IS 250/IS 350: The 2014 IS, the smallest sedan in the Lexus lineup, now stands apart with the bold, spindle-shaped grille of other new Lexus models. The engines — a 2.5-liter, 204-horsepower engine in the IS 250 and 250 F Sport and a 3.5-liter, 306-horsepower V6 in the 350 and 350 F Sport — are carried over from previous models, but fuel economy has improved slightly, to 30 mpg on the highway for the 250 and 28 mpg for the 350. The biggest difference is in the driving dynamics. Lexus says steering is smoother and responds better to the driver, while a revised suspension improves performance. Lexus also did some spot welding on the body of the car to make it more rigid and improve the ride comfort. Inside, there's more room thanks to a 3-inch increase in the wheelbase and thinner front seats. Another feature new to the IS is standard folding rear seats. The IS 250 starts at $35,950, while the IS 350 starts at $39,465.
MKC: Ford relaunched its luxury Lincoln brand in the spring with the new MKZ midsize sedan. It was the first of four new Lincolns expected over the next four years. The company hasn't yet confirmed which new vehicle will be next, but it's widely expected to be the MKC small crossover. If it looks anything like the concept shown in January at the Detroit auto show, the MKC will have subtly undulating sides and a panoramic glass roof. It will also get the brand's new Black Label trim level, with exclusive paint colors and premium interior touches like suede-wrapped pillars. Pricing hasn't been released.
Ghibli: Maserati hopes to expand its customer base with the new Ghibli, a smaller four-door sedan designed and priced to compete with the Audi A7, BMW 6-Series and other high-volume luxury car makers. Pricing hasn't been released, but it's expected to be in the $65,000 to $70,000 range, or around half the cost of the larger Quattroporte. There are two engine choices: a 3.0-liter V6 with 345 horsepower in the base model and a 3.0-liter V6 with 404 horsepower for the sporty S version. The transmission is an eight-speed manual. Maserati promises more details in late September.
Quattroporte: The Quattroporte sedan is longer and lighter than before, but still has Maserati's distinctive oval grille and elegant, minimalist styling. The base engine is the 3.0-liter V6 with 404 horsepower shared with the smaller Ghibli S. Also offered is a new 3.8-liter turbocharged V8 with 523 horsepower. For the first time, the sedan is offered with four-wheel drive. Pricing will be released later this fall when the car goes on sale.
Mazda3: The third generation Mazda3 small car, which goes on sale this fall, now has the same elegant swooping lines, elongated hood and narrow headlights of the larger Mazda6. The Mazda3 now has Mazda's Skyactiv suite of fuel-saving technologies, which include lighter materials and a more efficient engine. The interior is upgraded, with new standard features including push-button start, automatic power door locks and keyless entry. It also offers new safety features, including a lane departure warnings system, a forward collision warning system and a system that automatically applies the brakes in low-speed situations to avoid a collision. There are two four-cylinder engine choices: the 2.0-liter with 155 horsepower and a 2.5-liter borrowed from the Mazda6 with 184 horsepower. Hatchback and sedan models with the 2.0-liter are estimated to get around 40 mpg on the highway; fuel economy with the 2.5-liter is a little lower. The Mazda3 starts at $16,945.
Mazda6: The 2014 Mazda6 midsize sedan went on sale early in 2013 but has already gotten an update. Mazda is now offering its iELOOP technology on the Mazda6's top trim level. The system captures energy during braking and uses it to power all the vehicle's electrical components, including headlights, climate control and audio systems. Mazda says the system makes the Mazda6 the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid on the market, at 40 mpg on the highway and 32 in combined city/highway driving. The iELOOP system is part of a $2,000 option package on the Grand Touring edition of the Mazda6, which starts at $29,695. Mazda also plans to offer a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine in the Mazda6 this fall, which will make it the first Japanese automaker to sell a non-commercial diesel in the U.S. Fuel economy and pricing for the diesel hasn't yet been released.
CLA Class: Mercedes offers a relatively low-priced entry-level small four-door car with the CLA. It looks like a coupe and has a new inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine with gasoline injected directly into cylinders. It also has a seven-speed automatic transmission. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth technology and 5.8-inch color display. CLA250 front-drive car goes on sale in September with a 208 horsepower engine and a base price under $31,000. An all-wheel drive version comes early next year. There's also the CLA45 AMG all-wheel-drive with 355 horses that goes on sale in November.
E Class: All models get freshening with new standard LED headlights and tail lamps and redesigned rear bumpers. Inside, there's new grain on the dash, an analog clock, and the gear shift lever is moved to the steering column. Models already are on sale, starting at $51,900 excluding shipping.
S Class: The brand's flagship big sedan is redesigned for 2014 and will be the first car with no light bulbs because all of its lights are LEDs. The base S550 has a 4.6-liter biturbo V-8 with 455 horsepower. Rear-drive versions get Mercedes "Magic Body Control" in which cameras scan the road and adjust the suspension for the best driving comfort. Car also gets a more luxurious interior and safety upgrades. The S550 goes on sale in November, as does the high-performance S63 AMG 4Matic. Prices weren't announced.
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