As the auto industry rushes headlong towards electrification and semi-autonomous technology while stepping decisively back from past indicators of driver involvement like manual transmissions, there’s no doubt that the vehicles I drive as a journalist are changing rapidly.
An influx of SUVs and crossovers, often so similar as to be indistinguishable from each other, have soaked up much of the attention in the showroom, leaving more interesting options — sports cars, niche vehicles, off-roaders and wagons — with far less of the spotlight.
That being said, intriguing automobiles are still out there, especially as car companies try to figure out how to best attract the eyeballs (and dollars) of would-be buyers in an increasingly competitive market. Here’s what I’m most interested in getting behind the wheel of over the course of the next year.
1. 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8
Chevrolet has flipped the Corvette’s formula for the 2020 C8 model, stuffing its V8 engine behind the driver after more than 60 years of it sitting between the front fenders. Not only has this dramatically changed the character of the Vette, but the car also eschews a third pedal, moving to an automated dual-clutch gearbox from here on out. Chevy’s decision to pursue all-out performance (with 495 horsepower translating to a 0-60 mph time of less than 3 seconds) has dictated both decisions, and I can’t wait to find out firsthand whether this was the right choice to make.
2. 2020 Genesis GV80
Wait, after all that guff in the intro I’m actually excited about an SUV? Yes. Not necessarily because of how it drives, although I’m sure Genesis will nail the balance between comfort and control that high-end buyers are looking for, especially given how well the existing line-up of Genesis sedans acquit themselves. No, I’m most interested in the GV80 because it’s poised to disrupt the current premium sport-utility hegemony in much the same way that the G70 sedan served notice to compact German competitors. The Koreans have landed in luxury land, and the GV80 will be their biggest splash to date.
3. 2021 Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo expands its North American lineup to four with the GTV, a coupe that will borrow its platform from the Stelvio and Giulia. I’m curious about whether the two-door will gain all-wheel drive, as that would make the 600 horsepower on offer from its upcoming turbocharged hybrid V6 easier to control (my major complaint about the otherwise gorgeous Giulia Quadrifoglio model). I’m also praying for better infotainment from a company that has access to FCA’s excellent range of touchscreens.
4. 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
Ford fires back at the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye with a 760-horsepower muscle car of its own. Given that massively mighty supercharged V8 engines aren’t all that newsworthy these days, I’m more interested in how the Shelby GT500 will handle. The less-endowed GT350 is a dream to drive on a race track, but will its heavier, hairier sibling offer the same degree of balance? And will it make the same impression on me given that it’s automatic-only?
5. 2021 Rivian R1T
Boutique EV builders come and go with the shifting tides and short attention spans of venture capitalists, but Rivian is one to watch. The R1T is a pickup that promises to deliver real-world utility, excellent off-road prowess and eye-catching styling aimed exclusively at the upper end of the truck-buying public. A bit smaller than a traditional full-size truck, the R1T’s 400 miles of range and 11,000 lbs of towing capacity prove it’s no toy, and with an electric motor at each wheel it’s going to deliver a level of trail control few gas-powered rigs can match.
6. 2020 GMC Yukon / Chevrolet Tahoe
Rivian is but a blip on the radar for the GM twins, strong-selling truck-based SUVs that are finally getting a dose of modernization for the current model year. One of the last holdouts hanging on to a live rear axle, GMC and Chevrolet have added an independent rear suspension to each vehicle with this latest redesign, and that should smooth out their respective rides and help make them more competitive against Ford’s excellent Expedition. They’ll offer a sneak peak at the next-generation Escalade, too, which will ride on the same platform.
7. 2020 Porsche Taycan
I’m of two minds on the Taycan. On the one hand, I’m happy to see a mainstream car company produce a performance EV that can hang with the Tesla Model S while trouncing it in terms of fit and finish. On the other, it’s hard to get excited about an electric car that weighs 5,000 lbs, no matter how powerful (up to 750 horses) it might be. Numbers are great, but they aren’t a useful metric for how well a driver will forge a bond with a vehicle, and in my experience mass is the enemy. This likely won’t matter to most of the Taycan’s owners, who will be content with respectable range and excellent acceleration, but it does to me, and I’ve love to be proven wrong.
8. 2020 Porsche 911 Turbo
The next Porsche entry on this list offers a much better chance of sparks flying once you slip into the driver’s seat. The current-generation 911 is lacking its Turbo model, which will be rectified this year. I know, I know, all 911s feature a turbocharged engine these days, but the capital “T” edition will deliver up to 641 horsepower in Turbo S form, which will cut 0-60 times to 2.5 seconds. It’s worth noting that this is the third dedicated sports car on this list without a manual transmission on the options sheet.
9. 2021 Ram Dakota
The Jeep Gladiator will spawn a more practical model in the form of the Ram Dakota, a truck that returns FCA to the mainstream mid-size segment after several years away. Featuring the same chassis with a more pavement-friendly independent front suspension and a street-tuned damper setup, the Dakota will offer a more comfortable ride than its Jeep sibling, albeit with less of a styling impact. If, like me, you couldn’t abide the Gladiator’s nervous asphalt antics, the Dakota may well be the answer. It will also have the virtue of being the newest pickup platform in its class once it arrives later this year.
10. 2021 Audi RS6 Avant
This one’s personal: I love wagons. Add in 591 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a stunning interior, and the Audi RS6 Avant is like a wailing siren waking up my serotonin centers. Audi may only sell a handful of these crossover alternatives, but kudos to the brand for taking up the challenge posed by the Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon, the only other over-muscled longroof of note to have crossed the ocean and found its way into our hearts.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.