As the 2015 New York International Auto show draws to a close, we bring you some of the vehicular highlights that will find their way to the dealership in the near future.
Honda’s Civic Revival
Stung by criticism of the current-generation Civic (Consumer Reports went so far as to drop the model from its list of “recommended cars”), new in 2012, Honda has spent the last four years developing a cutting-edge replacement. At the New York International Auto Show last week, the company debuted a sporty, vividly-hued concept coupe that presages the new lineup. The racy look of the concept is an intentional hint at a return to the sporty feel and engaging driving dynamics that brand enthusiasts have complained were lacking in recent Hondas. The 2016 Civics will ride a new platform and feature new engines (beginning with a standard 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder).
The first of the new cars, the sedan, will arrive in the fall, followed by the coupe and a five-door hatchback — the first Civic hatch for the U.S. since 2005. The high-performance, 306-hp Type R, seen at the recent Geneva show and long desired by stateside Honda fans, will also reach the U.S., but not until 2017.
Like Honda, Chevrolet found it’s last iteration of the Malibu met with a cool reception from customers. Though the previous Malibu was highly regarded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and J.D. Power, it seemed to miss the mark with consumers as a whole. Like Honda again, General Motors spent the better part of the last three years reinventing the Malibu into a more modern and cutting-edge package.
The 2016 Malibu will ride a much-modified version of the existing GM Epsilon II platform, which debuted at Chevrolet on its predecessor in 2011, but takes a lot more of it’s underpinnings from the new-in-2013 Impala than the other Epsilon II cars. It loses over 300 lbs. in the redesign and gains some new powerplants – a base 1.5 liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a stop-start “light hybrid” system, which reportedly returns up to 37 mpg on the highway. Elsewhere the Malibu Hybrid proper returns after a long absence, with some technology borrowed from the Chevy Volt. A 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder also continues, but now slightly less powerful and slightly more efficient, and mated to a new eight-speed automatic.
Inside, the materials are upgraded but retain much of the feel of the outgoing car, while outside the styling is lower, longer, and sleeker – with an almost fastback roofline that suggests both the Impala and Buick’s more expensive Regal.
A McLaren for the Masses?
Well, sort of. British supercar manufacturer McLaren, which produced the 230+ MPH F1 in the 1990s, the Mercedes SLR in the 2000s, and relaunched production of its own cars in 2011, debuted the new 570S in Manhattan. McLaren has, until now, only made what would be considered top-shelf exotics (the top-of-the-line P1 costs almost $1.3M) synonymous with the bleeding edge of car performance. Many of the company’s vehicles use technology derived from the firm’s Formula One race cars.
The 570S is the first McLaren that’s remotely close to affordable (it’s still $184,000, so don’t look for it at your local used car lot in ten months), and that’s a decision likely to have a big impact on the company’s bottom line and profile. The car is geared towards real-world usability and drivers who might otherwise be shopping for a Porsche 911 or Ferrari California.
Creature comforts haven’t dulled the performance edge, and the 570S still packs 562-hp in a 2900-lb package. As with previous “junior exotics” like the Lamborghini Gallardo, the more accessible price is likely mean a huge influx of new customers. The McLaren cachet and that lower price are expected to triple the firm’s production volume over the next three years.
Brand new Cadillac
With 2014 devoted to the launch of the ATS at the bottom of Cadillac’s lineup and moving the brand’s headquarters to new digs in Manhattan, it’s appropriate that the brand’s biggest news in 2015 arrives in the form of the CT6 – a new large sedan that slots between the CTS/5-series/E-class segment and the larger 7-series/S-class group. Cadillac already produces a car in this segment – the slow-selling XTS, and that car will soldier on for a little while as a more traditional alternative to the CT6.
The CT6, however, is a whole different animal to previous large Cadillacs, and is the first product to reach the market designed entirely under the current management team at the brand. As big as the smaller 7-series and S-class variants, it undercuts those cars on price but not on features. Thanks to new lightweight construction techniques and new engines, it also promises better performance than the lower-rung models of those cars. For all the CT6’s size, its 3700-lb. weight makes it lighter than the much smaller BMW 5-series.
Powering the new car will be a turbocharged four-cylinder, which seems out of place in such a large car until you consider that it packs 265 horsepower. A pair of V6s (335-hp standard, or 400 hp in turbo form), are further down on the options sheet and Cadillac CEO Johan De Nysschen hinted to Jalopnik that a V8 is in the works. These engines, like the car as a whole, bristle with technology such as cylinder deactivation and start-stop hybrid systems.
General Motors has committed to investing $12B in Cadillac’s future over the next five years – money that will go mostly to launching eight all-new vehicles by 2020, the first of which is the CT6. If the initial response to the CT6 is anything to go by, the future looks bright.
A more conservative Kia
In 2010, Kia showed debuted a redesigned 2011 Optima to a genuinely shocked audience. Kia’s brand renaissance has proceeded at such a rapid pace that this event seems distant now – but the 2011 Optima was a radical break with the past and a car that established Kia as the style leader in the mid-size sedan segment, an achievement nobody would ever have predicted a decade ago. Led by new design chief Peter Schreyer, Kia has been on a roll ever since that debut – revealing one stylish big seller after another.
Sales of the Optima have increased from 27,000 in 2010 to nearly 160,000 in 2014. Customers were not interested in the previous Optima, so Kia had little to lose by being radical in 2011, but now that the car is selling in those volumes, the design team chose to go in an evolutionary and conservative direction with it’s 2016 replacement. Almost all the changes for 2016 smooth over the radical sharp edges of the car’s predecessor – the result being a car with a little less character that is more like other midsize sedans (like the Camry and Accord), not meant to polarize opinions.
Inside, the car’s interior is improved in terms of materials and details. It looks, and feels, more expensive than the previous car. Under the hood a new 178-hp turbocharged four-cylinder serves as the base engine, while two larger engines (a 2.4 liter four and a turbocharged 2.0 liter four) are carried over.
Where the Kia Optima’s redesign is conservative, Nissan’s new Maxima is radical – on the outside. Maxima sales have dwindled from about 100,000 in 2002 to just over 50,000 in 2014, and the big sedan needed a breath of fresh air. Once Nissan’s mid-size car, the Maxima grew into a large car over the years and one that, visually, just looked like the de facto mid-size Altima. It has, over the years, also lost the sporty edge it once had – in the mid-1990s the Maxima was regarded as the best front-drive sports sedan around.
The 2016 redesign is a big departure from its predecessor visually – sporty cues have been heavily lifted from the Nissan GTR and the whole package looks very aggressive. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was quick to point out that it’s lighter (by 82 lbs.), aerodynamically better (.295 drag coefficient, down from .33), and has 10 more horsepower than it’s predecessor. But it remains essentially similar to its predecessor under the skin – a big car (Toyota Avalon sized) with front drive and a “performance oriented” CVT (continuously variable transmission).
The aggressive new styling could give the Maxima a big edge over similarly-sized competitors like the Impala and Avalon – but time will tell if it’s really a “four door sports car” that the marketing department labels it.
The future of Lincoln?
For several years now, Lincoln’s auto show presence across the country has been characterized by beautifully built stands that suggest mid-century modern touches and banquet halls of the Mad Men era. But despite these luxurious trappings – which are far more interesting visually than the typical stands of BMW, Mercedes, or Acura, the cars at Lincoln haven’t captivated the masses, and the brand overall has remained in limbo.
This may change next year if reaction to the Continental concept is anything to go by. Lincoln has rolled out impressive concepts before – including a very well received Continental sedan back in 2002 – only to pull back from the cutting edge when it comes time for a new production car. The Continental reportedly presages a new flagship for the brand – a car intended to rival the Cadillac CT6, the big Germans, and the Lexus LS and replace the MKS, currently Lincoln’s flagship.
The Bentley-esque Continental doesn’t use many traditional Lincoln cues, but it’s chock full of luxury touches like massaging seats and stunning interior details. Details are scant, however, on just how close this concept car is to what will materialize late next year in production form. One thing that Ford officials did confirm, however, is that the new Continental will be powered by a 3-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 – similar in many ways to Cadillac’s choices on the CT6.