The 21st century has barely reached its silver anniversary and is already filled with a number of significant models introduced since 2000. Arguably, we are living in the greatest automotive era so far with a massive variety of models, designs, and powertrains.
In brief, we’ve so far seen SUVs all but take over as the preferred body style of consumers. We’ve also witnessed world speed records being broken one after the other thanks to 1,000-hp production cars. Most notably, we are currently partaking in the mass arrival of electric vehicles, which are poised to take over completely from the internal combustion engine by the middle of this century.
The following list includes 10 of the most significant vehicles launched since the beginning of this century. The wide range of vehicles presented helps to demonstrate why the 21st century has been a good time to be an automotive enthusiast so far. The vehicles are listed in alphabetical order:
2005 Bugatti Veyron
While supercars were common in the ’80s and ’90s, the Bugatti Veyron was the first hypercar to be produced in more than 106 examples. Some consider the McLaren F1 to be the first of this kind and although this is not false, the Veyron was the first “mainstream” hypercar and the one that essentially spawned the ongoing craze that has pushed Ferrari and Lamborghini to take their cars to the next level. The hype surrounding the Bugatti Veyron and its success could also be credited as an inspiration behind brands like Koenigsegg, Pagani, Zenvo, and even Rimac, among others.
2011 Chevrolet Volt / 2017 Bolt
GM and Chevrolet were quick to jump on the electrified bandwagon. Though they weren’t first (it was the ill-fated Saturn EV1), the Volt demonstrated that a battery sustained by a gas-powered range extender could be an extremely viable way to manage range anxiety – this car will be looked upon in the future as being far more significant than it is today. If the Volt’s been all but forgotten, that’s because the Bolt was among the first semi-affordable EVs to offer a decent all-electric range without compromising on utility or design.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8
The current eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette is not yet done influencing the present and the future of the sports car. Partially inspired by mid-engine supercars, Chevrolet has built another no-compromise Corvette supercar fighter for a fraction of the price. Going forward, the Z06 and expected electrified iterations will once again demonstrate that design, technology, and performance are not solely reserved for exotic cars that herald from foreign lands.
2005 Chrysler 300 (LX Platform)
There was a time when rear-wheel drive vehicles could only be purchased from premium brands. In large part, it is thanks to Mercedes-Benz (ex-DaimlerChrysler) that our market was once more allowed to dream about burnouts in an affordable sedan. In all seriousness, the 300, Charger, and Magnum were so successful and desirable that FCA (now Stellantis) had a heavy hand in reigniting the muscle car segment. We can probably thank these cars for the 2010 return of the Chevrolet Camaro, though it hasn’t fared quite as well. Thanks to this platform, we were able to buy 800-hp family sedans for a while and we thank the automaker for the crazy opportunity.
2001 Ford Escape
While the Ford Escape was not the first compact SUV sold, it truly legitimized the genre and officially birthed the segment, one that would become the most significant in Canada volume-wise. With available V6 power, AWD, and decent capabilities – all for far less money than comparable mid-size SUVs – it became a favourite for families, outdoor enthusiasts, and small business entrepreneurs. Ford’s offering incited other automakers such as Hyundai, Kia, and Volkswagen to join the segment. And now, these SUVs are responsible for the near-extinction of compact and midsize cars.
2004 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
When Jeep decided to extend the Wrangler’s wheelbase on a grand scale in the early 2000s, little did it know that fans and SUV buyers at large would line up in droves for one. The first “Unlimited” models were stretched two-door models but shortly thereafter, it gained two extra doors and then became not only the best-selling Wrangler model ever, but one of the best-selling and most sought-after SUVs in North America. Essentially, the Wrangler is the aspirational-but-attainable SUV that everyone wants.
2008 Kia Soul
The explanation for the Kia Soul’s presence on this list boils down to the fact that it was one of the first mass produced unconventionally designed new vehicles of the modern era. It could be argued that unique designs took a backseat to everything else by the 1970s all the way into the early 2000s. The Soul launched a 21st-century design revolution not only at the Hyundai Motor Group, but it also influenced many other automakers to take chances and the industry is the better for it.
2011 Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf was the first mass produced affordable all-electric car. Range and performance were limited but the EV’s success pushed many automakers to seriously evaluate the value and validity of building and selling their own electric vehicles. Thanks in large part to the Leaf, the auto industry is shifting away from the internal combustion engine and going full EV.
2003 Porsche Cayenne
The Porsche Cayenne, though it wasn’t the first premium SUV, was the first premium SUV from a dedicated sports car company. It fundamentally broke down the walls that supported the idea that specialized automakers could not build and sell SUVs. It’s a well-known fact today that the Cayenne effectively saved Porsche and the interest in the Porsche SUV helped spawn a series of ultra-profitable ultra-high-performance SUVs. The existence of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Maserati Levante, Lamborghini Urus, Ferrari Purosangue, and Lotus Eletre among dozens of others can be linked to the Cayenne.
2012 Tesla Model S
The Nissan Leaf may have been the first EV out of the gate, but the Tesla Model S is the one that made electric vehicles mainstream. More than that, it showed the world that performance, styling, and range were not mutually exclusive when it came to EVs – it made electric vehicles desirable. The Model S served as a catalyst and benchmark for all automakers to join in the race and although it’s been matched by many, it remains an aspirational car more than a decade after its initial launch.