The new Holden Commodore is the most important new car of 2013. The upcoming VF, and the VF alone, points to the future of motoring in Australia.
If Holden can reverse its disastrous sales slide through 2012, and put smiles back on the faces of local-car fans, the VF will be a success. And it will also ensure the investment needed to keep Holden powering to the end of the decade.
If it flops - and that's very unlikely - then things are not looking good for the red lion brand. But the VF has already scored a big hit for 2013 with a landmark export deal that turns it into the Chevrolet SS, with predictions of between 7000 and 10,000 sales a year for a fully-loaded export model with a tidy profit potential.
The VF also becomes, as the SS, Chevrolet's racetrack hero in NASCAR next year. Away from the local hero, there are plenty of other landmark cars set to run in 2013. The S-Class from Mercedes-Benz will be the world's most advanced car, the Ferrari F150 promises to be the fastest, and the Nissan Pulsar is the most welcome for Australians who have missed their baby favourite during the troubled times with the Tiida.
We're also expecting arrivals from Kia and Hyundai which will continue to tip the showroom scales towards Korean cars that are more than just bargain-basement deals, as well as the RAV4 and more. So here are my top 10 choices for the coming year, with their PG rating based on their importance to us all. Some are for fun, some are seriously serious, but every single one is set to make a major impact on our roads.
FERRARI F150 5/10
The red rocket is just a toy, but what a toy. It takes over from the Enzo as Ferrari's supercar flagship and roars into action against the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 as the world's fast car factories rebound from the GFC. The F150 - its real name is still secret - won't be sold in Australia but there will be plenty of pictures and plenty of dreams for the left-hand drive speed machine. What makes it really special is that it is Ferrari's first petrol-electric hybrid hero, a performance plan also being followed during development of the 918 and P1.
FORD KUGA 4/10
The blue oval brand desperately needs new heroes, but the Kuga and EcoBoost are as good as it gets for 2013. And that's not good enough. The SUVs will be welcomed and should sell well - if Ford can finally get its marketing machine out of first gear - but what Ford fans really want is some real progress on the Falcon. That doesn't happen until 2014 and, despite promises of a massive improvement, that could be a year too far …
HOLDEN COMMODORE VF 10/10
April cannot come soon enough for Holden fans, even though the VF will show its colours in March when the new bodywork is draped over the Car of the Future contenders in V8 Supercar racing. The big changes are all about safety and quality, with a major cabin upgrade and driver aids including blind-spot warning. Visually, the changes are all at the front and rear, as the middle part of the Commodore - which is the costliest to change - rolls over until 2016.
KIA CERATO 8/10
The current Cerato is bottom of the class at Kia, which has been one of the fastest improvers in showrooms over recent years. It gets an overdue remake in 2013 that picks up the mechanical package of the great little Hyundai i30 - runner-up in the 2012 Carsguide Car of the Year contest - and adds funkier Kia design and local engineering tweaks. It could easily become the benchmark car in the compact class.
The first work on the new Daimler flagship is already reflected in the safety systems fitted to the upgraded E-Class that has just gone public. The new S is only coming towards the end of next year, and it's going to cost a package, but it should easily qualify as the world's best car. That prediction is based on the history of the S, as well as the safety in the new car, and despite the excellence of the Rolls-Royce Phantom. We're expecting a trickle of S-Class news from early in 2013 building to a flood with the first drive in Europe.
MITSUBISHI MIRAGE 7/10
$12,990. That's the starting price of the new baby Mitsubishi and the start of an overdue product revival of one of the Japanese companies - Honda and Suzuki are the others - that were hurt worst by the GFC. Mitsubishi is desperate to provide an answer to a simple question - "Why should anyone buy a Mitsubishi?" - with a car that sets a new price point and also points to the eventual renewal of the Pajero and Lancer Evo.
NISSAN PULSAR 9/10
It's taken far too long to get the Pulsar nameplate back into Australia, and to reverse the bad news created by the Tiida. Now Nissan is ready to go with a car that is priced from $19,990 and has much more class and quality. It's not likely to be as much driving fun as a Hyundai i30, but there are thousands of Australians who only need a car that's ok to return to Nissan. The Pulsar is better than that.
RANGE ROVER 6/10
Some people think the new Land Rover flagship is the world's best luxury car. For sure, if you wanted to head around the world there is no better way to do it. The Range Rover is costly and complicated, but there are plenty of pay-offs in its total renewal for 2013 - from extra cabin space and off-road ability to improved quietness, a more driver-friendly cabin and even - and essentially - considerably better fuel economy.
TOYOTA RAV4 8/10
The most important arrival for Australia's favourite carmaker hits early in the year with the promise of a reinvention of what Toyota claims is the world's first SUV. The new RAV is - predictably - bigger and more classy, but the bottom line is the bottom line. Toyota needs to make it more affordable, as it did with the $19,990 showroom sticker on the new Corolla, to fend off the Koreans and the Honda CR-V that made the finals of our latest COTY competition.
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 10/10
The new Golf has everything it needs to be the Car of the Year for 2013. After driving it in Europe, I know it has luxury-class refinement and quality, a roomier cabin and better economy, yet also drives like a hot hatch. Before the GTi … The only remaining question is whether Volkswagen Australia is going to reward Golf fans with the sort of sharp pricing it's been hinting. If the price is right, and VW can bury doubts over its DSG reliability, the seventh-generation Golf will be a huge success in Australia.