For many, 2020 was the lost year, the year that was stolen from our lives. With a global pandemic sweeping the planet, it was the year of lost jobs and a large-scale economic slowdown. With drastically reduced travel and an unprecedented number of people working from home, it was also a year that enforced frugality in all things, and that brought about a sea change in the ways we work and play. With an uncertain financial future for many, consumers tended to stay away from big ticket purchases in 2020. Now, however, with vaccines that promise new hope in the near future, things have started limping back to normal. The automotive industry, which suffered a major downturn over the last many months, is hoping for a major revival in 2021, and manufacturers in India have a strong line-up of cars and SUVs that they intend to launch this year. Here’s a quick look at some of the exciting upcoming launches for the year.

AUDI Q3

Cars

Right now, Audi only has the Q2 and Q8 SUVs in its India line-up, which serve the lowest and highest ends of the premium SUV market. There’s ample space in between though, and the new Q3 (along with its bigger sibling, the new Q5) is expected to arrive soon to fill some of that space. The India-spec Q3 is likely to be offered with Audi’s very capable 2.0-litre, 230bhp TFSI turbopetrol, which should provide ample power and performance, coupled with reasonable fuel economy. With its sharp, modern styling that borrows design cues from its bigger siblings, the Q3 is a handsome machine, with a luxurious, well-appointed cabin that happily accommodates five adults. Also, with the latest in electronic driver aids and a finely tuned chassis and suspension, the Q3 boasts excellent driving dynamics, which enthusiasts will appreciate. For around Rs 40 lakh, the Audi Q3 will be one of the best SUVs in its class when it arrives in India later this year.

BMW M3

Cars

The M3 is a legend in its own lifetime and certainly needs no introduction. The new M3 sedan (along with its coupe sibling, the M4) is expected to be launched in India by mid-2021, and car enthusiasts with deep enough pockets can hardly wait. For good reason too, as the new BMW M3 is powered by a twin-turbo petrol 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, which produces an impressive 480 horsepower and 550Nm of torque. With power going to the rear wheels (AWD is optional on the Competition-spec variants) via a six-speed manual transmission, the M3 can go from zero to 100kph in 4.2 seconds and hit an electronically limited top speed of 250kph. Get the optional ‘driver’s package’, and the restriction is removed, elevating top speed to 290kph. With a large toothy grille up front, the new M3’s face isn’t the prettiest, but the driving experience will likely remain unmatched. For those who enjoy getting sideways, and have the driving skills as well as the financial wherewithal to do so, the M3 is one of the best cars you can buy. Expect to pay around Rs 1.0-1.15 crore for the privilege of taking one home.

VOLVO S60

The successor to the earlier S60, which was discontinued in India in mid-2019, is likely to arrive in Volvo showrooms by April this year. The Chinese-owned Swedish company makes some pretty cool cars, with beautifully understated interiors that are subtle and classy in a unique Scandinavian way. With its Euro NCAP 5-star safety rating (Volvo is a global pioneer in automotive safety), 2.0-litre, 190bhp petrol engine, and high levels of comfort, the S60 is an offbeat rival to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, and Audi A4. In terms of outright engine performance and high-speed ride and handling, the S60 can’t quite keep up with the Germans, but it has a stylish vibe that’s all its own. We expect the new S60 to be priced at around Rs 45-50 lakh.

TESLA MODEL 3

Here’s an interesting fact — Tesla, the US-based electric car company, has a market capitalisation of close to $800 billion, which is more than the combined market cap of Volkswagen, BMW, Honda, GM, Ford, Hyundai, Fiat-Chrysler, Daimler, and Ferrari. And this is despite Tesla having a less than one per cent market share globally. The market share thing is likely to change over the next few years though, as Tesla expands into new markets. For 2021, the innovative electric upstart is coming to India, starting with the Model 3, which is the most affordable vehicle in its line-up. In India, prices for fully imported units of the Model 3 are expected to start at Rs 55-60 lakh. But with its luxurious interiors, more than 400km range and powerful performance (0-100kph in less than six seconds, 200kph top speed), there should be no dearth of takers for the Model 3. That there’s no EV charging infrastructure in India shouldn’t bother prospective buyers, all of whom will likely have private parking spaces with dedicated charging points.

MARUTI SUZUKI JIMNY

Cars

The long-awaited successor to the much-loved Maruti Gypsy — the new Jimny — is expected to arrive in Maruti showrooms later this year. The cheeky little baby-SUV will be produced in India for exports, but despite the huge success seen by the two-door Mahindra Thar, Maruti isn’t too keen on selling the two-door Jimny in India. The company, which believes there isn’t a large enough market for a two door mini-SUV here, is said to be working on a four door version that’s likely to have more mainstream appeal. The four-door Jimny, which is expected to arrive in the second half of this year, will be powered by Maruti’s 1.5-litre, 105bhp petrol engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Automatic transmission and selectable 4WD are likely to be on the options list, and the Jimny is likely to be priced at around Rs 10 lakh. Well worth waiting for, we think.

MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS

Cars

The new S-Class was unveiled in mid 2020, and is expected to come to India in the second half of this year. While the car features many changes and updates in terms of its styling, interiors, and mechanical bits, what hasn’t changed is that the S-Class is still one of the very best luxury sedans in the world. The new S-Class sees extensive adoption of voice commands, large touchscreens for infotainment and for controlling the car’s functions (actual physical control buttons are on the verge of extinction in the S-Class’s cabin), stratospheric levels of luxury, and a brace of smooth, efficient six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Expect to pay around Rs 1.50 crore for one of these. Not expensive enough? The even more opulent, excessive Mercedes Maybach S-Class is also likely to be launched in India by the end of 2021, and is expected to cost around Rs 2.25 crore.

PORSCHE TAYCAN

Cars

The first all-electric supercar from Porsche, the Taycan is expected to arrive in India in the first quarter of this year. The Taycan Turbo’s electric motors give it a massive 625 horsepower and 850Nm of torque, allowing it to accelerate from zero to 100kph in 3.2 seconds, and hit a top speed of 260kph. The Turbo S amps this up to 761 horsepower, and it can sprint from zero to 100kph in just 2.8 seconds, with a driving range of about 325km with a full charge. And while the internal combustion engine has made way for electric motors, the Taycan is still every bit a Porsche in terms of performance, handling, and sheer driving exhilaration. What’s more, the Taycan has four doors, and will happily accommodate four adults in its plush, high tech cabin. It won’t be cheap — expect to pay anywhere between Rs 1.50-2.25 crore (depending on the variant) for the Taycan. The price tag notwithstanding, this has to be one of the most exciting, most anticipated car launches lined up for 2021.

MAHINDRA SCORPIO

When it was first launched way back in 2002, the Scorpio SUV was a revolutionary product for Mahindra. Single-handedly, the Scorpio changed how M&M was perceived among buyers, lending it a more premium, upmarket image. While it had its shortcomings, the first Scorpio was a reasonably refined (at least more so than other Mahindra UVs) and all-around capable SUV, and for the last two decades, Mahindra has been regularly updating the vehicle with mechanical and cosmetic enhancements. Now, however, it’s time for an all-new Scorpio SUV, which is expected to arrive in showrooms by mid 2021. The new Scorpio will really be all-new, which means new bodywork, new chassis (a body-on-frame unit, based on the one used on the current Thar), a new range of petrol and diesel engines, and new manual and automatic transmissions. With bigger dimensions overall, the new Scorpio will be more spacious and comfortable than the current model, while retaining its 4WD go-anywhere capabilities. Depending on the variant, the new Scorpio is likely to be priced between Rs 12-16 lakh.

RENAULT KIGER

Cars

Renault understands that mass-market car buyers in India simply don’t want sedans and hatchbacks anymore; almost everyone wants an SUV, or at least a compact (sub-4m) SUV, which is where the volumes are these days. So, of course, they are building one, and it’s called the Kiger. A compact five-seater, the Kiger will be an aggressively styled small SUV that’s primarily meant for city use, though it will still be able to handle bad, broken roads that are found in abundance in rural areas in the country. We expect Renault to offer a range of petrol and turbo-petrol engine options for the Kiger, along with manual and automatic transmissions. Should be a very stylish, fun-to-drive small SUV, priced at around Rs 6.50-8.50 lakh.

SKODA KUSHAQ

A mid-size SUV designed and engineered specifically for the Indian market, the Skoda Kushaq (based on the Skoda Vision concept, which was showcased at the 2020 Auto Expo) is scheduled to be unveiled in March this year, and will go on sale in India shortly thereafter. With its snazzy styling, premium, upmarket interiors, cabin space for five adults, and engaging performance from its brace of 1.0 and 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engines (with optional automatic transmission), the Kushaq seems to be well equipped to take on mid-size SUV rivals from Hyundai, Kia, Tata Motors, Renault, Nissan, and MG. After years of trying, Skoda seems to have finally figured out what Indian car buyers really want and, going forward, the company seems all set to build cars tailored for Indian tastes. Expect to pay Rs 12-16 lakh for the Kushaq.

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