To say that COVID-19 has turned the world on its ear is putting it mildly, and its effects on the auto industry are broad and far-reaching. From serious autoworker layoffs in Europe to disrupted vehicle sales in North America to a trend toward online buying, the pandemic has caused the industry to reset and rethink just about everything, including the traditional vehicle launch. Since the beginning of March, virtually every industry introduction event that involved a gathering of people has been either put on hold or canceled outright, which means that those of us who call auto journalism our profession have not had the opportunity to drive vehicles that are about to be introduced to the market.
The industry has not stood still, however. Vehicle introductions are still taking place on a regular basis, but they are radically different than those of pre-coronavirus days. Most are conducted in Webinar form, which is a reasonable way to communicate most of the basic information about each vehicle. What it lacks, though, is the most crucial component — the driving experience.
Here is a collection of upcoming models we have learned a lot about and are very eager to drive. When we do, we’ll tell you more but for now here are the details of some upcoming vehicles that promise to be worth waiting for.
2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe
The all-new second-generation version of the BMW 4 Series will distance itself from the idea it is just a 3-Series two-door. While based on the same underpinnings as the 3 Series, the new 4 Series is longer, lower, and wider than its sedan sibling. And its styling further separates it from the 3. The 4 Series is aerodynamically slipperier and its styling is bolder, complete with an “in-your-face” version of BMW’s signature double kidney grille. With a drag coefficient of 0.25 the new 4 Series outdoes the previous version’s 0.29 mark.
The new 48-volt mild-hybrid system standard on the 6-cylinder-powered M440i xDrive Coupe is the most exciting news on the mechanical portion of the ledger. The 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder BMW TwinPower turbocharged engine produces 382 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque, giving the car very robust acceleration. The 48-volt starter/generator has a dedicated 48-volt battery that can be charged by deceleration, braking, and by electricity generated while driving in Sport mode. In addition to its obvious eponymous functions, the starter/generator also acts as an electric motor to contribute torque when desired.
An updated 2.0-liter BMW TwinPower turbocharged 4-cylinder powers the 430i and 430i xDrive Coupe. It delivers 255 horsepower and 294 lb.-ft. of torque.
The BMW 430i Coupe is available with rear-wheel drive or xDrive all-wheel-drive system. All 4 Series models are equipped with a standard 8-speed sport automatic transmission with launch control, and the M440i xDrive Coupe includes a rear M Sport differential.
The base 430i Coupe will have a suggested list price of $45,600, and the model line’s global market launch is expected this October.
2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe & Cabriolet
While the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet will not be the recipients of a full-on makeover in the fashion of the BMW 4 Series, they will be substantially revamped for 2021. The changes include updated styling, new engine choices and the first installation of mild hybrid assist in the models. The Coupe and Cabriolet are the most dramatic of the E-Class line, and the styling changes start with the front end. The grille has an “A-shape” with a super-sized rendition of the iconic three-pointed star. The “face” also features horizontal headlights with all-LEDs that can produce a torch-flame effect.
The 2021 E 450 and E 450 4MATIC models are fitted with a new turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line 6-cylinder engine that features a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, an idea obviously in vogue with the German automakers this year. The advanced powertrain will offer a total of 362 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque with the EQ Boost of the hybrid’s electric motor contributing 21 horsepower.
Both rear-drive and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive versions of coupe and cabriolet will be available and both will be equipped the 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive 2021 AMG E 53 Coupe and Cabriolet will feature a highly tuned turbocharged version of the 3.0-liter in-line 6-cylinder, complete with an electric-powered auxiliary compressor. It will offer 429 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque delivered through an AMG Speedshift TCT 9-speed automatic.
The E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet will go on sale late this year. We expect the Coupe to have a starting price of $65,000, while the Cabriolet will have a starting price of $73,000 or so.
2021 Polestar 2
Volvo’s Polestar has made it abundantly clear the Tesla Motors is in its sights as a key competitor. The Swedish brand’s first pure electric car, the 2021 Polestar 2 is a stunning 5-door that could variously be described as a hatchback or a crossover SUV. In that and many other ways, it is similar to the Tesla Model Y.
Based on Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture platform, the all-wheel-drive Polestar 2 has a powertrain that delivers 408 horsepower and a stunning 487 lb.-ft. of peak torque. The combination of the immediately available torque and all-wheel-drive is expected to enable the car to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds. The car sports not one but two electric motors and its 78 kWh battery capacity is expected to enable a range of about 310 miles on a charge.
Taking another page from the Tesla Motors playbook, the Polestar 2 can be ordered with a Performance Pack that improves driving dynamics. The equipment array includes Öhlins dampers, Brembo brakes, and unique 20-inch forged alloy wheels. As icing on the sundae, Polestar 2 features gold seat belts, gold brake calipers, and gold valve caps.
The car-crossover will have a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $59,900, placing it right on top of that of the Tesla 3 Performance trim that has an MSRP of $56,990. The suggested price of under $60K qualifies the Polestar 2 for state rebates and total incentives of up to $9,500. U.S. deliveries are expected to begin this summer to those holding reservations.