Among this year’s many disappointments, the lack of car launches stands out. Like postponed Bond films or cancelled holidays, new supercar or SUV releases tend to offer us escapism and luxury; something to dream about. And we could have done with an escape this year more than ever.
Restrictions and lockdowns have kept us locked out of the garage. This time last year, when we rounded up the cars we were most excited about in 2020, we didn’t know there was a pandemic around the corner; rumbling towards us faster and more noisily than a twin-turbocharged V6.
And yet Covid-19 came. It put the kibosh on car launches, slammed on our brakes and imposed upon us a severely roadtrip-lacking summer. But we still managed to tick some of those cars off that list — and have been mightily impressed by others. So, although it’s not our usual annual round-up, these were the best cars to debut in 2020…
The Maserati MC20 came along to fight Ferrari
You can see why it was dubbed the ‘Ferrari fighter’, can’t you? Just look at it. We always tarred Maserati with a slightly conservative, middle-aged driving brush. But the new (if not very imaginatively-named) MC20 has steered the Italian brand in a new and wholly more exciting direction. Yes, it’s still a two-seat, mid-engined supercar — but it’s also a bi-turbo step towards the future.
Because the MC20 (a name that actually means ‘Maserati Corse 2020’; still a bit boring) will soon be available as an electric car. Not that groundbreaking for supercars in general, as Ferrari and Porsche are already leading the luxury electric car charge. But, for a heritage brand to so completely switch up its styling and raison d’être with one release? Now that’s impressive.
The Porsche 911 Turbo S did proud the family name
Remember March? It seems like a lifetime ago; or five minutes, depending on the year you’ve had. But it was also when Porsche’s 911 Turbo S — the latest in a long line of icons — rolled into the world. With four seats and a pretty roomy luggage compartment, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the German carmaker had made concessions in the engine bay. But you couldn’t be more wrong…
Despite its practicality, the 2020 911 Turbo S went tyre-to-tyre with the swiftest supercars. It boasts a twin-turbocharged 3.7-litre flat-6 engine beneath its boot, based on the powertrain found in the current Carrera. And it’s a hefty thing. The last time a Turbo S was fired up by Porsche, it had an already enviable 552 horsepower. This new model has 641. A turbo triumph.
The Land Rover Defender proved its detractors wrong
Land Rover’s latest may have *technically* had its grand reveal in September 2019, but it wasn’t until spring this year that the all-rounder off-roaders began to trundle their way out to customers. Consensus came in quickly, and it was positive. Despite eyebrow-raising rumblings when the design was unveiled, the practicality of the car soon saw it hailed as a mechanical marvel.
The redesigned Defender is built on an aluminium-intensive platform that Land Rover claim is 95% brand new — and boasts a construction three times stiffer than any of the brand’s other body structures. It’s available as a long-wheelbase, five-door model with a choice of five, six or seven seats. And, like the Maserati above, it’s eco-conscious; with an exciting mild-hybrid option also available.
The Bugatti Divo is the best new hypercar you've never heard of
Don’t worry; this one passed us by, too. And, with an 8-litre, quad-turbocharged W16 engine, it did so at quite a speed. Limited to just 40 units, the formidably formed hypercar is named after French racing driver Albert Divo, who raced for Bugatti in the 1920s, and takes inspiration from the 1936 Bugatti Type 57 ‘Atlantic’. (Allegedly — it looks more like something from the next century than the last…)
Inside, the Divo is on more familiar Bugatti territory — sharing design DNA with the more decadent and sumptuous Chiron. Alcantara upholstery and carbon-fibre trim save on weight, a lighter sound system and removal of storage also pare things back. So why is the Divo notable? For those very space-saving, weight-reducing reasons: this could be the first example of a less luxurious hypercar movement.
The Ferrari Roma charmed us all the way from Maranello
“La nuova Dolce Vita” — that’s what we were promised from Ferrari’s new Roma. We weren’t sure what that meant, but they thankfully explained it a little further. “It’s a contemporary representation of the carefree, pleasurable way of life that characterised Rome in the 1950s and ‘60s’.” Still none the wiser? Us neither. But it sure looks good.
It sounds good, too. The turbo-charged V8 under the Roma’s bonnet comes from the same family of engines that have won the International Engine of the Year award for four years running. Couple that with the new eight-speed DCT gearbox, and you’ve got a shouty Italian worth your time and attention.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost cast a spell on all of us
Exactly 7 things wowed us about the new Rolls-Royce Ghost. 1) The British carmaker actually designed the latest iteration of the model to be less ostentatious than it has been in the past. 2) The brand new ‘Planar’ suspension system is not only impossibly smooth, but the result of 10 years of work. 3) Only two components were carried across from the last Ghost (the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ bonnet ornament, and the umbrellas in the doors).
4) Despite a 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 petrol engine, this is the quietest Rolls-Royce ever made. 5) The gorgeous centre console and dashboard took over two years and 10,000 hours to design and manufacture. 6) The Ghost’s ‘Satellite Aided Transmission’ system can use GPS data to predetermine your route and select the optimum gear for upcoming corners way in advance. 7) The Laser-LED headlights can see over half a kilometre into the night. Impressive stuff.
The Lotus Evija gave us newfound belief in Lotus
Technically, the Lotus Evija was unveiled in 2019, and won’t even begin production until 2021. But, despite not making much headway in 2020, we’ve learned a lot about the British carmaker’s latest during the last 12 months. And what we’ve learnt is very, very impressive.
The Evija is to be the first all-electric car produced by Lotus. Powered by four individual motors placed at the wheels, it will have a combined output of 1,970 horsepower. No, that’s not a typo. And yes, that will easily make it the world’s most powerful production car. Couple that sheer punchiness with a carbon fibre body, and you’ve got a machine even more super than a hypercar. Or hyper than a megacar…
The Aston Martin DBX did the impossible
We may be yet to test the Aston Martin DBX — watch this space — but we already know much about the British carmaker’s first foray into four-wheel, off-road territory. How? We asked Marek Reichman, the Chief Creative Officer of the Warwickshire-based brand. And he explained how the car was created in accordance with Aston’s timeless ‘Golden Ratio’ principle.
“We had to develop something unique for this project, because of the ‘Golden Ratio’ principle,” Reichman explained. “So it probably took about a year longer than it would have done had it been a new front-mid-engined coupé. I wanted it to look agile. I wanted you to be able to look at it, and think that you could comfortably drive it down country lanes at legal speeds. Or take it onto a track and drive it comfortably not at legal speeds…”
The McLaren Speedtail delivered on its outlandish looks
This one’s been in the offing for years. Launched in October 2018, the car first rolled out in February of this year, and is yet another technical marvel to make our list. Its twin-turbocharged V8 is complemented with parallel hybrid system eMotor that recharges while driving — and the carbon fibre monocoque and dihedral doors only add to the science fiction look of the design.
And the futuristic quirks don’t end there. McLaren’s latest is also fitted with electrochromic glass, which darkens at the push of a button, eliminating the need for sun visors — and uses front-mounted HD cameras in place of door mirrors. Add to that bespoke luggage for Speedtail Owners, and you’ve got one seriously luxurious, space-age package.
The Morgan Plus Four offered a comforting dose of tradition
It may look as if it has just steered off the set of period costume drama — but there’s nothing antiquated about the British carmaker’s latest release. Morgan’s Plus Four (the somewhat confusingly named successor to the ‘Plus 4’) is created using 97% new parts and components. The CX-Generation chassis, one of the improvements, is the same bonded aluminium offering you’ll find on the brand’s Plus Six.
The sliding pillar suspension of the Plus 4 has been replaced with an all-independent double wishbone system — and there’s a higher level of finishing than on any other comparable Morgan. You get power steering, air conditioning, a mohair hood and front undertray as standard. And, as we discovered when we took the low-slung, two-seater convertible sports car for a spin earlier this year, everybody loves a Morgan.
Want more cars you may have missed? These are the 5 best supercar brands you’ve never heard of…
Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.