x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Getting ready to join the party: this year's new cars

If you thought car makers would tone things down in the face of recession, think again - Kevin Hackett previews an astonishing year ahead for new models.

Ferrari 458 Italia At last - a Ferrari that looks as good as it drives. Maranello's stylists have been off the boil for a good 20 years but the 458 is simply a riot of curves and the drive, once you're behind the gorgeous, F1-inspired steering wheel doesn't disappoint on any level whatsoever. No manual, just a seven-speed DSG box and 911 Turbo performance - Ferrari's best yet. Honda CR-Z Hybrid cars just haven't been desirable on an emotional level so far, but Honda claims the CR-Z will prove a hit with a younger audience. A CRX for a new generation, then, with green credentials thanks to its Insight chassis and electric motor. Unlike the disappointing Insight, though, Honda promises this will actually be fun to drive.

Lamborghini Reventon Spyder For outrageous price alone, only this will rival Aston's One-77. Just 20 will be built, almost entirely from carbon fibre and, when they're sold, an era will close, for these Reventons mark the end of Murcielago production before a new model comes along and blows everything into the weeds. This is a stealth bomber on wheels. Mercedes SLS AMG It has a 6.3L V8, rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed, dual clutch gearbox, but the SLS's party piece is its doors which open vertically, leaving onlookers in bewildered awe. It's "limited" to 321kph, after which the doors would presumably lift and you'd be airborne, such is the ferocity of the SLS when the throttle is mashed into the carpet.

Audi R8 Spyder The perfect supercar? It's possible Audi's R8 V10 is just that and, sans roof the Spyder will offer the one thing missing in the coupe: proper noise. Based on the brilliant Gallardo Spyder's architecture, this promises to be every bit the driver's car that the tin-top R8 is. Only the V10 engine will be available, making this Audi's flagship model.

Jaguar XJ Finally, with the overdue execution of the X-Type and the introduction of the new XJ, Jaguar's transformation from heritage-obsessed timewaster to youthful and dynamic manufacturer will be complete. The XJ utilises aluminium to reduce weight and thus pollution. But it also promises to be an exciting steer. The most important British car of 2010, expect to see these everywhere.

Audi A1 To be unveiled at March's Geneva motor show, the A1 has been a long time coming. It might be ten years since BMW's Mini was launched, redefining what a small car should look and drive like, but at the moment Audi can do no wrong and the A1 will offer a wealth of variants and options. On sale from September. Aston Martin One-77 Recent tests have proved what everyone knew in the first place: the One-77 can crack 355kph with ease. Which is what you'd expect from a 700hp V12. Mere speed isn't the One-77's only card, however. What this car brings with its stratospheric price tag is traditional hand-built exclusivity using space-age technology. It's a sculpture on wheels. It's a masterpiece.

Aston Martin Rapide 2010 will see the four-door Rapide establish Aston Martin in a brand-new market sector. A masterpiece of design, it's a stretched, heightened DB9 with room for four adults and looks like it was designed this way in the first place. Unlike Porsche's ungainly Panamera, the Rapide actually handles like a true sports car. The best of both worlds?

Audi RS5 The S5, brilliant though it is, was never really a rival for BMW's M3 coupe, but the RS5 will surely give it a few sleepless nights. With a naturally-aspirated V8 rather than what everyone thought (supercharged V6), expect 450hp and more neutral handling thanks to the engine being mounted further back. There'll be a seven-speed DSG transmission and a convertible will follow.

Bentley Mulsanne The Rolls-Royce Ghost's nearest four-wheeled rival will be the Mulsanne, which replaces the much-loved but antiquated Arnage series this year. The jury's still out on the exterior styling, but inside is where it counts and here it scores highly with an interior you'll never want to get out from. With over 500hp it should be a hoot to drive, too. BMW 5 Series The most eagerly-awaited launch of the year will be BMW's 5 Series. The quirky looks will have been toned down, the engines made even more refined and frugal and the handling will be sharper thanks to active steering and dampers. The car will have a new eight-speed auto gearbox and a full-length panoramic roof will be on the options list.

Maserati GranCabrio Aston Martin's position as purveyor of the world's best looking cars just came under threat by Maserati's soft-top Granturismo. With the longest wheelbase in its class, there's a decent amount of room for four adults and you won't be short of requests from potential passengers; not for the impressive V8 performance but for its life- affirming, heart-stopping beauty. A modern classic.

Mercedes CLS The styling has been refreshed and thankfully the CLS is all the better for it. V6 diesel and petrol engines will be available alongside V8 petrols and a much anticipated twin-turbo V8 CLS63 variant. Expect 570hp from that and enough torque to tow your house. See the new CLS at the Paris motor show this autumn and prepare to want one.

Nissan 370Z Roadster Not many cars make the transformation from coupe to convertible without sacrifices, but this one's different. The 370Z was developed as a convertible from the beginning and it shows, with a well-thought out design throughout. It's still a power-sliding mentalist and the structure is impressively stiff, too. A genuine Boxster rival that comes with a bargain basement price tag.

Peugeot RCZ The words "Peugeot" and "desirable" haven't been mentioned in the same sentence since the 205 GTI disappeared in 1994. Yet, if the RCZ's concept car looks are anything to go by, the French should have a hit on their hands. Totally cool and much cheaper to buy than a TT, could this be a return to past glories? Porsche 911 GT3RS Just what is there left to do with the 911? For the purist, only a GT3 will do and 2010's RS version will be the most extreme, least compromised yet. Only a six-speed manual gearbox will be available, and the RS will come with variable engine-mount stiffness as well as a titanium exhaust and carbon rear wing. For serious thrills look no further.

Porsche Cayenne Times have changed since the Cayenne was first launched and Porsche will seek to appease its environmental doubters with a weight saving of 200kg thanks to new aluminium panels. It's still bound to be ugly, but inside will improve thanks to a Panamera- inspired dashboard. Expect a hybrid version and stop-start technology, but will it be able to keep up with a Range Rover in the rough?