We've worked the phones, lit up our e-mail accounts, and tapped our sources to deliver intelligence on the hottest vehicles in the pipeline. They're all here, including Chevy's secretive C7 Corvette, the next BMW M3, the ninth-generation Honda Accord, and many, many more. Read on to get the inside scoop on the 10 future cars most worth waiting for.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7
ILLUSTRATION BY RADOVAN VARICAK
As the launch of the new Corvette draws near—expect it to arrive in fall 2013—we are getting closer to definitive information on Chevy’s star-spangled sports car. Here’s the latest:
As we’ve said before, nothing so drastic as a switch to a mid-engine layout is planned for the C7. The base Vette will remain a front-engine, rear-transaxle coupe with a glass hatch (that is, until the C8 arrives, anyway). Something similar to the current car’s suspension, transverse leaf springs and all, will appear on this 2014 model. We also don’t expect any drastic dimensional changes; while mules we spotted in September appeared to have a narrower track, their bodies were donated by C6 Grand Sports, which have wider fenders and tracks than do base Corvettes. The C7 is likely to shed some mass, which would yield a better power-to-weight ratio.
In terms of its design, we’re going to go out on a limb and call it Vette-like. New headlight elements are more complex and narrower. The double-bubble roof returns, although the space between the bumps is wider, and the panel appears to be slightly flatter. Some sort of ventilation—either louvers or something like the scoop that adorns the nose of the current Z06, Grand Sport, and ZR1—will perforate the hood. Oh, and the side mirrors are less rounded than before and are a bit larger.
Among the critical design details shrouded in mystery is the final shape of the rear end, although we’re fairly confident that there will be more surface detailing on the back of the C7 than there was on the smooth, upswept tails of the C5 and C6. The quad exhaust tips, which appeared as slightly separated pairs on the C6, are now bundled together in a central row.
Expect more-significant changes under the hood. GM is investing more than $1 billion in the American plants that produce its small-block V-8, and the fifth generation of the iconic engine family will appear in the C7. Downsizing is a given for efficiency reasons, so expect a naturally aspirated 5.5-liter (possibly 6.0-liter) mill in place of the current 6.2 in the base model. (The oft-rumored twin-turbo V-6? We’re thinking C8.) The smaller engine will continue to use aluminum construction with pushrods and should make roughly the same 430 horsepower as the current 6.2; it will do so thanks in part to a higher compression ratio and direct fuel injection. The V-8 also is expected to feature cylinder deactivation, variable valve timing, and perhaps even stop-start functionality—the latter not exactly ideal for stoplight tête-à-têtes. And the Z06 and ZR1 models—with their respective larger and supercharged eights—should return.
Lastly, pricing shouldn’t change much from current levels. Expect the base coupe to start in the neighborhood of $50,000.
2014 BMW M3
ILLUSTRATION BY RADOVAN VARICAK
What It Is: The latest in a long line of M3s to provide sports-car performance in a cop-duping wrapper. This will be BMW’s most powerful M3 yet.
Why It Matters: It's the bestselling M-badged car and crucial to the health and future of the M division.
Platform: The next M3 is based on the new F30 platform, a rear- and all-wheel-drive design that is slightly larger than the E90 platform it replaces. Compared with the standard 3 Series, the M3 will have wider front and rear tracks and a heavily modified chassis. We expect a four-door sedan, a two-door coupe, and a retractable-hardtop convertible.
Powertrain: The high-revving V-8 of the current M3 will be replaced with an inline-six boosted with two turbos and (possibly) one electrically driven supercharger. Expect about 450 horsepower. BMW will offer a six-speed manual and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; the M3 will remain rear-wheel drive.
What Might Go Wrong: Old-school M fans will lament the absence of a high-revving naturally aspirated engine. Then, when this car is eventually replaced, people will lament the possible loss of the innovative three-blower engine.
Estimated Arrival and Price: Late 2013, priced at about $60,000.
2014 Cadillac ATS-V
ILLUSTRATION BY RADOVAN VARICAK
What It Is: Cadillac has aimed the ATS directly at the BMW 3 Series; the high-powered V-series version is intended to go after the BMW M3.
Why It Matters: Poseurs get laughed out of the octagon when they try to battle cars like the M3. The ATS-V is Cadillac’s shot to prove that the CTS-V wasn’t a fluke.
Platform: Cadillac’s new rear-drive Alpha platform will underpin the ATS-V. We expect a curb weight in the neighborhood of 3600 pounds, which means the ATS-V will weigh about as much as an M3.
Powertrain: Power will come from a twin-turbo V-6 making between 380 and 420 horses. We reckon the ATS-V should have no problem accelerating to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Competition: BMW M3, Lexus IS F, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
What Might Go Wrong: The ATS-V won’t bring It.
Estimated Arrival and Price: We expect to see the V-series version of the ATS in late 2013. The price should start at about $55,000 to keep the ATS-V comfortably away from the CTS-V’s $65,000 base price.
2014 Infiniti Compact Hatchback
What It Is: A toe into waters beneath the G sedan, with a new front-drive compact based on another luxury brand’s platform. Details about the styling are still murky—a few indicators foretell a hatchback but with a plunging roofline and a greater emphasis on style than utility.
Why It Matters: This brand has lacked a small car since the demise of the G20 in 2002; as most other luxury makers are expanding their portfolios downward into the compact segment, Infiniti doesn’t want to be left out. The compact will raise the brand’s average fuel economy and bring new customers into showrooms.
Platform: Perhaps the most significant part of the compact’s story is that the car will be built on the same platform as the Mercedes-Benz B-class unveiled at the Frankfurt show last fall. Infiniti is hoping that the Mercedes chassis will bring a level of premium credibility to its car.
Powertrain: Specific details are hazy, but four-cylinder power is expected, as are a hybrid and a fully electric version.
Estimated Arrival and Price: Some time in 2013, at a price that will start below $30,000.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado / GMC Sierra
What It Is: GM’s strong-selling full-size pickups are due for a redesign. In the pursuit of fuel economy, the Silverado and Sierra are on a serious diet and may drop as much as 500 pounds from their curb weights. Styling is said to be more angry and chrome-laden than the current trucks’.
Platform: These trucks will continue to be body-on-frame; truck buyers wouldn’t have it any other way. But extensive use of plastics and aluminum are said to cut unnecessary fat without diminishing durability or performance.
Powertrain: GM is investing heavily in the small-block V-8 (see Corvette). The Silverado and Sierra are expected to get revised versions with direct fuel injection, increased power, and improved fuel economy without changes in displacement. Six-speed transmissions will be standard.
Estimated Arrival and Price: GM’s new trucks arrive in mid to late 2013 as 2014 models. Pricing will remain where it is today: low $20,000s all the way past $50,000.
2014 Audi A3
What It Is: A sedan based on the next-generation Volkswagen Golf, roughly the size of the 1996–2001 A4. Audi hasn’t decided yet whether it will import the next-generation A3 hatchback to the States. A two-door convertible version has a shot at making it out of Europe, as does a 270-hp S3 sedan.
Why It Matters: The A3 will be the Volkswagen Group’s first model on its new platform, and the A3 sedan is designed with the U.S. market in mind. Audi hopes the tidy, sporty A3 will grow its market share significantly.
Platform: The VW Group’s MQB (modular transverse) platform is lighter than the current one it replaces. Designed for front- and all-wheel-drive setups and gasoline, diesel, hybrid, and all-electric powertrains, it will be offered across VW’s brands—from Audi and VW to Škoda and SEAT.
Powertrain: The U.S. market will get a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel with 140 horsepower and a turbocharged 2.0-liter gas engine with roughly 200 horsepower. A gasoline hybrid and a fully electric version are possibilities. Meanwhile, enthusiasts may want to hold out for the S3. Waiting for an RS3 with the Audi TT RS’s 360-hp, 2.5-liter five-cylinder likely will prove fruitless.
Competition: BMW 1-series, Infiniti compact, Lexus CT200h, Mercedes-Benz B-class spinoffs.
What Might Go Wrong: An A3 sedan may eat into sales of Audi’s popular A4.
Estimated Arrival and Price: We get the $30,000 sedan for the 2014 model year, possibly followed by the convertible.
2013 SRT Viper
ILLUSTRATION BY RADOVAN VARICAK
What It Is: Everyone’s favorite two-seat supercar/widowmaker with a monstrous V-10 up front. You know—the Batmobile that Bruce Wayne would build if he were a bigger fan of Carroll Shelby. This latest version has the styling smoothed out a bit, but the long nose and short-deck proportions remain. Initially, it will be available as a coupe; the roadster will follow. A restyled and richer interior replaces the almost kit-car-like cabin of previous Vipers. And the addition of standard stability control should help keep the majority of them on the road.
Why It Matters: The Viper has been the soul of the once-audacious Chrysler for 20 years. During the bankruptcy ugliness, the company nearly sold off the Viper but instead did the honorable thing and reinvigorated it.
Platform: There were rumors that the next Viper would be built on the Alfa Romeo 8C’s architecture, but it will ride on a platform evolved from the previous model’s. It will feature an increased use of aluminum and composites to shave a few pounds.
Powertrain: The big V-10 engine will live on in the Viper; updates will increase output to about 660 horsepower. Cylinder deactivation and a stop-start system should help fuel economy, if only slightly. A six-speed manual will be the only transmission available at launch, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is in the works.
What Might Go Wrong: The Viper is going to happen, but its massive engine, high price, and lack of subtlety likely will keep production numbers low.
Estimated Arrival and Price: On sale this fall. We anticipate the base price to land between Chevrolet’s Corvette Z06 and its ZR1—figure about $94,500.
2013 Nissan Altima
ILLUSTRATION BY RADOVAN VARICAK
What It Is: A redesigned version of Nissan’s sportily inclined mid-size family sedan. Styling is said to borrow from the brand’s Ellure concept and even the Versa. Nissan is expected to resist making the Altima any larger than it is today, which means that much of its edge is likely to remain.
Why It Matters: The Altima brought some much-needed oomph to the family-sedan segment. It might not be perfect or as quietly refined as some competitors, but it’s fun, and fun goes a long way.
Platform: An all-new front-drive platform will debut here and underpin other Nissan sedans and crossovers.
Powertrain: Like the next Accord, the Altima will continue to offer a V-6 option. Direct injection will be applied to both the V-6 and four-cylinder versions and should help the four deliver about 200 horsepower and highway fuel economy in the mid-30-mpg range. Automatic customers will continue to get a CVT with both the V-6 and the four, but thankfully a six-speed manual will be standard with either engine. A hybrid will return after a brief hiatus.
What Might Go Wrong: See above, especially the sporty Fusion.
Estimated Arrival and Price: The 2013 Altima is expected to arrive this fall, priced in the $20,000-to-$30,000 range.
2013 Honda Accord
What It Is: The ninth generation of the longest-running Car and Driver 10Best winner. Unlike many of its mid-size competitors, the Accord will continue to be offered as a coupe and a sedan. Slightly smaller and lighter than the current Accord, the new version also will have softer lines and more cohesive styling.
Why It Matters: This Accord will be as important to Honda as anything it’s done in the past decade. Will it be able to beat the growing range of exceptional mid-size competitors? Will it have the magic feel of previous Accords? Will Honda get its size right? Will it deliver Honda-style innovation and fuel economy? The new Accord needs to answer these questions in the affirmative.
Platform: The new Accord likely will be based on an updated version of the current car’s architecture.
Powertrain: While many mid-size competitors are dropping their six-cylinder options, the Accord will offer a revised and more powerful version of its familiar 3.5-liter V-6 with cylinder deactivation. But the bread-and-butter Accord will be the four-cylinder model. Direct injection helps the 2.4-liter four make at least 181 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, with improved fuel economy. A six-speed manual will be offered; the automatic will be a CVT. A plug-in-hybrid version will couple a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a 161-hp electric motor. A 6-kWh lithium-ion battery will offer 10 to 15 miles of city driving range and will recharge in less than four hours using a standard 120-volt outlet. Three selectable modes will allow the hybrid driver to choose among fully electric, hybrid, and “direct drive,” which decouples the electric motor for more efficient cruising.
What Might Go Wrong: The conservatively styled and engineered Civic has us wondering if the Accord will suffer the same fate. After seeing the new Accord coupe in concept form at the Detroit auto show in January, the threat of dullness remains.
Estimated Arrival and Price: The two- and four-door Accords arrive this fall. Pricing is expected to remain in the $20,000-to-$30,000 range for the vast majority of the lineup. A well-equipped hybrid and a loaded V-6 model will crest $30,000.
2013 Ford Fusion
Last year’s stunning Evos concept previewed the 2013 Fusion’s styling, and the production sedan looks like, well, a bigger, better-looking Focus, or possibly a smaller, better-looking Taurus. Surprised? Neither are we. But lack of astonishment or no, there’s no denying that the new Fusion is fetching. It’s a mid-size sedan with the elegance of a luxury car, an impression hammered home by that Aston Martinian grille. Ford seems to think that it still owns the brand of Bond, even though it offloaded it back in 2007.
Under the hood, however, Ford is tendering no illusions—the range of economical engine options encompasses conventional, hybrid, and plug-in-hybrid alternatives. Those who opt to go strictly fossil fuel have three choices: a 170-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic; a 179-hp, 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo four mated to either a six-speed auto or a six-speed manual; and a 237-hp, 2.0-liter EcoBoost four hooked to a six-speed automatic. (All power figures are estimates, but they’re not likely to change much.) All-wheel drive is again available but only with the 2.0-liter. An engine stop-start system will be offered exclusively on 1.6-liter models, where it is said (by Ford) to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 3.5 percent.
Fusion hybrid buyers get a new 2.0-liter, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder to replace the outgoing 2.5-liter. A permanent-magnet AC synchronous motor holds up the electrical end of the momentum bargain, helping to boost total system output to 185 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission sends the power to the wheels. Lighter, more powerful lithium-ion batteries replace the previous Fusion hybrid’s nickel-metal hydride batteries and increase the electric-only top speed from 47 to 62 mph. Efficiency numbers aren’t final yet, but Ford is calling out Toyota and Hyundai, claiming the Fusion hybrid stands to outperform the 2012 Toyota Camry hybrid by 4 mpg in the city and 5 mpg on the highway and the 2011 Hyundai Sonata hybrid by 12 and 4 mpg, respectively. For those not inclined to do the math, that translates to early estimates of 47 mpg city and 44 highway for Ford’s gas-electric sedan.
Truly dedicated hypermilers will want to wait a few months after the above Fusion models launch, though, when the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid makes its debut. Similar to the Fusion hybrid but with the added advantage of plug-in battery recharging, the Energi is anticipated to return more than 100 MPGe. (MPGe stands for “miles per gallon equivalent,” a metric that allows efficiency comparisons of electrified and conventional vehicles.)
In addition to a long list of nanny tech aimed at those overwhelmed by the prospect of paying attention behind the wheel—adaptive cruise control, a lane-keeping system, blind-spot warning, active park assist—you’ll also find the polarizing if updated MyFord Touch system on the options list. Ford isn’t saying much else about the Fusion’s various levels of equipment, other than they will be meted out via S, SE, and Titanium trims. We expect that, like the Focus, the Fusion will be priced at the high end of its class.
The company gives those who like to drive a pat on the head, too, saying that the electric power steering, strut front suspension, and multilink rear suspension team up to “please a well-seasoned enthusiast.” As this car is based on the European Mondeo, we have no doubt. But what about those of us who could use a bit more salt?
For deep dives on 15 additional future cars—including the all-new Acura NSX; the second coming of the mighty McLaren F1; the rear-drive, $20K Chevy Code; and the next-gen Mazda Miata—head to the 25 Cars Worth Waiting For landing page here.