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Spotlight: Midyear Auto Intros

Notable Mid-2017/Early 2018 Models

Consumers Digest has published a midyear automobile introductions report every year since 2007. The number of models that were profiled varied from eight to 10. Twice, the list of profiled vehicles included as many as four SUVs. This year: two-thirds of the vehicles are sport-utes.

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Most new automobiles reach dealerships late in the summer or early in the fall. However, manufacturers also roll out new and dramatically “refreshed” vehicles late in the spring and early in the summer. We believe that the most notable of this year’s batch of the latter is dominated by SUVs. Of the nine models that strike us as deserving of the spotlight, six are SUVs.

Volkswagen Atlas

For the first time, Volkswagen launches a midsize, three-row SUV. The 2018 Atlas fills a hole in the brand’s lineup by providing seven-passenger room that’s similar to what’s in competitive models. Importantly, there is no, shall we say, penalty seat in the Atlas, because the second-row seats tilt and slide forward to provide ease of access to the third row. The back row is one of the few in the segment in which two adults can sit in comfort. You’ll want to bypass the standard four-cylinder engine and choose the available V6 engine instead, because we believe that the smaller engine will labor under a full load.
You can see it in showrooms: Spring 2017
MSRP: $30,000


Nissan Rogue Sport

The 2017 Rogue Sport is based on the Qashqai, which is sold elsewhere in the world. It isn’t a derivative of the Rogue compact SUV, which debuted for the 2008 model year. It’s 1 foot shorter than the Rogue is but is 10 inches longer than the Juke subcompact SUV is. Chief attributes include nimble handling, an around-view monitor that provides moving-object detection and an innovative divide-and-hide cargo system that’s ideal to let you hide valuables while you keep everything else on top in the rear storage area. Published reports indicate that the performance of the current Qashqai improves upon that of the previous iteration. Both versions won numerous awards. We look forward to comparing the Rogue Sport with the competition when we conduct our next Best Buy evaluations.
You can see it in showrooms: Spring 2017
MSRP: $22,000 (estimated)


Audi A5/S5

The next-generation A5/S5 arrives, but the big news isn’t the refreshed coupe. For the first time, Audi brings Sportback versions of these cars to the United States: five-door hatchbacks that look nothing like overtly designed models, such as the new Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback. Audi employs several methods to disguise the look, most notably the angle of the rear roof pillar. The main difference between the two A5/S5 body styles is in rear storage space, with the A5/S5 Sportback providing 17 cubic feet of capacity compared with just 11.6 cubic feet in the coupe. For the 2018 model year, Audi swapped out the supercharger that was in the S5 for a turbocharger, and it included an eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous seven-speed dual-clutch (automated manual) transmission. The new transmission helps to mitigate the lag in acceleration that’s typical of turbocharged engines. Overall, we believe that the Sportback does an excellent job of blending utility with enhanced drivability.
You can see it in showrooms: May 2017
MSRP: $42,600 (A5 Sportback)


Lexus LC 500/LC 500h

The new global rear-wheel-drive architecture that’s set to underpin several new Lexus models is included on the LC 500 coupe and the LC 500h hybrid. The new platform is stiffer than the one upon which the automaker’s RC coupe is built. Our test-drives bear out Lexus’ promise of enhanced handling prowess. The cabin of the 2018 LC 500 and LC 500h provides a 2+2, or four-passenger, layout. Some cynics claim that a 2+2 design is employed to make what essentially is a two-seat sports car to be more insurance-premium-friendly by including a back seat, which, in this case and others, is mostly useless. Unfortunately, there isn’t a pass-through function to the trunk from the back seat, which would provide much-needed expanded storage space. A raucous 471-hp V8 engine delivers copious amounts of power from a dead stop and throughout the rpm range. The 10-speed automatic transmission’s tight lower-end gear ratios help to maximize acceleration. In the end, high-end performance and superior driving dynamics embody Lexus’ most expensive two-door model.
You can see it in showrooms: Summer 2017
MSRP: $92,000 ($96,510 for the 500h)


Toyota C-HR

Arriving after most automakers jumped in to the subcompact SUV fray, the 2018 C-HR slots underneath the RAV4 compact SUV. Although it measures about 1 foot shorter than the RAV4 is, the C-HR’s wheelbase is within an inch of the RAV4’s 104.7-inch wheelbase. That makes for a roomier interior than is provided in the Nissan Juke, with its 99.6-inch wheelbase. We found that the tapered roofline has little effect on rear-seat headroom, but legroom is tight, so the space is best used for children. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is sufficient, but it isn’t particularly punchy off the line. (The C-HR’s sport-tuned suspension begs for more power under the hood.) Originally designed for the now-discontinued Scion brand and its one-well-equipped-trim-level strategy, the “base” model of the C-HR is an XLE that includes radar-based cruise control. An XLE Premium edition adds some extras.
You can see it in showrooms: May 2017
MSRP: $22,500


Jeep Compass

The second-generation Compass replaces its predecessor and the Patriot as a late-2017-model-year debut. Its size slides the Compass between the Cherokee and Renegade in Jeep’s lineup. For the first time, a Trailhawk edition comes to the Compass line and brings with it solid off-road credentials that previous other versions lacked. Ride height was increased by about 1 inch; for off-roading enthusiasts, that extra inch instills driver confidence as you approach, cross over and depart from your favorite rock-ribbed terrain. For those who  need to ford a stream, the Compass Trailhawk is rated to a depth of 19 inches. “While the Subaru Forester is the Compass’ closest competitor, the Trailhawk provides further separation thanks to its superior gearing,” says Aaron Turpen, who contributes to the New Atlas automotive website. For shoppers who don’t want a vehicle that has full off-road capabilities, three other trim levels are available and come in 4x2 and 4x4, or four-wheel-drive, configurations.
You can see it in showrooms: Now
MSRP: $20,995


Honda Odyssey

One year after Chrysler introduced the Pacifica minivan, Honda rolls out a new generation of its much-heralded Odyssey for the 2018 model year. Its new Magic Slide seat design provides flexibility in second-row seat placement when the middle seat is removed. Four second-row-seating modes are available, including “buddy mode,” in which the two remaining seats slide together. When two car seats have been placed in the Magic Slide seats, neither car seat has to be removed to provide easy access to the third row. The new CabinWatch feature improves the driver’s ability to keep track of what’s going on in the second and third rows. A camera that has night-vision technology displays an image onto the center-console screen. These changes, while obviously notable, don’t push the Odyssey past the Pacifica’s overall excellence, although the 2017 version of each vehicle is a Consumers Digest Best Buy recommendation.
You can see it in showrooms: Spring 2017
MSRP: $30,000 (estimated)


Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain

The second generation of the Equinox and Terrain hits dealerships as 2018 models. Differentiated by only slight cosmetic variations, the SUVs dropped weight compared with their predecessors (465 pounds in the case of the Terrain and “approximately 400 pounds” in the case of the Equinox, Chevy says). They were downsized, too, so they would match the size of competing vehicles. Effectively, this eliminated a distinct advantage for the duo. However, the smaller size paves the way for new turbocharged four-cylinder engines: two gasoline engines, one diesel. Explains Jimmy Dinsmore of Driver’s Side, “The [versions] with the turbodiesel can attack some of the segment vacated by Volkswagen.” That said, as long as fuel prices remain low, it’s difficult for us to see widespread interest in the diesel engine, despite its projected 40 mpg highway fuel economy. Chevrolet fans who need more room than what the Equinox provides will find it in a new Traverse that will debut later in 2017. It forgoes the downsizing fate of its GMC companion, the Acadia.
You can see them in showrooms: Spring 2017 (Equinox); Summer 2017 (Terrain)
MSRP: $23,580 (Equinox); $25,000 (Terrain) (estimated)


Alfa Romeo Stelvio

The 2018 Stelvio is Alfa Romeo’s third vehicle to come to the North American market after the brand was absent for 2 decades. It’s based on the same platform underpinnings that belong to the Giulia sedan, and that makes for a capably handling SUV, one that’s equipped to navigate twisty roads with precision. The high-performance Quadrifoglio edition is powered by a Ferrari-inspired 2.9-liter, 505-hp twin-turbocharged V6 engine and is outfitted with a Maserati all-wheel-drive system. The automaker claims that the latter quickly divides the torque that’s conventionally sent to the rear wheels, so it provides as much as a 50-50 split between both axles to deliver optimum control under wet conditions. The Quadrifoglio takes aim at the Porsche Macan, but we believe that most drivers will find the 2.0-liter, 280-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s in the base model entirely sufficient.
You can see it in showrooms: June 2017
MSRP: $41,995

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