More than 81 U.S. car models will be new or refreshed in the 2014 model year, from big-selling mainstream cars like the Toyota Corolla to rarified supercars like the $1.3 million LaFerrari.
The auto industry is feeling good after several rough years during the recession. Sales of new cars and trucks are expected to reach 15.5 million or more this year, their highest level since the recession, and many think they'll continue to rise in 2014. Low-interest auto loans and moderating gas prices are helping spur consumers to buy.
There are some common threads among the new models in 2014. Automakers are all updating their interiors, replacing hard plastic with soft-touch arm rests and dashboards, and adding larger touchscreens, cooled seats and more ways for drivers to access their smart phones.
Luxury carmakers like Mercedes and Maserati are adding lower-priced models to their ranges, hoping to boost sales, while lower priced brands like Kia are moving upmarket.
Fuel economy is important. Honda and Porsche have new hybrids, BMW is releasing its first electric car and Mazda will soon become the first Japanese automaker with a non-commercial diesel in the U.S. market. Electric car maker Tesla expects to introduce its Model X crossover by the end of this year.
Many automakers are also adding stop-start technology, which automatically shuts the car down at stop lights to save fuel. There's also more use of aluminum and high-strength steel to cut the weight out of cars.
But here's what you really want to know: Which vehicle has a new in-car vacuum cleaner? The Honda Odyssey minivan, of course. And which one has optional fiber optics sewn into the headliner to look like stars? That would be the Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Here are the 2014 highlights from each brand.
RLX: Acura got a new flagship sedan in March when the 2014 RLX went on sale. With a new, 3.5-liter direct-injected V-6 engine, the 310-horsepower RLX is the most powerful Acura sedan yet. It gets 24 mpg in combined city and highway driving, which is 1 mpg better than its chief competitor, the Lexus GS 350. Acura stretched the sedan for a roomier interior and also makes standard AcuraLink, which connects to drivers' phones for real-time traffic updates, text messaging and other features. Options include adaptive cruise control that works at speeds as low as 20 mph, and a lane-keeping system that nudges the wheel to keep the car in the center of its lane if the driver is drifting. The RLX starts at $49,345 including shipping.
MDX: The new 2014 MDX, Acura's seven-passenger SUV, went on sale in June. It has lots of new standard features, including keyless entry, jeweled LED headlights, sliding second-row seats and an 8-inch touchscreen dashboard display. It also has some new optional features, including adaptive cruise control that works at speeds as low as 20 mph and a lane-keeping system that nudges the wheel to keep the car in the center of its lane. The MDX is built on a new underbody and is 2.8 inches longer. It's also 275 pounds lighter than the previous model, thanks to wider use of high-strength steel and aluminum. Acura says that gives it a nimbler feel and better fuel economy of 23 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Under the hood is a new, 3.5-liter V-6 engine with 290 horsepower and a six-speed transmission. For the first time, a two-wheel-drive model is available. The MDX starts at $43,185 including shipping.
RS7: A track-tested performance variant is added to the A 7 lineup. The RS 7 gets a twin-turbo 4-liter V-8 with 560 horsepower that takes the car from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds. Audi says it's the most powerful RS model yet. Goes on sale in the fall. Price not announced.
SQ5: First high-performance S model added to Q5 SUV lineup. Supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 354 horsepower; goes from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds. Available in the summer. Price not announced yet.
R8: High-performance line gets and update with standard LED headlights and round two-outlet exhaust. There's a new 550-horsepower V-10 engine available with a new seven-speed transmission that can take the car from zero to 60 in 3.3 seconds. R8 starts at $114,900 excluding shipping.
Flying Spur: All new with traditional Bentley styling, contemporary cues and a sporty stance. All-new interior with hand-crafted leather and wood veneers. Powered by Bentley's 616-horsepower, 6-Liter twin-turbo 12-cylinder engine and an eight-speed transmission. Goes from 0-60 in 4.3 seconds. Priced north of $200,000. We don't know if that includes shipping, but it doesn't matter.
i3: BMW's first electric car, the i3, goes on sale in the U.S. next spring. It's expected to go 80 to 100 miles on a single charge and has an optional, gas-powered generator that can maintain the battery's charge if the car is too far from a charging station. Drivers can opt for an optional wall-mounted charging station that can get the battery 80 percent charged in less than three hours. On the outside, the i3 — which is made almost entirely from high-strength carbon fiber instead of steel to save weight — will turn heads with its chunky, wraparound windows and big, 19-inch wheels. The i3 starts at $41,350, or $45,200 with the range-extending generator. That doesn't include state, local and federal incentives, including a $7,000 federal tax credit for electric cars.
1 Series: The 1-Series coupe and convertible are discontinued. They will be replaced by the 2-Series sometime next year.
3 Series: For the first time in the U.S., the 3-Series lineup will include a diesel. The 328d midsize sedan has a 2-liter, turbocharged diesel engine with 180 horsepower. When combined with BMW's fuel-saving EfficientDynamics program, which includes automatic shutdown at stops, regenerative braking and optimal aerodynamics, the 328d will get an estimated 45 miles per gallon on the highway. The 328d starts at $41,525, including shipping.
4 Series: The 4-Series will replace the 3-Series coupe sometime in the coming year.
5 Series: The 5-Series also gets a new diesel. The BMW 535d has a six-cylinder, turbocharged diesel with 255 horsepower. Estimated fuel economy is not yet available. The 535d starts at $57,525.
sX5: Production of the 2014 X5 began in South Carolina in August; the seven-passenger SUV goes on sale later this fall. The third-generation X5 looks longer and more sharply defined than its predecessor, with a rounded and pronounced nose. On the inside, navigation and a 10-.2-inch touchscreen dashboard is now standard, and buyers can now opt for heated rear seats. The base model, the sDrive35i, is the first X5 with rear wheel drive. It has a turbocharged, 3.0-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower and starts at $52,800. An all-wheel-drive version is $55,100. At the top of the lineup is the xDrive50i, with a 445-horsepower, turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8. It starts at $68,200. Early next year, a diesel version, the xDrive35d, will arrive in the U.S. It has a new, 265-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 and starts at $56,700. BMW estimates it will get 26 miles per gallon on the highway.
LaCrosse: The aging flagship sedan of the brand traditionally driven by old people loses some of its wrinkles. The LaCrosse, in its first update since 2009, gets some minor cosmetic changes on the outside in an effort to make it look more rounded and modern. It also gets LED daytime running lamps and tail lights and a larger front grille. Inside, the seats are new and more supportive, and the center stack gets an update with fewer buttons than the old models. Base engine is GM's 2.4-liter four-cylinder with the "e-Assist" electric motor to boost gas mileage. Updated versions were hitting showrooms in August. Starting price is $34,060 including shipping.
Regal: Buick's German-engineered sports sedan gets similar cosmetic changes to the LaCrosse on the outside. Inside, more supportive seats and a simpler dashboard and center console give it a sportier look. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder "e-Assist" engine and electric motor become standard, and the suspension was tuned to be more responsive. A new, more powerful version of GM's 2-Liter turbocharged engine, with 259 horsepower, is in the sportier models, the turbo and GS. Updated versions hit showrooms in the fall. Price hasn't been announced. Old one starts at $29,015 including shipping.