Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan looks at the new cars from Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW hitting Irish roads in 2020.

While the lockdown continues to ravage every Irish business sector the motor industry has been valiantly updating information to the press. Make no mistake this is a business sector in crisis.

Since January a total of 5,902 new cars were registered. This represents around 35pc fewer cars sold during the first five months compared with 2019. Delve deeper into the numbers and it’s likely the 1,750 new May registrations include pre-registered cars by dealers, fleet and lease renewals and a small number of dealer demo models.

“To prove there is some good news from the industry three new cars were recently revealed with deliveries taking place this summer. One of them is the most anticipated electric cars in years”

Brands trading in Ireland and hoping for crucial stimulus packages from the caretaker Irish Government will either be disappointed or arrive too late. In the UK the picture is worse. Of the estimated 590,000 employed in automotive retail it’s predicted that 25pc of staff will lose their jobs.

For any automotive stimulus packages offered by the Government it’s a sure bet they will likely favour electric vehicles. This opens up yet another unjustifiable trench for the Irish car brands and dealers to jump over. The public infrastructure for charging EVs simply does not exist with 70pc of buyers citing this as a chief obstacle when buying.

This challenge is made worse when 56pc of buyers said they are unwilling to pay a premium to buy a new electric car. To prove there is some good news from the industry three new cars were recently revealed with deliveries taking place this summer. One of them is the most anticipated electric cars in years.

BMW 5 Series – fresh faced 5 adds the 550i

The BMW has just face-lifted the 5 Series with a raft of new design enhancement and connectivity. The range launched next month starts from €51,850 for the 520i SE saloon and €55,570 in the 520i Touring. In all, eight saloon versions will be available including a debut for the 550i xDrive with 4.4 litres and 530hp that’s priced at €103,660. BMW’s M5 fans can rest easy as the 550i acts as a stand-until the refreshed M5 breaks cover in time.

The Touring version will have seven different models in petrol, PHEV and diesel. Interestingly BMW has expanded the 48V mild hybrid tech first offered on the 520d with a starter generator (except the PHEV and 550i xDrive models). It’s a nip and tuck inside with a larger 12.3-inch infotainment screen including improved radar lane control and active cruise control.

BMW is facing pressure from the Audi A6 and refreshed Mercedes E-Class. The current 5 Series still retains the overall crown since the introduction in 2016. 

Spotting the updates will require a keen eye but a wider front grille along with new LED headlights as standard and redesigned taillights and bumpers.

Mercedes MLB – compact SUV with seven seats

Yes, another new SUV. Finding a USP in a sea of similar compact SUVs can prove a sticking point from car makers including car journalists.

Just as well Mercedes has offered a key differentiator with the new Mercedes MLB. It is the first SUV in the class to offer seven seats in a third-row seating configuration that are raised upright from the luggage floor.

Prices kick off at €42,350 for the GLB Progressive 180 Automatic and €43,190 for the GLB Progressive 180d Automatic. Mercedes claims the 2,829mm wheelbase is the longest in the brand’s compact segment. Though while a third row of seats is good they will be only suitable for young children.

The new GLB will be offered in three petrol variants. A GLB 200 1.4 litre/250Nm, GLB 250 2.0 litre/350Nm and the GLB35 4-MATIC, again with a 2.0 litre engine but a useable 400Nm. For diesel die-hards four engines will arrive. The GLB 180d/280Nm, GLB 200d and 200d 4MATIC/both 320Nm and GLB 220d 4MATIC/400Nm.

Every GLB buyer can choose between two styling packages – Progressive or AMG and the range will spawn an Edition 1 model in more striking body colour combos. Inside the MLB is fitted with Merc’s MBUX and “Hey Mercedes” voice command system.

Aside from that the interior is current status Mercedes – impressive with just the right amount of pizzazz that steps back from the overt glitz. For me the MLBs strongest card is the upright design that steers it away from Merc’s more shapely SUV offerings. If you want the G-Class upright design and only have around €43,000 to spend the GLB expands the range’s new appeal. At that price and the achievement of having a three pointed star on a compact SUV grille, that might be enough.

Volkswagen ID.3 – the Golf of electric cars?

New Volkswagen ID.3 car

Amidst the noise created from Volkswagen with the Mark 8 Golf launch it’s the parallel and more intriguing ID.3 electric car that launches this summer that grabs the main attention. It sure took its own time about it.

The ID.3 was presented as a concept at the 2016 Paris Motor show. Prices for the ID.3 are not confirmed but are estimate to start around €35,000 when announced on the 18th June with a claimed electric range of up to 420km in the 1st Edition with 100kW DC/11kW AC charging. The most expensive ID.3 is promoting a range of 550km. That is impressive. Volkswagen says the ID.3 will offer the VW Passat’s interior space within a VW Golf footprint. To get a perspective of how big the ID.3 is it stands 70mm taller than the e-Golf while just a smidgen wider and longer.

When I asked Volkswagen how many sales the ID.3 will pluck from the new Golf they said, in a moment of rare honestly for a car manufacturer, that they didn’t actually know. It’s a curious question. The Mark 8 Golf will continue to sell in plug-in hybrid GTE guise and suddenly the relevancy of a brand-new Golf is called into question for new electric car buyers shuffling around a showroom.

For Irish consumers armed with a domestic electric charging point the ID.3 may well become a game-changer for Volkswagen and turn the ID.3 into the Golf of electric cars. The advance credentials are strong, here. Volkswagen still remains an admired brand despite the debacle of the emissions cheating scandal.

Picking apart the ID.3 design’s and daily usability will need to be done on an extended test. But it’s far more adventurous than the Golf. Powered by rear wheel drive with a choice of three battery capacities will come with 45kW/h, 58 kW/h and 77 kW/h. These offer a range of 330km, 420km and 550km respectively under the more accurate WLTP testing.

Whether the ID.3 turns out to be another Porsche 928 – the front engined GT that was meant to replace the 911 and failed – or end up taking significant chunks out of the Golf’s sales depends on two things. The continued sentiment of a cleaner environment of less pollution arising from the lockdown. And the Government’s ability to deliver a legitimate public charging infrastructure that works in reality once the lectern is lifted away. If those two challenges are addressed Volkswagen’s ID.3 might well have the right car on its hands to do it.

Written by Mark Gallivan

Published: 9 June, 2020

Recommended