► Renault Alpine scooped
► Merc's new convertible S63
► Gossip from the CAR grapevine
Renault Alpine: coming 2017
In a nutshell: We’ve seen a couple of concepts suggesting how Renault might revive its sporty, dormant Alpine brand, and here’s the real thing testing. Sort of.
What we’ve learned: Don’t be fooled by the last-gen Exige bodywork – Alpine is simply using the Lotus panels as a conveniently proportioned disguise for its own bespoke platform. And not for the first time, either. Powered by a mid-mounted turbocharged four producing around 300bhp and driving the rear wheels via a paddleshift gearbox, the new car is pitched at the Alfa 4C and Porsche Cayman.
When’s the big reveal? Latest intel suggests the Alpine won’t go on sale before 2017, but they’ve got nothing to lose by showing it earlier – maybe later this year to build awareness.
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer: coming spring 2016
Vauxhall’s new, significantly lighter Astra will again spawn a wagon. As with today’s model, it should be mid-ranking on cargo-carrying, due to more rakish lines than the Golf’s rectangle-on-wheels approach. Engines include 197bhp 1.6 turbo and 1.0 three-pot petrols, and a 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel. The lack of disguise suggests a premiere very soon.
S63 AMG Convertible: coming September 2015
The S-Class Coupe will spawn a gargantuan convertible variant at September’s Frankfurt show, and this is the S63 AMG version – it has trademark quadruple tailpipes which rather give the game away. Expect to see this 576bhp twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 debut alongside a lesser S500 variant, and to pay well over £130k for the toupee-tousling privilege.
Audi A4 Allroad: coming mid-2016
Beneath the swirling camo of anonymity lies not just a.n.other Audi A4 estate but the next-generation Allroad. You shall know it by its slightly raised ride height and chunkier bodywork – all the better for pulling that horsebox, for sure. Quattro only, and with weaker engines culled, it’s set to go on sale next year following a debut at Geneva in March.
We hear - Juicy gossip from the CAR grapevine
Alfa Romeo’s latest comeback plan? The rear-drive Giulia, unveiled to much fanfare, won’t hit showrooms until spring 2016. Here’s more detail on the engines: a 2.2-litre diesel with 135, 180, 210bhp, 2.0-litre turbo petrols good for 180, 250 and 330bhp, and a 340bhp V6 derv-drinker alongside the 503bhp Cloverleaf V6. Proposed 1400 and 1750cc petrol units are on hold.
It’ll be followed by a BMW X3 rival, codenamed 949, expected in summer 2016. This, like all the new Alfas, will share components with the Giulia, which means rear- and all-wheel drive. An X1 rival, and Alfetta saloon (codenamed 961) to battle the 5-series, are for 2017.
Sports cars are 2018’s focus: a two-door Giulia coupe aimed at the 4-series, with a two-seat Duetto Spider following. What does it mean for today’s hatches? The Mk2 Giulietta, set for 2019, is expected to be rear-drive, matching BMW’s 1-series. And despite denials, a Mito Mk2 is planned, based on the next Fiat 500X. That may mean Giulietta goes front-drive instead.
No longer part of the plan is the high-end 6C sports car, any Giulietta variants or any wagons, and a large X5 fighter.
Toyota is busy putting the finishing touches to its new Prius, set for launch at September’s Frankfurt show. The Japanese are on their fourth generation of the world’s best-selling hybrid – and this one ushers in Toyota’s New Global Architecture. That’s Toyota’s answer to VW’s MQB platform and will underpin half the firm’s vehicles by 2020.
Talking of MQB, Audi plans a revamped A3 range on it next time around. The three-door hatch is supposedly doomed, perhaps making way for a four-door coupe in Scirocco territory, which could be badged TTC. Another tentative car is a seven-seat MPV for China; much shorter odds are on a go-anywhere A3 Allroad.