WORLD CAR OF THE YEAR
Sublime Swedish SUV conquers the world
The new Volvo XC60 has been crowned 2018 World Car of the Year, writes WCOTY juror Michael Taylor
Chinese ownership has put Volvo on a roll, with the Swedish car maker last week nailing down the World Car of the Year award for its XC60 SUV on the opening day of the New York motor show.
And it was only weeks ago that the Geely-owned brand’s new XC40 compact SUV won the European Car of the Year during the Geneva motor show. That model launches in SA later this month.
Not only that, though, but its president and CEO, Håkan Samuelsson, was named World Car Person of the Year during the Geneva motor show as well.
The XC60 beat out two other finalists, the Range Rover Velar and Mazda’s CX-5, marking the first time in the award’s history that the final three contenders were all SUVs.
"I am pleased to see our company’s product investments paying off," Samuelsson said.
"We are up against some tough competition, but this award for the XC60 shows that Volvo has the right combination of design, connectivity and safety that appeals to customers across the world."
While the XC60 seems like it has been on sale forever in international markets, its nomination this year stems from the WCOTY’s eligibility criteria, which demands any contender must be on sale on at least two continents between January 1 2017 and May 31 2018.
Jaguar Land Rover was vying for consecutive WCOTY trophies, with the Jaguar F-Pace winning it in 2017.
Volkswagen has dominated its honour roll, with four outright wins (plus two more to the Volkswagen Group’s premium brand, Audi), though it hasn’t won since the current Golf in 2013. The next most successful brand is Mazda, which won with the MX-5 in 2016 and the Mazda 2 in 2008.
Volkswagen’s new Polo, which replaced the 2010 outright winning car, was crowned 2018 World Urban Car of the Year. The small car has moved off its own architecture and onto the smallest version of the Golf’s MQB platform, giving it a new level of ride and handling prowess as well as more safety technology and interior space.
"The whole team at Volkswagen is delighted to have won the 2018 World Urban Car award," Volkswagen’s head of design, Klaus Bischoff, said.
"With about 17-million units sold, the Polo is one of the most successful compact cars of all time and a pillar of the brand. And the sixth generation, based on the MQB platform, is even sportier and more grown up than its predecessors."
Nissan’s Leaf, the outright WCOTY winner on debut in 2011, nailed down the World Green Car award.
"We’re proud that since Nissan Leaf launched in 2010, we’ve been able to put more than 300,000 zero-emission electric vehicles on the road, helping to reduce carbon footprints around the globe," Nissan’s executive vice-president of global marketing and sales for zero emissions vehicle and battery, Daniele Schillaci, said.
Double outright winner Audi had its hi-tech flagship A8 limousine crowned World Luxury Car. The big Audi claims to be the first production car capable of full Level 3 autonomy, though legislation has so far prevented its full potential from being unleashed.
"This award is a special honour for us and our flagship model," Audi’s board member for technical development, Peter Mertens, insisted.
"The Audi A8 is an innovation driver for our industry. With its touch control system, consistent broad-based electrification and the technical prerequisites for highly automated driving, the A8 sets new standards in automotive engineering."
It might have missed out on the overall honours, despite its top three ranking, but Range Rover’s Velar didn’t leave New York empty handed. It cleaned up the World Car Design of the Year award, much to the delight of JLR’s CEO Ralf Speth.
"The Range Rover Velar is an outstanding, superior SUV. Compelling modernity, eye-catching design, innovative Touch Pro Duo infotainment technology and a clear focus on sustainability — what a combination," he said.
"This product speaks for itself. Receiving the World Car Design of the Year award means a lot to us. I feel very honoured and I want to thank all jury members for their trust and support in encouraging the Land Rover team to continue on their unique path."
Finally, BMW’s M5 took the World Performance Car award; with a new powertrain system capable of switching from all-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive to maximise driver fun.
The award is voted on by 82 journalists from 24 countries.