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Auto Sneak Preview—2018/2019: New Models & Redesigns that Merit Special Attention

Cars, SUVs, Pickups, Hybrids & Electronics

Take an early look at cars, SUVs, pickups, hybrids & electrics that automakers will introduce. 

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SUVs are approaching 50 percent of all new vehicles that are sold today, so it isn’t a surprise that more than half of the most notable new vehicles fall into that category. We also are seeing not only new generations of existing models but also debut models from automakers that never participated in the segment before. 

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The hottest segment is the subcompact SUV, so welcome to the Cadillac XT3, the Ford EcoSport, the Hyundai Kona, the Nissan Kicks and the Volvo XC40. Don’t worry, however, because room exists for big SUVs, too. The Ford Expedition finally has been updated, and the 7-Series-based X7 will be a new top-of-the-line model from BMW. Do you want a wagon that looks as though it could go off-road? Then try the Buick Regal TourX. Finally, Mercedes-Benz seems to be moving closer to bringing a pickup to the United States.

Power also is on full display, with a 400-hp Audi RS3 compact sedan from Europe and the aptly named 840-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Demon from the United States.

AUDI A8
Carmakers, which are wary of alienating their most affluent customers, rarely make big changes to their flagship models, and we don’t expect radical changes for the 2018 Audi A8. The most visible of them will be a hexagonal grille that has horizontal slots instead of a trapezoidal grille that has vertical bars. You can expect the 2018 A8 to continue Audi’s development of aluminum casting and other advanced materials that allow for a lighter, stronger and safer structure. Under the hood, the A8 will have either a new 460-hp V8 engine or a new generation of Audi’s monstrous 565-hp 12-cylinder engine, which no one else uses in a luxury sedan. Diesel options probably won’t be available in the United States.
Arrives in showrooms: 2018
Price: $82,000 (estimated)

 

AUDI RS3

The 2018 RS3 compact sedan packs a 400-hp turbocharged five-cylinder engine under the hood, so it’s basically an Audi A3 that’s pumped up to the edge of reason. Go figure. Audi isn’t building it for those who want reasonable. Although Europe will get a hatchback version of the RS3, we get only the sedan, because Americans reportedly don’t buy enough hatchbacks. Of course, because it’s an Audi, the RS3 comes only with all-wheel drive; a seven-speed dual-clutch (automated manual) transmission is standard. No doubt, Audi could have made a turbocharged four-cylinder engine derive as much power, but the turbocharged five-cylinder engine is an Audi signature powertrain, and its sound is satisfyingly pure Audi.
Arrives in showrooms: Summer 2017
Price: $55,875

 

BMW X7

BMW hasn’t been in the full-size SUV game, but the 2018 X7 will change that. The X7 will be a first and built on the platform of the 7-Series full-size sedan. As with the 7-Series, X7 powertrains likely will be a 3.0-liter, 320-hp turbocharged V6 engine or a 4.4-liter, 445-hp twin-turbocharged V8 engine. Diesel and hybrid powertrains also will be offered. We expect BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive to be standard, but although the X7 might go off-pavement, it isn’t intended for rougher off-road use.
Arrives in showrooms: 2018
Price: $75,000 (estimated)

 

BUICK ENCLAVE

The 2018 Enclave midsize SUV shares a platform with the 2017 GMC Acadia, but it will add a Buick face and sleeker body contours. It’s 10.7 inches longer than is the Acadia and has a wheelbase that’s 8.4 inches longer. As a result, the Enclave adds more interior room, including an increase in legroom for the third row of 2.4 inches. Despite the longer wheelbase, the turning circle is the same as that of the Acadia, which is down to a reasonable-for-its-size 39 feet. The 2018 Enclave also includes the “sub-brand” Avenir, which will be available on all Buick models as the top materials and equipment trim level. We estimate that the Enclave Avenir will start at around $55,000.
Arrives in showrooms: Fall 2017
Price: $39,500 (estimated)

 

BUICK REGAL TOURX

The official government vehicle classification for the 2018 Regal TourX is “station wagon,” but Buick added some outdoorsiness with trim around the rocker panels and wheel wells, raised the ride height slightly for driving down dirt roads and gave it room inside for all of your active-lifestyle gear. The Regal TourX still has the suspension of an automobile, however, so it should drive like the car that it really is. Despite the woodsy trim, the Regal TourX’s styling will be recognizable easily as a Buick inside and out. The only engine will be a 2.0-liter, 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder model, and all-wheel drive will be standard. 
Arrives in showrooms: Fourth quarter 2017
Price: $35,000 (estimated)

 

CADILLAC XT3

Small SUVs don’t mean small prices necessarily, and by introducing the 2018 XT3, Cadillac will join the luxury subcompact SUV market. As the little brother to the Cadillac XT5, the XT3 will look like a Cadillac and include a vertical strip of LEDs at the front corners and probably narrow taillights up either side of the rear window, such as those that are on Cadillac’s Escalade. It appears that the XT3 will be powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine rather than the 3.6-liter V6 engine that the XT5 has. We don’t know whether front-wheel drive will be available, but certainly the XT3 will have all-wheel drive. 
Arrives in showrooms: Late 2018
Price: $35,000 (estimated)

 

CHEVROLET TRAVERSE

The Traverse always has looked more like a minivan than an SUV, but given the popularity of the latter, Chevrolet wants to make sure that everyone thinks of it as being in that category. The 2018 Traverse has an SUV-like blunt front end, a high hood and a side window treatment that’s like the Chevy Equinox’s. A new 3.6-liter V6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission will be standard, although a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine will be used in the sport-oriented RS model. Traction Mode Select will let the driver “tune” the vehicle for specific driving conditions, including highway and off-road (sending more torque to rear wheels to provide better traction).
Arrives in showrooms: Fall 2017
Price: $29,900 (estimated)

 

DODGE CHALLENGER SRT DEMON

At 840 hp, the 2018 Challenger SRT Demon’s 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi Demon V8 engine is the strongest V8 production automobile engine ever, beating the 707 hp that’s generated by Dodge’s Hellcat engine. In fact, engine technology is strong with the Demon: It includes a performance mode that permits the use of 100+ high-octane unleaded gasoline—typically available only at racetracks—to deliver maximum output (as well as ordinary premium-grade gasoline for everyday use). To get the power to the ground, the Demon will have special street-legal drag-racing tires that have 40 percent more traction than do those that are on the Challenger Hellcat. The Demon is so fast that it could enter National Hot Rod Association drag racing if it had a roll bar. Dodge says it will go from zero to 60 mph in 2.3 seconds and reach one-quarter mile in 9.7 seconds at 140 mph. That’s fast enough to press you into the seat to the tune of 1.8 Gs and lift the front wheels off the ground when you start off the line.
Arrives in showrooms: Fall 2017
Price: $80,000 (estimated)

 

FORD ECOSPORT

Ford will jump into the subcompact SUV segment with the 2018 EcoSport. Ford’s smallest SUV will compete with the Honda HR-V, the Jeep Renegade and the Mazda CX-3, among others. As part of the Ford Fiesta platform, the EcoSport will have front-wheel drive and Ford’s 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine or all-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Official power ratings haven’t been announced, but we expect them to be about average for the smaller end of the class—120 hp for the 1.0-liter model and 140 hp for the 2.0-liter version. Unlike some small cars, the EcoSport will be available with top-level options, including an 8-inch navigation screen, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and Sync 3, which also includes remote locking, unlocking and starting. Oddly enough, the EcoSport doesn’t have the typical liftgate but, rather, a swing-away rear door. 
Arrives in showrooms: Early 2018
Price: $19,000 (estimated)

 

FORD EXPEDITION

Ford finally will update the 20-year-old Expedition. The full-size SUV largely has been unchanged since 1997. The 2018 Expedition will get a Ford F-150-like aluminum body, which will trim up to 300 pounds, and less weight means relatively better fuel economy. The new frame has a 3-inch-longer wheelbase, and it’s 1 inch longer and wider than is the current Expedition. Ford says this means more interior room, particularly in the third row, but numbers weren’t available at press time. Ford upped the Expedition’s game with 40 technology features, including Wi-Fi for 10 devices in the eight-passenger vehicle. The 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine will carry over, but the Expedition will have Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission to provide smoother shifting and better fuel economy and a space-saving rotary knob shifter. For the 50 percent of Expedition owners who tow, a new electronic system that greatly simplifies backing with a trailer is optional.
Arrives in showrooms: Fall 2017
Price: $48,000 (estimated)

 

FORD F-150

With a mid-model-run update, the 2018 F-150 pickup gets a new look with a new grille, but more important changes are under the hood and inside of the cab. Ford will join the Ram 1500 and the Nissan Titan XD by adding diesel power, an all-new 3.0-liter V6 engine, as an option. Previously, only heavy-duty Ford pickups had diesel engines, and those were big V8s. The 2018 F-150 will add two new gasoline engines—a 3.3-liter, 282-hp V6 as the base engine, and a second-generation, 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 as the first step up. The F-150 also will become the first pickup that has optional automatic cruise control, automatic braking with pedestrian recognition, and lane-keeping technology.
Arrives in showrooms: Fall 2017
Price: $27,500 (estimated)

 

FORD MUSTANG

The midcycle refresh of the Mustang will look familiar and different at the same time. The open-maw grille that’s been a mostly consistent Mustang feature is set lower to provide improved aerodynamics on the 2018 model, and the hood curves down to meet it. The V6 engine is gone, but the 2017 model’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine and V8 engine are upgraded in power. The V8 will get dual injection, and it will rev higher than it did before, although Ford didn’t talk numbers. The Mustang also will get a 12-inch, all-digital, all-reconfigurable LCD-screen instrument panel and normal-, sport- and track-driving modes. Its two-volume exhaust system can be set at either normal or loud, so you can wake the neighbors as never before.
Arrives in showrooms: Fall 2017
Price: $27,000 (estimated)

 

HYUNDAI ACCENT

They grow up so fast. With the 2018 edition, the Accent will begin its fifth generation, and it not only has grown up, but it also has matured. The Accent, which will be built on a new platform, will get a new look that mimics that of the Hyundai Elantra. The wheelbase is 0.4 inches longer, and the car is 1.1 inches wider than is its predecessor. New engines typically produce more horsepower, but the new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine actually will produce less horsepower than does the previous version (137 hp versus 132 hp). However, according to Hyundai, the engine will have more “flexibility.” We take that to mean that it will have more torque for less engine revving, so it will deliver the same performance around town. Hyundai says fuel economy will be up 7 percent, which translates to 40 mpg on the highway. Automatic emergency braking will be an option, which is rare for this segment. A sedan will arrive first, and a hatchback will roll out a few months later. The fly in this automotive ointment is that, although Hyundai will sell the 2018 Accent in Canada, no decision has been made for the United States. It seems unlikely that Hyundai would surrender its U.S. sales of 80,000 Accents per year. Our bet is that the Accent will be back. 
Arrives in showrooms: Late 2017, maybe
Price: $14,900 (estimated)

 

HYUNDAI ELANTRA GT

The 2018 Elantra GT isn’t the Elantra sedan with a hatchback. They’re different down to their bones. The new Elantra GT is based on a model that’s designed for Europe, and it should carry over that model’s sharper handling. The Elantra GT will be powered by a 2.0-liter, 162-hp four-cylinder engine. A few months later, the GT Sport, which will have a 1.6-liter, 201-hp turbocharged engine, will follow. The GT Sport also will have sportier handling than the ordinary GT will, more like the Volkswagen GTI and other “hot hatches.” The Elantra GT will come standard with an 8-inch touch screen, and leather is optional, so it won’t be inexpensive.
Arrives in showrooms: Summer 2017
Price: $19,000

 

HYUNDAI KONA

Another entry into the subcompact SUV segment will slide in at the bottom of the Hyundai lineup. The vehicle is dubbed the Kona. It’s the same size as is the forthcoming Ford EcoSport, and it will arrive at U.S. dealerships at about the same time. Hyundai is keeping tight wraps on Kona information, but spy photos show a car-like ground clearance and a high, arching roofline, so it’s more like a tall hatchback than an SUV. It also has peculiar low-mounted headlights and a strip of accent lights that are high on the front end, so if you like the Nissan Juke’s unusual styling, you’ll like the Kona. The Kona likely will have Hyundai’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and the automaker’s 1.6-liter turbocharged engine will be an option. At any rate, don’t expect an ordinary small SUV that will look like everything else on the road.
Arrives in showrooms: Early 2018
Price: $23,000 (estimated)

 

JEEP WRANGLER

When it comes to SUVs, nothing is like a Wrangler. The 2018 Wrangler will be the 11th generation of the vehicle, and we believe that it will be the best yet. Fiat-Chrysler is tight-lipped about the new edition. We know that it will continue with the model’s body-on-frame construction, although we expect the frame to be updated and stronger and the body to be lighter, so it allows for better performance on- and off-road. It still will be as aerodynamic as a barn, of course. New for the next generation will be a pickup version, although  this might arrive a year after the new Wrangler does. Two- and four-door models that have a hard or soft top will continue.
Arrives in showrooms: January 2018
Price: $25,000 (estimated)

 

KIA RIO

Once upon a time, the Rio had the reputation of being the ultimate penalty box. That story ended. For its fourth generation, the 2018 Rio subcompact will move upscale by including better-quality trim and a remarkable complement of standard and optional equipment, such as lane-departure warning, automated emergency braking and even a heated steering wheel. The chassis will be less prone to vibration and harshness than it was before because of Kia’s independently designed MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion-beam rear axle, which will make it safer as well. The 1.6-liter, 130-hp direct-injection four-cylinder engine will connect to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. The Rio will be available as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback.
Arrives in showrooms: Late summer/early fall 2017
Price: $14,500 (estimate) 

 

KIA STINGER

Going where no Kia has gone before, the 2018 Stinger will be a genuine performance sedan. It isn’t the first rear-wheel-drive car from Kia (the other being the K900), but it’s the first that the Korean automaker honed on a racetrack. We believe that the Stinger will live up to its name because of its 365-hp turbocharged V6 engine. A 2.0-liter, 255-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine will be available for those who aren’t quite so addicted to speed. The Stinger is a sleek four-door sedan that doesn’t look as though it has a rear hatch, but it does. This is a Kia that car enthusiasts are eager to drive. We never thought that we ever would say that.
Arrives in showrooms: Fall 2017
Price: $30,000 (estimated)

 

LEXUS LS

Based on Lexus’ new GA-L platform, the 2018 LS will have one wheelbase instead of the last generation’s two. The new 123-inch wheelbase is 1.3 inches longer than is the wheelbase on the outgoing extended-length version, although we don’t have numbers about how that might affect interior room. Extensive use of ultrahigh-tensile steel and aluminum will reduce the sedan’s body weight by 200 pounds to allow for better performance and fuel economy. The LS will have a bigger version of the Lexus spindle grille. A new 3.5-liter, 415-hp twin-turbocharged V6 engine that will be standard for the LS will generate 442 foot-pounds of torque. A hybrid LS 500h will follow, along with an F Sport version for the standard and hybrid models.
Arrives in showrooms: Late 2017
Price: $74,000 (estimated)

 

MERCEDES-BENZ X-CLASS

One of the most unlikely vehicles to grace dealer showrooms would be a pickup from Mercedes-Benz. The company recently revealed a pickup concept that was co-developed with Nissan, and such a production model would be built alongside the midsize Nissan Navara—although we don’t know yet the degree to which they would differ. The Mercedes pickup, which is dubbed the X-Class, would have a conventional-for-pickups body-on-frame construction, and it would be powered by different Mercedes engines in different markets. Will this luxury pickup come to the United States? It’s being discussed. However, it will be years, not months, before we see a Mercedes pickup.
Arrives in showrooms: Around 2020, if ever 
Price: $60,000 (estimated)

 

MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE CROSS

You’d think that Mitsubishi would have used the Outlander name again for its new SUV, particularly because it fits midway between the larger Outlander and the smaller Outlander Sport. Instead, the company used “Eclipse,” which was used last on a sporty coupe/convertible in 2012, and the company tacked on “Cross” just because. The 2018 Eclipse Cross will share the Mitsubishi front-end styling with the senior models, but the rear end will be all its own, with an odd, horizontally split rear window that apparently was inspired by the unfortunate Pontiac Aztec. The only powertrain will be a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine of undisclosed horsepower that’s connected to a gearless continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Eclipse Cross will come in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions.
Arrives in showrooms: Early 2018
Price: $22,500 (estimated)

 

NISSAN KICKS

Nissan has a solid entry in the subcompact SUV field in the Juke, but its looks are unusual. For those who find that appearance to be too extravagant, Nissan could have the Kicks. However, at press time, the Kicks wasn’t slated for U.S. release. The Kicks will be sold “in more than 80 markets” worldwide, Nissan says. It already is in the United Kingdom, and one reviewer says it “drives well and feels strongly built.”
Arrives in showrooms: Perhaps early 2018
Price: $19,000 (estimated)

 

NISSAN LEAF

Hard facts are scarce on the future version of the Leaf, although we know that it’s coming soon. We also know that the polarizing styling of the Leaf’s first-generation model will be gone. We also expect substantially more range. Several years ago, the next Leaf was expected to have a range of 120 or 150 miles. With the advent of the Chevrolet Bolt, which is rated by Environmental Protection Agency to have a range of 238 miles, the next Leaf will have to do better than its earlier forecast range. We don’t expect Nissan to surrender its leadership in electric vehicles easily.
Arrives in showrooms: 2018
Price: $32,000 (estimated)

 

LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER VELAR

Land Rover tells us that the 2018 Range Rover Velar is intended “to fill the white space between the Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport.” In other words, it looks a lot like the Evoque, but it’s bigger, although not quite as big as is the Range Rover Sport. It also will have more engine choices than the Evoque has, using the latter’s sole choice, a 2.0-liter, 247-hp four-cylinder as its base engine, adding a diesel option and offering a 380-hp supercharged V6 engine as its top choice. Underneath, the Velar’s structure is 80 percent aluminum rather than steel for light weight. Although it doesn’t have the multiterrain capabilities of a Land Rover, it will go more places than most owners would try, and it will take them there in more-luxurious surroundings.
Arrives in showrooms: Late summer 2017
Price: $49,900

 

SUBARU ASCENT

Subaru once rolled out the midsize seven-seat Tribeca SUV, which was dropped after the 2014 model year. Now Subaru is back for another try with the 2018 Ascent. Subaru isn’t saying much about the Ascent yet, although it showed a concept vehicle in April 2017 that’s said to be fairly true to the eventual production version. Power will come from a new turbocharged direct-injection engine. No horsepower figures or even cylinder count were given for the production Ascent, but the concept had a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. 
Arrives in showrooms: 2018
Price: $31,000 (estimated)

 

SUBARU CROSSTREK

As with the original CrossTrek that debuted in 2013, the 2018 CrossTrek is a macho Subaru Impreza. The CrossTrek has modest off-road pretensions, so Subaru added plastic cladding to the outer lower body and wheel arches to make the vehicle look tougher. Changes with the new generation also include a 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase to deliver a smoother ride. Subaru says it also has an “even roomier cabin” with a “larger cargo area” than does the former CrossTrek, but we haven’t seen numbers for it. The CrossTrek will be powered by a 2.0-liter, 152-hp four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission will be standard on all but the top Limited trim level, which will come with a CVT that otherwise is optional. As with all Subarus (except the BRZ sports car), the CrossTrek will have all-wheel drive.
Arrives in showrooms: Summer 2017
Price: $22,000 (estimated)

 

VOLVO XC40

With the 2018 XC40, Volvo will introduce a model in a segment that’s new to the automaker and take aim at luxury subcompact SUVs the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. You should look for the XC40 to be powered by a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or Volvo’s plug-in hybrid system. Powertrains will include front-wheel drive, conventional all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive with electric-motor rear drive.
Arrives in showrooms: Late 2017
Price: $35,000 (estimated)

 

VOLVO XC60

Volvo has had the XC60 since the 2010 model year, and it’s remained largely unchanged—until now. What’s new is that the 2018 XC60 will gain about 3.5 inches in wheelbase and about 2.0 inches in length, which will give passengers 1.5 inches more rear legroom. You should look for the same luxurious interior that the Volvo XC90 has, complete with a huge smart-entertainment screen that includes smartphone-like swiping capability. The XC60 will be available with a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine or a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Total output for the hybrid will be about 378 hp—more fun than an SUV should be. 
Arrives in showrooms: Late fall 2017
Price: $42,000 (estimated)

John Matras is an award-winning automotive writer and a frequent contributor to Consumers Digest. He has written about automobiles for 37 years for major automotive magazines and newspapers and is the author of five books.

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