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Auto Sneak Preview 2015/2016

Cars, SUVs, Minivans, Hybrids & Electrics

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The wide selection of vehicles that are scheduled to start to arrive at U.S. dealerships in the next few months makes it clear that automakers planned a variety show that’s designed to entertain every type of driver.

The main attraction will be a new group of SUVs that range from small—the Chevrolet Trax, the Honda HR-V and the Jeep Renegade—to large and luxurious, such as the BMW X7.

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The range of cars will be more diverse, including Chrysler’s first compact sedan in years as well as a pair of pricey sports sedans from Infiniti and Jaguar.

Families who still yearn for a minivan will be happy (and, perhaps, surprised) to know that Kia gave the Sedona a modern overhaul and that Chrysler is ready to roll out a new version of the Town & Country.

If your need is speed, you can celebrate Alfa Romeo’s return to the United States with its sultry roadster or sing happy birthday to the 50-year-old Mustang, which, thanks to another makeover, still looks good for its age.

Alfa Romeo 4C

Fiat Chrysler

Alfa Romeo finally will return to the United States after a 20-year absence, and the first car to arrive will be the 2015 4C. Its curvaceous, low-slung body is reminiscent of a Ferrari. Its bulging fenders and engine layout (ahead of the rear axle) imitate a 458 Italia or a Lamborghini Huracán. Fortunately, the 4C will be much less expensive than those other Italian exotics are. In fact, it will be the first mass-produced Italian sports car that will be available in the United States for less than six figures since Alfa Romeo last sold cars here. The 237-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine generates enough oomph for rapid acceleration but delivers 28 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The engine is paired with a dual-clutch (automated manual) transmission that in “manual” mode can be shifted manually with paddles that are on the steering wheel, which will allow for lightning-quick shift times. We’re revved up about Alfa Romeo’s return.

Arrives in showrooms: Fall 2014
Cost: $54,000

Audi TT

Audi

The most significant change that you’ll notice on the 2016 TT is the incorporation of what Audi calls a “virtual cockpit,” which is designed to reduce driving distractions by putting more interior controls on the steering wheel and more dashboard displays directly in front of the driver. For instance, a 12.3-inch dashboard screen that displays navigation and audio information is located with analog gauges behind the steering wheel. A dial that’s on the center console and redundant buttons that are on the steering wheel control all functions except for heating and air conditioning. Under the hood, the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers 230 hp, which is 19 hp more than its predecessor. Audi reduced the TT’s weight by 100 pounds, which will result in slightly faster acceleration times and make the little coupe nimbler.

Arrives in showrooms: 2015
Cost: $40,000 (estimated)

BMW X7
The new X7 will be BMW’s largest SUV when it arrives, and we suspect that it will be worth the wait for well-heeled drivers. The luxury automaker has revealed little about the X7, but given its anticipated size, we expect three rows of seating. Based on other SUVs that are in BMW’s lineup, V6 and V8 engine options are likely. The notion of a BMW behemoth that would go head-to-head with the likes of the Infiniti QX80 and the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is tantalizing. Given the performance of BMW’s smaller SUVs, we’d be surprised if the X7 didn’t deliver a sportier ride than what other large luxury SUVs provide. Furthermore, BMW says it will produce a plug-in hybrid version of the X7, which could be a first, because at press time, no large plug-in hybrid SUVs existed.

Arrives in showrooms: 2016
Cost: $63,000 (estimated)

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