All the glitz and showmanship of a new-car introduction doesn’t do you any good when you need a cool-headed assessment to decide whether to replace your current car.
What follows is Consumer Reports’ take on upcoming 2016 models—separating the substance from the filler. From small SUVs to luxury cars and fuel-sipping hybrids, every category has game-changing models on the way. We’ve identified the more than 40 key vehicles that are all-new entrants—or at least significantly redesigned—and go on sale starting this fall.
Many of them will be worth the wait and should be on your must-test-drive list. Stay tuned for Consumer Reports’ thorough testing and evaluation of those vehicles as soon as they hit dealerships.
Honda Civic: Coming Fall 2015
Car shoppers hated how Honda cheapened its current Civic, and the automaker is rushing a replacement six months ahead of schedule. An all-new platform will have a 3-inch longer wheelbase for more cabin room.
The base engine will be a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with the uplevel engine a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Buyers can choose from a six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission. A hybrid will not be offered at launch.
Honda claims that the cabin is quieter and more refined.
Look for the sedan this fall, followed by a coupe and a five-door hatchback. A Type R performance model hits showrooms in 2016.
Tesla Model X: Coming Fall 2015
Tesla’s all-electric seven-passenger SUV will start assembly later this year. It will mark the follow-up to Tesla’s extraordinary Model S sedan, which was the highest-scoring car in our tests. There will be 70-, 85-, and 90-kWh battery packs available. The 85-kWh should deliver about 200 miles of range. The Model X will have front and rear electric motors, giving it all-wheel drive. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has claimed it will be the fastest SUV ever. The Model X has roof-hinged “falcon-wing” second-row doors for easy access to the back two rows of seats.
BMW X1: Coming Fall 2015
The second-generation X1 crossover moves from the rear-drive 3 Series sedan platform to a front-drive layout shared with the Mini Cooper hatchback. This packaging brings more cargo and cabin room, particularly for rear-seat passengers.
Only one powertrain will be available at launch: a 2.0-liter, 228-hp four-cylinder turbo, mated to an eight-speed automatic. All-wheel-drive models will arrive first, with front-drive versions joining by the end of the year.
Available safety systems include lane-departure and forward-collision warnings. Base models get a 6.5-inch control display screen, and an 8.8-inch screen is optional.
Chevrolet Malibu: Coming Fall 2015
On the heels of its Impala, Chevrolet might have another winner with the Malibu. This midsized sedan has adult-scale rear-seat leg and head room. For the driver, outward visibility and control layout are improved.
Chevy claims that the handling feels sharper and the ride is more refined. Base models get a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder, and the strong 2.0-liter four-cylinder remains from the current model. A full-hybrid, using a 1.5-kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor mated to a 1.8-liter engine, is claimed to get 47 mpg.
Lexus RX: Coming Fall 2015
Despite its radical styling, the RX follows a familiar redesign formula: Keep the good stuff, but make the popular crossover roomier, more powerful, and thriftier with gas.
The RX will retain its 3.5-liter V6, which should make close to 300 hp, but it adds an eight-speed automatic for better fuel economy. A hybrid version will also be offered.
The cabin features an optional 12.3-inch screen, accessed via a fussy touchpad on the center console. An optional head-up display provides key information. Rear-seat passengers get more leg and knee room.
Toyota Prius: Coming Spring 2016
How do you improve on excellence? For Toyota, it’s about eking out even better mileage without straying from what has made the Prius so efficient. Toyota was gunning for 60 mpg, but sources say it will be closer to 55.
The successor to CR’s fuel-economy champ will remain a five-door hatchback but ride on an all-new platform. Power still comes from a small gas engine and electric motor driving the front wheels, mated to a continuously variable transmission. A longer-range—but pricier—lithium-ion battery pack may be optional over the standard nickel battery.
Cadillac CT6: Coming Fall 2015
The new CT6 is tasked with filling the flagship-shaped void in Cadillac’s lineup. It’s 6 inches longer than its CTS sibling but is shorter than models such as the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The top engine is a new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6; a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and a 3.6-liter V6 are also available. Both V6s come with all-wheel drive; the 2.0-liter is rear-drive only.
We tried out the updated Cue infotainment system and found that it reacts and scrolls much faster than the current version. Along with a 10.2-inch touch screen, Cue incorporates hard keys and a touchpad that recognizes handwriting.
Also coming soon to a dealer near you
Fall 2015 debut
• Audi TT
• BMW 7 Series
• Chevrolet Volt: The Volt goes mainstream, with more conventional controls and three-across rear seating. Look for an all-electric range of 50 miles from the 18.2-kWh battery and a total electric-gas range of 400.
• Lincoln MKX
• Mercedes-Benz GLC
• Mercedes-Benz Metris
• Mini Clubman
• Nissan Titan: The full-sized Titan initially arrives with a 310-hp, 5.0-liter Cummins diesel engine, giving it the ability to tow 12,000 pounds. Gasoline V8 and V6 engines will be added later.
• Scion iA
• Scion iM
• Smart ForTwo
• Toyota Tacoma: The updated Tacoma features a new 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V6, sending power through either a six-speed manual or a new six-speed automatic. A four-cylinder is also available. In the past, we’ve knocked the Tacoma for its clumsy handling, bouncy ride, and uncomfortable driving position. Toyota says the new model will have improved handling but will keep its serious off-road chops.
Winter 2015 debut
• Chevrolet Cruze
• Chevrolet Bolt
• Honda Ridgeline: Riding on the same platform as the latest Honda Pilot and Acura MDX, look for Honda’s family-focused pickup to sport a more traditional trucky look.
Spring 2016 debut
• Alfa Romeo Giulia
• Audi A4
• Audi Q7: Through the use of aluminum and high-strength steel, the new Audi Q7 is more than 700 pounds lighter while retaining almost the same dimensions. A 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder will be added to the lineup.
• Buick Cascada: This convertible gets a new 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder, a well-insulated fabric top that can be operated at speeds up to 31 mph, and rear seats that can fit two adults or fold flat for cargo.
• Cadillac XT5
• Chrysler Town & Country
• Hyundai Elantra: The new Elantra is likely to grow in length—for a roomier and quieter interior—and gain a more comfortable ride and new high-tech gadgets.
• Jaguar XE
• Kia Sportage: If it follows in the footsteps of its Hyundai Tucson corporate sibling, the new Sportage SUV will get a better ride, sharper handling, and a more upscale interior.
• Mazda CX-9: This seven-passenger SUV is likely to shed its thirsty V6 for a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, add in connectivity features and improved crash protection.
Summer 2016 debut
• Honda Odyssey: The minivan heavyweight showdown starts with an all-new Odyssey. Expect the 3.5-liter V6 and a choice of a six- or nine-speed automatic from the Pilot SUV.
This article also appeared in the October 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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