7 notable new cars coming soon

From redesigns to performance variants, these are cars shoppers need to be up to speed on

Published: July 22, 2015 09:00 AM

Even as manufactures make small tweaks for the model year changeover, they are introducing some brand-new and totally redesigned models.

While small SUVs have been all the rage, the classic four-door sedan hasn’t been left alone.

General Motors takes a crack at two segments with the all-new Malibu midsize sedan and the large, luxurious Cadillac CT6, while Jaguar has tweaked its impressive XF sports sedan.

Toyota has introduced the Mirai fuel-cell car, and it’s Scion brand has two new models, the iM and iA, and Honda has introduced an all-new Civic. On top of that, Ford has finally decided that it is time to let America experience the rip-snorting Focus RS.

Cadillac CT6

Photo: Mike Appleton

Cadillac’s flagship-shaped void in its lineup may finally be filled by the new CT6. It’s six inches longer than the midsized CTS that it is based on, but a whopping nine inches longer than the BMW 5 Series.

The top engine is a new 400-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. Buyers can also opt for a 265-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 335-hp, 3.6-liter V6. Both V6s come with all-wheel drive, while the four-cylinder is rear-drive only.

Buyers can opt for the Active Chassis System, which consists of rear-wheel steering and GM’s Magnetic Ride Control active dampers.

Cadillac claims extensive use of aluminum—including the doors, hood, and trunk—result in a curb weight under 3,700 pounds. That’s about 200 pounds less than the smaller CTS.

A new iteration of the CUE infotainment system uses a 10.2-inch touch screen that incorporates hard keys and a touchpad that recognizes handwriting. The new system also reacts and scrolls faster than the laggy older one.

Passengers get a quad-zone climate control system and a rear seat that can recline up to 3.3 inches. Premium leather front seats feature five massage programs.

CR’s take: Building a stately frigate with real sporting intent is difficult. And whether the CT6 lives up to that promise remains to be seen. But it carries impressive credentials.

On sale: Fall 2015.

Chevrolet Malibu

Nice. That pretty much sums up the current Malibu. But nice doesn’t cut it in the midsize sedan category. So Chevy’s short-cycle redesign addresses a few shortcomings, including rear passenger room and fuel economy.

The new car has a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase, helping deliver adult-scale space in the back. Despite the growth, Chevrolet says the Malibu weighs 300 pounds less than the old car. This savings should aid efficiency and overall performance.

Base models get a 160-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder, while the 250-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder carries over from the current car. A full-hybrid version will be offered, using a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor connected to a 1.8-liter gas engine. Chevy says it expects an EPA rating better than 45 mpg.

Safety gear includes available blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance with lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert with a following distance indicator, and rear cross-traffic alert. The new Teen Driver system monitors where the car is driven and lets parents see the drivers’ highest speed, how far they went, and if some safety systems were activated.

CR’s take: With sleek new styling, a larger backseat, and a real hybrid system, the Malibu may follow its impressive big brother, the Impala, which went from rental-car-special to the top of our Ratings with its last redesign.

On sale: Fall 2015; Hybrid winter 2016.

Ford Focus RS

Ford has put Subaru and Volkswagen on notice: they don’t own the hot-hatch sandbox. Next year the raucous Focus RS joins the wildly fun Focus ST to kick some sand in faces.

While the ST is nothing to sneeze at, the RS gets a 2.3-liter, 315-hp turbo four-cylinder from the Mustang, matched with a six-speed manual and upgraded clutch. Unlike the front-drive ST, the power is sent to all four wheels.

The suspension uses stiffer springs and thicker anti-roll bars, and power can be sent to the outside rear wheel to help steer around corners. Adjustable drive modes range from a “I’m being good, officer” street setting to a hoonigan-ready track mode. There’s even a drift mode if you want to shred the RS-specific 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Brembo disc brakes help keep things under control.

Subtlety takes a back seat here, with a menacing looking front fascia, bi-xenon headlights, functional brake cooling ducts announcing the RS’s arrival.

Inside, the Recaro seats, leather–wrapped steering wheel, alloy pedals, and plethora of RS logos remind you this isn’t an ordinary Focus hatch. But it’s not all drifting and racing: Ford’s new Sync3 control interface will be standard.

CR’s take: This witches’ brew sounds ready for a showdown with the Volkswagen Golf R and Subaru WRX STI.

On sale: Spring 2016.

Honda Civic

Photo: Honda
Photo: Honda

Just when we expected Honda to announce a freshening of the Civic, it’s introduced a full redesign. Even though it’s called a concept, this Civic is the real deal.

Honda says the aggressive, chiseled look more than just style, promising class-leading performance from both the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder and uplevel 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder. Transmission choices will include a short-throw six-speed manual or a CVT automatic. A hybrid version won’t be offered.

This all-new platform has a three-inch longer wheelbase for more cabin room. Honda claims a spacious, more refined, and upgraded cabin with a high level of connectivity and near-luxury levels of quiet.

The rollout begins with the launch of the new sedan in the fall, followed by a coupe and a hatchback. A Type R will also be available, but not before 2016.

CR’s take: An early reboot for the humdrum Civic shows just how far the current model has fallen against strong competition.

On sale: Fall 2015.

Jaguar XF

Already a compelling luxury sedan, the 2016 XF sports evolutionary styling updates. But the real changes lie beneath its shapely skin, with new engines and a lightweight, aluminum chassis.

The new aluminum construction contributes to cutting 132 pounds from the rear-wheel-drive model and 265 pounds from all-wheel-drive ones. Underhood, buyers will find one of two supercharged V6 engines, making either 340 or 380 horsepower. Power is routed through an eight-speed automatic. According to Jaguar, the 380-hp version with all-wheel drive can claw its way from slumber to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds.

The cabin remains luxurious and refined, capped off with Jaguar’s new InControl Touch infotainment system. In base form, the system has an all-new interface and an eight-inch touch screen. The uplevel InControl Touch Pro features either a 10.2- or 12.3-inch touch screen. The navigation system also features door-to-door route planning, which uses memory of past drives and real-time traffic information to offer alternate routes.

Pricing will be announced closer to the on sale date.

CR’s take: Sure, we’ll take lighter weight and more-powerful engines. But the InControl Touch system needs to be more like Audi’s MMI in terms of responsiveness, ease-of-use, and clarity and less like Jaguar’s current system.

On sale: Fall 2015.

Scion iM / iA

Photo: David Dewhurst Photography

These two models are part of Scion’s most significant model-year transformation in its short history.

Despite being launched together, these are different cars. The larger iM is based on a version of the Toyota Corolla sold in other markets, while Mazda will build the iA (and similar not-for-the-U.S. Mazda2).

The sportier, larger iM gets a 1.8-liter, 137-hp four-cylinder hooked up to either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 32 overall with the CVT.

Power for the iA comes from a 1.5-liter, 106-hp four-cylinder, mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic. Scion estimates fuel economy at 33 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, and 37 mpg combined.

Both cars get a large infotainment display screen and Bluetooth connec-tivity. USB and aux-in ports, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and 60/40-split folding rear seats are also standard.

On the safety front, the iA comes with a standard low-speed pre-collision system that uses a laser sensors to help the driver avoid collisions. The iM gets eight airbags, including a front passenger seat airbag. A backup camera is standard.

Pricing for the iA starts at $15,700 and $18,460 for the iM, competitive to the four-door hatchback Toyota Yaris or the Corolla sedan.

CR’s take: With aggressive styling and tech features, this first-ever sedan (iA) and Toyota Matrix-like iM highlight Scion’s need to appeal to younger buyers.

On sale: Fall 2015.

Toyota Mirai

Photo: David Dewhurst Photography

Toyota is using a big come-on to boost interest in the Mirai: free fuel. Lessees of the 2016 Mirai will get free hydrogen as part of their $499 per month payment.

If you can get past its angry-space-lizard styling to try it out, driving the Camry-sized Mirai is a pretty normal experience. However, the 153-hp electric motor feels sluggish while it tries to motivate this 4,100-pound car. Still, the suspension soaks up bumps well, and handling is not much different from a Prius.

Inside, the electronic shifter and two-tiered dash continue the Prius theme. The Mirai seats four adults and comes fully equipped with front and rear heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, and a navigation system.

CR’s take: Massive hydrogen infrastructure improvements are needed for sales goals of 200 in California in 2015 and up to 3,000 on the coasts by the end of 2017.

On sale: Fall 2015.

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