Freshman Class of 2016

Here’s a look at an alluring array of vehicles headed to showrooms

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

There’s a rich harvest of fresh-grown cars and crossovers debuting for the 2016 model year, with racy sports cars and posh new luxury rides leading the pack, along with an assortment of smaller and more affordable modes of transportation.

For starters, Honda’s luxury division resurrects the low-slung Acura NSX sports car for 2016 after an 11- year absence, and reinvents it as a high-tech gas/electric hybrid that promises neck-snapping performance and head-turning good looks. A twin-turbocharged V6 engine is augmented by a three-motor electric drive system to deliver what should be impressive bursts of speed via a nine-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission and the automaker’s Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system. Expect a sticker price in the mid- $100,000 range.

Though convertible sales have been slumping in recent years, the curvaceous compact Buick Cascada hopes to bring back open-air excitement. The first Buick rag-top in a quarter century, its insulated soft-top folds in 17 seconds, and can do so while the car is operating at speeds up to 31 mph. A turbocharged and direct injected four-cylinder engine produces a sufficiently peppy 200 horsepower.

The long awaited rear-drive Cadillac CT6 premiers later this year to take on premium European luxury sedans with its handsome big-car looks, spacious and richly styled interior and advanced technology. It comes powered by a choice of a turbocharged four-cylinder, a V6 or a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that’s estimated to generate 400 horsepower; all-wheel-drive is included with V6 models. The CT6’s myriad performance and convenience features are too numerous to list here, but include articulating heated/cooled and massaging rear seats.

Toyota’s youth-oriented division launches two new small cars for 2016, the subcompact Scion iA sedan and iM hatchback. The former shares components with the Mazda2, and promises sporty handling with an estimated 42-mpg in highway driving. Meanwhile, the larger iM is essentially a wagon-like version of the Corolla sedan, packing a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a standard low-speed accident avoidance system. Expect each to come in a single well-equipped version, for around $16,000 and $20,000, respectively.

Leading the pack of new small and sporty crossover SUVs for 2016 is the pert and perky Fiat 500X. Coming with a choice of two four-cylinder engines the 500X comes with selectable Auto, Sport and Traction Plus driving modes, and offers many of the latest accident avoidance features, including forward collision, lane departure and blind spot warning systems.

Likewise entering the expansive subcompact crossover SUV segment for 2016 is the Honda HR-V. It’s more stylish looking than the Honda Fit hatchback upon which its based and affords both additional interior room and cargo space, with the latter aided by a second row seat that folds flat into the floor. Its 141-horsepower four-cylinder engine is estimated to obtain 28/35-mpg in city/highway driving.

Another new small crossover, the Mazda CX-3 bears a strong resemblance to the slightly larger CX-5, though looks a bit more muscular overall. A four-cylinder engine puts what a lively 148-horsepower to the pavement, while a nicely finished interior features full smartphone connectivity with SMS text message audio delivery and reply to help minimize driving distractions. A full range of available high-tech safety features includes a low-speed auto-braking function that can help prevent fender-benders in city traffic.

Finally the Tesla Model X full electric crossover — the follow-up to the fledgling automaker’s successful Model S sedan — is anticipated to premiere early next year with a rounded coupe-like roofline and so-called falcon wing rear doors that fold up vertically to afford easy access in crowded parking lots and tight garage spaces. Expect a high-tech cabin that borrows cues from the Model S, with a starting price at around $70,000.

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