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Showroom Bound: Must-See Mid-2015 & Early 2016 Auto Debuts

You don’t have to wait until fall to see what’s new from automakers. A collection of spring and early-summer releases are arriving. Refreshed models include new engines and interiors, and a smattering of new vehicles will debut.

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After 5 consecutive years of increasing sales, the U.S. automotive industry continues to keep the pedal to the metal. Manufacturers hope to lure consumers to showrooms with a mixture of convertibles, crossover SUVs and hybrids. Technological advancements, new designs and more-efficient powertrains are among the highlights of these releases.

Volvo S60 Cross Country

Volvo is in the midst of a significant product overhaul after an $11 billion investment from its new owner, Chinese automaker Geely. Swedish automaker Volvo is releasing a stream of products, which includes taller variants of its sedans. The 2016 S60 Cross Country is the first of these “tall” or “crossover” sedans, and it features a ride height that’s elevated by 2.5 inches on the same all-wheel-drive platform that’s found in the V60 Cross Country wagon. In fact, the S60 Cross Country has many of the same characteristics that previously were available only in the wagon, even though its oversized 18-inch wheels give this sedan the look of an SUV. Ultimately, we can’t help but wonder whether Volvo is trying to create a niche market that no one requested.
You can see it in showrooms: July 2015
MSRP: $40,000 (estimated)

 

Mazda MX-5 Miata

The 2016 MX-5 Miata launches the fourth generation of the sporty convertible car, and we like the direction that Mazda Motor took with this version. The 2016 edition, at 154.1 inches by 68.1 inches, is 3.2 inches shorter and 0.4 inches wider than is the third-generation model. These modifications help to boost the Miata’s already-superior handling. Mazda also shed 150 pounds from the previous model, and although the automaker didn’t make the MX-5 Miata’s new fuel-economy numbers available at press time, experts tell us that they expect a 4-mpg boost in the city. The cabin has plusher seats than before, and Mazda further improved the behind-the-wheel sight lines by lowering the hood roughly 1 inch. You also will find new instrument displays, a smart-entertainment screen that’s perched atop the dashboard but doesn’t detract from the sight lines and a rear DVD drive for playing music that’s mounted between the seats. We found that multiple chassis improvements deliver an even nimbler driving experience. The improvements include a lighter front subframe, which holds the engine in place, a stronger multilink rear suspension, aluminum control arms for the front suspension and electric power steering.
You can see it in showrooms: Summer 2015
MSRP: $24,915

 

Ford Explorer

The 2016 Explorer continues the SUV’s transformation since the vehicle was changed to a crossover SUV chassis 5 years ago. Inside, Ford Motor addressed some of the confusion that plagued the previous model’s center console and led to complaints from consumers. Specifically, the MyFord Touch smart-entertainment system now includes knobs and buttons, which replace the previous touch controls that confused users. Elsewhere, Ford’s park-assist system now adds perpendicular parking to parallel parking—a feature that’s been included in Ford compacts and subcompacts—as part of a $3,000 driver-assist package. You can invest in a high-end Explorer trim level that adds nearly $22,000 to the price and has a 365-hp engine. However, we found that the standard 290-hp V6 engine gets the job done without burning a hole in your wallet.
You can see it in showrooms: Summer 2015
MSRP: $30,700

 

Honda HR-V

The new 2016 HR-V packs a good punch for its price, because Honda Motor applied the success that it had with the CR-V to a smaller frame. The HR-V is built on the compact Fit platform, has seating for five and provides standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission (on the front-wheel-drive model only) or with a gearless continuously variable transmission. The HR-V also features a roomy cabin that provides 96 percent of the space that’s found in the CR-V, which Honda achieved by putting the fuel tank at the center of the HR-V. The configurable, fold-flat, second-row seat provides enough space to transport a bicycle inside of the vehicle.
You can see it in showrooms: June 2015
MSRP: $20,000 (estimated)

 

Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

In the 2015 Golf SportWagen, Volkswagen delivers a station-wagon body style that rarely is seen these days in the U.S. market. Even though the arrival of the Golf SportWagen signals the retirement of the Jetta SportWagen, Volkswagen kept the storage space roughly the same, with the Golf version measuring only 0.4 cubic feet of cargo space less than that which the outgoing Jetta version provides. The standard Golf SportWagen is powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and paired with a standard five-speed manual transmission to deliver an estimated 36 mpg on the highway. Even without an all-wheel-drive version, the Golf SportWagen provides something that no competitor can claim—an optional turbocharged diesel engine that, when  paired with a six-speed manual, transmission, can get an estimated 43 mpg on the highway.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $21,395

 

Ford Edge

The next-generation 2015 Edge’s off-the-line acceleration and handling is comparable with that of the previous model. What’s important is that the Edge does this without the previous model’s V6 engine. Instead, it packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that, unlike previous versions, uses twin-scroll technology to deliver a better burst to the turbocharger. We found the Edge’s steering to be nimble, and we like that an  all-wheel-drive system now is available as an option across all trim levels, unlike previous iterations. This system helps to keep the Edge planted around curves. The driver’s seat is comfortable, and sight lines are excellent. Unfortunately, the confusing MyFord Touch smart-entertainment interface, which was improved slightly for the 2016 Explorer, returns unchanged in the 2015 Edge. That won’t change until the 2016 model year.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $28,100

 

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Hyundai updated its standard Sonata for the 2015 model year; now, it’s rolling out an update of its hybrid variant. The  exterior of the 2016 Sonata Hybrid was tweaked to improve aerodynamics compared with the standard Sonata (front and rear fascia), and it combines this design with a smaller 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, an electric motor that provides roughly 10 percent more horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission to increase fuel efficiency by 10 percent. That means an estimated 44 mpg on the highway, according to Hyundai. Inside, the Sonata Hybrid has a new instrument panel that includes a color LCD multifunction screen and provides additional data about the hybrid system, such as battery regeneration, to help drivers to maximize efficiency. Hyundai moved the battery pack from behind the rear seat, which intruded into trunk space, to under the trunk floor. That move increased storage space by 10 percent to 13.3 cubic feet and enabled a 60-40 split bench seat in the rear. A plug-in version, which will be Hyundai’s first plug-in hybrid, is expected to arrive late in 2015 and have an electric-only range of 22 miles—twice that of the Toyota Prius Plug-In.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $26,000 (estimated)

 

Honda Pilot

The next-generation 2016 Pilot is roomier and lighter than its previous version is. Honda’s engineers used more lightweight materials to trim the crossover SUV by 300 pounds compared with the previous model. The automaker stretched the wheelbase by 3.5 inches and added 2.5 inches to the third-row entryway. (Optional second-row captain’s chairs also make it easier for passengers to access the third row.) Seating for up to eight passengers remains, but the third row is best suited for small children. Under the hood, Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 engine now includes cylinder deactivation, which shuts down three cylinders when you drive at a consistent speed to save fuel. A Pilot-first six-speed automatic transmission is standard, but you’ll find a Honda-first nine-speed automatic transmission on higher trim-level models. Fuel-economy ratings weren’t announced at press time, but experts predict that the Pilot will improve upon the 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway fuel-economy numbers of the 2015 edition.
You can see it in showrooms: June 2015
MSRP: $31,000 (estimated)

 

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Mitsubishi Motors’ on-again, off-again foray into the electric-vehicle (EV) segment apparently is on again. For the 2016 model year, Mitsubishi holds the line on pricing and is selling the i-MiEV for $22,995, which is the lowest price that you can find on a pure EV. Most buyers will qualify for a $7,500 federal-tax credit, which drives the cost down to $15,495, and residents of certain states could find additional tax credits to drop the price further. However, the four-passenger, front-wheel-drive i-MiEV has a 62-mile range, which is well below the 84-mile range of the Nissan Leaf. We found that the 2016 i-MiEV dawdles off the line, requiring nearly 13 seconds to get from zero to 60 mph, although it delivers crisp handling and firm braking. In addition to the limited range and draggy acceleration time, cheap plastics across the dashboard and a minimalistic interior are the other concessions that you make for a low-cost EV.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $22,995

 

Matthew C. Keegan is the editor and publisher of Auto Trends Magazine. He has covered the automotive industry for 10 years.

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