2015 Autos: The Best Models
2015 Autos: The Best Models
Check out some of the leading cars coming to market.
Think of the seventh-generation Golf as more of a family of vehicles, with everything from an affordable base model up to the sporty GTI line. There’s also a new high-performance R400 coming, as well as electric and even hydrogen-powered versions. It’s no surprise the VW model is winning awards all over the world. The entire family shares some basics: The new Golf starts out with a stiffer, lighter platform that delivers both better performance and improved handling. Now add on a range of features tailored for each new version.
What happens when you mix a microcar with a crossover utility vehicle? You come up with the new Fiat 500X, expected in 2016. If the look is a bit familiar, that should be no surprise. The 500X shares many of its underpinnings with both the Fiat 500L and the new Jeep Renegade, though it retains traditional Fiat styling cues. Fiat describes the new model as “a beauty with character,” blending a bit of Italian haute couture with the functional aspects of a crossover. While the new 500X might seem positively huge compared to the original 500 hatchback, it still falls into the subcompact B-car segment, which is great if you’re based in a crowded urban area.
Few vehicles have ever been so dominant. The Toyota Camry has led the U.S. passenger car market for 12 years in a row, and a major upgrade for 2015 is aimed at retaining that dominance. Though this was supposed to be a “mid-cycle” tweak, Toyota has changed virtually every body panel to give the normally plain-looking Camry a much more stylish appearance, particularly with the new SXE model. You’ll also find new technology, such as a larger video screen, more smartphone-based apps, and even a wireless cell phone charging system on the 2015 Camry.
It’s big, bold, and in your face. And to fans, that’s the best part of the Chrysler 300 sedan. If anything, the maker may have backed off a bit too much when the full-size model was redesigned several years ago. So it is amping up the appearance factor for 2015, starting with a 30 percent larger grille. The new sedan also moves more upmarket with the launch of the 300C Platinum edition, while also offering the sportier 300C. With plenty of space for five, the full-size sedan from the REALTOR Benefits® partner also gets new technology for 2015, including a backup camera, active cruise control, and forward collision warning with auto-brake.
The one-time Baby Benz is all grown up. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz mainstay has grown into a much more sophisticated luxury sedan, offering many of the latest high-tech features found in the German maker’s top-line E- and S-Class models. There are two distinct versions, one with a more classic Mercedes grille and the other with a more modern and sporty take. The new C-Class is longer, wider, and roomier, yet lighter and notably more fuel-efficient, even while delivering improved power. Inside, the COMAND infotainment system adds features while making it easier to operate with a tablet-like touchpad on the center console.
First introduced in 1985, the Hyundai Sonata was a largely overlooked entry into the crowded midsize market, but that all changed with the launch of the 2011 sedan, which had over-the-top-styling. Now Hyundai is rolling out the gen-7 Sonata for the 2015 model year, and while it has actually toned down its appearance a bit, it has addressed some of the car’s shortfalls. It gets a positively cavernous new back seat, for one thing, great for hauling around clients. Handling has also been improved, and there are plenty of new tech and safety features.
It’s been the best-selling SUV in the American market for 24 years, but Ford isn’t satisfied with success. It hopes to gain even more ground over its competitors with the mid-cycle update of its midsize Explorer utility vehicle. This is no longer the classic, boxy sport-utility vehicle of years past. The 2015 edition is sharp and stylish. And by migrating from a truck-like platform to a car-based “architecture,” it delivers better handling and improved fuel economy while maintaining significant off-road capabilities. For 2015, the Explorer gets a sporty new turbocharged EcoBoost engine. Ford also is adding a luxurious new Platinum Edition with all the features of a luxury SUV.
For those who need serious utility, it’s hard to beat a pickup. And these days, these trucks can be as luxurious and fun to drive as any sedan or utility vehicle. The big market is in full-size pickups, but General Motors is betting it can kick-start the midsize truck segment with the launch of the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon siblings. The GMC model is the more appealing of the pair for those who aren’t going to use a truck on a construction site. It features a stylish exterior design and gets a well-appointed interior with plenty of room and lots of new technologies. It offers a choice of two gas engines and will soon get a new diesel that will nudge up to around 30 mpg.
Remember Lincoln? No, not the guy whose picture is on the $5 bill; we’re talking about the once-formidable luxury nameplate that is now trying to prove its relevance with some impressive new products, such as the 2015 MKC. This crossover launches into an increasingly crowded segment and might be missed if it weren’t so good. It features an appealing design, inside and out, and some great driving dynamics, especially if ordered with the turbocharged EcoBoost engine. The MKC also is one of the first Lincoln models to be given Black Label treatment, with four specially designed interior packages matched by a suite of new “experiential” services.
The launch of the new 2015 Subaru Outback comes five generations and exactly 20 years after the original crossover debuted. It’s still as much fun as ever to drive, but now features a more stylish exterior design and a decidedly more elegant interior loaded with the latest in safety, comfort, and convenience features. That includes Subaru’s EyeSight system using stereo cameras to control its forward collision warning system and other functions. The upgraded infotainment system links to smartphones to provide features such as Pandora and Aha entertainment. The 2015 Outback also offers a choice of a fuel-efficient four- or a sportier six-cylinder engine.
Mazda is the latest player to enter the fast-emerging and increasingly crowded market for so-called city SUVs with the launch of its new CX-3 crossover. It’s one of the globe’s fastest-growing segments, and it’s also gaining traction in the U.S. market, where these pint-sized multipurpose vehicles barely even existed five years ago. Think of the CX-3 as “a vehicle to suit the customer’s creative lifestyle in any scene, from inner-city driving to enjoying the great outdoors,” the maker suggests. The CX-3’s appeal is based on a balance of aggressive design, functionality, and fuel economy.
Kia Soul EV
Few cars have done a better job of putting a relatively unknown brand on the radar than this quirky, compact crossover. Sure, those hip-hop hamsters have helped, but the Kia Soul is both distinctive to look at and fun to drive. And for 2015, Kia is expanding the quirky crossover’s appeal by adding an all-electric drivetrain. The good news is that there’s virtually no sacrifice in terms of passenger or cargo space because of the big battery. Performance is acceptable, though there’s always the issue of range, typically less than 100 miles per charge.
Few vehicles have gotten more attention in recent years than the Chevrolet Volt, the first mass-market plug-in hybrid. The original, launched in late 2010, is about to undergo a major update, one worth waiting for if you’re in the market. The update will mean not just revised styling but a much roomier interior, improved range, better fuel economy, and increased performance. That’s a hard combination to turn down. The new version of the Volt is likely to handle much of your daily driving needs on battery power alone, but when your charge runs down, it will still automatically fire up the gas engine and keep you going.
Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Tucson Fuel-Cell Vehicle
Hydrogen is, for many of its advocates, the fuel of the future. Used to power a so-called fuel-cell stack, it produces nothing but water vapor as exhaust. We’re going to see an assortment of new fuel-cell vehicles coming to market in the near future. Hyundai launched a version of its Tucson sport-utility vehicle last summer, and Toyota will launch its all-new Mirai by mid-2015, with Honda following a year later. The downside is that there are few places to fill up your tank with hydrogen, so makers will initially launch sales in Southern California. The Golden State is setting up a statewide fueling network, and other states are expected to follow. That could expand the range and appeal of hydrogen technology.