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Auto blogThu, 13 Nov 2014 08:45:00 EST
In many ways, we're living in a golden age of automotive performance. After all, it's possible to show up at a Dodge dealer, hand over about $60,000 and storm away with a 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat. Or for those who prefer a touch more luxury, the BMW M4, Mercedes-AMG C63 and latest Cadillac ATS-V offer between 425 and 503 horsepower, depending on your pick, with a bit more poshness. However, none of these powerful vehicles fit the classic definition of a two-place, droptop sports car, and according BMW head of sales Ian Robertson, that's because the segment is very much in the doldrums.
According to Robertson, two factors seriously wounded the classic sports car market. First, the global economic crisis of a few years ago put a serious hurt on sales, according to Bloomberg. Further worsening the situation, the boom in popularity of luxury SUVs and crossovers in the past few years hasn't allowed for much recovery. Even car-hungry China hasn't helped much because of the smog in many cities and preference among some of the very rich there to be chauffeured.
Combined, Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLK sales peaked around 114,000 units a year in 2007, but they are only expected to reach 72,000 annually by the end of the decade. Robertson is pretty pessimistic about the market's comeback too. "Post-2008, it just collapsed. I'm not so sure it'll ever fully recover," he said to Bloomberg.
BMW is putting a lot of its chips on the success of its forthcoming front-wheel drive models, and it's making a big bet on the company's future in hoping that customers will accept them. Its front-driving UKL platform is underpinning not just the current crop of Minis but a host of BMW vehicles too. The rollout starts with the 2 Series Active Tourer in Europe later this year. But the Bavarian brand confirms to Automotive News Europe that the next one is the X1 crossover, slated to come to Europe next June. It will also be joined by the X2 next summer, confirming earlier rumors about the fashionable CUV's existence.
As the previous spy photos suggest, the X1 is even smaller than the current model, and it supposedly uses the same crop of turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines as Mini. But according to Automotive News Europe, the little guy is getting an extended, three-row version for the US, Russia and China. Like with the X4 or X6, the X2 shares most of the mechanical parts with its more conventional-looking sibling but features sleeker styling.
To make all of these UKL-based models possible, BMW is sharing development among them as much as is practical. According to Automotive News Europe, the next generations of the Mini Countryman, Clubman, X1 and X2 share the same electrical systems, drivetrains and more. Adding in the Active Tourer and still mysterious Family Active Sports Tourer to the mix, and the result is a big gamble that needs to go Bimmer's way.
Road & Track recently staged its first annual Performance Car of the Year test, pitting 13 new and updated performance cars against each other on track, then graduating the top six to a road test before picking a winner. Additionally, the magazine staff picked the best automobiles of the year in eight categories.
But first, let's cover the PCotY segment. Here's the list of cars brought to the comparison test: Audi R8 V10 Plus; BMW 435i; BMW M6 Competition Package; Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51; Ferrari F12 Berlinetta; Ford Fiesta ST; Jaguar F-Type V8 S; Jaguar XFR-S; Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model Wagon; Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series; Mini John Cooper Works GP; Nissan GT-R Track Edition; and Porsche Cayman S.
To find out the results of the comparison, head over to Road & Track's website or check the press release below, where you'll also find the magazine's top-rated vehicles in eight categories. Want more? Head over to the 2013 PCotY hub. But before you do that, take a stab at guessing the winner of PCotY (we'll give you one hint: it isn't a Porsche).