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13 hot new cars for the cool months
Winter is coming, and so are the 2016 model-year cars we've seen at international auto shows and have been long anticipating. Among them, the second coming of Tesla with the Model X, the Mazda MX-5 Miata and a small herd of updated midsize sedans.
The outlook: The Model S sedan made such a splash that there exists much anticipation for the Model X, Tesla’s all-electric SUV. Tesla gave a peek at the development vehicle some years ago, showing off an attractive, modern vehicle with upward-hinging side doors. And the recent all-wheel-drive version of the Model S gave some idea of the Model X’s drivetrain, as these two cars share their chassis architecture. Tesla’s Elon Musk promised deliveries beginning at the end of September.
2016 Toyota Mirai
Availability: Fall (limited to California)
The outlook: Toyota scored an unexpected hit with its Prius hybrid vehicle, and the Mirai looks like an attempt to repeat the success. The Mirai is a futuristic-looking (some would say ugly) sedan that uses a hydrogen fuel cell to create electricity, which powers an electric drive motor. Unlike most recent plug-in electric cars, with ranges under 100 miles, the Mirai can go 300 miles, and its hydrogen tanks can be filled in a matter of minutes. Toyota will limit the Mirai’s initial market to California, where there are at least some hydrogen fueling stations.
The outlook: Mazda's evergreen MX-5 Miata roadster is all-new just in time to enjoy the changing autumn leaves. The diminutive sports car enters its fourth generation having slimmed down to a weight and footprint similar to the original 1989 Miata. Packing a new Skyactiv 2.0-liter four-cylinder and one of the best transmissions in the business, this back-to-basics two-seat convertible is an affordable recipe for fun.
The outlook: Cadillac used to rule the road with massive luxury cars, but in recent years the company has lacked a real flagship sedan. That should change with the CT6, an unfortunately named all-new model that attempts to recapture that luxury legacy, yet offers features for modern drivers. This aluminum-bodied car forgoes a V-8 in favor of smaller, more fuel-efficient engines ranging from six to four cylinders. Unveiled at this year’s New York Auto Show, the CT6 looks impressive, but Cadillac has been a hard sell to a new generation of buyers.
The outlook: The Lexus RX set a standard for comfortable, everyday five-passenger SUVs, and has proven to be a big seller. Lexus brings it up to date with its new corporate design language, sharpening the edges for a fresh look. Although the design is somewhat risky, Lexus maintains its model designations, the RX350 and RX450h, denoting 3.5-liter V-6 and gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain options. Cabin and driver-assist tech features in the new RX have evolved to keep up with the competition. The RX remains a solid choice for a luxury SUV.
The outlook: Porsche's Boxster is one of the most entertaining sports cars on the market, and the Spyder aims to amplify those sensations by adding more power and cutting weight. Powered by a 375-horsepower flat-six cribbed from the 911 S, the Spyder will rocket to 180 mph, but should be good fun even at sane speeds. With a manual transmission, firm ride and a some-assembly-needed convertible top that requires getting out of the car to be raised or lowered, this is more of a roadster for purists than it is for techies.
The outlook: The XF kicked off Jaguar's design revolution when it bowed in 2007. This second-generation model will appear more evolutionary when it hits dealers this winter, but it packs a host of new technologies. Developments include a lighter aluminum-intensive chassis, a choice of two supercharged V-6 engines and available all-wheel drive. The best news? Jag has finally pitched its awful InControl Touch infotainment system, replacing it with a new Pro setup. Other high-tech options include a laser head-up display and full LED lighting.
The outlook: Nissan is making noises about the Maxima reclaiming its decades-old "four-door sports car" slogan with this all-new model. The eighth-generation Max certainly looks the part, with dramatic V-Motion styling shared with the swoopy new Murano. Packing a 300-horsepower version of Nissan's evergreen 3.5-liter VQ V-6 fed through a continuously variable transmission, the Max has real punch, even if its gearbox may have enthusiasts questioning the suitability of the 4DSC appellation. However, with a distinctive and upscale cabin featuring available niceties like a heated steering wheel and active noise cancellation, the Maxima could be posh enough to lure some premium-badge shoppers.
The outlook: Honda refreshes the look of the Accord for the 2016 model year, adopting high-tech LED headlights and revising the front-end. Engine choices remain the same, but Honda gives the Accord a new infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. These smartphone integration features are rolling out in many new models this year, and it almost seems like Honda refreshed the Accord just to keep a seat at the table. The refresh certainly can’t hurt the Accord, which remains a strong midsize sedan choice.
2016 Chevrolet Malibu
The outlook: The eighth-generation Malibu was poorly received by critics and buyers, so this all-new model had better be good. On paper, it looks up to the challenge. Not only is the new Malibu larger, it's several hundred pounds lighter. It's also more shapely, and it's loaded with tech. All eyes will be on the new hybrid model, which borrows much of its electrically assisted heart from the 2016 Volt, including its lithium ion battery, drive motors, and 1.8-liter four-cylinder. It promises to get up to 48 mpg in city driving. Other available bits of tech include LED lighting; wireless phone charging; Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration; and a Teen Driver feature that lets parents keep tabs on their child's motoring habits.
The outlook: Small SUVs are gaining in popularity, and Hyundai has had its Tucson in the game since 2004. For its third generation, starting with the 2016 model year, Hyundai updates it with a wealth of new tech features. LED headlights are available, as is a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the latter intended to increase fuel efficiency to an average of 29 mpg. Driver assist features include a collision-prevention braking system. Hyundai will likely continue its value proposition with the Tucson, undercutting the competition’s price.
The outlook: GMC refreshes its small SUV for the 2016 model year, updating its cabin tech and styling but carrying over its four-cylinder and V-6 engine options. Both engines use direct injection and are reasonably up-to-date in industry standards, and fit well in this class of vehicle. The IntelliLink infotainment system, similar to that found in other GM-family cars, offers quick response to inputs and includes the OnStar telematics service. Although this system offers Siri Eyes-Free mode for iPhone users, GMC has not yet said whether the Terrain will support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The outlook: Up to now, BMW’s X6 M saw little competition, but now it can face off against the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe, a similarly sized SUV with coupe styling. Like the X6 M, the GLE63 S Coupe is an exercise in outrageous performance in a segment that generally sees a comfort/luxury play. The GLE63 S Coupe benefits from a 5.5-liter twin turbo V-8 producing 577 horsepower, which Mercedes-Benz notes can take it to 62 mph in just 4.2 seconds. Whether the public was looking for this type of competition or not, Mercedes-Benz obviously couldn’t let BMW own the space.