Tomorrow’s Wheels

Jun 18, 2018 - 4:00 PM

Genesis Essentia Concept

Genesis, Hyundai’s fledgling luxury brand, is certainly walking the walk. The Essentia concept was by far the most eye-catching auto at the show with its low, long glass hood blending into a retro bubble roof before trailing back to a short Kamm-tail rear end. The proportions could be called classic GT, but this all-electric car is unmistakably modern with taut minimalist bodywork wrapped around a carbon-fiber monocoque and multiple-motor drivetrain. Its batteries are stashed in the tunnel between the seats. The Essentia—which is reminiscent of concept cars that fascinated me as a kid—showcases future styling cues, but it also signals that the marque is serious about becoming a player in the developing luxury electric-vehicle market.

2019 Volvo V60

I have a soft spot for wagons. No, not the ’74 Lincoln land yacht with the fake wood paneling that my mom used to drive. I’m talking about elegantly designed wagons with sporty underpinnings that still allow you to enjoy a dynamic experience while hauling just about anything in the back. They’re the Swiss army knife of cars. Most manufacturers have abandoned them in the U.S. market, but thankfully Volvo is keeping the torch burning. Its V60 is available with a 316-hp engine and all-wheel-drive in T6 trim and includes all the advanced safety features and tech that you’d expect. We drove the XC90 and loved it, even with its SUV height and weight, so this should be even more fun. If I were buying an everyday car this year, I’d seriously consider this one. Volvo hasn’t released pricing yet, but expect the Swedish automaker to offer the new model for more than the 2018’s $38,250 starting price.

2019 Volvo V60 Photo: Ian Whelan

2019 Jaguar I-Pace

The I-Pace is a stylish yet practical 240-mile-range electric all-wheel-drive crossover vehicle that is well worth a look in standard, manual-drive form. However, Jaguar has announced that it plans to build up to 20,000 fully autonomous I-Paces in partnership with Waymo, the self-driving-car company owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent). Waymo intends to employ the vehicles in a ride-hailing service that it expects to debut in 2020. A pilot program has already launched in Phoenix, but Waymo hopes to eventually expand the business across the U.S. This is just one entry into the developing fully autonomous ride-hailing space. Only time will tell how this controversial market shakes out with the public. Meanwhile, if you don’t mind driving yourself, you can opt for the manual-drive I-Pace, which starts at $69,500.

2019 2019 Jaguar I-Pace Photo: Ian Whelan

Mazda Kai Concept

An inexpensive hot hatch may be just what you need, perhaps to keep at your pied-a-terre. As Mazda moves upmarket, developing its Kodo design language and boosting interior quality with premium materials, you won’t have to feel as if you’re driving an economy car. The Japanese manufacturer displayed this curvy, clean design, which looks as if it could have come from Europe and will likely be the 2019 Mazda3. The company is expected to debut that car with its revolutionary SkyActiv-X engine, which uses compression ignition, like diesels, to significantly boost fuel economy, reduce emissions, and breathe new life into the internal combustion engine.

Mazda Kai Concept Photo: Ian Whelan

2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS

Looking for a street-legal track toy? Porsche’s venerable GT3 RS is arguably the cream of the crop. The German manufacturer has bestowed the limited-production vehicle with myriad race-car chassis and downforce-inducing aero bits, plus an outrageous naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat six engine that revs to 9000 rpm, producing 520 hp and 346 lb-ft of torque. That power is delivered to the rear wheels through a lightning-fast seven-speed PDK transmission, which helps the car reach 60 mph in three seconds. The GT3 RS starts at $188,550, and if the standard version won’t quite suffice, you can add the $18,000 Weissach package, which reduces weight by about 14 pounds, and that’s before specing the $13,000 magnesium wheels that save an additional 25 pounds of unsprung weight, with the total coming in at just 3,153 pounds. With the reduced weight, the Weissach package should shorten the 0–60 sprint to even less.

2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS Photo: Ian Whelan

2019 Mercedes-Benz G550

After decades of soldiering on with only modest updates since 1979, Mercedes has reissued the iconic G550, or Geländewagen as it is also known, for the 21st century. You’d probably have to take a second look to notice that this low-flying brick differs from its predecessor, but it has grown in size slightly, and is wholly updated under its boxy exterior, including independent suspension up front. A 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 mated to a nine-speed automatic powers the G550, sending 416-hp and 450 lb-ft of torque through the three locking differentials to all four wheels. (For those who find those figures to be insufficient, the G63 AMG iteration ups the power to 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque with a 0–60 time of 4.4 seconds, as compared with 5.3 seconds on the standard model.) Pricing hasn’t yet been disclosed, but you can expect the 2019 G550 to sell for more than the 2018 model, which starts at $123,600.    

2019 Mercedes-Benz G550 Photo: Ian Whelan