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2020 WhichCar Style Award: the contenders

By TIm Robson, 23 Jan 2020 WhichCar Style Award

WCSA 2020

Judging Australia's cleverest, coolest and most stylish car won't be easy. Here are the final eight

You've met the judges, you know the rules... now meet the eight cars which have been short-listed for the prestigious WhichCar Style Award for 2020

This is not a contest that compares steering weight or throttle modularity; instead, it celebrates design, technology and innovation in equal measure. The WCSA winner needs to prove to our judging panel that it can blend effortless style with engaging, accessible technology that will complement its owner's lives.

 WCSA 2020

It will blend classic beauty and proportions with thoughtful touches that best matches its brief, and it will always have a vision of its end-user all the way through the design and execution process.

MORE Meet the judges of the 2020 WhichCar Style Award

It will also surprise its owner with genuinely delightful details, and it will acknowledge the brave new world that the passenger vehicle needs to negotiate as personal transport continues to evolve around us.

These eight vehicles come from across the automotive spectrum and from around the world. Here's our team of WhichCar journalists to present the field to you in its entirety.

 

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Boxy, brash and unashamedly outdoorsy, let's see what our judges make of the Wrangler
David Bonnici

WCSA 2020 Jeep Wrangler

Now in its fourth generation, the Wrangler has become the quintessential Jeep model thanks to its strong resemblance to the iconic World War II Willys.

One of the most off-road capable production vehicles on the market, the new Wrangler brings significant improvement to road manners even on the chunky all-terrain rubber of the top-of-the-range Wrangler Rubicon we've wheeled out for the Style Award judging panel.

It’s also more fuel-efficient than its predecessor and features active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking, though the latter wasn’t enough to stave off a surprisingly low three-star ANCAP safety rating.

WCSA 2020

The four-door Wrangler Rubicon exudes broad appeal by balancing form and function, presenting as an attractively rugged SUV with good levels of cabin comfort and refinement.

Priced from $63,950, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon costs about $15,000 more than its predecessor, though you’ll have no trouble reconciling that price hike when comparing the two generations side by side.

How will Jeep Wrangler Rubicon’s bold design fare against a wider field of sleek WhichCar Style Award competitors?

Mazda 3 G25 Astina

The fourth generation of the Mazda 3 has moved decidedly upmarket in terms of design and positioning, so of course it’s a part of the 2020 WhichCar Style Award
Tom Fraser

WCSA 2020 Mazda3

Traditionally one of Australia’s best-selling small cars, Mazda has taken a dramatic step upmarket with the new Mazda 3 that sees it feature more premium materials, technology, fit and finish - and with a higher price to boot.

As expected, it might ultimately lose some ground in the sales race but nonetheless, the decision to market the new Mazda 3 as a semi-premium offering intrigued us – therefore we welcome the 2020 Mazda 3 G25 Astina to the WhichCar Style Award for 2020.

This current generation Mazda 3 is a significant design step forward, presenting a more mature style than its predecessor. It also debuted a raft of new technologies, both mechanical and for the 'user experience'.

WCSA 2020 Mazda3

Starting from $24,990, the new Mazda 3 range represents a small price increase from its predecessor but also ushers in a higher specification as standard. The range consists of two engines (soon to be joined by a third) and features nameplates like Pure, Evolve, GT and Astina. How will it fare against a wider field of equally-stunning competitors? Check back on WhichCar.com.au at the end of January.

 

McLaren GT

For sheer glamour-factor, it doesn’t get any better than McLaren’s super-luxe supercar
Tony O’Kane

 WCSA 2020 McLaren GT

McLaren’s sleek GT is a break from convention for the British supercar specialist, being a car that eschews a hard-core focus on performance in favour of a slightly softer, slightly more glamorous aura.

Still motivated by a twin-turbo V8 and still blisteringly quick, the McLaren GT differs from its stablemates through its emphasis on long-distance comfort and practicality. The cabin doesn’t deviate from the two-seater format, but McLaren has gifted it a smidgen more practicality in the way of a long cargo ‘deck’ that stretches up and over the GT’s mid-mounted engine.

The GT’s design language is less extroverted and more understated, though still overtly exotic with its swan-hinged doors and its body hunkered low over massive alloys. It’s a new direction for the young manufacturer, and one that it hopes will broaden its customer base to those seeking a more elegant – though still thrilling – option.

WCSA 2020 McLaren GT

It should be obvious why the McLaren GT earned a spot on the 2020 WhichCar Style Award shortlist, but are megadollar looks the only ingredient for success? Our panel of judges had the final say.

  

Peugeot 508 Touring

Wagons have fallen out of favour with Australian buyers, but the Peugeot 508 mixes sensual style with pragmatic practicality in a heady mix
Tim Robson

WCSA 2020 Peugeot 508

It’s almost a travesty that the new Peugeot 508 isn’t more successful than it is, but that’s what happens when you’re born in the wrong era.

The 508 debuted in 2018 on a brand-new, much cleverer platform, giving the large wagon genuine space for both people and stuff. Peugeot’s designers, too, pushed the boat out hard, creating a visual signature that’s arguably unmatched in the – admittedly shrinking – large car segment.

Its exterior treatment is bold, sharp and cohesive, banishing the awkward overhangs and unnecessary cut lines to the bin. The interior, meanwhile, feels sumptuous and cossetting, exuding an air of sophistication that a car at this price point ($55,990) has no right to.

WCSA 2020 Peugeot 508

Peugeot’s i-Drive steering wheel/dash layout will challenge our judges, though, and the simple fact that a wagon is, well, not quite considered the cutting-edge of fashion these days could also be its undoing.

Range Rover Evoque P250 R Dynamic S

The Evoque's reason for being is all about style, so it should do well here. Right?
David Bonnici

WCSA 2020 Range Rover Evoque

The baby Range Rover has grown up, with a second-generation model that brings the style, refinement and technology of its bigger siblings.

Even without ticking the sizable options list, the Evoque is incredibly comfortable, with a supple ride and noticeable lack of cabin noise even when driving on windy highways and off-road.

One of its standout design features is the use of non-animal, ethically-sourced textiles and upholstery made from soybeans, recycled plastics and eucalyptus for those seeking a more sustainably-minded interior.

Priced from $69,820, the Evoque P250 P250 R-Dynamic S represented in the 2020 WhichCar Style Award sits near the top of the six-variant Evoque range.

It comes with a bunch of optional extras that take its retail price to $88,435, many of which are standard inclusions in more affordable SUV variants. High-speed autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot alert, digital radio, a powered tailgate and heated front seats are all box-tickers, rather than the standard fare.

WCSA 2020 Range Rover Evoque

That’s said it’s a great package that should give the Evoque an excellent shot at the 2020 WhichCar Style Award.

Tesla Model 3 Performance

Californian techfest has electro-appeal, but does it have style?
Tony O’Kane

WCSA 2020 Tesla Model 3 

Few brands get tongues wagging faster than Tesla. The Californian automaker attracts attention by the truckload not just from its range of battery-powered products, but also through its outspoken CEO Elon Musk – a Twitter fiend who isn’t shy of controversy – and fashionable status among eco-minded celebs.

The company’s first ‘mass market’ offering, the Model 3, hit Australian roads last year, but does the fresh arrival attract attention on its own merit? It certainly does on performance metrics, that’s for sure, with the Model 3 Performance dishing up supercar-slaying acceleration and surprisingly entertaining handling.

But does it have style?

WCSA 2020 Tesla Model 3

That’s the critical question the judges of the 2020 WhichCar Style Award aimed to answer, delving deep into the all-electric Model 3’s design, cabin furnishings and ethos to get to the bottom of whether a car designed to accelerate the EV revolution can also qualify as an aesthetically appealing choice.

  

Toyota Supra GTS

One of the sportiest cars to line up ahead of the catwalk, the Toyota Supra is the one to watch at the 2020 WhichCar Style Award
Tom Fraser

WCSA 2020 Toyota Supra

The Toyota Supra was arguably one of the most talked-about cars throughout 2019, and considering it has a whole lot more going for it than just performance – and looks – what better chance to get to know it than by extending an invite to the 2020 WhichCar Style Award?

An icon of Toyota’s storied history, the reimagined Supra retains the formula that created the legend – a rear-wheel-drive layout, coupe body style and a powerful six-cylinder engine under the bonnet.

Where this Supra strays though is its controversial partnership with BMW that allowed the recreation to happen. Jointly developed between BMW and Toyota, the Supra features a lot of BMW components from the German manufacturer, including its 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine that outputs 250kW and 500Nm.

WCSA 2020 Toyota Supra

Nonetheless, The Toyota Supra was included in the 2020 WhichCar Style award thanks to its sexy two-door coupe styling and technologically advanced interior. How will it fare against a wider field of equally-stunning competitors? Check back on WhichCar.com.au at the end of January.

 

Volvo V60 T8

Sharp, elegant and with impeccable breeding, the V60 is another that will risk being ostracised for what it isn’t, rather than what it is
Tim Robson

WCSA 2020 Volvo V60 T5

In a curious case of the tail wagging the dog, Volvo’s V60 wagon really owes its existence to the XC60 SUV, rather than the other way around as has been the industry norm until now.

Of course, imagining the Volvo brand without a wagon in its line-up simply does not compute – the sturdy, boxy, practical alternative to a passenger car has put the Swedish car on the automotive map as much as its safety credentials have.

The V60 still retains a practical boxiness, but it’s interspersed with genuinely contemporary design signatures that give the Volvo a distinct character without tripping over into novelty. The LED T-bars through the headlights, for example, frame its traditional grille and channel Thor's hammer, while sharp scallops down the bodysides and a tapering glasshouse give the lower half of the car well-proportioned visual weight.

WCSA 2020 Volvo V60

Inside, the dash is dominated by the large portrait-style multimedia screen, but thankfully it’s designed to compliment, not replace, traditional and well-rendered touchpoints. Its monotone palette probably does it no favours in this company, but clever features – the cargo floor divider for shopping bags is genius – means that the Volvo V60 ought to be judged on its merits, not its colour scheme.

The WhichCar Style Award winner for 2020 will be announced at the Australian Motoring Awards in Melbourne on January 30