2016 review: Non-surprises of the year

While the motoring industry did have some unprecedented, hang-on-a-minute moments in 2016, here are some things that were the exact opposite of surprising, i.e. entirely predictable
By Amit Benjamin, Editor
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December 30, 2016
718 still the benchmark
718 still the benchmark(1/8)
Ford Focus RS
Ford Focus RS(2/8)
Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo(3/8)
Jaguar
Jaguar (4/8)
Maserati
Maserati (5/8)
E-Class design
E-Class design(6/8)
BMW MPV becomes a bestseller
BMW MPV becomes a bestseller(7/8)
Audi quits Le Mans amidst Dieselgate to try Formula E
Audi quits Le Mans amidst Dieselgate to try Formula E(8/8)

718 still the benchmark

Despite losing two cylinders and gaining turbocharged 2.0- and 2.5-litre engines in place of a naturally aspirated flat-six, the new 718 Cayman continues to be the benchmark in its class. Never mind the contrived connections to Porsche’s Fifties racecar, the 718’s sublime chassis balance and plenty of newfound mid-range shove — the only failing of the atmo version — mean that the mid-engined Porsche is even better than what was already a near-perfect car in the first place. Yes, the mechanical symphony of the six-pot is gone, replaced by a more industrial Hoover-spec noise, but gosh this thing is good fun to throw around. And properly specced at about Dh250,000, it’s incredible value too.

Of course, there are many offerings in that price bracket, but nothing matches the 718 Cayman in terms of dynamics.

Ford Focus RS

When Ford revealed the bonkers 400-horsepower, all-wheel drive Focus RS with a deliciously titled ‘Drift’ mode, we immediately knew the chances of this car coming to our region were as high as the possibility of a white Christmas in Dubai. The official line from Ford Middle East is “there are no plans at the moment” to bring the car here. Here’s hoping that changes soon. It won’t. And we won’t be surprised at all.

Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and Maserati make SUVs

China hearts crossovers and car manufacturers heart China. So it goes to follow that car manufacturers manufacture more crossovers to please China. And as you’d expect 2016 saw three great marques, with a resplendent history
of motorsport triumphs, give in to the fiscal lure to launch their own takes on the SUV. The Levante, F-Pace and the recently revealed Stelvio mark Maserati, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo’s entry into the SUV segment. And the move surprised exactly no one.

E-Class design

In the world where Design by Xerox seems to be the mantra, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is unsurprisingly virtually indistinguishable from its other stablemate saloons. In profile it looks like a shrunken S-Class or a slightly larger C-Class, depending on your perspective. Make no mistake, it’s a real step forward in terms of technology, but it would have been nice to see the designers make a little more effort. However, given Merc’s new obsession with homogenous styling we were fully expecting it to look the way it does. And Stuttgart didn’t disappoint. Disappointingly…

BMW MPV becomes a bestseller

We knew that the end was nigh when BMW announced a wrong-wheel drive MPV called the 2 Series Active/Grand Tourer. We also knew that the world wouldn’t care which end the drive goes to or if it looks like a confused, albeit slightly angry, simian, so it would sell loads. According to data compiled by Jato Dynamics from the five biggest European markets, the most un-BMW BMW is now the third-largest selling MPV in that region behind the Volkswagen Touran and Citroën C4 Picasso/Grand Picasso. Selling 77,644 units through to September, it bests favourites such as Ford C-Max and Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

Audi quits Le Mans amidst Dieselgate to try Formula E

Oh how things change. In 2006 Audi became the first manufacturer to win a sports prototype race with a diesel engine, and 10 years later it has pulled out of the FIA World Endurance Championship/Le Mans likely due the same dreaded D-word. With dieselgate blowing up in the face of parent Volkswagen group, while also smearing the soot on some Audi models, the 13-time winner of 24 hours of Le Mans will now focus its motorsport attentions on clean, green and pious Formula-E. Entirely understandable and entirely predictable.