By Manny N. de los Reyes
THE YEAR 2019 was a banner year for Filipino car enthusiasts — not just sports car lovers but even for those who prefer sport sedans, crossovers, SUVs, or even hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs). Aside from the spectacular Toyota Supra GR, we had several unique models like the Hyundai Ioniq and Kona electric cars, the stunning Kia Stinger luxury sports sedan, the sensuously stylish all-new Mazda CX-30 and CX-8 crossovers, and nearly a dozen new Audis, BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes. We even got a mainstream hybrid vehicle in the all-new Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid.
So aside from the usual all-new models and mid-cycle face-lifts of the popular brands, what more unique models can we expect this 2020? There are still a lot of cars out there that aren’t available in the Philippines. In alphabetical order, here are five new cars that we expect to see in the coming months (okay, the Lexus LM hasn’t been officially announced yet, but it’s a no-brainer for the Philippine market) — and five cars that we wish would also come here this year.
Land Rover Defender
The world mourned when Land Rover announced the end of production for the Defender — probably the most iconic off-roader of all time. The mourning turned into joy, however, when the Brits announced an all-new Defender. And now, this new icon will soon be conquering Philippine roads (and off-road). But unlike the all-new Mercedes G-Class, which didn’t stray far from its predecessor’s looks, the all-new Defender seems more like the evolution of the original Toyota Land Cruiser into the current FJ Cruiser — a modernized take on a classic, but with all the off-roading capabilities very much intact.
You don’t have to be a regular at the casino to see how many Toyota Alphards are in circulation. It’s been in so much demand, dealers are charging hefty premiums to eager buyers screaming “take my money!” So it’s a no-brainer for Lexus to bring out its own highly luxified version in the new LM minivan. You’ll be in the lap of luxury whether you frequent Subic or Solaire.
Nissan Philippines has already announced that it’ll be bringing in the world’s best-selling EV, the Leaf, to the country this year. Props to Nissan for bringing in a car that might not be selling in large numbers, but is arguably one of the more relevant new models to hit the local market in many years — or maybe even ever. Let’s see what the company (and the government as well as the private sector) will do to support the use of the pioneering technology of pure electric cars.
The Nissan Leaf won’t be the sole pure electric car to debut in the Philippine market this 2020. Porsche has already announced that its Taycan electric sports sedan will debut locally perhaps even before the middle of the year. The Taycan seats four or five, rockets from zero to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds, reaches a 260-km/h top speed, and can travel up to 450 kilometers between full charges.
The Autohub Group, which distributes MINI, Rolls-Royce, Lotus (among other brands), announced late last year that it has signed on as the exclusive importer/distributor of Shelby American cars and products for the Philippines. This means that we can now enjoy legendary cars like the Shelby Mustangs, Shelby F-150s and Raptors, and even heritage cars like Shelby Cobras and GT40s. The logistics and paperwork should now be effortless — just bring lots of money.
Here are five cars that haven’t been officially announced but will surely be warmly received should they make a Philippine appearance. Some have a greater chance of appearing than others. Here they are also in alphabetical order.
BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe
The BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe is arguably the best-looking four-door from Bavaria (yes, despite it being called a “Coupe”). And now the motor meisters from Munich have created a smaller version in the 2 Series Gran Coupe. It loses the versatile liftback of the 4 Series Gran Coupe, but it still looks exceptionally sleek and sexy for a compact sedan.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
The mighty Lancer Evolution and Eclipse sports car might no longer be around, but Mitsubishi can still flex its muscles with the Eclipse Cross. Not only is it a looker (although the styling isn’t for everyone), its crossover body style makes it a whole lot more relevant to this new decade’s generation of car buyers who simply want to stand out from the gridlock crowd.
Honda regained a lot of mojo when it released the current Civic two years ago. It gained even more when the legendary Civic Type R roared into town. I can only imagine Honda being the talk of the town if its midsize US-market-only Ridgeline pickup rolls onto Manila streets. Thanks to the TRAIN Law, pickups enjoy tax breaks. Besides, Honda has brought in models from America before (i.e. Pilot and Odyssey) — so the idea shouldn’t be completely alien.
For the same reason that Honda would do well to bring in the Ridgeline, Mercedes-Benz would also be the toast of the elite if they bring in the X-Class pickup. I can almost imagine all the golf and country club members scrambling to be the first to get one. As trucks go, the Mercedes X-Class would handily be at the top of the food chain.
It’s the biggest Subaru ever — and it should bring Subaru to greater heights. And not just in name. It’s called the Subaru Ascent. Like its Tribeca predecessor, the Ascent is made in America and is a seven-seater; a seating capacity Subaru needs to cater to the country’s burgeoning seven-seat midsize SUV market. It might be challenging for Motor Image to bring in the Ascent all the way from the US, but it somehow managed it several years ago with the Tribeca, so it’s not altogether impossible.