Hot wheels: this month’s outstanding saloons, supercars and SUVs

Side view of the Volvo XC40
(Image credit: Volvo)

May was a busy month in the automobile industry, with marques far and wide launching refreshed models from well-loved lines, as well as especially eye-catching one-off releases. Stylish saloons, stoic SUVs, nimble urban navigators and stealthy supercars captured our attention at Wallpaper* – explore our selection of the best releases of the month, and be sure to read our full features for in-depth reviews.

Ferrari SP38

Reverse view of the Ferrari SP38

(Image credit: Ferrari)

Another rabbit pulled from the Ferrari hat, the Special Project 38 (joining the marque’s One-Off division) is something genuinely unique – built to order with close collaboration with a dedicated customer. The Ferraristi will recognise the basic proportions of the company’s mid-engined flagship 488 GTB, with a bodywork inspired by the legendary F40 model and hints of earlier models such as the snubby 1970s GT4. Intended for both road and track, the SP38 will most likely find itself an impressive investment, a project bringing a loyal customer to the heart of the brand whilst adding another chapter to Ferrari’s ever expanding design history.

Volvo XC40

Side view of the Volvo XC40

(Image credit: Volvo)

Explicitly positioned as a ‘designer object’, Volvo XC40 is relatively compact, undeniably trim and a very pleasant place to sit. A beautifully tailored interface is fast and intuitive, akin to those found in its larger siblings the XC60 and XC90. The bodywork is a little more expressive, featuring a chunky, blade-like D-pillar that kicks up from the backdoor and dovetails into Volvo’s signature arrow-like rear lights. Volvo imbues its decades-long heritage into the XC40, values of safety, solidarity and stoic simplicity, all of which it lives up to.

Bentley Continental GT

Side view of Bentley Continental GT

(Image credit: Bentley)

Bentley Continental GT has sold over 65,000 units since 2003. For the latest model, engineers were still tweaking the gearbox right up until the last minute, illustrating the amount of time invested into making the new model just right. Exterior proportions bring to mind the best in Italian and French car design from the 60s and 70s, whereas inside, technology and tradition meet at tactile switches and dials, metals and woods. Whilst throttle response and steering isn’t razor sharp, the available power and unflusterable balance make it delightful to push, with a top speed of 207 mph and reaching 0 – to 60 in around 3.6 seconds.

Volkswagen Up GTI

Interior of Volkswagen GTI Up

(Image credit: Volkswagen)

VW continues to excel at building small cars in an age where SUVs, saloons and supercars are all the rage. Small, light and peppy, VW Up is a piece of near-perfect packaging, with 115 PS eked out of a 1 litre 3-cylinder engine, a six speed gearbox, powerful hi-fi and heated seats. On the flip side, the Up does away with the touchscreen, reasoning that you’d rather use your smartphone in place of an integrated system (however, VW need to update their phone cradle so it takes the current generation of smartphones). Amazingly economical, the Up delivers a purist experience, and is the embodiment of old school fun.

Audi RS4 Avant

Front facing view of Audi RS4 Avant

(Image credit: Audi)

The new Audi RS4 demonstrates that the attraction of stealth performance is still undiminished. Joining the RS branch of the Audi family tree (reserved for ‘racing sport’ models), the latest RS4 features a twin turbo-charged V6 engine, making it a relentlessly quick and efficient machine, with extremely fast handling and power delivery best deployed for lightning-fast overtaking manouevers. Sufficient refinement makes everyday use a pleasure and not a grinding chore – some owners will seek out every opportunity to put the car through its paces on the track, whereas for others, it’s the knowledge that absolute power is available in such a convincing and capable package.


For more information, visit our Cars tagpage

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.