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If you’re one of the many thousands of motorists who plan on returning to new-car dealerships in the coming months to renew your rides you might be confronted with an assortment of never-before seen cars with what are unfamiliar nameplates. The auto business has undergone dramatic changes over the last few years, and if you haven’t gone car shopping since before the economy crashed you’ll find it to be the proverbial brave new world.
As they say, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, so we’ve compiled a slideshow that highlights the 10 hottest models that are brand-new for the 2013 model year and which fresh elements each brings to the market. So let’s get ready to meet the freshman class of 2013.
For starters, you’ll find a lot more small cars on showroom floors these days, many of which offer amenities like heated seats and advanced data connectivity features that were likely limited to luxury cars the last time you looked. Buyers are embracing the latest round of compact and subcompact cars with a passion these days, from empty nesters looking to downsize their rides but maintain desired levels of comfort and conveniences to younger motorists looking to minimize their carbon footprints and budget-conscious buyers looking for a lower sticker price and higher fuel economy.
And for those keeping track of both sides of the scorecard, models being discontinued for 2013 include the Hyundai Veracruz, Jeep Liberty, Mazda CX-7 and Mercedes-Benz R-Class crossovers/SUVs, the Kia Sedona minivan, Lexus HS 250h hybrid and the Mitsubishi Eclipse sports coupe/convertible and Galant sedan.
BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe
“Gran Coupe” variants are newly added to the 6 Series line for 2013 as part of the current “four door coupe” craze. Unlike the two-door versions, the Gran Coupe can seat four passengers in some degree of comfort. As with the rest of the line, the 640i comes powered by a sufficiently lively 3.0-liter 315-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine, while the 650i packs a 4.4-liter V8 that generates a quicker 445 horses. A quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission is standard on the 650i, with an eight-speed automatic optional there and standard with the 640i. Handling is sufficiently sporty, with an array of advanced chassis control systems on hand to help the car maintain its poise in even the most demanding situations. Options include both active steering and rear-wheel steering to further improve the car’s stability and cornering abilities.
Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
Developed in a partnership between Toyota and Subaru, the FR-S (pictured) and BRZ are mechanically and stylistically similar “back to basics” rear-drive sporty coupes with sleekly cast exteriors. Each pack a Subaru-derived 200-horsepower 2.0-liter “boxer” four-cylinder engine that that configures the cylinder banks in horizontal opposition, as opposed to conventional inline or V-shaped arrangements. Subaru uses this design in all its models -- Porsche is the only other mainstream automaker to feature horizontally opposed engines, mainly because it helps a car maintain a lower center of gravity which, in turn, contributes to superior handling characteristics. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with a six-speed automatic optional. The interior is nicely and simply designed with large gauges and straightforward controls; back seat room and cargo space are scarce, however.
Both sleek and muscular looking, BMW’s new subcompact crossover SUV is likewise quick and agile. It’s a slightly smaller and less expensive alternative to the automaker’s popular X3. The X1 shares its powertrains with the current-generation 3 Series sedan, which means a choice of a turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower or a faster 300-horsepower turbo inline-six; the base engine includes a start-stop function to help boost fuel economy by automatically depowering while at idle. An automatic transmission is standard across the line. Included with the six-cylinder 35i and optional with the four-cylinder 28i is BMW’s advanced xDrive all-wheel-drive system that enhances the vehicle’s handling abilities on either wet or dry roads.
The all-new ATS is a compact rear-drive luxury sedan that borrows styling cues from the larger Cadillac CTS and rides on a sophisticated sport suspension system for BMW-like handling. No less than three engines are offered, including 200- and 270-horsepower four-cylinder powerplants and a 3.6-liter V6 that generates a brawny 320 horses. Myriad high-tech safety and convenience features are offered, including a capacitive LCD touch screen that affords multi-touch fingertip control of select functions much like an iPhone or iPad interface.
Replacing both the since-departed STS and DTS in Caddy’s lineup, this all-new large front-drive luxury sedan is truly handsome inside and out. A reasonably fuel-efficient 3.6-liter V6 is the only available engine, but it produces V8-like thrust with an output that’s estimated at 300 horsepower; it’s mated to a smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission. The XTS borrows its standard Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension system from the Cadillac CTS-V to maintain a smooth ride with capable handling; all-wheel-drive is optional for added traction under inclement conditions. A full range of the latest features is available, including collision avoidance and blind spot/lane departure warning, with a unique Safety Alert Seat that gives feedback to the driver from such systems via a vibrating seat cushion.
The first serious small car contender from Dodge since the Neon is the all-new Dart. With mechanical and design lineage coming from Italy’s Alfa Romeo, it’s a stylish and economical package with a particularly noteworthy interior design that looks and feels like it should be in a more expensive car. There’s a choice of three four-cylinder engines that range from 160- to a lusty 184-horsepower; buyers can opt for a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic or six-speed automated manual transmission. A European-tuned suspension delivers a smooth ride with tenacious handling abilities. The Dart can be customized by an assortment of dealer-installed accessories that include a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot and a wireless charging station for mobile phones. It’s one of the least-expensive models to offer a blind-spot monitoring system for added safety.
Ford C-MAX Hybrid/Energi
The tall-roofed C-Max is a curvaceous compact wagon that maximizes interior room to afford seating for five passengers. The C-Max Hybrid (pictured) augments a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor/generator and self-charging lithium-ion battery; it includes an automatic start/stop function for the gas engine to further save fuel. Ford says it will get 47 mpg in combined city/highway driving. It comes well equipped with features like push-button start, a rear-view camera and the Sync and MyFord Touch multimedia control systems. Options include an automatic parallel-parking function and a novel power tailgate that’s operated by simply waving one’s foot under the rear bumper. Meanwhile, the Energi is the plug-in version of that essentially comes with a larger battery that allows it to travel for an estimated 20 miles solely on electric power. Once the battery charge reaches a certain level it operates like a typical hybrid-powered vehicle, with the 2.0-liter gasoline engine doing most of the work. The car can be charged via a standard 120-volt outlet or an optional 240-volt quick-charging station.
This all-new seven-passenger luxury crossover SUV features dramatic exterior styling, with a spacious and elegantly cast interior, flexible seating and assorted advanced safety features. It comes powered by a 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine that’s mated to a gearless CVT automatic transmission. A Drive Mode Select feature lets drivers tailor the vehicle’s throttle response and shift points for a smoother or sportier driving experience, or for driving in snowy conditions. The JX’s handling is more responsive than with most large SUVs, with all wheel-drive optional to provide added traction on wet roads. A new Backup Collision Intervention system will automatically engage the brakes to help prevent a collision with vehicles and objects crossing its path while in reverse gear the driver either can’t see or isn’t reacting quickly enough to avoid.
Taking over from where the now-discontinued CX-7 left off, this all-new compact crossover SUV features a rounded profile and Mazda’s trademark smiley front-end treatment. A 2.0-liter “SkyActiv” four-cylinder engine generates a lively 155 horsepower and gets an estimated 26/33-city/highway mpg. Powertrain choices include a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, with all-wheel-drive optional. The CX-5’s handling is a notch sportier than the typical people-moving wagon, and affords a more engaging driving experience.
Extending the MINI line to even greater lengths, this is an urban-hip delivery variant on the Clubman model, which eliminates the rear seat, adds a barrier behind the front seats and attaches panels to the side windows. As with that model it’s nine inches longer than a standard MINI Cooper with a small access panel on the passenger’s side that affords easier entry to the back seat, and dual split-opening doors at the rear instead of a conventional hatchback. It only comes equipped with the base Clubman’s 121-horsepower four-cylinder engine, however.
Full List: The 15 Hottest New Cars For 2013