Hyundai will make up for a quiet 2017 with a fast start to a product-packed 2018. Its new hydrogen fuel cell crossover debuts this week at CES in Las Vegas; Hyundai has promised greater horsepower, range and efficiency from this vehicle, which will replace the outgoing Tucson fuel cell model as a stand-alone nameplate.
Next will be the second-generation Veloster and Veloster Turbo, expected at the Detroit auto show. The Veloster is also the first U.S. nameplate to be tuned by Hyundai’s new N performance subbrand, though the N model won’t appear in Detroit.
Hyundai’s Kona subcompact crossover will hit the market toward the end of the first quarter, giving the brand a much-needed entrant in one of the industry’s hottest segments.
Later this year, Hyundai is expected to introduce a redesigned Santa Fe Sport. Styling will differ from the rest of the Hyundai line, save for the Kona, while the powertrain should carry over without significant changes.
— David Undercoffler
Infiniti will reassert itself in Detroit with a concept for a new brand flagship. It is unclear where the concept fits in the lineup, but indications are that it will show the direction for the Q70 premium sedan.
More than three years ago, Infiniti premiered a concept for a higher-level sedan — an imagined Q80. But that concept never moved into production.
A Q70 replacement is due in late 2018, or possibly in early 2019 to sell as a 2020.
In a statement released by the company late last month, Infiniti Executive Design Director Karim Habib said the concept “will take the traditional sedan architecture to its next stage of evolution” with “a shift toward smarter, more compact and less intrusive powertrains.
“With its long cabin, balanced proportions and muscular stance, the concept heralds in a new era for Infiniti models,” Habib said.
The sedan news in Detroit will offset what will otherwise be a year dominated by focus on SUVs and crossovers for Infiniti. The brand’s biggest product offensive for 2018 will get underway in March with the market launch of the redesigned QX50.
Infiniti is pinning high hopes on that model, which two years ago unexpectedly elbowed its way into Infiniti’s short list of volume leaders after years of meager sales. The redesigned version will use a variable-compression four-cylinder engine, the first application of the engine for the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
Infiniti’s production conversation is also certain to address the future of the QX70. Production of that crossover ended last summer, and Infiniti has yet to reveal what it has in store for the segment. In 2017, Infiniti President Roland Kreuger said Infiniti is reconsidering what role the QX70 should play for the brand, suggesting that the nameplate (formerly sold as the FX) had strayed from its original market pitch as the brand’s sporty premium alternative to more utilitarian SUVs.
Infiniti will also step up marketing this year for a freshened QX80 full-size SUV, which began reaching U.S. showrooms in December. That model received a fresh front end and rear, along with updated on-board electronics and a new-generation display screen.
— Lindsay Chappell
Jaguar is skipping the Detroit auto show this year, but not because it lacks products.
In 2018, Jaguar will have more products in its showroom than at any time in the brand’s 83-year history. And with that expanded lineup comes pressure for the British luxury brand to put up stronger sales numbers — even if industry sales have plateaued.
Joe Eberhardt, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, has acknowledged that the industry shift to SUVs and crossovers has disrupted the brand’s sales projections. But Jaguar Land Rover’s product cadence — by luck or smart planning — stands a good chance of offsetting the weakness in the sedan market.
Late last year, the XF Sportbrake arrived in dealerships. The midsize wagon — Jaguar’s first in the U.S. since the X-Type a decade ago — could appeal to buyers looking for utility but who don’t want an SUV or a crossover.
Jaguar officials believe the vehicle will find a low-volume niche.
In the first quarter, Jaguar’s second crossover arrives as the E-Pace, a compact that shares its underpinnings with the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport. The E-Pace will start at $39,595, including shipping. It is powered by a 246-hp Jaguar Ingenium engine and ZF nine-speed automatic transmission. The E-Pace is likely to become the brand’s highest volume vehicle.
In late summer, Jaguar will challenge the Tesla Model X with the I-Pace, a battery-powered five-seat midsize crossover that promises 220 miles of driving on a single charge. I-Pace, built on a unique aluminum intensive platform, sports twin electric motors rated at 400 hp. Pricing is expected to start at less than six figures.
I-Pace will be manufactured by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, making it the first Jaguar sold in North America to be built outside England.
The Project 8, a wild street-legal racing version of the XE sedan, also joins the Jaguar lineup, although briefly. Only 300 will be built for all markets. The hand-built all-wheel-drive sedan is powered by 600 hp supercharged V-8, and is a product of Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations. Project 8 is a one-year only model arriving this summer priced at around $190,000.
-- Richard Truett