12 things to expect – or not – in 2021

So here we are, in the new year 2021, and no doubt all of us hope it will be a more positive one than 2020! In the car world there will certainly be lots going on, notably in terms of new sportscar launches, a few of which I highlighted in an earlier post you can read here. With a highly interesting 2021 line-up in F1 (see my latest post on that here for more details), there will hopefully be no lack of excitement there either!

To start off the year in style, I’ve compiled a list of things that can be expected – or not – in 2021. 12 to be more exact, each one corresponding to the first letter of the 12 months. This is not a prediction that they will happen in that particular month, or indeed that they will happen at all, so don’t take it too seriously!

January – as in jolly bloody happy that the new year has begun and with hopes that it will be an easier one than the last one, and that all of us get the opportunity to take our very personal dream roadtrips!

February – as in F1, and a new season that looks very exciting although it won’t start until March. Following Red Bull’s decision mid-December to replace Alex Albon with Sergio Perez, I would claim that 1) the three top teams (assuming here Ferrari finds its way again) have very competitive line-ups and that 2) the teams just behind have at least one top driver. For memory, assuming Lewis Hamilton does finally sign up for the new year, Mercedes will have him and Valtteri, Red Bull will have Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, and Ferrari obviously Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. And then right behind, McLaren has Daniel Ricciardo, Renault has the returning Fernando Alonso, and Racing Point (Aston Martin from next year) Seb Vettel, really hoping he can return to form. Let the races begin!

They will both be wearing different colors next year!

March – as in motor engines, and most probably the continued growth of electrical. The question is how far and how fast? On the bright side, in Germany in 2020 when the market as a whole was down 22% in new sales, electrical and hybrid cars grew their market share more than four times, and experts now speak of 2020 as the year of the electrical breakthrough. On the less positive side, looking for example at the Ionity charging network across Europe, it’s still many miles away from what Tesla offers, meaning European electrical cars (not hybrids) are still mostly charged at home and thereby reserved for shorter trips. All in all, even though I was negative on Tesla in Europe a while ago (see here), there’s no doubt electrical cars as such will continue to grow, the question is how much and how fast.

No cylinders here…

April – as in autonomous driving, which arguably doesn’t add to the thrill of driving but does add to the safety – although as some incidents notably with Tesla have helped us realize, staying awake and looking at the road ahead is still to be recommended. That’s anyway what you still need to do in many countries, even touching the wheel from time to time, as technology once again is far ahead of legislation. Don’t expect that gap to close in 2021.

Not to be recommended – yet

May – as in Maserati MC20 and all the other great sports cars coming to market, some of which I mentioned in the post referenced above. This is a segment where electricity is setting in big time, with the MC20 as one of few exceptions. You have to wonder how long we will still have alternatives, to electric power, especially of the 8- and 12 cylinder kind!

It may be one of the last of its kind

June – as in Japanese automakers and the question whether I’m the only one feeling that it’s time for them to hit us with something a bit more interesting than what’s been the case in the last years? This is the country that used to give us cool Skylines, supercar beauties like the NSX and more recently the Nürburgring record setting Nissan GT-R. That’s 10 years ago now, and this year, Nissan launched a new GT-R that looks exactly like the old one. And as for the NSX’s replacement, firstly it was delayed for an eternity and when it then came, it didn’t blow anyone out of his seat. Not much else has happened except a few more wings on the latest Type R hot hatch, that may be excellent but that just by its looks scares away any sane person over 30. C’mon Japan, give us something to drool about again!

I’ll have the one on the left please

July – as in jailtime, which is what you will spend in some countries if you’re caught speeding heavily. This isn’t new, but what is, and what’s currently being implemented in a number of countries, is measuring your speed over a distance. That’s a real bummer that takes the fun away quickly – and makes it expensive. In Italy where they use a system called Tutor, they at least have the decency of telling you in advance, which is obviously what you do if you’re more interested in lowering speeds and less in filling the state reserves. That will surely not be the case everywhere…

This is a bad sign

August – as in Aston Martin, where ex AMG-boss Tobias Moers will by August have been behind the wheel for a year. Moers has ambitious plans and a solid financial base, notably from chairman and 17% owner Lawrence Stroll, and also a solid collaboration with Mercedes-Benz which own a further 20% in the company. Moers wishes to see a more engineering-led Aston going forward and has in a rare interview also said that he wishes Aston to work more with the Mercedes engineers in Germany, and derive more engines from AMG. We all wish them viel Glück!

A lot of Aston’s future is riding on the DBX

September – as in solid state, and generally what I believe will be required to really give electric mobility the final push it needs, i.e. a significant advance in battery technology. As opposed to lithium, solid state batteries use solid electrodes and electrolyte, and other materials are mostly ceramics. They’re already used in for example pacemakers, they are extremely long-lived, and they’re much quicker to charge than lithium batteries. So where’s the catch? Well, they aren’t cheap… Prices will of couse drop going forward (although probably not as early as 2021), and this is perhaps the big leap electric cars are waiting for.

It’s always blue when it’s about EV’s…

October – as in obesity, something most of the so beloved SUV’s suffer from. And more generally, even a normal sedan is several hundred kilos heavier today than it was just 15-20 years ago. Arguably a lot of this is linked to much improved safety, but we’ve reached a stage where trimming the weight is less important as you can just mask it by increasing the turbo pressure such as to take out more power. Will we see a change to the “more weight therefore more power” equation soon, and a return to something like the Lotus concept that I explored through my friend Erik back in October (see here)? It would definitely be benefitting consumption! And by the way, since the post, Erik has gone off and bought himself an Elise that I’ll hopefully be exploring this spring.

November – as in Nikola, the biggest corporate scandal in 2020 after Wirecard. For those of you who’ve missed it, Nikola is a producer of electric trucks in the US, founded by Trevor Milton and built on a lease model with very nice cash proceeds – on paper. Because as it emerged, everything was on paper, including the trucks themselves that don’t exist yet. Unfortunately investors – including a small company called General Motors – forgot to do their due diligence around Milton and his background, which would have revealed a history of smaller or larger corporate scandals, generous spending of company proceeds etc. The company is still listed but unless you’re a distressed investor, stay away, and also, whether you’re buying a stock or a car, always do your own research and don’t trust anyone – including GM…

Never believe a truck salesman…

December – as darn, there goes another year! What will have changed? Will Japan have presented a supercar project? Will Aston be back on solid footing? Will Lewis have claimed his 8th title, and will more automakers have seen the Lotus logic of more for less? But even more important than all this, will we finally be rid of this bloody virus? We’ll know in 12 months!

The most exciting sports car launches in 2021!

This strange year is slowly coming to an end, and I think we can all agree that it hasn’t been the best start to a new decade one could imagine. But whereas back in March we thought the world was coming to an end, it luckily didn’t turn out to be the catastrophic year for the economy many predicted. Still, here in Switzerland for example, new car sales are so far down around 27% compared to 2019, so I think that from many aspects, things can only improve in 2021, starting with getting a certain virus under control. Based on recent news there seems to be good hope for that and in that spirit, let’s have a look at some of the most exciting sports cars coming out next year for your real or dream drives!

That electrification is here to stay is something you become acutely aware of when looking at next year’s sports car launches. From a supercar perspective 2021 is definitely an electric year with the below selection including two full EV’s, one hybrid and only one good old combustion engine. We’ll see in a year’s time when doing the same exercise if there are any interesting petrol cars left at all!

Polestar 1

All colours can be had in matte as well

Starting in the middle of the drivetrain options and on the cheaper end, the Polestar 1 may be a model year 2020 but it won’t hit the roads until next year so we’ll include it here, also given how awaited and acclaimed it is. Polestar is obviously Volvo’s sports car brand, built not in Sweden but in China, and whereas the Polestar 2 is more of a Tesla Model 3 competitor, the Polestar 1 at an indicative entry price of around EUR 160.000 is intended to compete with the big boys in the coupé/GT segment.

The 2+2 coupé is built on a shortened version of the S90 platform, stiffened with lots of carbon, and its looks seem to have convinced every single motor journalist out there. I saw a prototype in Geneva two years ago and wasn’t fully convinced, but the design has grown on me from all angles except the back which I still think looks clumsy and very reminiscent of the S90. This obviously begs the question whether the car is only a Volvo in disguise, and the answer isn’t crystal clear.

The Polestar 1 proudly exhibits its power cables in the luggage compartment!

From a drivetrain perspective, it’s pretty impressive. Polestar combines Volvo’s petrol 4-cylinder driving the front wheels, assisted by a 68 hp electrical starter motor, with two additional electrical motors driving the back wheels and adding a further 232 hp. Total power output is around 600 hp and obviously goes beyond anything Volvo has ever produced. From an interior perspective it looks like a Volvo, with only small modifications to a top-of-the-line V90 or XC90. That’s one of the best interiors out there in the SUV or family hatchback segment, but I think it may struggle in comparison with some luxury GT’s that Polestar likes to mention as competitors.

No, it’s not your XC90, it’s the new Polestar 1

In tests the Polestar has been said to drive well in a rather stiff, GT kind of way, and the combination of petrol and electrical engines is said to work seamlessly. It seems to roar quite nicely (artificially or course). but the attraction obviously doesn’t come from the four-cylinder but rather the power combination. It can also be driven in strict electrical mode and then has a range of up to 150 kms, far more than most other hybrids. Polestar says it will only build 1500 of the 1 which are all spoken for. That type of exclusivity has never hurt any car!

Tesla Roadster

It’s doubtful how many of today’s buyers of Tesla’s Model 3, S or X know that the company’s first electrical car back in 2008 was a 2-seat roadster, based on the Lotus Elise chassis and built until 2012. That’s less than 10 years ago (pretty impressive for a company today valued at USD 400bn), and the Roadster was actually the first serial produced car with a lithium-Ion battery system. Fast forward to today, and Tesla is now working on the Roadster 2 and says it will be introduced in 2021. Knowing Tesla, that could of course just as well be in 2022, or 2023.

The prototype picture of the new Roadster

The new Roadster was unveiled already in 2017 and much of what we know still dates from then, notably talk of a 1.9-seconds time to 100 km/h, a quarter-mile time below 9 seconds and a top speed beyond 300 km/h. That obviously puts the four wheel drive roadster (electrical engines both up front and in the back ) in real supercar territory and from that angle, the current price assumption of USD 200′ (in the US), sounds rather reasonable. Again, those who live will see.

It’s been said the Roadster will have a removable glass roof

Tesla have also said that the Roadster will have a 200 KwH battery pack giving the car a range of up to 620 miles, and they’ve mumbled something about a new revolutionary battery technology. We’ll see about that but clearly the range and the performance numbers given above are mutually exclusive.

That’s about all we know. We can assume the interior to be a minimalistic story built around giant screens and can probably also assume that the back seats given the roof line won’t be very spacious. For the rest, hopefully next year will give us if not the car, then at least more details!

Maserati MC20

To my mind there’s only one interesting petrol sports car set to launch next year, but it’s one that can be expected to have a lot of fans. The MC20 (Maserati Corse 20) is supposed to start a new era for the Italian constructor (and obviously the car should had been launched in 2020 with that name, but hey, that’s a detail) and looking at what we’ve seen and know so far, they look to be off to a good start!

The front grill is the only thing resembling the last generation

Around 4.7 metres long and 1.2m high (with the additional height over a Lambo or Ferrari said to be intended to provide enough space for larger drivers with a helmet!), the body is sleek to the point of looking almost too discrete, were it not for the scissor doors. It is however a high-tech structure developed together with Dallara that is supposed to generate 100 kg downforce at 240 km/h. The engine is a newly developed six-cylinder putting out a total of 630 hp and 730 Nm and given the MC20 weighs in at under 1.500 kgs, the power to weight ratio is pretty good. The talk is of 3 seconds to 100 km/h, under 9 to 200 km/h and a top speed of 325 km/h.

The MC20 is a high-tech structure through and through, with an active suspension system that is supposed to be able to read the road, an interior combining carbon, alcantara and leather, and Maserati’s new infotainment system, that by the sounds of it brings the brand to the same level as other manufacturers in the same segment, which hasn’t really been the case so far.

The colour lining can be varied if blue isn’t your thing

A base price of EUR 210.000 has been mentioned when the MC20 starts off next year in coupé form. Until 2022 a convertible will be added, and there is also talk of – you guessed it – a fully electrical version in the same year.

Lotus Evija

Saving the best and most spectacular for last, 2021 is also the year when the Lotus Evija should see the light, and this is really something out of the ordinary. Lotus’s new supercar is a fully electric monster putting out almost 2000 hp (1972 to be exact), whilst still as a true Lotus managing to keep the weight down to around 1.650 kgs (yep, I know, but we’re talking an EV here). Handling and the typical Lotus agility is said to be preserved notably by the battery pack being situated in the middle of the car, right behind the driver.

The Evija has also been delayed several times, including because of Covid, but deliveries to the lucky owners who have transferred the GBP 2m needed are said to start from next summer. Exactly what the interior will look like and even how the car will behave with the full power output is still not known, tests so far have been on restricted prototypes, so there is still a lot of mystery around the whole thing.

What we do know however is how the Evija puts the 1972 hp to work through its four engines. Obviously you can’t just let this level of power loose on the poor wheels, so the Evija’s concept is rather to unleash as much power at any time as the drivetrain can take. So from standing in first gear that may be 300 hp, increasing to 600 hp in 3rd gear, then 900 hp in fifth and so on. The car has five drive-modes, from Range (max 1000 hp, 800 Nm) over City, Tour and Sport to Track with the full output of close to 2000 hp and 1700 Nm). With all the bells and whistles turned on, the performance numbers are nothing short of spectacular.

You’d better hold on firmly to that square steering wheel!

The Evija is said to do 0-100 km/h in 3 seconds, which isn’t that spectacular and more than a second slower than a Tesla Roadster! But then all hell (a very silent hell) breaks loose as power builds and it does the following 100 km/h in another 3 seconds, i.e. 0–200 km/h in 6 seconds. That’s on par with a Chiron Sport. And then it does the same trick again to 300 km/h, for which a Chiron needs more than twice as long. In other words we’re talking a 0-300 km/h time of less than 10 seconds, which is bloody terrifying on paper, but apparently not in reality. There’s no howling double-turbo V12 here, just the discreet, swirling noise of electric power.

Whether we like it or not, that sounds like something we’ll have to get used to, even in the supercar segment!

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