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En Route: Mid-2014 & Early 2015 Auto Debuts

You don’t have to wait for fall to get a jump on your next ride. For midyear automobile introductions, you’ll find models that have been tweaked with a focus on engines and transmissions that aim at better fuel economy without diminishing performance.

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U.S. motorists replaced their vehicles at a sizzling pace throughout 2013. Now, manufacturers are tempting consumers with summer loves. Although many automakers are gearing up for big fall releases, closer on the horizon are some “wants” and lifestyle choices, not the basic “needs” of transportation. Personality, performance and prestige will arrive in all sizes starting in May 2014.

Audi A3 Cabriolet

Audi

The 2015 A3 Cabriolet is the latest in a planned Audi family of front-wheel-drive compact vehicles, including a sedan, a crossover SUV, a performance model and a five-door hatchback plug-in hybrid. The four-seat A3 Cabriolet has appealing refinement and desirable appointments, including standard leather-trimmed upholstery and Internet connectivity. At launch, two models will be available that will give you a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines (a 1.4 liter and a 2.0 liter) and a six-speed dual-clutch (automated manual) transmission. We anticipate that the bigger 2.0-liter, 220-hp engine will provide brisk acceleration. When the insulated cloth top is down, the trunk’s 9.2 cubic feet is just 1 cubic foot less than what you’d get in the larger A5 Cabriolet.
You can see it in showrooms: Fall 2014
MSRP: $35,000 (estimated)

 

Subaru Legacy

Subaru

What had been a sensible midsize sedan emerges from the chrysalis looking like a power player. The re-engineered 2015 Legacy has about the same exterior dimensions and wheelbase as it did before, but it now has 1.6 cubic feet more cabin space beneath its shapely, arching roofline. The all-wheel-drive Legacy adds an improved EyeSight driving-assist system and a new rear radar system that includes blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. Also new are front seat-cushion air bags that help to prevent occupants from sliding out of their seat belts during a crash. The Legacy has a choice of two “boxer” engines (horizontally opposed pistons), which were updated to improve fuel economy over previous versions, and a continuously variable transmission. The 2.5-liter, 175-hp four-cylinder engine has estimated fuel economy of 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway, an improvement of 5 mpg in the city and 7 mpg on the highway from the 2014 Legacy’s ratings. Fuel-economy estimates for the 3.6-liter, 256-hp six-cylinder engine improve by 10 percent over the 2014 model to 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway. As of press time, Subaru hadn’t made this vehicle available to test-drive, but we expect it to be quieter than the previous version is, because it has an acoustic windshield (that is, laminated to reduce noise) and liquid-filled engine mounts.
You can see it in showrooms: Summer 2014
MSRP: $22,000 (estimated)

Lincoln MKC

Lincoln

Lincoln’s 2015 MKC compact crossover SUV shares underpinnings with the Ford Escape, but it’s about 1 inch wider, with a 1-inch wider wheel track and a 1-inch lower roofline. The five-seat MKC will have front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive optional ($2,495). Two turbocharged four-cylinder engines are available: the standard 2.0-liter version or the optional 2.3-liter, 275-hp powerplant ($1,140). Each engine is joined with a six-speed automatic transmission, which seems dated given competitors’ move to seven, eight and nine gears. (Lincoln says it’s developing nine- and 10-speed transmissions but didn’t give a timeline. For now, it says, the turbocharged engines meet its expectations for performance and fuel economy.) What separates the MKC from competitors, such as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK, is its focus on more high-end luxury. It’s the first Lincoln to include the brand’s new “Deepsoft” leather, and it comes with wood trim and neatly stitched and pleated materials that give the impression that they’re hand-crafted.
You can see it in showrooms: Summer 2014
MSRP: $33,100

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