Some 1.5 million people are employed in the endeavor of designing, engineering, building, and selling new vehicles. It’s a Herculean effort, one we celebrate annually with our New Cars issue. You’ll find 83 cars that have either just come out or will debut very soon. This year, we’re also shining a spotlight on a few of the lesser-known folks who help make the cars you see on these pages. Look for them throughout the section. And as always, we’ve included our unvarnished opinions to aid your car shopping, because the person that matters most to us in this whole process is you. Without you, there are no new cars and there is no annual issue. Click the links below to learn about some of the hottest new cars available for 2016.
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Chevrolet Spark — $14,500 (est)
Smart Fortwo — $14,000
Scion iA — $16,495
Chevrolet Cruze — $18,000 (est)
Honda Civic — $19,500 (est)
Scion iM — $19,255
Honda HR-V — $19,995
Mazda CX-3 — $20,840
Fiat 500X — $20,900
Mazda6 — $22,315
Chevrolet Malibu — $24,500
Kia Optima — $23,000 (est)
Toyota Tacoma — $23,000 (est)
Hyundai Tucson — $22,375
Mitsubishi Outlander — $23,845
Mazda CX-5 — $22,675
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Nissan Maxima — $33,235
Chevrolet Camaro — $26,500 (est)
Chevrolet Volt — $33,995
Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop — $31,450
Buick Cascada — $34,500 (est)
Mazda MX-5 Miata — $25,735
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid — $27,000
Acura ILX — $28,820
Chrysler 300 — $32,690
Honda Pilot — $30,875
Ford Explorer — $31,990
Infiniti Q30/QX30 — $30,000 (est)
Nissan Titan XD — $34,000 (est)
Kia Sorento — $25,925
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Jaguar XE — $38,000 (est)
Ford Focus RS — $37,500 (est)
Audi TT — $43,825
BMW 2 Series Convertible — $38,850
Volkswagen Golf R — $37,415
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition — $42,000 (est)
Ram 1500 Rebel — $43,985
Mercedes-Benz C350E — $45,000 (est)
Audi A3 e-tron — $40,000 (est)
Lexus RX — $44,000 (est)
BMW X1 — $35,000 (est)
Infiniti QX50 — $35,995
Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class — $39,825
Range Rover Evoque Convertible — $50,000 (est)
Volvo XC90 — $49,895
Audi Q7 — $49,500
Lincoln MKX — $38,995
Ford Shelby GT350 and GT350R — $49,995
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Cadillac CT6 — $75,000 (est)
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider — $65,495
Lotus Evora 400 — $89,900
Jaguar XF — $57,000
Porsche Boxster Spyder — $83,095
Porsche Cayman GT4 — $85,595
Jaguar F-Type — $65,995
Ford F-150 Raptor — $50,000 (est)
Lexus GS F — $85,000 (est)
Mercedes-AMG C63 — $64,825
Cadillac ATS-V — $63,660/$61,460 (coupe/sedan)
Cadillac CTS-V — $84,990
BMW 7 Series — $82,250
Lincoln Continental — $55,000
Tesla Model S D — $76,200 (before tax rebates)
Cadillac ELR — $65,995
Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class — $52,025
Jaguar F-Pace — $50,000 (est)
BMW X5 M — $99,650
BMW X6 M — $103,050
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Bentley Continental GT — $201,225
Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II — $291,350
Ferrari 488 GTB — $275,000 (est)
Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce — $493,095
Mercedes-AMG G65 — $218,825
Ford GT — $400,000 (est)
Click here to meet some of the unsung heroes who help develop your new car.
Chevrolet’s smallest car, originally cheap-feeling and gawky looking, appears to be growing up. A redesigned, more refined front fascia means the car no longer looks like the vehicular equivalent of one of those toy noses with a mustache and glasses. A new 1.4-liter four-cylinder, paired to a five-speed manual or a CVT automatic, has 14 more horsepower than the old engine, now at a semi-respectable 98 hp. A slightly longer wheelbase and stiffer body should improve the highway ride, which was already pretty good for such a small car. A touchscreen infotainment system is standard, as is a backup camera.
You wouldn’t know it from the Pixar styling, but the Smart Fortwo has become a serious car. It has grown 3.9 inches wider and now maneuvers far more authoritatively (the old Smart had enough body roll to make the driver sick) and offers more space for its two occupants. A new suspension with taller springs and higher-profile tires deliver a better ride. A turbocharged 0.9-liter three-cylinder sits in back and makes 89 hp, enough to reach 96 mph if you have the patience and courage. The old car’s greatest atrocity, the five-speed automated-manual transmission, is replaced by a six-speed dual-clutch automatic or a five-speed manual gearbox. A stronger safety cell protects occupants should something go awry—a prototype survived a 31-mph collision with a Mercedes-Benz S-Class and still had normally functioning doors. With all the improvements, a basic question remains: Why buy over a similarly priced conventional subcompact?
The U.S. will miss out on the latest generation of the Mazda2 sub-compact (for now), but this Scion is the next-best thing. Built alongside the Mazda2 at Mazda’s plant in Mexico, the Scion iA is basically a sedan version of the Mazda2 hatchback that’s already on sale elsewhere in the world. A 106-hp Mazda inline-four with a six-speed manual or automatic nets more than 40 mpg on the highway. Scion’s contributions to this project are mixed. We’re not fans of the iA-specific grille, which looks like a catfish, but we do appreciate the brand’s generous approach to standard equipment: a rearview camera, push-button start, pre-collision braking, and Bluetooth are all included.
The Cruze, which debuted in 2011, was Chevrolet’s first credible small car since, well, forever, but it wasn’t perfect. The streamlined-looking new model addresses the main shortcomings, with 2 inches more legroom for the once-tight rear seat and up to 250 pounds of weight reduction. It launches with one gas engine, a turbocharged inline-four that makes an estimated 150 hp and should net 40 mpg on the highway. A new, 1.6-liter turbodiesel follows later.
Honda wants enthusiasts to get excited about the Civic again. To that end, the Civic Type R comes to the U.S. at last and will make more than 300 hp from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four. The standard car will get forced induction too: a 1.5-liter turbo-four that can be paired with a six-speed manual. Last but not least, the Civic hatchback—the car that helped launch a thousand aftermarket companies—is returning to the States after a decade hiatus.
Scion’s second injection of life comes courtesy of Toyota’s European lineup. The iM, which replaces the xB, is based on the Toyota Auris, a hatchback slightly smaller than the Corolla. It offers the same powertain as the Corolla, a 137-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder paired to a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic. Unlike the Corolla, the iM has an independent rear suspension, which should give it a better ride. It will come with plenty of standard features, including a backup camera and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Not bad for less than $20,000. Still, we long for the second coming of the original xB, which attracted hipsters and baby boomers alike with its fun, funky styling. This bland-looking hatchback doesn’t appear to be it.
Meet the Subcompact Crossover
The formula for a subcompact crossover is simple: Take a small hatchback, lift it up a couple inches, offer all-wheel drive, and raise the price. As competitors pour into the segment, you’ll find a surprising amount of diversity among the flood of new entries.
The Honda HR-V is the best all-rounder and the early segment leader. It’s not as stylish as the Fiat or as exciting as the Mazda, but it checks all the right boxes: good fuel economy, mature driving dynamics (the manual is more fun), and competitive pricing. Because the HR-V inherits the Fit’s clever, center-mounted fuel tank layout, it offers a large and infinitely configurable interior. The dashboard’s plush materials and modern-looking design are just cherries on top, even if we’re not huge fans of Honda’s button-free touchscreen interface.
The sharp Mazda CX-3 looks more contemporary than the Fiat but makes an equally successful style statement. It drives with the dynamic poise and sportiness that you’d expect from the Zoom-Zoom brand. But climb into the well-appointed cabin and you’ll find that there’s not nearly as much space as its rivals, with a cramped rear seat and a tiny cargo area. It’s attractive and great to drive, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense as a utility vehicle.
TheFiat 500X, which shares its platform with the more rugged-looking Jeep Renegade, has plenty of fashionable retro appeal thanks to its fun color palette and cute, rounded styling. But its lackluster powertrain options—a 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with a six-speed manual and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a nine-speed automatic—aren’t refined and provide middling fuel-economy numbers.
Most midsize sedans are chasing after the same combination of fuel efficiency, mass appeal, and affordability. The Mazda6, refreshed for this year with a higher-quality interior and a vastly improved infotainment system, forges its own path, one that leads to the top of this competitive segment. It is, foremost, a lot of fun to drive, with accurate steering, a firm chassis, and an available six-speed manual gearbox (in addition to a quick-shifting six-speed automatic). It also looks more expensive, inside and out, than anything in its class, although excessive wind and road noise reminds you it’s not a luxury sedan. At the same time, the Mazda6 checks most of the midsize sedan boxes: Fuel efficiency is excellent—40 mpg on the highway from its 184-hp four-cylinder—and quality, per Mazda’s reputation, appears to be top notch.
Chevrolet wasted no time redesigning the Malibu, which debuted only three years ago but was poorly conceived because it germinated during GM’s bankruptcy. All-new sheetmetal, similar to that on the stylish Impala, stretches over a wheelbase that has increased 3.6 inches to provide more interior room. A new 1.5-liter, turbo inline-four now serves as a base engine, producing 160 hp. A 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbo remains optional. There will, at long last, be a competitive hybrid variant that employs the Volt’s two-motor drive unit.
A stiffer body structure and a significantly revised suspension aim to deliver the sportiness and refinement that the Optima’s styling has long promised. A 178-hp, turbo inline-four joins the lineup, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. A new interior with higher-quality materials continues Kia’s march upmarket.
It has been more than a decade since we’ve seen any major updates to the Toyota Tacoma, and that’s because it works. For 2016, Toyota is looking to modernize its midsize truck without upsetting its rugged simplicity. All-new, hot-stamped body panels reduce weight and look more aggressive. The interior has softer-touch materials and a new dash layout to accommodate a new array of electronic aids. The biggest change, however, is that the 4.0L V-6 has been replaced with an Atkinson-cycle 3.5L V-6 with port and direct fuel injection for better efficiency and more power. This new motor sounds complicated and will have to prove itself worthy of the Tacoma’s reputation for indestructability, yet it is necessary to stay competitive with the rejuvenated Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Unlike the GM twins, Toyota will still offer a manual transmission on four-wheel-drive models.
The new Tucson is one of the most stylish entrants in its (admittedly unstylish) segment. A clean interior design integrates lots of technology into an easy-to-use interface. There’s technology under the hood too, with a 175-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a dual-clutch automatic transmission that achieve an impressive 29 mpg combined.
Despite an unusually extensive midcycle refresh that significantly improved its ride, handling, quietness, and interior, the Outlander is far from the most sophisticated compact crossover on sale today. It is, however, very affordable and extremely practical, even offering a third row of seats where most rivals offer just two, although the cramped back row is meant only for children.
Snazzier looks and an updated infotainment system (similar to the Mazda6) are just gravy for what is already our favorite small crossover.
Large, front-wheel-drive sedans have fallen out of fashion, yet the highly fashionable, nicely finished new Maxima should carve out a niche for itself. Just don’t expect it to carve corners.
Give Nissan head designer Shiro Nakamura points for boldness. You won’t confuse the Maxima for an Altima—or anything else, really. When the Maxima debuted at the New York auto show in April, it appeared to have more tortured skin than “50 Shades of Grey.” But the Maxima looks much better on the street—even attractive, from some angles. Under the skin, its big 3.5-liter V-6 has been reworked to produce 300 hp, and it now has some 80 fewer pounds to move. The sporty Maxima SR variant gets firmer springs and dampers, a thicker front anti-roll bar, and 19-inch aluminum wheels shod in grippy Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. It also has a horizontally mounted damper up front to help soothe body vibrations. Active ride control taps brakes to quell fore-and-aft pitching.
For all that, the Maxima doesn’t drive as engagingly as a BMW 3 Series — or, for that matter, a Mazda6. Ersatz “shifts” from the CVT automatic feel slow, and steering feels artificially stiff. When asked to break a sweat, the Maxima huffs and puffs and reveals that it is, in fact, a big, honking, front-wheel-drive sedan.
Luxury is the real selling point here. The hushed and commodious cabin is a high point. Genuine stitching traces the instrument panel, and drivers twirl a handsome, flat-bottomed steering wheel. Nissan’s fatigue-fighting Zero Gravity seats have robust bolsters. A tandem 8.0-inch central screen and 7.0-inch driver’s display likely set the class standard for sharp graphics and no-fuss operation.
The outgoing Camaro was like an early Matthew McConaughey character: handsome, hulking, and dumb as a rock. The new, sixth-generation car wants to be like McConaughey’s roles today—still dashing but slimmed down and more sophisticated. To that end, it’s smaller and rides on a lightweight platform that it shares with the Cadillac ATS and CTS. The interior has also matured, with more sensibly placed controls and better materials. You can even see out of it. (Kind of.) A 275-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and a re-engineered 335-hp V-6 are sure to account for most sales, but we’d still splurge for the good ol’ V-8. The 6.2-liter LT1 puts down 455 hp, same as the base Corvette Stingray. The coupe goes on sale this winter, and the convertible follows next spring.
$33,995 (before tax incentives)
The notion that green, electrified cars should stand out from conventional sedans is so 2010 Toyota Prius. With its sculpted bodywork, the second-generation extended-range electric Volt resembles its Cruze sibling (critics also see Honda Civic). A 1.5-liter, direct-injection four from GM’s new small engine family is more efficient, and an 18.4-kW-hr battery pack with better energy density boosts pure-electric range to 50 miles. The EPA estimates 41 mpg on gas and 102 mpg-e.
Go-fast models have been in the Mini Cooper’s DNA since the start, and the latest John Cooper Works model is the most hopped-up version yet, with a 228-hp turbo four-cylinder, adaptive dampers, and four-piston Brembo brakes up front. Another Mini tradition, at least in the era of BMW ownership, is a high price. The JCW costs some 10 grand more than the very good Fiesta ST and creeps perilously close to the likes of the larger, all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R. Of course, part of what you’re paying for is style, and the JCW delivers with many stripe and color options.
The affordable, easy-to-drive convertible is as American as apple pie and, um, Opel. The Cascada, already sold in Europe, fills the void left by the Chrysler 200 convertible. We’re not expecting superb driving dynamics—the Cascada makes 200 hp, comes only with a six-speed automatic transmission, and rides on the same platform as the Verano. But Buick promises room for four adults and a decent amount of their stuff, a convenient power-folding top, and a cheaper cost of entry than a droptop Audi A3 or BMW 228i.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
For all things Miata, read our story about driving the new car alongside old Miatas.
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid/Plug-in Hybrid
$27,000 for the hybrid, $34,500 for the PHEV
The Sonata Hybrid improves to 42 mpg combined. That’s right in step with the Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion hybrids, but still lags behind the Honda Accord Hybrid’s 47 mpg combined.
A new plug-in variant can travel 24 miles on battery power alone. Both versions are comfortable and quiet but suffer, as do most Hyundais, from oddly tuned electric power steering. The larger electric motor in the plug-in makes for brisk acceleration, but a bulkier battery pack encroaches on total cargo volume.
The refreshed Acura ILX finally feels more prestigious than a Honda Civic Si—although still not as special as a Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class—thanks to sharper suspension tuning and better sound insulation. It also now comes with an excellent eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The slick six-speed manual, which accounted for about 1 percent of sales, has been nixed.
The massaged front fascia will have even more people asking, “Is that a Bentley?” The interior still answers, “Nope,” but it is nicer than before, especially when done up in light blue and tan leather. The Hemi V-8 no longer comes with all-wheel drive.
The Pilot, which formerly sold on its reputation more than its merits, vaults to the head of the three-row crossover class.
One glance at the exterior tells you this isn’t the same boring box as before. An aggressively styled fascia gives the Pilot a car-like appearance at the front, and along the flanks and at the rear the Pilot is now more in line with the rest of the segment.
Step into the cabin and, on most models, you’ll find a newly designed, 8.0-inch navigation and infotainment screen complemented by a 4.2-inch color screen in the instrument panel. Open the door to the second row, and you’ll find either a bench or captain’s chair setup, depending on the configuration. The third row isn’t a penalty box for adults, and getting back there is easier than before.
Bomb along a stretch of northern Kentucky back road, as Honda invited us to do, and you’ll find the Pilot handles its business extremely well for a three-row crossover. In addition to myriad suspension and handling upgrades, including Honda’s new torque-vectoring system for all-wheel-drive models, the Pilot benefits from a lighter and more rigid body structure. While the 3.5-liter V-6 is still the only engine available, it’s been massaged significantly, and power is up (280 hp, 262 lb-ft of torque). Two automatic transmission options are available: a new-to-the-Pilot six-speed or a new-to-Honda nine-speed, which is unquestionably the one to pick.
Also added to the mix is an impressive suite of active safety features, including blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and a rear cross-traffic alert.
The Explorer has classed up its act considerably since the days of Eddie Bauer editions. The snappy appearance seems inspired by the Range Rover, and the $53,595 Explorer Platinum gets a luxurious interior treatment to go along with its 365-hp, twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel drive. Even so, utility remains the prime directive here. The power-operated tailgate can now be triggered remotely, and the third-row seats fold down at the push of a button. A turbo-four engine returns, but it grows to 2.3 liters and 280 hp, enough for Ford to offer a trailer-towing package. The suite of active safety features expands with front and rear cameras that have an automated washing function to keep things clear.
Infiniti is getting into the entry-level luxury segment with the Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover that go on sale in early 2016. These new compacts will compete with the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and GLA-Class, with which, incidentally, they share a platform and a turbo four-cylinder engine.
Nissan Titan XD
Searching for a breakthrough in the Detroit-dominated large pickup market, Nissan is aiming the Titan XD at a hole between light-duty and heavy-duty trucks. On paper, it seems to hit its mark: When optioned with a Cummins turbodiesel V-8 that makes 555 lb-ft of torque, it’ll tow upward of 12,000 pounds. The big question is whether the not-quite-heavy-duty truck will actually find a market, or if Americans have ignored it for a reason.
Bigger, sleeker, more plush, and better equipped than the outgoing model, the latest Sorento is a strong step forward for Kia. Of three available engines, the best is the 2.0-liter turbo-four. Its 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque provide generous thrust for such a large car, making it an easy choice over the base four-cylinder or the louder, heavier, and thirstier 3.3-liter V-6.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the XE to Jaguar: It has basically bet the business on delivering a viable contender to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. With the XE coming to the U.S. next year, Jag will be marketing its aluminum construction, trumpeting a new diesel engine, and showcasing its latest in-cockpit tech in an all-out effort to make a dent in the compact sport sedan segment.
As with the rest of the Jaguar lineup, the XE holds a key advantage over its rivals with its aluminum monocoque. It also uses a sophisticated control-arm suspension up front where most competitors still use struts. The result is a nimble car that rides extraordinarily well. It also feels refreshingly analog even though it has electric power steering and offers high-tech helpers such as brake-based torque vectoring.
The XE’s sporting interior mixes driver-focused cues from the F-Type with elegant overtones from Jag’s larger sedans. The new 8.0-inch touchscreen is class-competitive.
Two engines will be available to start, the 340-hp, supercharged V-6 employed across the Jag range and the brand’s in-house designed 180-hp, 2.0-liter turbodiesel, both mated to eight-speed automatics. A new 2.0-liter, gas four-cylinder comes later and will be offered with a six-speed manual. Take your pick of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Ford Focus RS
Those of you pouring out Red Bull for the soon-to-be-departed Evo might consider the all-wheel-drive Focus RS, which has never been sold before in the United States but enjoys an international reputation as a wild ride. A turbo four-cylinder sends 315 hp exclusively through a six-speed manual. Functional aerodynamic aids, lightweight wheels, and a tail-out Drift Mode for its torque-vectoring system ensure that this will be one of the hottest hatches to ever hit our shores.
If you can’t wait for an RS 3, consider the new TT, which has slimmed down some 100 pounds and is more performance-focused than ever. The rumbling, 292-hp turbo-four in the TTS is yet another giant leap forward in the quest to be taken seriously. However, some of TT’s exuberant individuality has been lost. From the outside, it looks like just another Audi. The biggest innovations await inside, where you’ll find fast-responding, intuitive controls in an attractive dashboard.
BMW 2 Series convertible
Anyone considering a 4 Series hardtop convertible should note that the smaller, cheaper 2 Series offers more trunk room with its softtop down and weighs some 370 pounds less. The rear seats fold to create even more space—you’ll be carrying everyone else’s golf bags. It’s available in the same trims as the 2 Series coupe, right up to the 320-hp M235i. Honestly, though, the base 228i, blessed with rear-wheel-drive balance and a powerful four-cylinder, is the way to go.
Volkswagen Golf R
Leave track-day heroics to the Focus RS. What the Golf R brings to the all-wheel-drive hot-hatch party is sophistication. That’s not to say it’s boring: VW takes the tasty recipe we know and love in the Golf GTI and spices it up considerably with 292 hp delivered to all four wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. (A manual will be available starting this fall.) The Volkswagen Golf R will hit 60 mph in less than 5 seconds, but all of that aggression is tempered by a high-class interior and ride quality that will pass muster if you need to drive your mother-in-law to lunch.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition
Mitsubishi plans to celebrate the life of its adrenaline-packed performance sedan with a Final Edition model. Essentially an Evo MR but with a manual transmission instead of a dual-clutch automatic, the Final Edition should sport in-your-face touches such as a giant rear wing, Bilstein dampers, and lightweight, forged-aluminum BBS wheels. Engine tweaks push hp from 291 well into the 300 range. Only 1,600 will come to the U.S., each wearing a numbered plaque.
Ram 1500 Rebel
Just in case the blacked-out grille, massive tailgate lettering, and 33-inch tires didn’t tip you off, this isn’t a typical Ram 1500. Best-in-class ground clearance, skidplates, four-wheel drive, and an air suspension with custom-tuned Bilstein dampers provide capability to match the Rebel’s looks. Ram has not, however, engineered a unique engine for the Rebel—it comes with either a 305-hp V-6 or a 395-hp Hemi V-8. But perhaps the most important takeaway is that the Rebel costs some $10,000 less than what you can expect to pay for the (admittedly cooler and more capable) Ford F-150 Raptor.
Mercedes-Benz is embracing hybrids, proclaiming that it will have 10 new plug-ins by 2017. Of those, the reasonably priced C350e is likely to be one of the most popular. It will deliver 19 miles of electric cruising, and its liquid-cooled battery pack can get juiced up in just 90 minutes from a 240-volt quick-charger. Its 80-hp electric motor can also boost the 211-hp four-cylinder. As in the much pricier S-Class plug-in hybrid, you can program when and where the car uses its EV power or its regenerative capacity. Most important, the C350e looks and feels just like a C-Class, although a wooden brake pedal and the extra weight sap driving pleasure.
Audi A3 e-tron
Audi’s plug-in hybrid arrives at last, offering 31 miles of electric range, a 150-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and the kind of green-friendly glamour that has helped the Tesla Model S succeed.
Lexus’ cash cow adopts many of the adventurous and extroverted styling cues of the smaller NX crossover. Families that can get beyond the looks will find the RX is more spacious and boasts a vastly upgraded infotainment system with a massive 12.3-inch display screen. They’ll also love that all of Lexus’ active safety technology is bundled in a single $650 package, offered on both RX 350 and hybrid RX 450h models.
BMW’s smallest SUV moves from the rear-wheel-drive 3 Series architecture to a front-wheel-drive platform shared with the MINI Cooper. We venture to guess it won’t drive as well as it used to. But most luxury crossover shoppers won’t notice. The new model will offer significantly more interior space and better fuel economy. It debuts with a turbo four-cylinder and all-wheel drive.
The EX35 was like that guest who arrives too early to a party. It debuted in 2008, when no one wanted compact luxury crossovers. Now they’re all the rage, and Infiniti hopes to catch the rising tide by updating and lengthening the 7-year-old vehicle. Based on the old G37—sorry, Q40—sport sedan, it should still drive well enough to warrant consideration.
We liked the C-Class sedan enough to call it an All-Star last year, so the new GLC-Class crossover that builds on the C-Class’ platform, engine, and design sensibility has the bones to be a worthy competitor to the BMW X3 and Lexus NX. Though it replaces the GLK, the GLC moves up in size to distance itself from the entry-level GLA. The cleanly styled exterior is tasteful if a bit too familiar. The posh interior features a nice blend of impressive technology and high-quality materials. A turbo four-cylinder paired with a new nine-speed automatic is the launch powertrain in the United States. Diesel, plug-in hybrid, and high-powered AMG variants are sure to follow soon, as is a more rakishly styled coupe variant to go up against the BMW X4.
The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet was terminally uncool, but a chop-top Evoque actually piques our interest. Credit the little Range Rover’s stunning good looks, which have been
enhanced this year with full LED headlights.
The first Volvo engineered fully under Chinese ownership is a winner. Chrome accents and “Thor’s Hammer” LEDs up front bring just the right amount of bling. The quality and creativity of the interior materials, including an optional crystal shift knob, will make Audi blush. A supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder replaces the old inline-six. The smaller, lighter engine helps the XC90 corner with surprising friskiness for a full-size crossover. A plug-in hybrid version, which promises 59 mpge, comes out this fall.
Audi has sucked the fat out of its large crossover. The new Q7 looks more like a big Golf SportWagen than an SUV and, in fact, weighs 715 pounds less than its predecessor, depending on trim. Naturally, it drives a whole lot better, turning in more accurately and tolerating higher cornering speeds before understeering. The supercharged, 333-hp V-6 sounds almost as good as it does in the S4 sedan, and the revised turbodiesel V-6 will certainly exceed the range of your bladder on roadtrips. The seven-seat interior doesn’t wow us quite as much as Audis have in the past—maybe we’re spoiled—but is easy to see out of and easy to configure.
Under its curvaceous-yet-restrained sheetmetal, the MKX is still a Ford Edge. (Don’t fret; the new Edge drives quite well.) The Lincoln comes with more grunt from a 300-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 or a 330-hp, 2.7-liter, twin-turbo V-6. With the latter engine, the MKX is the most powerful front-wheel-drive vehicle on sale, which is a roundabout way of saying you should opt for all-wheel drive.
Amazing as the Ford GT is sure to be, the more accessible new Shelby Mustangs might be an even greater feat. Starting for less than $50,000, the GT350 features a naturally aspirated, 5.2-liter V-8 engine that produces 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque and revs to 8,250 rpm. The engine has a flat-plane crankshaft—typically reserved for exotic supercars and race cars—which pushes exhaust through and out of the V-8 more efficiently than everyday engines. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available, and almost every piece of added bodywork is functional, aiming to reduce heat or increase downforce. It also has adaptive dampers and six-piston brake calipers. Following Carroll Shelby’s formula from the ’60s, Ford will also offer a race-focused but still road-legal “competition” model, the GT350R, which gets 19-inch carbon-fiber wheels that dramatically reduce unsprung weight.
Cadillac is in the process of trading places with BMW in the pantheon of luxury brands. While the pride of Bavaria lately has given sporting dynamics a back seat to luxury and comfort, Detroit’s finest is out to prove that Cadillac hallmarks can coexist with best-in-class dynamics and reasonably low curb weights.
Take the new CT6, which rides on a newly developed rear-wheel-drive platform. It’s slightly longer than a short-wheelbase BMW 7 Series sedan but weighs less than a 5 Series. That’s barely 3,700 pounds when the car is equipped with a 265-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four and rear-wheel drive. Cadillac will also offer a 335-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 and a twin-turbo, 400-plus-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. Both will come standard with all-wheel drive. A 335-hp plug-in hybrid comes along in the 2017 model year. Further out, a new overhead-cam V-8 is in the works.
Amenities include a camera that projects onto the rearview mirror, massaging rear seats, four-zone climate control, and a 34-speaker Bose audio system. As in other Cadillacs, one must learn to love touch-sensitive controls. Luckily, the CT6 has a larger center screen than the one in the ATS and CTS.
About one year after the CT6’s launch, Cadillac plans to offer a semi-autonomous driving package similar to what’s on the self-steering, self-braking Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
For $10,300 more than the coupe, the 4C Spider offers a removable, semi-soft, Targa-style panel in place of a fixed roof, meaning wind-in-your-hair fun after just a minute or so of fiddling with the roof’s sliding-pin attachment system. The top rolls up and fits in a storage bag, which can be stashed in the Alfa’s single trunk, aft of the engine. There’s one caveat: The top eats up about three-quarters of the already marginal space in the trunk, so don’t plan on fitting much more than a backpack and a couple jackets when the top’s stowed. On the plus side, it’s easier to climb in and out of the 4C with the roof off.
Practical issues aside (and, really, you’re worried about practicality in an Alfa?) the Spider remains every bit a 4C. The carbon-fiber tub is the same as the coupe’s and so is the suspension tuning. The 1.7-liter, turbocharged I-4 lives behind your ears, paired to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Sure enough, the 4C Spider is just as visceral, just as dynamic, just as tuned-in as its hard-roofed sibling, but the extra elements of wind, sky, and glorious Alfa noise make the experience that much more enjoyable. We recommend opting for the Spider-exclusive paint color: Giallo Prototipo (yellow, in plainer terms).
Lotus Evora 400
After its latest near-death experience, Lotus is back in the U.S. with a revised Evora. And we’re glad; the Evora has always been a lovely driver’s car, blessed with excellent handling balance and a perfect little steering wheel that feels alive in your hands. The styling, only mildly revised since the car debuted five years ago, is still so uncommon a sight that folks will think you’re driving something far more expensive. The Toyota-sourced V-6 is now supercharged to 400 hp.
The new XF might look pretty similar to the old one, but more than 80 percent of its parts are new. Many of those parts, including an aluminum-intensive structure, are lighter, resulting in a weight loss of 130 pounds for rear-wheel-drive models and a whopping 270 pounds for all-wheel-drive cars. At the same time, the wheelbase has grown 2 inches to allow more legroom. The screen in the center console, formerly about as large and impressive as the screen on an old Texas Instruments calculator, has been replaced by a crisp-looking 10.2-inch unit. All this progress does come at a price: The mellifluous supercharged V-8 is gone, leaving only a lineup of 3.0-liter V-6 engines, at least for now.
Porsche Boxster Spyder/Cayman GT4
$83,095 (Boxster Spyder), $85,595 (GT4)
As is its tradition, Porsche has saved the best for last. The Boxster Spyder and Cayman GT4 come just as the convertible and coupe near their next major update, and they’re awesome. The Boxster Spyder is the lightest Boxster in the lineup and, with 375 hp, the most powerful. The Spyder has the suspension from a Boxster GTS and the brakes from a 911 Carrera S. There’s no radio or air-conditioning (although both can be optioned). The 385-hp Cayman GT4 is even fiercer. Its chassis setup is almost indistinguishable from the current 911 GT3’s. A big, fixed rear wing sits above a mini-duckbill spoiler to increase downforce. Both cars start for about the same money as a base 911. Of course, you’ll be tempted by the list of options, including carbon-ceramic brakes and insanely comfortable bucket seats made out of carbon-fiber composite. For the GT4, Porsche also offers a Sport Chrono package with an all-new Track Precision smartphone app. One option you can’t get on either car? An automatic transmission.
All-wheel drive is now standard on V-8 F-Types and optional with the V-6. It tames the Jag’s wild antics without neutering them. On a dry track in Dynamic mode, the system allows a generous amount of throttle adjustability before transitioning smoothly to greater traction and faster, more efficient progress. Electric power steering, also new this year, has less on-center feel than the old hydraulic system but is still hyperalert. A six-speed manual newly offered on V-6 F-Types isn’t the slickest, but the pedals are perfectly placed for heel-and-toe downshifts, assuming you have the footwork.
Ford F-150 Raptor
You’re probably tired of hearing about how much lighter the aluminum-bodied F-150 is, but the new Raptor makes it worth repeating once more. The loss of 500 pounds will surely help the new Raptor hit ludicrous speeds on dirt trails. So, too, will the turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6, which is rumored to make 450 hp. We can also expect even larger Fox Racing dampers with more suspension travel, an all-new terrain management system, and a set of BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires. All great features, but what the original Raptor really needed was a better way to select gears manually. We’ll have to wait to see what kind of manual control Ford will offer with the 10-speed automatic it plans to mate to the V-6.
Lexus GS F
The GS was once the only sedan from Lexus to touch the hearts of enthusiasts, so it’s only fitting for the midsize four-door to get the full “F” treatment for 2016. The centerpiece of the exercise will be a 5.0-liter V-8 that sends 467 hp to the rear wheels. It’s the same engine that powers the RC F. A lot of muscle, but we do wonder whether it will be sufficient to keep pace with the 560-hp BMW M5.
The old C63 was a cartoon character, what with its firing-range exhaust note and tail-out cornering antics. The new car is more sophisticated and well-rounded. It corners with more enthusiasm and brakes with right-now urgency, even without the optional carbon-ceramic rotors. The twin-turbo V-8, for better or for worse, delivers its power in relaxed fashion, but the output is an undeniably brutal 469 hp (503 hp in the C63 S). An optional two-mode exhaust still delivers a thunderous soundtrack.
Performance cars from General Motors used to fixate on numbers in attempt to distract from how wholly uncompetitive they were. If a Pontiac Grand Prix could generate higher cornering forces than a BMW 5 Series, while turning right and traveling in reverse, then surely it had to be a superior car, right? The ATS-V, available as a sedan and coupe, puts up impressive figures, including 464 hp from its twin-turbo V-6. But you can also tell that very talented drivers have tuned its magnetorheological dampers and fussed over its zero-compliance ball joints. The result is a car whose capabilities feel accessible yet has vast reserves of power, braking, and composure.
Cadillac dealerships, which are already having trouble moving the base CTS due to its price jump over its predecessor, might have trouble communicating why the hot-rod version has climbed some $20,000. We’ll try to help: The new CTS-V makes 84 additional hp, for 640 total. It also is still a bargain compared with the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63, at least on paper. Looking beyond the stats, the base CTS made a quantum leap in driving dynamics and refinement over its predecessor. We suspect the V-series variant will do the same.
BMW 7 Series
As agile as a BMW 5 Series, as cosseting as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and as impeccably put together as an Audi A8. That’s the mission brief for the new 7 Series. To achieve it, engineers use plenty of aluminum and carbon fiber to reduce weight and add stiffness. A new, 320-hp inline-six and a plug-in hybrid join the powertrain lineup, while a standard air suspension and optional adaptive anti-roll bars ensure maximum comfort for occupants. Other gee-whiz features include gesture controls for the infotainment system. Only long-wheelbase models will come to the United States.
Lincoln’s new flagship hopes to win over skeptics with tons of features, plenty of style, and a historic name. It will still be related to a front-wheel-drive Ford, but the signature engine will be an exclusive-to-Lincoln 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6 producing some 350 hp, and it will have all-wheel drive. Whereas Cadillac emphasizes performance, the Continental will be about quiet, comfortable luxury in the grand American tradition.
Tesla Model S D
$76,200 (before tax rebates)
The Model S electric sedan gets more horsepower, a longer driving range, and all-wheel drive powered by two motors. The P85 D will out-accelerate just about anything running on dinosaur juice, but even the new, entry-level 70D feels quick and travels 240 miles on a charge.
$65,995 (before tax rebates)
To compete more credibly with Tesla, Cadillac has amped up the performance of the ELR and cut its price by $9,000. The plug-in hybrid can now accelerate to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and has a stiffer suspension. Electric range is still just under 40 miles.
If the M-Class was the luxury SUV for you, don’t fret. The newly dubbed GLE hasn’t deviated from Benz’s reputation for comfort, quality, and well-engineered powertrains. Aside from the new name, the GLE is largely unchanged, save for a handsomely face-lifted front grille and LED taillights. New engine options include a torquey 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6 mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox for the GLE400, as well a smooth-driving GLE550e plug-in hybrid with about 30 miles of all-electric range. For better or worse, Mercedes also decided to finally challenge the BMW X6 with its own GLE Coupe. Available with either a 362-hp, twin-turbo V-6 in the GLE450 AMG or a behemoth 577-hp, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the GLE63 S AMG, the GLE Coupe prioritizes fun and flair over function (and visibility). Not convinced? The GLE Coupe is as silly as it is surprisingly satisfying to drive, particularly if you have the fat stacks to enjoy the delicious exhaust note from AMG’s hand-built V-8.
The midsize crossover market
is growing so big and profitable that Jaguar can no longer leave it entirely to its cousins at Land Rover. With aluminum construction and turbo- and supercharged engines, the F-Pace aims at the sportier side of the luxury crossover segment. Its plush interior and its driving performance should rival the Porsche Macan. Although the F-Pace will use some off-roading technology from Land Rover, Jaguar stresses
the F-Pace will be meant primarily for paved roads.
BMW X5 and X6 M
Still a dumb idea—uselessly large, excessively expensive and, even with a promised 20 percent improvement in fuel economy, not terribly efficient. Yet few dumb ideas are as well thought out. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 now puts out 567 hp. More important, the suspension has been sorted with beefier brakes and stiffer bushings. New summer performance tires grip hard during aggressive driving yet ride better than the run-flats on the last car. A torque-vectoring rear differential still makes the X5 and X6 M rotate like an oversized Mitsubishi Evo under throttle.
Click here to read our full story on the 2016 BMW X6 M.
Dodge Viper ACR
You might think there’s no future for the Viper in a world of 707-horsepower Charger and Challenger Hellcats. But for now the Dodge Viper—gosh, it feels good to be able to write “Dodge” again—lives on and becomes even more capable. The ACR is the most potent street-legal Viper yet thanks to coil-over Bilstein dampers, custom-developed Kumho tires, and a racing alignment developed at tracks around the country. In the name of weight loss, the ACR also comes with lightweight carpeting, a three-speaker audio system, and manual seats. A 645-hp V-10 sits as strong as ever under the long hood. “We’re not going to put an iron-block Hellcat [V-8] with 200 [extra] pounds over the front wheels of the Viper,” says Dodge and SRT president and CEO Tim Kuniskis. An optional Extreme Aero Package adds an adjustable, dual-element carbon-fiber rear wing (73.9 inches wide), a rear carbon-fiber diffuser, a detachable front splitter, additional dive planes, and removable louvers. The ACR indeed looks extreme, and it seems to say to all those Hellcats, “I’m still the most devilish of them all.”
If you love the Lamborghini Huracán (we sure do) but only have Porsche 911 Carrera GTS money, you’ll want to check out the new R8. Power is supplied by Audi’s naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V-10, which is shared with the Lambo and paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Base output is 540 hp; the Plus model makes 610 hp. (We’re still awaiting word whether the all-electric e-tron variant, with 456 hp and a claimed 280-mile range, will reach the U.S.) If you’re looking for the frantically revving 4.2-liter V-8 and notchy gated manual shifter, search the used-car market. Audi engineers pulled some 110 pounds out of the new car while using the same basic architecture as the outgoing R8. Visually, the new R8 sharpens most of the original R8’s lines but makes a less dramatic impact. The interior makes up for it, however, with stunning elements such as the configurable, 12.3-inch TFT instrument panel, classy double-stitched leather, and aluminum accents.
To be taken seriously these days, every auto company must have a high-tech supercar, so it’s no surprise Acura revived the NSX. It is a surprise that the formerly conservative-looking car now measures up against the mid-engine competition in terms of style. Acura’s design studio in Los Angeles met extreme demands for aerodynamics and heat extraction—there are no fewer than 10 cooling units—without sacrificing looks. The powertrain is complicated even by the standards of this segment: A twin-turbo V-6 powers the rear wheels through a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, while a rear-mounted electric motor provides supplemental power to the rear wheels for quicker response. Two more electric motors power the front wheels to improve handling. The last surprise, at least for those who still judge cars by their origin, is that the “Japanese” Acura NSX was designed and developed in America and will be built in America, too. (Take that, Ford GT.)
AMG characterizes the GT S as the better behaved, more affordable offspring of the SLS Gullwing, but make no mistake: It’s still wild. Like the SLS, it’s ostentatious and extremely powerful, with a boisterous 503-hp V-8. Also like the SLS, it’s cramped and hard to see out of. It lacks the perfect precision of its bogey, the Porsche 911 Turbo, but that’s all part of the fun. (AMG dismisses the 911 as “too clean.”) The GT S is on sale now. A cheaper GT variant, making 456 hp, goes on sale for about $110,000 next spring.
Porsche’s most radical 911 is all about emotions. Taking it to its limits is not a dance with death as in super-911s of yore—clever aerodynamics and massive Michelins tame its 500-hp flat-six—but the RS is still much more involving than cars with similar performance. It’s also sold out. You’ll have to wait for the cheaper, manual-transmission variant rumored for next year.
The 570S is an accessible McLaren in more ways than one. It’ll cost some 80 grand less than the 650S, is easier to get in and out of, and has aluminum body panels that are cheaper to repair than composite pieces. Don’t start thinking, though, that the 570S isn’t a supercar. With a 562-hp, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, it can go from 0 to 60 mph in about 3 seconds and will top out at 204 mph.
Bentley Continental GT
Bentley has managed the impossible: It made its Continental uncomfortable. Well, at least in GT3-R guise. More super than even the previous Supersports, the GT3-R rides stiffly on 21-inch wheels. A twin-turbo V-8—that’s right, not the W-12—makes 572 hp. The car has shed some 220 pounds, thanks in part to standard carbon-ceramic brake rotors. That leaves 4,839 pounds, so it’s not a Lotus Elise, but it is the liveliest Continental yet. It’s also the liveliest looking, available only in white with green stripes.
Most well-off Bentley buyers will fare better with
the more conventional Continental GT, which has been refreshed with sharper fenders, a smaller grille, and a more aerodynamic rear end. The W-12 engine now makes 582 hp, 15 hp more than before, but the Continental GT V8 is still the one we’d spend our money on (had we chosen a more lucrative career).
Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II
Nearly every panel has been redesigned, resulting in a car that looks, well, pretty much the same. Yes, this is still a Rolls, but it is bolder and more involving than before. The twin-turbo V-12 responds instantly to throttle inputs, and an optional sport suspension and steering package bring precision to the proceedings. Yet the reason to buy a Ghost over a less expensive sedan like a Mercedes-Maybach S600 still comes down to prestige and the knowledge that you can afford the best of the best.
Ferrari 488 GTB
The 488 GTB is the newest mid-engine, “entry-level” Ferrari, continuing a line that dates back to the Dino 206 GT of the late 1960s through the much-loved 458 Italia. The lineage for mid-engine, turbocharged Ferraris is a bit thinner—the 488 is the first since the F40 that debuted in 1987. Its twin-turbo, 3.9-liter V-8 develops 660 hp at 8,000 rpm; the 458’s naturally aspirated 4.5-liter unit needed 9,000 rpm to dish up 562 hp. The new engine is also more efficient. Progress comes at a cost of the old engine’s intoxicating wail and instantaneous throttle response, but let’s not be overly dramatic: The 488 still sounds delicious and revs so quickly that the LED shift lights on the steering wheel rarely have time to rest. It also feels more agile and light-footed than the 458—and, by extension, just about everything else on the road—yet also feels less liable to bite back if you exceed its limits. It’s even relatively practical as
it’s easier to climb into and more comfortable once you’re settled in. While this Ferrari is less emotional than the one it replaces, it is undeniably better.
Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce
Say the name out loud and tell us you don’t want one. It sounds old-school Lambo. It looks old-school Lambo, too. The brash aero addenda might be there for genuine performance gains, but they also stimulate the 8-year-old in all of us. Start the 740-hp, 6.5-liter V-12, and a big, dirty noise erupts. Good thing there are giant carbon-ceramic rotors to slow things down. The standard Aventador is by no means a slouch, but the Superveloce (SV), which loses 110 pounds and adds magnetorheological dampers, feels more agile and much more in tune with driver inputs. Lift off the throttle mid-corner, and the rear end starts to swing wide. It’s edgy at first, but soon you learn that the Aventador isn’t going to spin you off into the sticks. Instead, it’s helping you scribe the neatest, fastest line around any given corner. Unlike the SVs of yore, this monster has been engineered to show some civility.
Twelve cylinders and two turbos combine to make 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. Think on that for a second, then factor in three locking differentials and ’70s styling. The G65 is sure to leave a wake when it hits U.S. shores. Let’s just hope we avoid flattening its side pipes when we get out on our favorite trails.
Much like the original 1960s Ford GT40, the all-new GT is a street-legal Le Mans race car. It’s low, wide, and absolutely breathtaking, with a teardrop-shaped, carbon-fiber driver cell flanked by aggressive, air-channeling body structures formed out of composites and aluminum. With a mid-mounted, twin-turbo V-6 engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle, a racing-derived pushrod suspension, and a price tag just south of a half-million dollars, the Ford GT will no doubt restart the fight with Ferrari that the original GT40 instigated all those years ago.
The person who invented a better washer dispenser: Hirokazu Hada
Drivetrain and Development Team, Mazda Motor Corporation
I have worked for Mazda for 35 years. Around the year 2003, I was working in the No. 1 line of our F plant in Hiroshima as the assistant to the foreman. One day a station operator took a day off, so I had to fill in. Taking out the metal washers needed for the threaded fastener at this station was difficult, and it was easy for operators to make a mistake. [If a line is building 200 cars per day, the station operator will need to grab washers 200 times per day.] Without those washers, there would be a leak of gas from the exhaust system—a quality concern and a problem to the customer. I figured out a device to make sure that operators can pick up the right number of washers every time. I worked with the person responsible for Kaizen [productivity improvement] activities within the plant, and the idea went on to a national Kaizen competition. Now it’s used across all our lines.
As told via translator to David Zenlea
The person who makes your crossover safer: Brian Bautsch
Senior Engineer and Crash Safety Leader, Honda R&D Americas
I lead a team that did the crash-safety work for the 2016 Honda Pilot, and we were responsible for setting crash-safety targets, engineering solutions, and conducting tests. We start our work in a computerized form almost as soon as a vehicle concept is created, continue with the vehicle prototypes, and then evaluate the late prototypes to make sure they meet our targets. In the virtual phase, we employ LSTA’s LS-DYNA, a finite-element analysis tool, as well as special software developed for us by Dassault Systèmes 3DExcite that gives us a very precise, three-dimensional picture of the vehicle. From small simulations to full-scale simulations, we conducted 553 virtual tests for the 2016 Pilot. We then conducted 220 physical tests on actual prototypes, which involved 102 vehicles.
As told to Michael Jordan
The person who makes Mustangs sound like Mustangs: Shawn Carney
Sound Quality Engineer, Ford Motor Company
I joined the Mustang team in 2003 and am part of the group that makes sure that when the car is bolted together it sounds the way customers expect it to sound. We’ll listen to the Camaro, which always sounded like a farm truck to me, and the Challenger, but also other stuff. I enjoyed the Audi S5 V-8 coupe. We can reverse-engineer sounds we like and figure out what frequencies generate them. When we’re shaping the sound, we’re mostly working with the muffler, but all the components are tuned for a purpose. With the Mustang GT, the new 5.0-liter V-8 has a different firing order than the old small-block Ford V-8 and has a different, 2-into-1 exhaust header. We couldn’t get the sound exactly where the old 5.0-liter was, but we tried. With the four-cylinder engine, we spent a lot more time managing “error states.” The four-cylinder wants to boom and moan. We do what we can, but it’s just tough with a turbo four-cylinder. All you’ll hear is that turbo whistle. We also have a full, active noise-control system in the car. As a lifelong Mustang fan, the goal was to make it sound plausible. I made up a lot of cool sounds to try to give you a realistic experience.
As told to David Zenlea
The person who prepares your Lexus: Chris Brunner
General Manager, Lexus Park Place; Plano, Texas
We have a team of people in our shop here at the dealership that does our PDI: pre-delivery inspection. The first thing, they wash the car. The Lexus still has laminated plastic on it, and this not only cleans the car but also makes sure that the plastic comes off easier. They check the interior for water leaks. Then they set the navigational system’s compass and enter the dealership’s address to have a reference for future service. They enter our list of 18 radio stations into the presets for the audio system. They set up the window and seat routines, so the driver seat will fully retract when you open the door to climb in. They check the interior trim and leather upholstery for any blemishes.
Then they open the hood, hook up the battery, and get a printout of its performance, since electrics are such a critical part of modern cars. They check the levels of windshield washing fluid, plus engine coolant and oil. They make sure the trunk is clean. Then they put the car on a lift and make sure that all the body plugs are in place, because sometimes they can drop out during shipment from the assembly plant. They check tire pressure. They hook the car into our diagnostics machine to check the systems. Finally they sign off on a form that includes their name and the number of the vehicle. It’s a 90-minute process.
As told to Michael Jordan
The person who came up with the chrome strips in the headlamps of the 1958 Corvette: Robert Cumberford
Stylist, Chevrolet Studio General Motors Styling Section
In the spring of 1956 I was involved in multiple Corvette designs, working simultaneously on the SS racing car, the very early split-backlight C-2, Jerry Earl’s SR-2, and (thanks to being in design director Harley Earl’s good graces at the moment) the face-lift of the Corvette for 1958. Mr. Earl wanted little cap-style visors over the four headlamps like the 1958 Chevy then underway. I was certain that would slow the car tremendously because of aero drag and suggested four lamps smoothly faired into the fenders. Mr. Earl, in his distinctive vocal accent and style, said to me, “Now, Bhwab, that’ll look like a baby’s ass, donchugree?” You always ’greed with Mr. Earl, but I had an alternative. I said, “What if I put a chrome strip in between the lights and down the top of the fender, sir?” To make this even more palatable, I put in a little shield-shaped lamp on the strip. That did it, although it also inspired Earl to add garish twin chrome strips on the rear decklid. It was a bad idea but worth it to save overall aerodynamic efficiency, I thought. And after one year, they were removed anyway. Chrome solved all styling problems in those days, and the ’58-’62 Corvettes were about 15-20 mph faster with “baby bottoms.”
As told by Robert Cumberford
The person who created the Starlight Headliner: Alan Sheppard
Head of Colour, Materials, and Accessories, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
To create a strong emotional response, we started researching how to get ambient light from the headliner. Several methods, including trying to weave light fibers directly into a headliner, didn’t function how we wanted and were less than satisfactory in terms of quality. We wanted a more romantic atmosphere with a slightly natural feeling, so what better than a night sky? The $14,000 Starlight Headliner that’s available now in the hardtop Phantoms and Wraith has 1,600 fiber-optic elements. They are positioned by hand, because stars are not evenly distributed; it’s sort of a planned randomness. The delicate build process takes about one day per headliner. Each fiber-optic guide is trimmed and angled to slightly vary the amount of light coming from each “star.” It can’t be too even; you want a sense of depth. One slip—a botched hole in the leather, a crack in one of the glass fibers during installation—and the headliner is scrapped. We had to fight for the Starlight Headliner to make it to production, and now it’s a bigger success than we ever imagined. It’s an icon, and 10 years after first showing it off, it still has an awe-inspiring effect. The Starlight Headliner has a future. It’ll go on and get better, and it’s wonderful to be part of that.
As told to Christopher Nelson