A glance across our new-car market reveals a landscape dominated by an increasingly beige collection of practical SUVs, efficient small cars and load-hauling utes. It is these three vehicle types that Australians buy in incredible volumes, because they’re safe, practical and largely preserve their resale values.
Good grief, you could be bored to death just reading that.
But stay with me, there's good news here. Because along with the predictable new models scheduled to arrive in 2018, there’s a sprinkling of genuinely exciting metal that will be hitting our shores over the next 12 months, too.
So, forget the safe choice for a moment and imagine yourself behind the pulse-quickening wheel of any of these, as we list - in no particular order - the eight most exciting cars of 2018.
Whether they sell in great numbers or not, one thing is certain; the roads will be a more exciting place next year for their very existence. And that's something we should all be celebrating.
Proving there is life after the Commodore for those mad-hatter tuners over at HSV, 2018 will see iconic American muscle car, the Chevrolet Camaro, hitting our shores for the first time, an a meaningful way.
Buyers won’t be spoiled for choice, at least initially, with just a singe V8 variant to be offered - though HSV is yet to entirely rule out the possibility of adding the high-po ZL1 Camaro to the Aussie fleet at some stage.
The cars will arrive in left-hand drive and be converted at HSV’s Melbourne factory from the middle of next year. Expect a thumping 6.2-litre V8 engine good for around 315kW/615Nm, paired with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic - enough to push the Camaro from 0-100km/h in about 4.0 seconds. Sports suspension, Brembo brakes and a dual exhaust system will also arrive as standard.
Pricing is expected to kick off from about $80,000, with HSV hoping to shift around 1000 units per year. That's well below the numbers recorded by the cheaper Ford Mustang. But when it comes to muscle cars, the more the merrier.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV
Alfa Romeo’s long-awaited renaissance continues, this time with what is being dubbed 'the Ferrari of SUVs' - the Stelvio QV.
The high-performance version of the Italian brand’s first-ever SUV sports the same 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 as the Giulia QV sedan, paired with an eight-speed automatic and a four-wheel drive system that can direct bulk power to the rear wheels.
The go-fast Stelvio will be arriving around the middle of next year, and will already be sporting some impressive silverware in its shapely boot - including the title of World’s Fastest Production SUV after posting a smoking 7:51.7 lap time around of the infamous Nurburgring.
Expect a price tag north of $150,000.
Ford Ranger Raptor
One of Australia’s most popular utes will welcome a hi-po variant when the Ford Ranger Raptor arrives in Oz next year.
While Ford is yet to confirm the Raptor’s full specifications, it has ruled out a V8 engine. Instead, the super ute will be powered by a twin-turbocharged, four-cylinder diesel engine.
We’re expecting numbers of around 150kW/470Nm, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, along with tougher suspension and extra under-body protection.
The Ford Raptor is expected in Australia by the middle of next year, and should start from around $80,000.
The news that Mercedes - king of premium and performance - was dipping a toe into uncharted ute territory was initially met with disbelief - a feeling that didn’t improve when we heard it would be based on the decidedly un-premium Nissan Navara. But having now seen and driven the X-Class, that concern seems unfounded.
The X-Class will go on sale from April year, and we know already we’ll be choosing from three diesel engines; two four-cylinder units borrowed from Nissan, and one stonking V6 that is Mercedes’ own.
The dual-cab-only X-Class will launch in three grades (Pure, Progressive and Power) with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission, and will start from $45k.
In a move that will forever change the supercar game, Lamborghini’s first-ever SUV will touch down in Australia next year. Yes, Lamborghini. That deranged Italian maker of the most super of supercars has turned its hand to a sensible (sort of) SUV.
But the circa-$400k Urus (we can’t shake the feeling that name sounds like something you might need antibiotics for) is still plenty super, sporting a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine good for 478kW/850Nm. And that power translates to a 3.6-second sprint from 0-100km/h, and a stonking 305km/h top speed - both of which are sure to make the school run extra efficient.
Expect the Urus to arrive in the second quarter of 2018, wearing an approximate $390k price tag.
Porsche 911 GT2 RS
Terms like 'fastest ever' take on a new and special meaning when applied to the most iconic sports car of all time, the Porsche 911.
But the new GT2 RS is exactly that, squeezing an astonishing 515kW/750Nm from its 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine. That power is channeled through a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic and fired to the rear wheels, rocketing this fastest of the fast 911s to 100km/h in 2.8sec.
Those are some seriously shocking numbers, and here’s another one; the 911 GT2 RS will wear a $645,400 price tag when it arrives in March.
Hyundai i30 N
Hyundai’s first-ever hot hatch is so delightfully good it doesn’t feel like a first attempt. Rather, it feels like it’s been built by a company that’s been churning them out for years.
Under the bonnet, a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine produces 202kW/353Nm (in the Performance Pack model), producing a genuine hot-hatch 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.1sec.
It’s not just the numbers, but the smile-inducing way it burbles about its business that will put the established hot hatch players on notice when it arrives next year, wearing a Golf GTI-baiting price tag that will start at about $40k.
The Renault-owned performance car has at last been confirmed for Australia, and will touch down here in the second half of 2018.
Mastering that age-old recipe of using a feather-like kerb weight to maximise performance, the Alpine A110 weighs just 1080kg, which means a mid-mounted, turbocharged 1.8-litre engine provides more than enough poke to get the dainty Alpine up and moving.
The 185kW/320Nm on offer (sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission) is enough to dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.5 seconds, and it will push on to 350km/h - at which point the lightweight Alpine must surely feel like its about to take off.
Pricing is yet to be confirmed, but we wouldn't be expecting too much change from $100k. Form an orderly queue.
This article originally appeared on CarsGuide.