This time last year we were all looking forward to 2021. The year 2020 had been, frankly, rubbish and there was eager anticipation of a better year ahead. That didn’t work out so well did it? But here we are, looking ahead to 2022 with optimism, but in the world of luxury motoring, 2021 has definitely had its highlights.
We have to start with electrification. The Nissan Leaf might have given us our first proper introduction to electric vehicles (EV) in SA many years ago, but 2021 was the year when we started to pay attention to an electric future. Sales of the Porsche Taycan took off, the new BMW iX, i4 and iX3 are all hitting showrooms now and Audi has finally announced it will bring its E-tron SUV and E-tron GT models. We will see an onslaught of electric models from Mercedes-Benz next year with its EQA, EQB, EQE and EQS, and rumour is that we might see some electric Volkswagens too.
This year we also got more used to plug-in hybrids and with electric, you can expect even more electrified models coming in 2022 as the rest of the world starts to turn its back on petrol and diesel.
We are also promised more infrastructure to support it all. There is a long way to go and the industry is forging ahead without government support but that will have to change soon.
It all feels as though we are in a transition period. Porsche can barely keep up with demand for its Taycan, but sales of its more traditional models such as the Cayenne (yes, the Cayenne has now become a traditional Porsche) and 911 are as strong as before. Recreation and continuation versions of great classics such as the Jaguar C-Type are commanding big money and selling well, but people are also handing over huge amounts to convert valuable classic cars to electric.
Ferrari is promising to deliver its first electric car in 2025, but meanwhile it revealed its new V6-powered 296 GTB this year. It also launched the Daytona SP3, a limited-run supercar that goes back to basics with a focus on driver involvement rather than technology. Ferrari execs told us they know the days of the internal combustion engine look numbered, even for niche manufacturers that expected to be exempt, so they are going to create some great petrol-powered supercars while they still can.
That is also true at Lotus. Yes, it has the Evija electric hypercar, but this year it showed us the Emira, a compact sports car with a punchy V6 engine. Owned by Chinese carmaker Geely, Lotus also announced its new Lightweight Electric Vehicle Architecture this year that will underpin a number of electric models from 2026.
The headlines in 2021 were very often about another electric supercar, but the next few years will undoubtedly see many last hurrahs from the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and others as the industry makes the most of more than a century of building cars with internal combustion engines.
The same is true in the luxury market but it too has been plugging in this year. We drove the plush new Bentley Bentayga Hybrid and the carmaker also announced the new Flying Spur plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). While it will launch its first pure electric model in 2025, Bentley still graced us with the Continental GT Speed this year with its impressive W12 engine.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the new Land Rover Defender PHEV that hopefully will find its way to SA. Yes, the V8 is great fun but the PHEV is the pick of the range with its combination of torque and ability to travel a little bit in electric mode. Then the company revealed its new Range Rover, which will be available with a BMW-sourced V8 but it could be the plug-in version that proves to be the favourite.
You can’t plug a Rolls-Royce in just yet, but the arrival of the new Black Badge Ghost attracted much attention. Black Badge models account for 27% of all Roller sales worldwide and the famous marque is cashing in on its wealthy younger clientele.
Despite its challenges, 2021 has been a busy year with no shortage of exotic and luxury models. Whether you are an early adopter of electrification or are passionate about the theatre of a roaring V8, there has been something for everyone, and next year will bring even more choices. That is just another reason to look forward to 2022.