A flurry of car launches preceded coronavirus lockdown
Looking back on recent automotive unveilings and what’s to come in the weeks ahead
March 2020 will henceforth be remembered for the Covid-19 disaster, and the global automotive industry joined the lockdown to protect against the virus sweeping the world.
Motorsport events have been cancelled in droves and production lines shut down, but the industry pushed on despite the empty streets and dealer floors, using novel ways to reach out to consumers to inform them about gleaming new products that were meant to be showcased at the motor shows.
With all F1, WRC and MotoGP calender events postponed or scrapped, some associations developed interesting new ways of entertaining fans using digital racing beamed to audiences. There’s now no telling when the first real races will take place.
When the Geneva motor show, the most prestigious showcase of them all, was cancelled at the last minute as the coronavirus swept through Europe, the new-car reveals continued albeit digitally. Other scheduled events like the New York auto show were postponed until later in the year.
The world’s brands revealed many cars during country shutdowns, with Volkswagen finally taking the wraps off its Mk8 Golf GTI along with a new Caddy and I.D4 electric SUV. BMW revealed the all-electric i4 coupe-sedan and Kia unveiled its new Sorento SUV.
Big hitters also emerged from behind our computer screens. Bentley revealed the ultra-limited and rebellious looking Mulliner Bacalar two-seater roadster, while bespoke hypercar maker Koeniggsegg gave the world a moment’s respite with its absurd four-passenger Gemera, which it claims can rocket from 0-100km/h in 1.9 seconds.
Aston Martin also showcased its roofless V12 Speedster and followed this up with announcing it has built a new inhouse-developed electrified V6 engine. Staying with supercars, McLaren unleashed its 765LT, essentially a long tail version of the 720S.
Porsche launched its everyday super car, the Porsche 911 Turbo S in coupe and cabriolet form, and the iconic sports car now brings 478kW to the high-performance party.
Reeling from a slow start to the year’s new-vehicle sales, the SA motor market managed to string together some activity in March, with the enhanced Toyota CH-R and Renault’s new seven-seat Triber making their debuts. The latter car is SA’s cheapest seven-seater and makes do with a tiny 1.0l engine.
We also bagged first drives in Land Rover’s freshly-upgraded Discovery Sport and Lamborghini’s new Huracan Evo.
The new Suzuki S-Presso, an entry-level crossover that the company hopes will challenge Renault’s popular Kwid, and the all-new Toyota Corolla sedan were introduced in SA during March although the media drives were cancelled. We shall have to wait until the Covid-19 madness is over to get behind the wheel and publish driving impressions.
Other vehicles ready to find new homes once the lockdown’s over are the Land Cruiser Namib and four new Fiat 500 derivatives.
From a car testing perspective we were able to evaluate some cars before the lockdown. We road tested Jaguar’s gung-ho F-Pace SVR that competes against some choice premium performance SUVs, and we also spent time with Renault’s Megane RS Cup, a rival to the likes of the Mercedes-AMG A35 and Audi S3.
LOOKING AHEAD - April highlights in Business Day Motor News
The coronavirus lockdown put the brakes on a number of new-car launches in March, including the all-new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe range, the high-performance Renault Megane RS Trophy and a new derivative of the Lexus UX SUV.
These launches will be rescheduled to later, yet-to-be-announced dates.
We were also supposed to attend the coming-out party of the new 12th generation Toyota Corolla sedan, and although we didn’t get to drive it, it has now arrived in local showrooms in a range of 1.8l and 2.0l petrol versions priced from R372,700 to R425,200.
In Business Day Motor News, road tests to look forward to include the Citroën C5 Aircross, the BMW M340i xDrive and the practical six-door version of the Mini range, the Clubman.
Bugatti is one of the many automotive firms shutting its doors due to the global coronavirus pandemic, but first lined up its full model range for a photo shoot and we give you a brief rundown on the six cars which are collectively worth R626m!
Also look out for our feature on a 300km/h hotrod diesel truck that looks like it came straight out of a Mad Max movie set.