New & Notable

13th February 2015

Expectations are high in the automotive industry that 2015 will be one hell of a year for new vehicles and technologies, redefining how consumers look at the cars that sit in driveways across the country.

And if those in the industry are excited then we should be rubbing our hands together with glee. It isn't just the new metal that will be on the forecourts of dealerships up and down the country either – and there will be a lot – but also the new technologies and functions that will make our lives easier. Michael Woodhouse looks at the new and the notable.

smartphone sync

There are an estimated 38 million smartphones in the UK, each with eyes unblinkingly staring at the high-definition screen. And because of our need for a constant smartphone fix, car makers have been hurriedly trying to find a way to merge mobiles with the infotainment systems in our vehicles. Thankfully the wait is over.

Apple's Carplay, Android Auto and MirrorLink will let you plug in your mobile device and access all the functions you so readily use when away from the car. From Ferrari, BMW and Volvo, to Vauxhall, Ford and Honda, all are integrating the ability to sync car and smartphone seamlessly – whether it's iPhone, Android, Microsoft or Blackberry.

Some functions will need to be disabled when you're on the move – telling the world what you're up to on Facebook while behind the wheel would be dangerous and idiotic – but access to your music library and having your messages read to you is what consumers want.

Ford Focus ST

pocket performance

First the list: the Honda Civic Type R, Audi RS3, Ford Focus ST, Mini JCW, Vauxhall Corsa VXR and Volkswagen Polo GTI. If you like shifting gear quickly in hot-hatches, 2015 is going to be a fabulous year for you.

The Audi RS3 is sticking to the much loved 2.5 litre turbocharged petrol engine. Ford is introducing a diesel version of the ST, while Honda is returning to the compact sports car segment with a new Type R powered by a 276BHP 2-litre turbocharged unit which will rev to 7,000rpm.

A new Corsa means a new VXR, and perhaps even more torque steer, to compete with the Ford Fiesta ST, and the new Polo GTI, (which will use a charged 1.8-litre engine and have an optional manual gearbox).

The enormously popular Mini will also get a faster variant, as the brand looks to shift even more vehicles and continue with its mantra of giving customers go-kart handling.

Toyota Mirai

the future doesn't have room for the combustion engine…

If there is one thing that could shake the automotive industry and those who love cars, it is a shift away from petrol and diesel. Driving to a garage and shoving more ‘go juice’ in the fuel tank is second nature to us.
Electric cars have been roundly lampooned – rightly or wrongly – as not giving drivers enough range or quick enough recharge times to make them practical. That’s changing slowly, but there is a third way: hydrogen.
Imagine being able to drive the same distances as in your current car and refuel in only minutes. It's a future that Toyota is investing heavily in, and 2015 sees the launch of its first mass production fuel cell vehicle that runs on hydrogen.
The Mirai, (which translates to English as 'future'), has been many decades in the making and when pre-orders were opened in Japan, 1,500 people put their name down – more than double the company's first year targets. That has forced Toyota to rethink its yearly production numbers, especially as the vehicle is due to hit the US and Europe in the not too distant future too.

The refuelling infrastructure will initially be a challenge, but with the likes of Honda and Ford not far behind Toyota, there’ll be a few hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to choose from.

Jaguar XE

motorway munchers

It may be lamented by occasional motorway users as the preserve of arrogant and aggressive drivers, but for those who traipse up and down the road networks of the nation, the executive saloon is a must. How many BMW 3 Series do you see on the road?

The Beamer is the segment benchmark, but 2015 brings with it some stiff competition for the Bavarian leader. Jaguar returns to the executive market with the handsome XE, an all new car with all new underpinnings. Its aluminium structure and diesel engine mean emissions are only 99g/km. There's a new Audi A4 on the way too, which will fill some with joy and some with horror, but being an Audi it'll be a solid performer.

But if solid isn't your thing, and you prefer a hint of glamour Alfa Romeo might have something more attuned to your tastes. Widely reported as being called the Giulia – though that name could change – it's likely to share the chassis of the Maserati Ghibli, but use far smaller displacement engines. Like Jaguar, it's the return to a segment long left alone. BMW owners and lovers needn’t worry, though: a refreshed 3 Series will also be appearing this year too.

safety testing the volvo

we'll all be safer with a volvo

Everyone knows that Volvo stands for safety. It was the firm that introduced the seatbelt and side protection bars in its doors to keep driver and passengers safe in the event of an impact. In 2015 it's taking it a step further.

Many car makers offer advanced driver assistance systems – automated emergency braking, lane departure warnings and more – but Volvo has built a new safety facility to develop new ones and take one step closer to reducing fatalities to zero.

It begins with the firm's latest XC90 SUV, which includes a system that protects occupants in the event of a run-off-the-road accident. Imagine nodding off after driving for too long, slowly edging closer to the verge, and before you know it you're facing a run-in with a ditch… If the sensors onboard the XC90 think an accident is about to take place the front safety belts are electrically tightened as much as possible to keep the occupants in their seats. The pulling capacity of the safety belt retractor is 1 mm/ms – which means it can retract 100mm safety belt in only 0.1 seconds. And if that wasn't enough, the seat frames deform mechanically to cushion any vertical forces that arise if the car encounters a hard landing.

Ford Mustang

spoil yourself

If you lust after something a little more exotic, a little more engaging, a little more visceral, there are a plethora of options in 2015: the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, Audi R8, Ford Mustang, Honda NSX, Lamborghini Huracan Spider, Lotus Elise S Cup, McLaren P13, Mercedes-AMG GT and the Porsche 911 Targa GTS.

Two excite me more than the others though – and they’re very different vehicles.
The Honda NSX is a £100,000 hybrid sports car that mixes three electric motors and a turbocharged V6 petrol engine. Given the history and love for the previous generation there's a lot resting on its haunches, but as it's already sold out in the UK, the buying public clearly have faith that Honda will do the NSX name justice.

At the other end of the scale is some traditional muscle in the Ford Mustang. For the first time the 'stang is officially heading to the UK, so will have the steering wheel on the right side of the cabin. Yes there's a V8, yes there's a V6, but there is also a 2.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine too. That seems brave, but reflects the world we live in, where emissions and fuel economy are king. Hand on heart, though, if I was buying, I'd still go for the lumping great V8, especially as the Mustang now has a proper chassis, so should drive like a European sports car…

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