We could have setup a full camera crew and spent a day at the Volvo display diving into the impressive details of the upcoming XC90 crossover SUV, but that will have to wait until this fall when we can get our hands on one of these stunning luxury rides from Volvo. If it seems like Swedish manufacturer has been a bit quiet these past few years you’re not alone, and we can hardly blame them considering the challenges of new ownership and the inability to borrow from a corporate parts bin for any aspect of their new XC90. But after our first chance to sit in and poke around the tastefully restrained yet modern design, we can confidently say Volvo fans are in for a treat. Beautiful textures, materials and technology make up possibly the most inviting cabin we’ve seen come along in years–certainly at the sub-$60k starting price. Couple that to impressive advancements in powertrain offerings, including a 2-liter four cylinder that is both turbocharged and supercharged and can be paired with a plug-in hybrid system to produce 400hp, and you’ll see why Volvo might have been too busy to draw attention to itself the past few years. Color us impressed and put this on your must watch list this year.
In our opinion, the Mazda6 needed no updates to stay competitive in the midsize sedan segment, but Mazda isn’t satisfied with simply remaining competitive; it wants to leave no doubt that it’s the driver’s choice in whatever segment it competes. As a result, the 6 will enter the 2016 model year with a host of refinements to interior and exterior design, as well as upgrading to the company’s latest infotainment system. That’s the same system that we’ve praised in our experience with the smaller Mazda3. Coupled with reductions in NVH and continuing to earn a 40mpg highway EPA rating, the 6 shooter looks poised to remain our default recommendation in the family sedan segment.
We have complained for more than a year at Mazda’s reluctance to provide buyers a choice of transmissions on the top-line 2.5-liter four cylinder versions of its fantastic 3 sedan and hatch. Well, we’re thrilled to report someone finally heard us, because for 2015 you can save a grand and shift for yourself with an excellent 6-speed manual as standard equipment. We drove one not long before attending the NAIAS and found it predictably excellent, and wanted to highlight the good news for you at the Mazda stand at the North American International Auto Show.
The last time Jaguar offered a compact sport sedan it was dubbed X-type. Banish any thoughts of that all-wheel drive only sedan, which featured retro styling and take a look at Jaguar’s new 2016 XE. This sedan sports modern rear-wheel drive proportions with taut athletic styling. Aimed at German rivals such as the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-class, this all new Jag features lightweight aluminum architecture and nearly 50:50 weight distribution. Offered with rear-wheel drive and AWD, initially the car will utilize the marque’s existing supercharged 3-liter V6, which produces 340 hp. and 332 ft-lbs of torque, which should be good for a run to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. There’s no evidence that the XE will offer a manual transmission, but it will offer an 8-speed automatic with Jaguar’s signature retractable rotary shifter. Enthusiasts won’t be able to help but notice that the same engine is offered in the F-type with a manual transmission, so we can hope Jaguar will give buyers the luxury of choice in the way they shift their transmissions. For now, we wait with anticipation to see just how good this promising sedan is.
For anyone who thought Mazda’s CX-5 was as small as SUV’s needed to be, there is a surprise in the CX-3. Small crossovers, such as the Buick Encore, prove there is room to go smaller in the segment. The CX-3 draws on styling cues first presented by the fresh Mazda3 and Mazda6. SKYACTIVE-G is Mazda marketing lingo attached to the brand’s 2.0-liter gasoline engine that will be mated to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. All wheel drive is optional and features a front wheel slip warning system that detects slippage of the front wheels and redirects the car to the intended direction based on initial driver input. Sounds to us like Mazda is spending a lot of investment in technology to make an all wheel drive car handle like it is rear wheel drive. It all sounds promising, but Americans will have to wait until fall to try the system out for themselves.
Mazda didn’t debut anything at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, but that doesn’t mean there was nothing to see at the Mazda stand. We couldn’t wait to spend some time snooping around the upcoming 2016 MX-5 Miata. It’s dimensions feel like they are tidier than ever with a truly small scale making it feel almost comical when standing next to it. But sink into that simply bolstered seat, tile the wheel into adjustment and you can imagine the backroads unwinding in front of the impossibly low hood on a beautiful summer morning. It’s 2.0-liter four cylinder still doesn’t have final power figures but it’ll be enough to push this lightweight package around with haste. Just how lightweight is something else we don’t yet know. Keep checking Automotive Trends for our full review as soon as we can get our hands on one later this summer.
Corvette enthusiasts who want the ultimate in performance can now choose to drop the top on their Z06 and the best news is they don’t have to sacrifice any of the hardcore extras available on the new Z06. If you want the Z07 package or the 7-speed manual or the giant Carbon Ceramic brakes go right ahead and check the appropriate boxes. You’re still treated to the same 650-hp 6.2-liter supercharged V8 and you’re even more likely to enjoy the ferocious exhaust yowl in the Convertible. Just do enthusiasts everywhere a favor and pass on the available 8-speed automatic, which seems to us like the fastest way to ruin a great car.
Audi’s distinctive all wheel drive sports car continues to mature with the introduction of the TTS for 2015. The TTS offers up aggressive acceleration by means of a 2.0L 265 hp. four cylinder that cranks out 258 lb.-ft. of torque for a 54 hp. gain over the standard TT with no change in torque. 60 mph is achieved is a brief 4.9 seconds as the car makes its way to a top speed of 155 mph. That’s not all that much quicker than the base TT which passes the 60 mph mark in 5.3 seconds but tops out at a mere 130 mph. One can enjoy all that power and still achieve 31 mpg on the highway, though stop and go city conditions will muster a truck-like 22 mpg. Sadly the TTS is only available with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission which is likely plenty enjoyable if you can settle for the car shifting its own gears. The extra speed, power, and badging costs the TTS owner an extra $8350 over the lesser TT.
Audi is a brand long associated with all wheel drive, wagons, and hatchbacks. The refreshed-for-2016 Q3, then is a natural fit into the brand’s portfolio. The most noticeable update is to the grille, which Audi executives refer to as a ‘three-dimensional Singleframe grille.’ Whatever you call it, this apparently the new look for Audi’s signature oversized grille opening. Audi would like to draw your attention to the unseen in the form of a 17% reduction of CO2 emissions. We’re sure enthusiasts will be more interested to know that the Q3 offers powertrain ranging in horsepower from 120 to 220 in most markets. The top engine will be Audi’s 2.0L TFSI. Not a lot of power, we admit, but as the smallest of Audi’s crossover offerings there are plenty of more powerful (and larger) offerings. Expect to see the Q3 this fall in the US.
Premium cars are all about exclusivity and Porsche appears to understand that. How many versions of the 911 can they offer? It seems the German manufacturer knows no limitations and has introduced the Porsche 911 Targa 4 GTS. For the uninitiated, this is Porsche’s iconic 911 with a retractable roof panel (Targa), all wheel drive (4), and a host of track-oriented features (GTS). The retractable targa roof allows for rollover protection not offered in a conventional convertible and is automatically stowed. It additionally maintains the 911′s silhouette, just as the oringal 911 Targa did back in 1965. Power output is 430 hp. which provides the 911 sufficient thrust to reach 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and eventually top 186 mph. Porsche boasts that the GTS is no less fuel efficient that the ‘standard’ 911 Targa 4 S. Other features of the GTS include a stopwatch integrated to the instrument panel, four-way adjustable Sport Plus seats, and lightweight Alcantara seat coverings. All of this comes at a price premium of $132,800 which probably means any buyer can have the satisfaction of having the only one in their neighborhood.