As we push past summer and head into what, for the auto industry, is the start of a new year, there’ll be lot of things happening at showrooms across the country.
The 2016 model-year will bring not only a new of major new products but some significant new technologies, the latter list including the first applications of the Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto infotainment systems, as well as new semi-autonomous driving features that will allow a limited amount of hands-free driving.
In terms of product, there’ll be a bit of something from everyone, from the market’s smallest vehicle, the second-generation Smart ForTwo, all the way up to some of the biggest and most expensive products on the market, such as the completely redesigned BMW 7-Series sedan and Bentley’s first-ever SUV, the Bentayga. Here’s a select list of some of the most important models for set to debut over the coming 12 months:
Acura has again delayed the launch of its reborn NSX supercar but it should finally reach showrooms by spring. The 2016 NSX adopts a unique 3-motor hybrid drivetrain that will give it tremendous off-the-line power, while also making it one of the most fuel-efficient performance cars on the market.
Alfa Romeo makes a critical move as it ramps up its global turnaround plan with the first in a series of key products, the Giulia sedan. We won’t see this sporty model reach U.S. showrooms until late in the year, unfortunately.
Audi weighs in with a new version of its popular A4 sedan. It’s more than just a modest refresh, but a complete makeover of every single body panel. There’ll be plenty of changes under the skin, as well, including a new lighter platform that should translate into better mileage and performance.
Bentley brings to market its very first sport-utility vehicle, the Bentayga. The SUV is expected to deliver a blend of extreme refinement and surprisingly solid off-road capabilities. Some reports have suggested a four-seat version may be followed by a larger three-row model.
BMW has several new offerings on tap over the next year, starting with the next-generation 7-Series sedan. It’s a technological tour-de-force with everything from gesture controls to a semi-autonomous drive mode. And a plug-in hybrid version will follow next year.
Buick enters the convertible market for 2016 with the new Cascada. Well, not entirely new, as it’s a modestly updated version of the ragtop Opel Cascada sold by parent General Motors in Europe. The compact convertible will be Buick’s first al fresco offering since the ill-fated Reatta was dropped in 1990.
Cadillac aims to show it can challenge the best of the global luxury brands with two critical debuts. The first out of the box is the stylish and technically sophisticated CT6 sedan, a full-size offering that goes up against the likes of the new BMW 7-Series. Next on tap will be the XT5 crossover replacing the old SRX.
Chevrolet wasn’t content with just one or two new models. It is coming to market with an array of new offerings, including remakes of both the compact Cruze and midsize Malibu sedans. Then there’s the complete makeover of the Camaro pony car. And there’s a new diesel version of the Colorado pickup.
Chevrolet has so much new sheet metal coming it deserves a double-entry to talk about the launch of the second-generation Chevy Volt. The first mass-market plug-in hybrid gets a complete makeover. It’s now a five-seater, gets 40% more battery range, better mileage and improved performance.
Chrysler invented the modern minivan but with demand sliding it will be down to one model in 2016, an all-new version of the more upscale Chrysler Town & Country model. Expect to see some new features and a few borrowed from competitors – like the built-in vacuum first seen on a Honda Odyssey
Fiat has been struggling to gain traction since returning to the U.S. market and hopes to build momentum, with the launch of its first crossover, the 500X – which shares key components with the Jeep Renegade. The maker also will revive the 124 Spider, a convertible based off the new Mazda Miata.
(For more on the return of the Fiat 124 Spider, Click Here.)
Ford reversed course a couple years back and decided to put more emphasis on performance, as the 2016 model-year will confirm. Among the wide range of new models on tap are the 526-hp Shelby GT350 Mustang and Ford’s all-new supercar, the limited-edition GT, the most expensive Ford ever.
GMC will echo sibling General Motors brand Chevrolet by adding a torquey, high-mileage diesel option for the new Canyon midsize pickup.
Honda dropped a bombshell at the New York Auto Show in April when it revealed a new version of its compact Civic model much earlier than expected. With U.S. designers taking the lead, the bolder design will be matched by new powertrain offerings including a turbocharged-four, a first for the Civic.
(Click Here to check out the hottest cars coming to the 2015 LA Auto Show.)
Hyundai picks up on some of its latest design cues with the launch of an all-new Tucson crossover. Even bolder than the previous model, it is slightly larger and roomier, and notably better-equipped. Among the new features: a “smart” auto-opening tailgate and optional LED headlamps.
Infiniti has been rolling out an array of new offerings, large and – for 2016 – small. First on tap is the compact Q30 hatchback model, with a more rugged version, the QX30 quickly set to follow. Both push the design envelope while sharing underlying platforms with Mercedes models like the GLA and CLA.
Jaguar enters a critical year beginning with the debut of an all-new XF, its mid-luxury sedan. The striking new model adopts a lightweight aluminum architecture that helps deliver both better mileage and performance. Within the next year, also look for the new XE compact sedan and F-Pace, Jag’s first SUV.
Kia has shattered its traditional image as a dull maker of econoboxes, and the stylish Optima is one key reason why. Now look for an all-new version of the midsize sedan that will adopt an even more refined design, inside and out, while offering a variety of more upscale features.
Lexus is rolling out an all-new version of the ever-popular RX crossover for 2016. Both versions, the gas-power RX350, as well as the hybrid RX450h, will be back, along with a more dynamic F Sport edition. The new RX will feature a bolder version of the Lexus RX spindle grille, and a more edgy look overall.
Lincoln has been coy with details about the new flagship sedan, but the upgraded replacement for the old MKS sedan is moving closer to production. For those who don’t want to wait, the Detroit luxury brand will begin the 2016 model-year with a newly redesigned version of its MKX crossover model.
Mazda has two big stories for 2016. Actually, they’re both pretty small: the fourth-generation Miata roadster and the little CX-3. The latter is a sporty looking compact crossover charging into a fast-growing new market segment. The Miata is a complete remake of the ragtop that is lighter and more dynamic.
Mercedes-Benz aims for the heart of its line-up with a midsize E-Class sedan remake. Expect it to pick up on the more expressive design language of the current C- and S-Class models. But the 2016 E-Class will feature some of Mercedes’ most advantage technology yet, including near-autonomous driving.
Nissan has several important models coming to market at near polar extremes, starting with an updated version of the midsize Altima sedan, one of the market’s best-sellers. There’s also an all-new version of the slow-selling Titan full-size pickup. More body styles and a diesel option should help build interest.
Smart is still targeting that small but promising niche of urban buyers who want something small enough to make a U-turn in a driveway. The 2016 Smart ForTwo looks much like the original but is completely new. Still just 8.8 feet long, it is wider and roomier and bit more powerful than before.
Scion is coming to market with two new models for 2016. That includes not only the new iM hatchback but the youth-oriented brand’s first sedan, the iA. The latter four-door is a Scion take on the little Mazda2 sedan. The iM “hot hatch,” however, was developed in-hour by the Toyota sub-brand.
(Click Here for a first drive of the new Scion iM.)
Tesla is getting its second model – and first SUV – to market more than two years behind schedule. The Model X will feature a drivetrain similar to the Model S sedan, including extended-range batteries and the new Ludicrous Mode performance option. The new falcon wing doors should be an eye-catcher.
Toyota has several big launches this year but nothing is as important to the maker as the introduction of an all-new Prius. Long the world’s best-selling hybrid, it has lost momentum this year, and Toyota hopes to shore up sales with a new version that’s bigger, more stylish – and even more fuel-efficient.
Toyota also needs a double entry as it is launching a major update of its midsize Tacoma pickup. Long the sales leader in this declining segment, it now has some tough new competition, nudging Toyota to revise its styling and improve the Tacoma’s capabilities and manner both off and on-road.
Volvo wants to shift its image of building safe – but boring and boxy — vehicles. It’s still emphasizing safety, but the latest-generation XC90 features an unusual stylish shape for a crossover and offers plenty of performance with its ”twin motor” hybrid powertrain. Look for a sedan S90 version to follow.