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In a year when the overall car market shrank, all but a handful of prestige brands increased sales. Buyers don't just want a good car; they want others to see they have one, helping everyone from Maserati to Mercedes-Benz post gains.

The trend is accelerating and a steady stream of new models in 2015 only adds to the impetus. CarsGuide looks at what's in store for the premium players this year.

ALFA ROMEO

It isn't hard to foresee the popularity of the 4C two-seat coupe when it hits showrooms next month. This baby supercar uses a carbon-fibre tub, mid-engine layout and minimalist interior to present a modern incarnation of a stripped-down racer. Pricing will be $80,000-$100,000. The soft-top Spider is due in October. The Alfa Giulietta also gets an update.





AUDI

A steady new model rollout starts in February with the arrival of the TT coupe for just under $80,000. It will be joined by the soft-top roadster midyear and the TT S performance model in August or September. The plug-in petrol-electric A3 e-tron five-door hatch is due in May with an expected price of $60,000, with the Q7 large SUV due late in the year. Updates or variants include the A6/A7, RS6/RS7, A1, RS3 and Q3/RSQ3.

ASTON MARTIN

New metal is in short supply at the British brand but two models will join the line-up, starting with the Vantage S Roadster at a shade under $420,000. If that isn't exclusive enough, consider the $500,000 Vanquish Carbon using the same V12 but with eight forward ratios in place of the Vantage's seven.

BENTLEY

Chauffeurs will going cap-in-hand to buyers of the Mulsanne Speed for the chance to steer the best Bentley ever. A twin-turbo V8 cranks out 1100Nm - only the Bugatti Veyron can torque itself up as a more powerful production model - to push the 2.7-tonne limo into triple figures in 4.9 seconds. Pricing has yet to be set but if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

BMW

There's a lot of product in the pipeline this year but only one all-new car. The X1 will switch to front-wheel drive when the second-generation model arrives in the third quarter. The X1 will look more mini-SUV than compact wagon, aligning it with the X3 and X5. Top-end versions will be all-wheel drive. Updates and new variants include the 2 Series convertible, X5M/X6M, 6 Series/X6, 3 Series, X4 M40i and X5 e-Drive.

FERRARI

The 458 range has a Speciale A due next month. The 499 examples of the alloy hardtop model are already sold, meaning the $635,000 two-seater is likely to be a smart investment. Keep an eye on the classifieds.

INFINITI

The struggle to be a serious prestige player continues for Infiniti with a major model overhaul due in 2016. A refreshed Q70 flagship is due midyear with a nip-and-tuck for the bumpers, updated interior trim and more safety software.




JAGUAR

The transition from niche player to prestige powerhouse is predicated on the XE sedan being a genuine rival for the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and BMW C-Class. Specs indicate the engines are up to the job, so it comes down to how well it can be priced in Australia. There will be updates for the F-Type coupe and convertible and XF sedan.

LAND ROVER

Styling that echoes the Evoque and a premium interior mark the Discovery Sport, debuting in May. Essentially a replacement for the Freelander, the Sport is a serious off-roader with 600mm wading depth and four-wheel drive. Also expect a Range Rover Sport SVR, Range Rover hybrid and updated Evoque.












LEXUS

A compact performance sedan, the RC F will cost $133,500, making it a 'budget' alternative to the Germans. The naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 isn't quite on par with the Euro competition but neither is the price. The GS F mid-sized sedan will use the same engine and is due later in the year, price undisclosed. The NX200 will get a new turbo engine.

LOTUS

No new news is still good news for Lotus aspirants. An automatic Exige - the brand's first self-shifter - is due in the second quarter. Expect to pay around $9000 for the clutch-less version, putting the price above $135,000. An updated Evora should land late with less weight and improved interior.

McLAREN

An 'affordable' McLaren is due late in the year with an entry level Sport model priced at more than $300,000. That puts it in the higher echelons of Porsche 911 territory - but still well below typical McLaren prices.









MERCEDES-BENZ

Australia's top-selling prestige brand rolls out a range of new toys this year to expand its appeal. The action starts with the AMG GT and C63 AMG in the second quarter, both using a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8. Skip ahead to Q3 and there's the new GLE (formerly known as the ML) and GLE coupe SUVs, followed by the CLA Shooting Brake and the much-needed GLC compact SUV. Other updates or variants include the S63 coupe, CLS, B-Class and S500 coupe.

MINI

The action starts with an entry-level five-door Mini Cooper One at $25,600 in February. It is powered by a three-cylinder engine with 75kW/180Nm. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the John Cooper Works three-door hatch, which will be the Mini with the most mumbo ever when it arrives midyear at an estimated $48,000.

PORSCHE

There's plenty to whet the appetite for performance enthusiasts, even if it is all clad in existing bodywork. The base V6 and performance GTS Cayenne SUV models are due next month, followed by the Turbo S midyear. An update of the 911 should make it before Christmas and Santa may deliver the new GT4 Cayman at the same time.







VOLVO

The XC90 large SUV is due midyear with prices starting from about $90,000. A more affordable alternative will be the V60 Cross Country due late in the year from $65,000. The elevated version of the V60 wagon will be sold in FWD and AWD guise.

Craig Duff
Contributing Journalist
Craig Duff is a former CarsGuide contributor and News Corp Australia journalist. An automotive expert with decades of experience, Duff specialises in performance vehicles and motorcycles.
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