Future Cars

25 Future Cars You Won’t Want to Miss

Some of the best cars you might see on roads in the near future

Novelist C.S. Lewis described the future as “something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” Pardon us for feeling as though the automobile’s evolution is occurring even quicker, from another forthcoming crop of intriguing production cars to rapidly shifting attitudes about how to address inner-city transportation and how to restore collectible classic cars. There’s no turning back.

Aston Martin Vantage

Aston Martin Vantage

What we know 
This will be one of the first Aston Martins to make use of a Mercedes-Benz engine, a benefit of the partnership between the two companies. Mercedes-AMG will build a “bespoke V-8” for the British sports car, almost certainly a version of its 4.0-liter twin-turbo mill. The Vantage should look similar to the DB10 that Aston Martin created for the James Bond film “Spectre,” with an aluminum-intensive body and liberal use of carbon fiber to help keep weight down. Its interior will be far more fashionable than the current car’s, and purists will appreciate that Aston is planning to offer an optional manual transmission alongside the dual-clutch automatic most buyers will opt for.

Why it matters
Aston Martin might have an amazing lineup of fantastic, sporty cars, but it needs a true sports car. And though today’s Vantage is fun, it doesn’t quite fill that hole. The next one will. And while purists might momentarily whine about the AMG-sourced engine, they’ll stop when they see the performance figures that come from using a “hot V” turbocharged V-8 from one of the world’s best engine builders.

Where it could go wrong
Aston Martin is well aware that it can’t step on the character of its cars, but how well will that work when it starts using Benz bits? For example, the sound of an Aston Martin is crucial to the driving experience; will the Vantage sound any more special than, say, a Mercedes-AMG GT S? We’ll see.

When to expect it
By 2020

Aston Martin DBX

Aston Martin DBX

What we know
The DBX breaks tradition to become the brand’s first SUV (ahem, high-riding vehicle) as well as the first Aston to use all-wheel drive. You’ll likely be able to choose between a twin-turbo V-8, a V-12 of sorts, or an all-electric drivetrain that uses lithium-sulfur battery cells to power four electric motors. Rumors suggest the EV model will have 800 hp and a range of about 200 miles. The whole DBX lineup will have classic, handsome Aston proportions propped up by a lifted suspension and big wheels. Expect four doors, not two like you see here, and the DBX’s swoopy body should wrap around a seriously swanky interior with seating for four and a lot more space than, say, the Rapide sedan.

Why it matters
Heretical as an Aston Martin SUV might seem, Porsche’s business model of paying for traditional fan favorites with high-profit crossovers, such as the Cayenne and Macan, is proven. Aston Martin has been bankrupt seven times in its 103-year history, and CEO Andy Palmer is committed to making sure that stops. The DBX should help. Although adding electric powertrains to the mix might seem a bit risky, it’s necessary if Aston wants to meet emissions targets and still offer its trademark V-12 engines.

Where it could go wrong
Fiddling with the tradition of a storied brand such as Aston Martin is tricky. A crossover will certainly bring about a new, younger, and more diverse customer base, but might Aston also distance itself from its established clients? Aston would be wise to stay close to its core values of exclusivity, sophisticated English luxury, and thrilling performance.

When to expect it
By 2018

Audi R6

Audi R6

What we know
The gap between TT and R8 remains wide open. Audi has repeatedly said that an entry-level V-8-powered R8 isn’t in the cards, so management instead is reportedly considering a new and relatively affordable mid-engine sports car earmarked for 2021. It would use the same building blocks as the next-generation Porsche Cayman and be powered by an all-new, all-aluminum 2.5-liter inline-five that could be bookended by a more basic inline-four and a bigger V-6. Power would range between 250 hp and 350 hp, and all-wheel drive would be optional. If the R6 does indeed come to fruition, a no-frills, 400-hp R6 Plus model with a manual transmission could follow a few years later.

Why it matters
Before twinning today’s R8 with the Lamborghini Huracán, Audi thought about replacing the R8 with a mid-engine 911 fighter powered by a tri-turbo five-cylinder engine good for 500 hp. Previous Audi R&D head Ulrich Hackenberg and Porsche R&D head Wolfgang Hatz weren’t very friendly at the time, which was part of the reason why that didn’t happen. But current leadership in Ingolstadt and Zuffenhausen are much chummier and in favor of extensive cooperation.

Where it could go wrong
As much as enthusiasts the world over would welcome a car like the R6, sports car sales are on the decline. VW Group’s ongoing financial trauma could also mean that funds currently allocated toward brand-shaping niche models might have to be diverted to produce more low-emission, bread-and-butter cars. Audi has postponed all additional projects by one year to evaluate its options, and the R6 could end up a cost-cutting casualty.

When to expect it
By 2021

Bentley Anaga

Bentley Anaga

What we know
Bentley doesn’t want just one crossover when it thinks it can sell two. While the Bentayga is a high-end, spacious, range-topping model (with a Speed variant reportedly on the way), there’s room for a so-called Baby Bentayga below it. To be built on Volkswagen Group’s MSB modular platform that will be used for the next-gen Audi Q5, the car we’re calling Anaga will be to the big Bentayga what the Porsche Macan is to the Cayenne. Unlike the Bentayga, the smaller model would not be able to fit (or justify) a 12-cylinder engine, so expect turbocharged six- or eight-cylinder engines underhood. As far as design, look for the familiar Bentley face seen on everything from the Continental GT to the Bentayga but squeezed onto a smaller body.

Why it matters
While the big Bentayga is the brand’s pinnacle model, its exorbitant price tag is so far out of reach that it won’t bring in many new customers. A smaller, more affordable Bentley crossover would presumably boost sales further and help fund the rest of the company’s lineup in the process.

Where it could go wrong
Bentley officials have sent mixed messages about whether they want to launch a smaller crossover, and doing so could cheapen or water down the brand’s cachet. Plus, a Baby Bentayga would face stiff competition from all sides: Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan internally, plus newcomers such as Jaguar’s F-Pace.

When to expect it
By 2020

BMW 9 Series

BMW 9 Series

What we know
The 9 Series will be BMW’s answer to the Mercedes-Maybach S600. With a starting price of $170,000, BMW’s halo car should have styling not far from the Vision Future Luxury Concept shown here. Based off a stretched version of the new 7 Series chassis, the 9 Series will use a lot of carbon fiber to reduce weight. The sedan will likely be available with a twin-turbocharged V-8, a V-12 from Rolls-Royce tuned to BMW’s specs, and an all-new hybrid powertrain that pairs electric motors with a turbocharged inline-six.

Why it matters
BMWs of late have felt less and less special, but maybe the 9 Series will turn things around. Actually, it doesn’t have much choice in the matter; it needs to be engaging and unique to compete with the S-Class. It’s expected to be a high-tech tour de force with serious semi-autonomous capabilities and a lavishly appointed interior.

Where it could go wrong
For BMW to be successful with this one, it will have to compete head to head with the uber-luxurious S600 and also on some level with the Rolls-Royce Phantom replacement with which it will share some components. The 9 Series will also need to look and feel like a fully fledged flagship, which BMW hasn’t had for some time now. If BMW can’t create something truly special, it will fail.

When to expect it
Beginning of 2020.

Bugatti Chiron Grand Sport

Bugatti Chiron Grand Sport

What we know
We expect the Chiron’s life cycle to mirror the Veyron’s, which means more impressive and powerful variants are coming, such as a convertible Chiron Grand Sport. While the Chiron’s base performance is staggering, there is definitely room to grow. Its 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W-16 engine will likely jump from 1,500 hp to an astounding 1,700 hp or more when bolted into the stripped-down Chiron Super Sport, a car that will likely breach the 275-mph mark. An open-air Grand Sport Vitesse should follow soon after.

Why it matters
The Veyron reset the collective consciousness of what we considered to be “high performance,” and the Chiron continues to carry the 250-mph torch for the brand. Not only can Bugatti achieve such mind-boggling performance, it does so with oversight from a company as large and diverse as Volkswagen Group.

Where it could go wrong
VW’s diesel scandal will rear its soot-covered head, and though we don’t yet know its full financial implications, expect cost-cutting to affect niche products such as this. If VW Group deems the program fun but frivolous, the Chiron line might end at the standard model.

When to expect it
The Chiron Grand Sport should arrive around 2019, with the Super Sport and Grand Sport Vitesse following in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Cadillac XT7

Cadillac XT7

What we know
General Motors has a new Chi platform for its medium and large crossovers: The Cadillac XT5 is on the smaller Chi, with the new XT7 on the stretched, larger Chi. The three-row XT7 will come with Escalade-like levels of luxury and bling on a more comfortable unibody platform and in a size more manageable for urban parking garages. It will look a lot like a longer version of the XT5. Expect front-wheel drive, optional all-wheel drive, and a selection of six-cylinder engines, including Cadillac’s signature twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6.

Why it matters
Cadillac’s SUV lineup is much smaller than those of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, relying only on Escalade and the XT5, which replaced the recently deceased SRX. Large premium crossovers are fast-selling moneymakers, and Cadillac will finally be able to catch up and keep sales from going to other luxury brands as the crossover market gets hotter and hotter.
Where it could go wrong
The usual problems when a key product such as this shares its platform with seven or eight other models, all priced and positioned lower than the XT7. And just as timing is everything in comedy, so too is it in new auto models. Will the economy keep improving over the next two years? Will the luxury market keep growing? What happens if oil prices climb again?

When to expect it
By the end of 2017

Ford Bronco

Ford Bronco

What we know
Ford has confirmed it will build two new vehicles at the Michigan factory where the Focus and C-Max are assembled. Sources say one is almost guaranteed to be the Ranger, Ford’s midsize pickup truck that’s already on sale overseas. A second vehicle will join the plant in 2020, and a modern-day Bronco makes a lot of sense as that vehicle. It would essentially be Ford’s version of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, built off the Ranger platform, underpinned by a tough suspension, and sporting a boxy, retro look. Think of it as the pickup truck for people who don’t actually need an open cargo bed but want the ground clearance and towing ability a more capable, body-on-frame SUV would provide.

Why it matters
The Bronco would give Ford a credible competitor to the beloved Jeep Wrangler. Although it’s unclear whether the Bronco’s chops could really match those of the Jeep, a hardcore variant along the lines of the F-150 Raptor could be developed to help boost its go-anywhere appeal and highlight its roots in off-road racing.

Where it could go wrong
Is there a business case for launching what would likely be a low-volume SUV when Ford already sells hundreds of thousands of pedestrian crossovers here? In addition, if gas prices suddenly spike, the market for vehicles like a Bronco could dry up. Ford has long expressed skepticism about selling pickups smaller than the F-150 in the U.S., despite its decision to reboot the Ranger. Trying to push through another body-on-frame offering below the F-150 won’t be easy.

When to expect it
No sooner than 2020 about two years after Ranger production would begin in the U.S.

Kia Stinger coupe

Kia Stinger coupe

What we know
The Kia GT4 Stinger concept shown in 2014 had a rear-wheel-drive platform, an aggressive design, a six-speed manual transmission, and a 315-hp turbocharged engine. We haven’t seen much since, but we’re sure the Stinger is coming. The automaker has already trademarked the Stinger name in the U.S.; GT4 is off the table due to an existing trademark. The production model will probably use a turbo-four engine putting out 250 to 300 hp, and its rear-wheel-drive platform would be borrowed from parent company Hyundai. A four-door Stinger sport sedan will hopefully precede a two-door sports car.

Why it matters
First, Kia can’t let corporate sibling Genesis have all the fun with its planned BMW 3 Series-rivaling sport sedan. Second, a purebred, two-door sports car would help bolster Kia’s fun character, complementing its existing SX Turbo models. Finally, offering a sports car would have a halo effect on the rest of the Kia lineup, hopefully persuading more buyers to consider the brand.

Where it could go wrong
Suspension tuning has not historically been one of Kia’s strong points, though the company has made big strides in past years and hired a former BMW engineer to help dial in new models. It’s going to be tough to get executives to continue to support a costly rear-wheel-drive platform for a small-batch sports car.

When to expect it
In the next year.

Jeep Comanche

Jeep Comanche

What we know
The Jeep pickup is coming back. Good thing, too, seeing how it perfectly encapsulates the brand’s “go anywhere, do anything” attitude. Underpinnings will come from the soon-to-debut all-new Wrangler. Like the Wrangler, the Comanche will swap steel bodywork for lighter aluminum panels and be powered by a V-6 engine that will bolt to either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic.

Why it matters
It’s the first production Jeep pickup in a quarter century; fans have been clamoring for a reboot since the Comanche went away in the early ’90s. Jeep has become one of the most thriving brands in the FCA family, and the all-new Comanche definitely has the potential to become another best-seller overnight.

Where it could go wrong
It’s a Jeep, and it’s a pickup truck—seems like a recipe for success. Jeep has dominated in sales, and enthusiasts haven’t shut up about the truck since the company announced it would be built. But will they open their wallets when it finally arrives?

When to expect it
In 2020.

Genesis G60

Genesis G60

What we know
The first luxury sports coupe from Hyundai’s Genesis sub-brand will be a two-door version of the eventual G70 sedan, likely dubbed G60. Expect a graceful silhouette as well as a sporty, driver-centric cabin with a focus on innovative infotainment technology. Both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive will be available, as will two engines: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with about 240 hp and a 3.8-liter V-6 making just north of 300 hp, both bolted to eight-speed automatic transmissions. A hybrid and a performance model with a twin-turbo V-6 are expected as well.
Why it matters
To legitimize its newly minted Genesis brand, Hyundai must compete against the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Key design talents Peter Schreyer and Luc Donckerwolke, both poached from German companies, give Genesis a fighting chance, as do rear-wheel-drive platforms that won’t be shared with Hyundai’s mainstream fleet. Genesis just might have what it takes.

Where it could go wrong
Great build quality, plentiful tech, and great warranties only go so far. People have a hard time paying premium prices for cars from commodity brands such as Hyundai. Genesis prices need to undercut German rivals to get on shopping lists, but its cars can’t be billed as anything but legitimate luxury. Maintaining a healthy distance from its humble Hyundai roots is essential.

When to expect it
In 2017

Dodge Barracuda

Dodge Barracuda

What we know
When the third-generation Plymouth Barracuda debuted for the 1970 model year, it shared its platform with the then-new-to-the-market Dodge Challenger. But the ’Cuda—available as a coupe as well as a convertible—was shorter and lighter than the Challenger and had its own distinct styling. The song remains much the same for the all-new, modern-era Barracuda, now a convertible-only model wearing a Dodge badge. Though it will share much of its components and powertrains with the all-new Challenger, including the platform plucked from the Alfa Romeo Giulia, it will be shorter and wear its own sheetmetal.

Why it matters
Building more cars on the Alfa Romeo Guilia platform means variety at a relatively low cost and allows niche products like the ’Cuda to actually come to life. One more model on the new Alfa platform is good for enthusiasts, for Alfa, and for FCA, and it means Dodge can take the ponycar fight directly to Chevy and Ford.

Where it could go wrong
FCA’s product plans have been fluid as of late, with CEO Sergio Marchionne aggressively seeking a bigger, healthier automaker to be FCA’s partner. Even if he succeeds, the new partner will direct its attention toward Jeep and Ram, not Dodge, and the two-model ponycar plan might become the one-model plan to save money.

When to expect it
Model year 2019

Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger

What we know
Even when the new-age Challenger launched eight years ago, it was a larger, less exciting car than its Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang foils. Both of those cars were overhauled recently, but the Challenger has yet to receive a major update. That will change with the smaller, lighter, all-new Challenger, which will share a rear-wheel-drive platform with the Alfa Romeo Giulia and continue to offer V-6 and Hemi V-8 options. And, yes, we expect to see a supercharged Hellcat model putting out at least 750 hp.

Why it matters
Dodge is trying to play up its muscle-car image by further developing models such as the Challenger, the Charger, and the coming Barracuda. The plan is for Dodge to be the all-American, value-priced alternative to Alfa Romeo, which is targeting BMW. The Alfa-Dodge relationship is key to the future of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and the Challenger is its poster car. A nimbler, better-handling model should compete well with its Camaro and Mustang ponycar rivals.

Where it could go wrong
FCA has delayed the launch of the Alfa Giulia, and while Marchionne says the issues are related to the model itself and not its platform, we wonder whether the new Challenger will be delayed as well. Also potentially affecting the Challenger’s future are the looming 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. With Jeep and Ram accounting for some 62 percent of FCA’s U.S. sales, Marchionne might have some hard product decisions ahead.

When to expect it
Model year 2019

Lexus LC F

Lexus LC F

What we know
Lexus has promised nothing wearing the F badge will have an engine smaller than a V-8, so look for the same naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 from the LC 500 tuned toward the 500-hp mark. If the LC 500’s 10-speed automatic proves to be better for smoothness than performance, Lexus will probably swap in an eight-speed automatic. Expect a torque-vectoring system, beefed-up brakes, lightweight wheels, more aggressive aerodynamics, a rear diffuser, and quad exhaust outlets.

Why it matters
While the beautiful LC 500 and innovative LC 500h hybrid help flesh out the Lexus lineup, the F stable needs a halo car that’s more impressive than the RC F. It will get just that with the LC F, a desirable car with the design, cachet, and price to bring the performance nameplate to the next level.

Where it could go wrong
The LC 500 and its platform are tuned for luxury-car duties, meaning an LC F might be more of a symbolic gesture than an actual foray into competitive performance. It’s also not clear if there are still enough buyers willing to shell out $100,000-plus for a Lexus that doesn’t totally fall in line with the brand’s hallmarks.

When to expect it
Not before 2019

Lotus Exalt

Lotus Exalt

What we know
Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales is convinced the automaker can build a lightweight, sporty CUV without shaming its name. It’s a departure from the brand’s ethos, but we thought the same thing when Porsche’s Cayenne launched more than a decade ago—and now it’s Porsche’s best-seller. Four lightweight Evora seats (claimed by Lotus to save 44 pounds over typical SUV seats), an aluminum chassis, and composite body panels will offset its curb weight, and the supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine from the Evora 400 would be a great fit here. The car we’re calling Exalt will be built with the brand’s Chinese partner, Goldstar Heavy Industrial, and will be sold in China before making its way here.

Why it matters
Lotus isn’t exactly a healthy brand, but that isn’t stopping it from aiming high, with a goal of selling 10,000 vehicles worldwide by decade’s end. That’s a lot of niche two-door sports cars to move. A more practical vehicle that could help Lotus turn the tide on the sales side would put much-needed funds in the coffer to build more of the feather-light sports cars we love.

Where it could go wrong
Just because Lotus believes people will buy a low-volume, lightweight crossover with a Lotus badge doesn’t make it true. Add to that the cash and development time needed to build such a vehicle—and the broken promises of the brand’s previous concepts—and you realize you shouldn’t start holding your breath anytime soon.

When to expect it
Production could start in 2019

Mazda RX 9

Mazda RX-9

What we know
Rotary fans and sports car lovers alike have been waiting for the RX-7’s return since the U.S.-spec car went away in 1995. The RX-Vision concept shown at the 2015 Tokyo auto show gives the faithful new hope. Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai says a production RX sports car could be based on the Miata’s platform, claiming the roadster’s chassis is “close to perfection” for such a task. Engineers would lengthen and stiffen the chassis to better cope with the higher horsepower a turbocharged rotary engine would provide—about 400 hp. Expect significantly lower curb weight and cost than the standard F-Type, 911, or Corvette.

Why it matters
Mazda is a brand that builds sporty cars for those who still care about the driving experience. The rotary engine plays large in the automaker’s legend, and although the RX-8 tried its best to succeed the RX-7, its frumpy styling made the rotary’s key shortcomings (poor low-end torque, worse fuel economy) even tougher to swallow. The return of a true RX-7 as an affordable halo car would give inspiration to Mazda’s entire lineup and solidify the brand’s position as a maker of enthusiast cars.

Where it could go wrong
The RX-7 might have been fast, but it wasn’t cheap; the last-gen RX-7 was more expensive than a base Corvette. Bring the new car in at too high a price point, and Mazda risks alienating its core market. At the same time, Mazda must prove that it’s capable of producing a top-tier sports car that can take on the best in the business, and do it with a new, more efficient rotary engine that has enough power to compete.

When to expect it
2020, we hope.

Mercedes Benz A Class

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

What we know
The youth-oriented CLA-Class hasn’t done as well as the C- or E-Class, whereas the competitive Audi A3 is one of Audi’s best-selling cars. So Benz will add an all-new A-Class sedan to its North American lineup, with the CLA presumably living on alongside it. The A-Class will be a more spacious, more upright, front- or all-wheel-drive sedan in the A3’s mold. Picture it as a smaller C-Class, aping the styling cues of the car you see here. We expect a base 2.0-liter turbo-four engine with 208 hp as well as a 375-hp AMG version.

Why it matters
Entry-level luxury models are designed to snare upwardly mobile first-timers to the brand in an effort to make lifelong customers out of them. When the Audi A3 launched, it highlighted the CLA’s lack of rear-seat space, an important consideration for the younger set who likes to have room for friends or a small family. The A-Class will be designed to remedy that issue.

Where it could go wrong
Mercedes needs to make entry luxury buyers believe that the gap between the A- and C-Class is small and that they’re getting more than just a three-pointed star for their $35,000-plus. If Benz can’t pull that off, then the A-Class probably won’t make it.

When to expect it
2018.

Mercedes Benz X Class

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

What we know
Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class is a rugged luxury pickup that’s been on the company’s back burner for years but is finally moving forward. Using Nissan’s Navara pickup architecture, the Mercedes truck will be available in many trims, ranging from a base tradesman edition without the brand’s signature comforts to more luxurious models. In addition to traditional diesel engines, the X-Class will also have both four-cylinder and six-cylinder gasoline engines, along with a hybrid electric powertrain that will come later in the truck’s product cycle. The styling of the X-Class will parallel the rest of the company’s lineup of crossovers and should be quite handsome.

Why it matters
Midsize pickup trucks are the world’s workhorses. Forget what Ford, Ram, and GM have spouted for years; smaller, lighter duty trucks are big business and make up much of global truck sales. Mercedes-Benz adding a light-duty truck to its portfolio is the first foray into the company’s technical partnership with Nissan. If the X-Class proves fruitful, it could further the relationship.

Where it could go wrong
According to Mercedes’ vans chief Volker Mornhinweg, “The big three (Ford, GM, Ram) already own about 90 percent of this market. It’s a cutthroat environment; newcomers like us would invariably fight an arduous uphill battle.”

When to expect it
Sometime next year.

Mercedes Benz G Class

Mercedes-Benz G-Class

What we know
The Geländewagen has just been freshened for 2016, but look for massive changes to follow in the near future. The truck’s extremely heavy underpinnings will give way to ones composed of lightweight aluminum, shedding more than 800 pounds in the process. The rig will get an even more civilian-minded interior, and its front live axle will evolve into an independent one. Don’t worry: The G-Class will still be a monster over rough terrain, as it’s expected to maintain its three locking differentials. Powertrains will stay the same—4.0-liter and 5.5-liter turbocharged V-8s (we’re betting the 6.0-liter V-12 won’t survive)—with an expected 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency. A plug-in hybrid G-Class could also be in the works.

Why it matters
This will be the first major update to the truck in 10 years. The G-Class is a landmark vehicle from one of the best names in the business, and it is heartening to see support for such a historic model. This update will hopefully bring a healthy dose of manners to an otherwise unruly car; the weight loss and the interior refinements will go a long way.

Where it could go wrong
Sales have been strong, but the market for an inefficient, brutish, slab-sided SUV might wane before Mercedes has a chance to really transform the G-Class. And if dwindling demand doesn’t spell doom, Benz’s recent push toward efficiency and electrification might.

When to expect it
by 2019

Porsche 929

Porsche 929

What we know
People have wanted an up-market, front-engine Porsche grand tourer for a while, but the automaker couldn’t make a fiscal case for it. That’s why the 928 died off. But now that Porsche’s synergies with sister brands Bentley and Lamborghini are blossoming, a new GT might make sense. Bentley will use the platform from Porsche’s 2017 Panamera for a new coupe it is building, and it will in turn let Porsche dive into the same gene pool. The 929 would launch as a coupe with a convertible variant to follow.

Why it matters
Porsche needs to expand its hybrid and electric efforts to steer through upcoming emission chicanes without picking up too many penalty points. Since its sports cars must remain light and agile, we should see an intriguing mix of hybrid and plug-in powertrains for the 929. Total scalability will be required to respond to improved batteries, e-motors, and performance electronics.

Where it could go wrong
The 929 is not a must-have for Porsche. In a crunch, proper cash cows, such as a baby Macan or a Cayenne coupe, would probably take priority over a front-engine coupe. And though the coming all-electric Mission E sedan will be Porsche’s green flagship, the brand might decide it needs a higher-volume EV more urgently.

When to expect it
2020 if it happens.

Mini Roomba

Mini Roomba

What we know
Mini should be the epitome of small, stylish, and sporty runabouts, but its cars keep growing in size and price. The Roomba would be the brand’s largest offering by far, large enough to revive the long-forgotten Maxi nameplate. Benefits include superior space utilization, enhanced practicality, and the ability to accommodate enough batteries for a plug-in hybrid derivative. There is talk of making Roomba one of five so-called Mini “superheroes,” but the MPV faces strong in-house rival proposals, such as a cute sedan and a striking crossover.

Why it matters
Roomba could make it clear that Mini is prioritizing pragmatism over emotion. It would help parent company BMW cut costs by sharing key elements with its products while being emphatically Mini in appearance and appeal. Maybe, just maybe, a big car is what Mini needs.

Where it could go wrong
An MPV might be the wrong signal to send to its young non-conformist clientele, a brand-compatible minivan might not be possible, and the budget devoted to Roomba might tread on or cancel other, more innovative vehicle programs. Not to mention trademark issues.

When to expect it
Probably not before 2021

Nissan Z

Nissan Z

What we know
Although there is still no clear answer whether there will be another version of the Nissan Z, it’s crazy to think given its heritage that Nissan will ditch the only true sports car left in its lineup save the high-priced, low-volume GT-R. Given the ties between the 350Z and Infiniti G35 (and later the 370Z and G37), the logical path for a future Z car would be to use the bones of the new Q60 coupe as its base. There is also sentiment within the Nissan ranks to develop a smaller, purer Z along the lines of its well-received, rear-drive IDx concepts, but that would probably require a costly, bespoke platform. Not likely.

Why it matters
Aside from the GT-R, Nissan sells a lot of solid but staid cars. The 370Z is the exception in that it appeals to enthusiasts, and despite waning sales of late, it draws on a long heritage of Nissan and Datsun sport coupes. With the recent resurgence of affordable, rear-wheel-drive models, including the Subaru BRZ and Mazda MX-5 Miata, we’d love to see Nissan launch a fresh competitor in the segment.

Where it could go wrong
Top Nissan execs have waffled on whether they want to renew the Z, and they know there’s far more money to be made building crossovers than a lower-volume sports coupe. Developing a unique sports car is expensive as well (just ask Subaru and Toyota, which had to share costs to bring the BRZ/86 to life), and given Nissan’s dreams of growing global sales and market share, the Z’s future is very much in flux.

When to expect it
No sooner than 2018 if at all

Toyota 86 Subaru BRZ

Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ

What we know
The “Toyobaru” sports car hasn’t sold particularly well for either Toyota or Subaru, so we were pleasantly surprised when officials from both brands confirmed the little coupe will live on for another generation. Toyota especially needs a fun car to remain in its lineup. While we’d like to see a turbocharged version of the Subaru-sourced, 2.0-liter direct-injected flat-four, we’re not expecting it. Margins on this car are small, and turbocharging adds cost and complexity, but perhaps another 20 to 30 hp could come through some clever tuning.

Why it matters
These rear-wheel-drive coupes are unlike anything else on the market, especially for less than $30,000. The Mazda MX-5 Miata isn’t as practical, but that car and both the Toyota and Subaru come standard with a manual transmission. Love ’em now; niche cars never seem to live as long as they should.

Where it could go wrong
Gains in weight and price, a dilution of the back-to-basics feel, or an unwillingness to give the car the extra power it’s capable of handling could kill the fun. The new car needs to address the few but widely held critiques of the current-gen car or buyers will walk.

When to expect it
2018.

Volvo XC40

Volvo XC40

What we know
Because the small luxury crossover segment just keeps getting hotter and hotter, Volvo will debut its XC40 a year after it shows off its all-new, bigger XC60. The XC40 will feature a 1.5-liter three-cylinder as its base engine and potentially two optional 2.0-liter turbo-fours, including a version of the supercharged and turbocharged unit from the XC90. There should also be a plug-in hybrid variant that combines traditional Volvo design themes with more youth-oriented cues such as two-tone paint schemes currently popular in Europe.

Why it matters
The premium compact-crossover segment is on fire in Europe and North America, and it’s growing ever bigger in China too. A relatively popular model like this, priced less than $40,000, will play a major role in making Volvo a premium player globally and help build a loyal population of customers likely to return for bigger, more expensive models.

Where it could go wrong
Hard to see where the Swedes might misstep with this model, but the biggest uncertainty here is the CMA platform Volvo is sharing with Chinese parent company Geely. The first Volvo models to use the platform will be next year’s S40 and V40, so we’ll see how it is when those cars come out.

When to expect it
2018.

Volkswagen Bulli

Volkswagen Bulli

What we know
Finally, the modern Microbus is coming. VW management has reportedly signed off on a four-door, steel-body crossover with a one-box design more contemporary than the 2011 concept you see here but with retro design cues. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine could easily power the base Bulli, but given that the chic crossover will use VW’s all-new, electric-friendly MEB architecture, it might go the plug-in and EV-only route. If we’re right, the EV model could feature wireless inductive charging as well. It would appear the wait for another microvan has been well worth it.

Why it matters
The Bulli is the first of many VW MEB models to come. They will share a trademark light signature, a clever air-intake design, and a trick windshield instrument panel, but with different body styles, unique interiors, and made-to-measure chassis. The MEB platform will work for low- or high-floor applications and will accommodate up to four electric motors. Zero-emission driving range will vary from 180 to 400 miles, and MEB will be set up for autonomous driving and easy battery swaps.

Where it could go wrong
The usual stumbling blocks: timing, volume, technology, cost, complexity, compatibility.  Hardware and software are still in their infancy, and VW is trying to figure out which electric motors will work best for its needs. Not to mention that a heritage-derived electric vehicle could seriously struggle in a future-oriented market that loves modern shapes and visible advanced technologies.

When to expect it
2020

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