforts to get to grips with spiralling insurance fraud have seen premiums tumble, too.

After five years of fuel duty freezes, the cost to fill our cars will rise Credit: ALAMY

Sadly, 2016’s drivers could be another generation to look back and say we’d never had it so good. It looks fairly certain that the amount of fuel duty we pay will increase. Although the amount we pay the government for the privilege of filling up has never gone away, and we still pay the highest proportion per litre in Europe, it has been frozen for the past five years. That will end in 2016. With the price of oil low, a duty increase might not be viewed by many as much of a problem. Sadly, when the cost of oil rises, as it will eventually, the understandable and inevitable ire at the proportion the government takes will come too late.

Insurance is also on an upward curve. The government’s measures to get to grips with the fraudsters have largely failed to deter the most persistent and organised criminals. Throw in an increase in Insurance Premium Tax and the cost of cover will only go in one direction.

Will the London motor show really be able to match the likes of Frankfurt and Geneva? Credit: AP

On a more cheerful note, this is the year the London Motor Show attempts to make a comeback. Set in Battersea Park, south of the River Thames, it claims it’s going to be fully interactive, offering “entertainment for the whole family”. I hope that’s the case. But having read the address from its patron HRH Prince Michael of Kent, I do fear this will be another case of British car fans getting a rather impoverished alternative to the big three of Geneva, Paris and Frankfurt. But everything’s got to start somewhere…

James Foxall, columnist, Telegraph Cars

Motorcycle manufacturers go back to the future

There’s a varied bunch of bikes on the way in 2016, which should lead to exciting riding both on and off-road.

I’m looking forward to muddying the tyres of dual-purpose machines such as Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 Enduro, Honda’s CRF1000L Africa Twin and Triumph’s revamped Tiger Explorer.

Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 Enduro will be put to the test

Despite their names, neither BMW’s 1,170cc Scrambler nor Ducati’s 399cc Scrambler Sixty2 is a serious off-roader. Both were created to join the growing ranks of retro-styled, easily customisable bikes, along with Triumph’s new family of Bonneville parallel twins and Yamaha’s XSR900 triple. The classical looks shouldn’t prevent them being fun to ride.

And having watched the recent explosion in interest in “alternative” bike events including Wheels and Waves, in Biarritz, and the Glemseck 101 in Germany, I’m determined to make it to at least one of them in 2016.

The coming year won’t match 2015 for performance gains from super-sports bikes, partly because of the need to comply with Euro 4 emissions legislation. But Kawasaki’s revamped Ninja ZX-10R should be competitive. And Suzuki’s long-awaited GSX-R1000 promises to offer another route to hi-tech, 200bhp-plus thrills.

Roland Brown, Motorcycle Correspondent, Telegraph Cars

The culmination of a dream

My four-year Project Le Mans challenge will come to a head in 2016. All of the training and preparation will pay off when I find myself sitting on the grid for the most famous endurance race in the world. But before that I’ll be competing in another high-profile event on the motorsport calendar: the Dubai 24 Hour, which takes place on January 15.

Rebecca will race a BMW M235i in the Dubai 24 Hour

A closely fought championship to ensure my racecraft stays competitive will fit snugly in between, although my team is still to confirm which one it will be. And I have plenty of filming days, photoshoots and events to look forward to this year, as I take on more ambassadorial roles to ensure that I have sufficient funds to hit that final goal of competing at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Either that, or I’ll make sure that I have the money that I need by eating baked beans on toast for the whole year, and maybe several more to come.

Away from the track, the Telegraph Cars YouTube channel is really starting to make waves in the online review world, with some of our videos attracting almost 400,000 hits. I’m looking forward to testing more of the latest new cars as they come to market.

The Goodwood Festival of Speed is one of the biggest events in any petrolhead’s year. I usually manage to drive up the hill in something fast and flash, so I’m sure this will be another highlight. But 2016 won’t all be about having fun, because I’ll spend much of the year taking part in intense physical training and spending time in the simulator practising on the Le Mans circuit so that it will be etched in my mind by the time I tackle the circuit for real this June.

Rebecca Jackson, video reviewer and columnist, Telegraph Cars

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