By Ravleen Madan Singh
With the world finally taking the initiative to help combat the effects of global warming and pollution, car manufacturers are following suit. Although technology, design, innovation and power are imperative factors to consider, environmental impact is slowly making its way higher on the priority list. Let’s take a look at the various hybrid and plug-in hybrid.
Toyota’s Corolla Altis is all set to lead markets once again with a new spin on its classic model that has definitively similar features to its big brother, Camry. These include a TNGA platform and hybrid engine, which should hopefully be offered in Thailand. The interior is expected to be more sporty and contemporary with a large infotainment screen. However, the new Mazda 3 may not be the strongest opponent for the Corolla Altis this year, and although the brand is developing a new engine that will feature hybrid technology, unfortunately Thailand may not be the right market due to price sensitivity in segments B & C. Hence, we may see the existing Mazda SkyActiv-G being continued for the new model. Nissan may also update its Juke this year, ideal for those looking for a cute, compact and affordable vehicle, perfect for navigating our city’s narrow sois.
Honda’s classic Accord dominated Thai markets in 2018. This year’s model, however, comes with a prominent body change which features a gradual hatchback (think BMW’s 3 Series GT) resulting in a sleeker but longer frame. This model should come with a 2.0 litre electric hybrid specification, but would also have petrol-only options. Interior improvements should also feature more integrated car play technologies, including wireless charging, as well as an overall more luxurious feel. Critics (myself included) do feel that the interior is a bit of a BMW rip off, which can only mean one thing – BMW will finally change theirs!
In line with luxury car manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz looking to attract consumers with more compact, affordable yet still ‘luxurious’ options, comes the Mercedes-Benz’s newest four-door A-class, which is set to launch within the first quarter of 2019. This car is anticipated to revolutionise entry-level models, and will particularly appeal to young drivers looking to flaunt a Mercedes sedan without the heftier price tag of a C or E class. Analysts predict that this model should not exceed the two million baht price tag, making it an even more attractive option for young and loyal Mercedes fans (or the parents buying it for them).
Special Mention: Audi’s Expansion in Thailand
After years of low presence and market share in Thailand, Audi loyalists can finally expect to see a thorough and rapid expansion of the brand in terms of sales and distribution in 2019. Sales in the last two years roughly doubled, so Audi now has an aggressive plan to cover all regions by year-end. Models currently offered in Thailand include classic sedans (A4, A5, A6, A7, A8), powerful SUVs ranging from compact to sizeable (Q2, Q3, Q5, Q7, Q8), the two door TT, and the top-of-the-line R8.
In the premium compact luxury SUV category, Volvo’s popular XC40 is expected to jump on the plug-in hybrid bandwagon with a 1.5 litre three-cylinder motor release. Lexus’ long awaited UX is also slated to unveil its four cylinder 2.0 litre petrol electric hybrid powertrain. Similarly, expect to see Chevrolet’s newest Blazer SUV with a 2.5 litre power and nine-speed auto, coupled with significant interior upgrades, which will replace the current Captiva model. Range Rover’s second generation Evoque is back with its elegant body and a newly transformed chic interior. A (you guessed it) plug-in hybrid version with a 1.5 litre three-cylinder petrol engine should be available by mid-year. Audi’s second generation Q3 will hit markets this year as well, and with its new expansion policy, expect to see sales slowly but steadily soar.
2019 should also welcome the Mercedes GLE’s new and improved model, set to rival the launch of BMW’s X5. Although Mercedes-Benz can rarely compete against its opponent in the SUV category, the brand promises enticing enhancements such as an extra two seats — making the car a seven-seater – as well as more room in the trunk due to electric adjustments. The GLE will come with a 2.0 litre diesel engine, or a 362bhp 3.0 litre petrol hybrid, as well as a plug-in hybrid option.
Additionally, BMW’s fourth generation X5 will be available in xDrive 40i (3.0 litre engine) and 50i (4.4 litre engine). This model will feature Bowers & Wilkins Diamond 3D Surround Sound Systems, six- colour ambient lighting, cooling/heating cup holders, BMW laserlight for improved light distribution, as well as visibility and driving assistant technologies (automatic lane and speed controls). Moving further upmarket, these two powerhouses will also compete with the expected releases of X6 and GLE Coupe, which we may see towards the last quarter of 2019.
For those with more than double digit millions to spare, get ready to make the extremely difficult choice between the newest releases from Aston Martin, Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
With the rapid and lucrative expansion of the SUV market comes Aston Martin’s first ever DBX – SUV. A bespoke platform, the Mercedes AMG engines (these rivals have a ‘technical partnership’) and new production facility can only mean that the most luxurious, powerful and state-of-the-art SUV is about to be unveiled. Porsche’s eighth generation 911 Carrera will also make its debut this year. Although it hints at a similar body, you can also expect thorough upgrades in its engines, including a six-cylinder turbo petrol, which makes it more powerful than ever before. Revealed at the most recent motor-show, expect to see BMW aggressively push its 8 series M850i xDrive against stiff competition in this category. Mercedes-Benz isn’t falling behind either, launching the AMG GT 4-Door Coupe with its low hood, muscular body and handcrafted engines.