It is no secret that 2020 was a difficult year for the global automotive industry. Sales fell to almost zero as national lockdowns forced dealerships to close and factories to turn their attention to producing sanitizer, PPE and ventilators.
The automotive year kicked off with the 11th-hour cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show, and while the second half of 2020 began to resemble normality as far car makers were concerned, many will need a strong 2021 and 2022 to help balance the books.
Thankfully, car fans have an awful lot to look forward to over the next 12 months. From pocket-rockets like the Toyota Yaris GR and mass-market electric cars like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, to era-defining hypercars like the Aston Martin Valkyrie, and the joys of a booming restomod industry.
Everyone’s expectations for the cars of 2021 will of course differ. So while this will inherently be a personal list of what I’m most looking forward to, I hope some will be shared by readers – and you can always add your own suggestions in the comments below.
For me, a trifecta of hypercars will grab much of the limelight. All have been delayed a little, by their own complicated births but also by the coronavirus pandemic.
First is the Aston Martin Valkyrie, the hypercar that is already heralded by many as an era-defining moment to match the McLaren F1 of 1994. The Valkyrie is what happens when Formula One design supremo Adrian Newey is let loose without the strict rules of motorsport to adhere to.
From the extreme design creating huge downforce, to the F1-style, feet-at-waist-height driving position, a screaming, normally-aspirated V12 engine by Cosworth, and claims of being equal on track to Le Mans Prototype racers, the Valkyrie has a lot to live up to – not least given the precarious financial position Astin found itself in through much of 2020.
But before the Valkyrie squares up to bonafide racers, it will have to battle with its closest rival for 2021, the Mercedes-AMG One. Announced way back in 2017 – and with deliveries schedules for just 18 months later – the One’s party piece is its F1-derived engine. Sitting behind the driver is a close relation to the 1.6-litre, V6 turbo that gave Lewis Hamilton his 2015 F1 World Championship, and it will be attached to four electric motors for good measure.
For much of 2020 – even much of 2019 – it felt like Mercedes had bitten off more than it could chew with the task of making an F1 engine street legal. But patience is a virtue and we’ll get to see the final product at some point in 2021.
The gas-powered Aston and Mercedes will be joined in 2021 by the electric Lotus Evija. Delayed through 2020 but gearing up for production and delivery to 130 lucky customers in 2021, the Evija produces 2,000 horsepower – double that of the Mercedes One – and will surge to 186mph (300km/h) in under nine seconds. It will also pass 200mph, hit 62mph in under three seconds, and have a range of up to 250 miles from a 70kWh battery, Lotus says.
Arguably the most beautiful of the hypercars of 2021, the Evija is proof if ever it were needed that electric cars can look as good as they go. What remains to be seen is whether Lotus, famed for its light-weight, relatively low-power sports cars, can make the Evija feel as fun at 50mph as at 200. Lotus is also expected to use 2021 to reveal a more attainable supercar, potentially powered by a V6 hybrid engine and to do battle with Ferrari.
Although you might think the Evija will reside in a class of one, it will instead be joined in 2021 by the equally powerful Rimac C_Two and Automobili Pininfarina Battista, giving us an electric hypercar ‘holy trinity’ right out of the box.
Lastly for hypercars, and returning to gas power, 2021 will see more of the T.50 by Gordon Murray. A three-seat supercar with weight-saving and practicality at its core, the T.50 will be seen as the spiritual successor to Murray’s McLaren F1 (sorry, McLaren Speedtail) when it arrives with its 106 buyers in 2022, and likely go down as the definitive swansong for internal combustion.
A late entry to my list comes from LA Porsche resto-modder Singer and UK Porsche rally specialist Richard Tuthill, who together have created the 911 Safari ACS. Built upon a donor 964-era 911 from 1990, the car is an homage to 911 rally racers of the Sixties and looks to be about as much fun as you can have on four wheels. Two have been made for a special client of Singer, but if your pockets are sufficiently deep (think seven-figures deep), then the order book is open.
Stepping down a few rungs of the automotive ladder, 2021 will see the electric Ford Mustang Mach-E arrive with customers. Early reviews are already promising, with the car’s handling and performance justifying the use of the Mustang name. A hotter Performance model will come along later to help push that justification even further. Another EV company I have high hopes for in 2021 is Polestar, which has the 3 performance SUV and Precept both in the pipeline.
On a personal note, I can’t wait to drive the Toyota Yaris GR, the all-wheel-drive homologation special that has earned near-universal praise since it landed a couple of months ago. Toyota might not be taking the car rallying as planned, but early impressions suggest it’ll have no trouble selling the 25,000 examples it plans to build. A future classic in the making? I wouldn’t bet against it.
2021 will be a huge year for electric cars, with debut EVs coming from Skoda, Volvo, and Mazda, plus from startups like Lucid and Rivian. I’m looking forward to seeing how Audi can differentiate the E-tron GT from its Porsche Taycan sibling, and whether success there will ease the concern that it isn’t possible to make electric cars feel substantially different from one another. I truly hope Audi (and others) can overcome that hurdle.
Sticking with EVs, I’m keen to see what Tesla will do next. The Roadster, Cybertruck and Semi are all in the pipeline while focus remains on mass-production of the Model 3 and Model Y. If Elon Musk can make the $250,000 Roadster live up to his claims of 250mph-plus and a 600-mile range, I’ll be deeply impressed – even if it’s a few years late. Tesla also plans to deliver the Model S Plaid edition in late-2021, complete with a new three-motor drivetrain, over 1,100 horsepower, and claims of being the quickest production car ever made.
As for hybrids, 2021 should be the year we see more movement from Ferrari and McLaren. The former had a very busy 2020, but only one new model, the SF90 Stradale, is a hybrid, while the latter has already teased its all-new V6 hybrid engine for the next generation of McLaren sports- and supercars. We should also get our first look at Ferrari’s first SUV, known as the Purosangue, this year.
Doubtless to be met with a roll of the eyes by many, we all quietly expect the high-sided Ferrari to become a best-seller and for the profits it earns to be pumped into developing evermore impressive supercars.
Speaking of supercars, 2021 will see the all-new Maserati MC20 arrive with customers. This will be a crucial moment for the Italian brand that has lost its way in recent years. Effectively a relaunch for Maserati, the MC20 needs to be a success right out of the gate, and give the company the confidence (and cash) it needs to press ahead with future new models, including a new SUV and a range of electric models, including a battery-powered MC20.
Lastly for 2021, I’m excited for where the booming restomod industry will go next. The last 12 months saw restored or newly-built classics like the Eagle Lightweight GT, Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Edition, Volvo P1800 Cyan, and 250 SWB Revival by GTO Engineering. All of these reminded us just how beautiful classic cars can look, while blessing them with modern reliability. I hope his trend continues for 2021, with more manufacturers delving into the back catalogues to remaster some of their greatest hits.
I’d also like to see this trend lead to the electrification of classic cars whose engines were never the headline act. A restored, electrified and slightly modernized Fiat 500, for example, or a Mini, or a Citroen 2CV. Perhaps an electric classic Bentley or Rolls-Royce too.
That’s just a small look at what to expect from 2021, but I hope you will agree that the next 12 months are shaping up to be very special indeed.