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Midyear Auto Intros 2016: Jump Start

Here Comes the First Wave of New & Redesigned 2017 Cars, Suvs, Pickups & Minivans

Good things are coming in a variety of sizes for spring and early-summer releases. Weight reduction and new engines are a common theme among the models that won’t make you wait until fall.

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With automakers selling and planning more SUVs than ever before, you might believe that you have enough choices. However, as the familiar pitch goes, “But wait, there’s more.” Automakers are releasing models that have new names—or, in a couple of cases, recycled ones—to grace dealer showroom floors. Models coming before fall include SUVs, a minivan and a pickup.

 

GMC Acadia

GMC went small for the 2017 Acadia. The midsize SUV is a whopping 7.2 inches shorter, 3.5 inches narrower and 3.9 inches lower than is its predecessor. It also weighs 3,956 pounds, compared with 4,656 pounds for the 2016 version. As a result, the 2017 Acadia should be nimbler to drive and easier to park than a predecessor that we already found to deliver easygoing handling around town. GMC says it also achieved the slim-down through a smaller size and the use of high-strength steel, which means that less steel is required. The 2017 Acadia holds seven people (it will be tight), not the eight people in a three-row configuration that its predecessor can. All-wheel drive is available with either of the Acadia’s two new engines. A 2.5-liter, 194-hp four-cylinder engine is rated at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway when it’s equipped with front-wheel drive. That compares with 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway, tops, in the 2016 model. An optional 3.6-liter, 310-hp V6 engine allows the 2017 Acadia to tow up to 4,000 pounds, which is down from the 5,200-pound capability of the outgoing Acadia but still enough to easily pull, say, a trailer that’s loaded with two personal watercraft.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $29,995

 

Fiat 124 Spider

The 2017 124 Spider marks the return of the affordable Italian sports car—well, sort of Italian, with a dose of Japanese. Fiat designers worked hard to make the new 124 Spider reminiscient of the old 124 Spider, which was introduced in 1966 and ended production in the 1980s. The new version, of course, is loaded with modern tech, such as a 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity and keyless-entry capability. However, this model is made in a Mazda factory in Japan and rolls down the same assembly line as the Mazda MX-5 Miata does. The Miata and the 124 Spider are a joint development between Mazda and Fiat in what seems to be a one-time collaboration for these two automakers. The two vehicles are basically the same underneath. Instead of the Miata’s 2.0-liter, 155-hp four-cylinder engine, the 124 Spider has a 1.4-liter, 160-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That’s the same engine that we found to be speedy and sporty in the Fiat 500 Abarth, and it should deliver a fun drive.
You can see it in showrooms: Summer 2016
MSRP: $26,000 (estimated)

 

Jaguar F-Pace

The SUV market has blossomed for luxury brands, so why not Jaguar? The automaker says the 2017 F-Pace, which is available in the United States only as an all-wheel-drive model, emphasizes sports sedan-like handling and performance over off-road capabilities. The F-Pace will be sold with a 3.0-liter, 340-hp V6 engine or a 380-hp V6. Those engines will be joined in fall 2016 by a 2.0-liter, 180-hp turbocharged diesel engine, which will become the base engine and cost $1,400 less than a gasoline version. We believe that this model will perform as well as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and X5 and Porsche Macan SUVs. We like the F-Pace’s “Activity Key” feature. It’s a waterproof wristband device that unlocks the vehicle, which allows you to leave your key fob inside.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $42,390

 

Infiniti Q60

The 2017 Q60 replaces the 2015 Q60 Coupe—there was no 2016 Q60—and is the upscale alternative to the Nissan 370Z. For the 2017 model year, the two-seat Q60 comes with a choice of three new engines—a 2.0-liter, 208-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine; a 3.0-liter, 300-hp V6 powerplant; and a 3.0-liter, 400-hp twin-turbocharged V6 engine. The third engine should make the Q60 a real screamer. (The 2015 version has a 3.7-liter, 330-hp V6 engine.) Options include electronically variable suspension that lets the driver choose between a softer setting for touring and a firmer setting for winding roads. However, we aren’t convinced whether the optional second generation of drive-by-wire steering, which replaces the standard steering system, is necessary, particularly when you consider the $1,000 that this upgrade costs. Infiniti says it retuned the drive-by-wire system to deliver a more natural feel after an earlier version was criticized.
You can see it in showrooms: Spring 2016
MSRP: $36,500 (estimated)

 

Cadillac XT5

The 2017 XT5 replaces Cadillac’s SRX. It’s 278 pounds lighter than the outgoing model because of “laser welding, ultrahigh-strength steel and advanced analytics that ensure a stronger structure,” to quote Cadillac. The XT5’s 310-hp V6 engine gets an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Cylinder deactivation (shutting off two cylinders under light loads) and direct injection contribute to the good fuel economy as well as an eight-speed automatic transmission. (The SRX has a six-speed automatic transmission.) As a result, the XT5 beats the SRX by 2 mpg city/
3 mpg highway. The XT5 also stands to have better handling than its predecessor does, thanks to a track that’s 1 inch wider and a wheelbase that’s 2 inches longer. Overall, it’s less than an inch shorter and narrower than the SRX is, but the XT5 carves out more room inside—at least 3 inches more rear legroom.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $38,995

 

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The 2017 E-Class includes a first for a Mercedes of its size: It will be available only with a four-cylinder engine—a 2.0-liter, 241-hp turbocharged version—that’s linked to a nine-speed automatic transmission. As a result, we expect the performance to be wholly adequate, although certainly not over the top. Based on our experience in other vehicles, this means that highway on-ramps won’t be a heart-in-your-throat experience. An optional air suspension system should make a sedan that’s known for its ride even cushier. That system replaces the vehicle’s conventional adjustable steel springs with three air chambers that are in the axles’ spring struts. These allow you to set the ride and handling parameters to “Comfort,” “ECO,” “Sport” and “Sport+” settings or tweak those settings individually. (Some Audi and BMW models have a similar system.) The 2017 E-Class takes a step toward autonomous operation with the debut of adaptive cruise control. The adaptive cruise control maintains proper distance from a vehicle ahead up to 130 mph. Evasive steering assist helps the driver to maintain control when he/she avoids an obstacle.
You can see it in showrooms: Summer 2016
MSRP: $53,575 (estimated)

 

Honda Ridgeline

The 2017 Ridgeline profile is more conventional than that of its predecessor, which ended production in 2014. However, the new version retains some of that model’s differences compared with conventional small pickups. The Ridgeline is still a unibody model, like most SUVs, rather than a more rugged body-on-frame model, like its competitors are. It also still is the only small pickup that has independent rear suspension, which, based on its predecessor, should provide a much smoother ride than what others deliver. The Ridgeline’s bed continues its predecessor’s 4-foot width between the wheel arches, which is at least 3.6 inches wider than are the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. The 2017 Ridgeline still features an under-bed storage compartment and a tailgate that either folds down or swings open. The 2017 model now has the option of all-wheel drive and a terrain-management system that lets you select settings for sand, snow and mud. That sounds promising, although we weren’t provided a vehicle to test-drive as of press time.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $32,500 (estimated)

 

Chrysler Pacifica

The minivan is dead. Long live the minivan. The Town & Country name is being retired in deference to Pacifica, which is a moniker that last was used in 2008 on an SUV. The vehicle has a new lighter and stronger platform and an improved ride compared with the Town & Country. Power will come from a 3.6-liter, 287-hp V6 engine, which has been used in Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles and which we found capable in the Town & Country. That engine is coupled with a new-to-a-minivan nine-speed automatic transmission, which promises to aid fuel economy. The engine has stop-start technology, which turns off the engine when the minivan is stationary. These features provide 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway, compared with the Town & Country’s 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway. Features that we haven’t seen on other minivans include optional automatic parallel/perpendicular parking and hands-free operation of the tailgate and the sliding doors. A plug-in hybrid version that the automaker says will deliver the equivalent of 80 mpg will be available in the second half of 2016.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $28,595

 

Volvo S90

The 2017 S90 sedan, which replaces the aged S80, continues Volvo’s renaissance, as evidenced by Consumers Digest’s Best Buy recommendations for the 2016 S60 and XC90. Two engine choices will be available: a 2.0-liter, 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a 2.0-liter, 316-hp four-cylinder engine that’s supercharged and turbocharged. A plug-in hybrid also is available. The S90 will have a version of Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous technology. This goes beyond typical lane-keeping technology with the added capability to stay in your lane at speeds of up to 80 mph, which is a first for a vehicle that’s sold in the United States, Volvo says.
You can see it in showrooms: June 2016
MSRP: $46,950


John Matras is the founder and editor of carbuzzard.com and a frequent contributor to Consumers Digest. He has written about automobiles for 35 years for major automotive magazines and newspapers and is the author of five books.

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