There’s only a single vehicle on this year’s list of my most anticipated automobiles without at least a hybrid option available to buyers. That’s how deeply entrenched electrification has become across nearly every market segment, with even rough-and-tumble stalwarts of internal combustion like the Toyota Tacoma turning to the benefits of the battery.
As electric cars, trucks and SUVs continue to mature, the mix of affordable and out-of-sight price tags grows more interesting across the board. At the same time, the upcoming year sees off-road horizons broaden and high performance continue its shift to EVs. Here’s a look at the 10 vehicles I’m most looking forward to driving in 2024.
Lexus GX / Toyota Land Cruiser
I’m going to be honest: the previous-gen GX was a throwback to a time most luxury SUV buyers weren’t all that interested in revisiting. Long on old-school off-road chops, but hindered by its ancient mechanicals and premium pricing for a relatively staid level of comfort, the GX hung around because its production costs had long since been amortized and it was “found money” on the Lexus balance sheet.
For 2024, the GX has been gifted an entirely new chassis, a drivetrain that substitutes a plodding V8 for a twin-turbo V6 and looks that trade its gaping grille for angular chic. If you don’t want to pay the Lexus tax, then you can opt for the new Toyota Land Cruiser, which returned from the dead to share the same platform. The redesigned Land Cruiser (which makes use of a turbo four-cylinder hybrid setup) promises to step back from the pricing brinkmanship that pushed the SUV well above its station, returning its focus to trail battles against the likes of the Ford Bronco.
Polestar has gotten this far into its EV-only existence by ignoring the world’s most popular segment: SUVs. Designed to appeal to doubters unconvinced by the Polestar 2’s crossover-like tall hatchback play, the Polestar 3 brings with it more than 500 horsepower from a pair of electric motors, along with a taller roofline for hauling a modest amount of cargo. The 3 represents Polestar’s chance to make a dent against rivals like the Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV and the Genesis Electrified GV70, and it looks to be an attractive evolution of the design language that’s guided the brand to date.
Somewhat more affordable electric luxury awaits the buyers of the Cadillac Optiq, a crossover that intrigues me by shrinking down GM’s Ultium platform while maintaining the same styling and feature flourish found in its midsize sibling, the Lyriq. It’s been a very long time since Cadillac was at all competitive with an entry-level hauler, but it makes sense to leverage the brand’s battery-powered acumen to take another stab at relevance with younger customers.
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Speaking of entry-level electrics, the Volvo EX30 is poised to make major waves if it can stick to the sub-$35,000 price point when it finally reaches showrooms this summer. With GM having recently abandoned that slot by sunsetting the current Bolt, and with the small-battery Leaf and (current) electric Mini Cooper not much more than city cars, a hatchback with the EX30’s looks and promised range of up to 275 miles is the kind of mass-market EV we’ve been waiting for.
Mini Cooper Electric
As a counter to the unimpressive practicality of the range-restricted existing model, the upcoming Mini Cooper Electric promises to present a true, somewhat upscale alternative to those who want an EV but are uninterested in SUV styling. With more power (up to 215 horses) and substantially improved driving range (nearly doubling to 200 or so miles), the Mini Cooper also promises a fun driving experience to go with its better lifestyle fit. A lower-powered base model also extends the potential to undercut the Volvo EX30 on price, albeit with a drop in both battery size and acceleration.
Chevrolet Blazer EV
The Blazer EV’s truly oddball path to production — with Chevy promising front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel drive versions of the SUV — has been an amusing storyline to follow over the course of the past two years. Now that it’s finally here, I’m eager to see if the modestly-sized sport-utility formula that the company cracked so well with inexpensive gas-only models like the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Envista holds up when paired with a pricier battery-powered drivetrain. Then there’s the promise of an eventual SS version, which claims nearly 650 lb-ft of torque, and which would put the Bowtie brand in a high-performance electric conversation it has yet to participate in.
Cadillac Escalade IQ
The biggest Cadillac in the showroom is about to get the same Ultium electrification treatment received by the lower-volume GMC Hummer EV a couple of years ago. It’s long past time that the Escalade join the electron party, and the IQ will be the first battery-powered version of Cadillac’s enormous SUV since the Hybrid model departed the lineup a decade ago. Will its reception be cooled somewhat by the expected $50,000 price premium versus a traditional V8-motivated Escalade? Or will drivers be too tempted by its windswept sheet metal, fastback greenhouse and Escalade-V baiting 750 horsepower?
While the calendar is about to flip over to 2024, Honda has yet to offer loyal fans a pure EV option. That changes with the Prologue, a vehicle developed under the tutelage (and parts-sharing) of GM’s Ultium engineers, a partnership that also ends with the Prologue, a vehicle whose name became all-too prophetic when Honda and General Motors terminated their deal to build affordable EVs using GM battery packs. This makes the Prologue something of an orphan, and places the future of Honda’s electrification plans in question, ratcheting up my interest in a vehicle that will also serve as the corporate twin of the upcoming Acura ZDX EV SUV.
Hyundai Santa Fe
It’s back to internal combustion for the final two entries on my list of what I’m looking forward to driving in 2024. The Hyundai Santa Fe intrigues me for the simple reason that the brand has chosen to throw away 10 years of design equity in favor of a model that, while eye-catching for all of its right angles, is easier to lose in a crowd of similar blocky SUVs (see: the new Lexus GX). It’s a bold move for Hyundai, and so too is the decision to axe the plug-in edition, leaving only a traditional hybrid in the mix.
Despite getting on in years, the current Tacoma has kept ahead of the crop of midsize and compact pickups threatening to scoop away shoppers with their higher-tech features, more comfortable interiors and drivetrains that weren’t developed in the late-2000s. The truck’s replacement is now here, and it aims to balance Toyota’s “if it ain’t broke” contingent with the need to acknowledge its increasingly sophisticated competition. Going all-turbo and killing its V6 (in favor of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder) is a big part of modernizing the Tacoma’s charms, and I’m curious to see how effectively it deploys its mighty new hybrid drivetrain borrowed from the Toyota Crown.
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