New cars 2021? I can’t wait for the AMG and the new Fiat Panda
The 2021 new cars I’m most looking forward to? Tough question: 2021 is set to deliver an embarrassment of riches, from an all-new, all-wheel-drive BMW M3 to a McLaren hybrid much more affordable than the last two. (Not all that difficult, admittedly, when you consider that Woking’s first two hybrids were the £866k-in-2014 P1 and the £2.1m Speedtail…
The Artura will cost around £200k.) But for me the big two are AMG’s One and Fiat’s new Panda. (A balanced diet is key to lasting health and happiness, as we know.) AMG’s One – like Aston’s Valkyrie and the Lotus Evija – is in danger of feeling both irrelevant and nonsensical at the same time.
Like owning an island, it feels more like an abstract concept than an actual car, with a driving experience likely so far removed from say, a Golf, that it might as well be a spacecraft. (Incidentally, I remember wondering, as the covers were pulled from the likes of the Evija and the One, if this meant a recession was just around the corner, just as the McLaren F1, Jaguar XJ220 and Ferrari F40 became synonymous with the recession of the early ’90s. That recession’s now here, but of course it’s less the result of some catastrophic failure within the system and much more about a virus.) But if AMG’s hypercar is difficult to relate to, that isn’t the same as it not mattering. The F1 was also born of the same minds and materials that shaped the company’s Formula 1 machines (even if the brief was refreshingly road-focused), and it will be remembered as the petrol-engined supercar’s high-water mark.
Could the One, with its version of Mercedes- AMG’s dominant F1 power unit under its rear bodywork, do the same for the hybrid? There are parallels. Like the F1, the One’s genesis has been hugely challenging from a technical standpoint (the complexities of teaching an F1-derived power unit, even a hybrid one, some manners don’t bear thinking about – 6000rpm idle speed, anyone?), questionable from an economic one (Mercedes has signed some big cheques, presumably while also patiently pointing out that cars of this ilk don’t have a long and glorious history of profitability), full of ups and downs (to put it mildly: it’s been rockier than the Himalayas) and, ultimately, successful because one man (former AMG CEO Tobias Moers in the case of the One; Gordon Murray in the case of the F1) was too hell-bent on success to let the thing either die or become so compromised it might as well have done.
And the Panda? It’s by no means a nailed-on 2021 car (pandemics, mergers – the list of excuses is as long as it is convincing) but I hope we see it. Electrification is full of questions (not least whether a battery-electric sports car can be half as special an experience as a six-cylinder Cayman), but among the biggest is whether or not anyone can deliver the kind of affordable, charming and democratic mobility with which the Panda’s (almost) always been synonymous. In 40 years’ time, if legions of battered but serviceable examples are dotted all over the rural Mediterranean, faded like a favourite pair of jeans, we’ll have our answer.