It’s a fascinating thing. In a time of energy, economic and environmental concerns, the most anticipated cars for 2015 are, with few exceptions, paragons of expensive, gas-guzzling luxury. Toys for One Percenters.
As if in denial in the face of overwhelming problems, there's much made of technological innovation, and some of the next-generation safety features are impressive. But most of the innovation still seems to go into squeezing yet more torque and horses out of already powerful engines.
There is a zillion percent more hype about exotic wood and soft leather than fuel efficiency. There are no mentions of Prius or Tesla or more powerful batteries. Everything is Next Generation bling for conspicuous consumption of fossil fuel.
So, with that guilt trip of a preamble out of the way, here are the ten cars most anticipated by the automotive press for various reasons. Affordable is not a word you’ll see very often. Many are Dream Drives that would make even the most ardent environmentalists reconsider their belief systems. Most set new levels of excellence and most have serious implications for their companies’ futures. But forget all that serious stuff. Pretend that money and ozone layers are no object. These ten are what you want to be seen driving in 2015, according to a survey of the automotive press.
10 Chevrolet Colorado
Motor Trend’s Small Truck of 2015. Internet access for up to 7 devices. The 2.5L I-4 boasts an impressive 27 mpg highway. Even the 3.6L V6 engine delivers an EPA-estimated best-in-class 26. † Best-in-class horsepower, payload and towing and capable of carrying almost 1600 pounds. All for $20,000.
Of course there’s not much in class competition in the category but still. It has nice features and options such as precision suspension that provides off road stability while a skid plate helps protect crucial underbody components in case you actually take it off road. If you just want to channel your Inner Cowboy commuting to work, there are leather interior and Bose sound options.
The website repeatedly points out how much better the Colorado is than the Toyota Tacoma, so the competitor it wants to destroy is easy to figure out. It may just revitalize a long-neglected sector.
9 Audi A4
The A4 is Audi’s bread and butter entry in the Darwinian jungle of German automotive competition. Actually if it’s even half as well engineered as its website it will win awards.
Once dismissed as a 'Rich Man’s Volkswagen', Audi promises “Stunning exterior design” (debatable); unmistakable Audi interiors; the ultimate Overachiever (is that possible at a $35,500 base price?); powerful and efficient 2.0 220hp TFSI engine (gotta give ‘em that one); all-wheel drive; and eight speed automatic transmission.
There are any number of tech creature comforts to be had. Xenon plus headlights with a “distinctive blue-white brightness that’s twice as powerful as traditional halogen bulbs” to add that futuristic James Bond look. Not to mention the optional 14-speaker-505-watt Bang and Olufson sound system.
There will be multiple models available worldwide but North America is slated to get the sedan with a 2.0-liter turbo and a diesel engine. Not at the same time. This is the go-to model that Audi throws against the big boys: Cadillac ATS, BMW 3, Infiniti Q50, and Mercedes-Benz C-class. It has to be precisely Prussian perfect.
8 Hyundai Genesis
The ads say “The 2015 Genesis will make you challenge your own perceptions of Hyundai”. Translation: “We want you to forget all the junk we used to crank out.” The South Korean behemoth continues to swim upmarket. Completely re-engineered from the ground up, the company modestly calls it “a masterpiece.”
They sure don’t spare the horses offering a 311 hp V6, and a 420 hp 5.0L V8 with standard rear-wheel drive (Who asked for a rear-wheel drive comeback?) and a 4-wheel drive option. Safety technology. Sophisticated design, large interior seating five and an array of safety technology (including the world’s first CO2 sensor), it would seem to have it all.
US News and World Report ranks it second only to the Cadillac CTS in the Upscale Midsize category. The top mileage of 18 city/29 highway is below the class average. The only company to play the Green Card playing up its Eco-Technology Research Institute. Even if the automotive environmentalist is an oxymoron up there with military intelligence. Hyundai is pushing the envelope and making some noise.
7 Chrysler 200
The 2015 Chrysler 200 comes to a dealer near you this spring. But it’s already won a bunch of awards. Most notably from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It’s been named one of Ward’s Top 10 interiors. Not to mention the Hispanic Motor Press “Best Sedan” award which will no doubt give it a huge leg up in the new emerging market in Cuba. But the hype! The superlatives on Chrysler’s website are ceaseless. “From every seat, you are surrounded by elegance, world-class design and advanced technology”; Next Generation; Attainable luxury.
For the intellectual car buff, a riff on a Robert Frost poem: “Designed for the road best traveled” It is also certifiably American-made at the state of the art, billion-dollar facility (1214 robots) in Sterling Heights, Michigan near what’s left of Detroit. Reviews give it top marks for mileage and performance from the 184-horsepower 2.4L Tigershark® II four-cylinder engine. The $4200 upgrade to the Best-in-Class 295-horsepower V6 engine with 4-wheel drive is recommended, promising more zip still getting 32 highway mpg. CNET says it makes a great first impression and wows both drivers and passengers “with a plethora of cool convenience features” like automatic parallel and perpendicular parking and 9-speed automatic transmission.
Still, US News and WORLD report ranked it fifth of 19 midsize sedans over less-than-premium handling. Much anticipated, the Chrysler 200 will need all the good will it can get taking on the Toyota Camry with a lean and mean base price of $22,695.
6 Lexus RC F
The most powerful Lexus ever and the company’s designated hitter in the German-dominated small coupe division. The RC F (Were they trying to name it after the Royal Canadian Air Force?) looks very comfy on the Japanese track on which it was tested. It has stunning looks that improve when the spoiler automatically deploys at 50 mph. Ten aluminum spokes on the wheels. Trapezoidal quad-outlet tailpipes add a bad-boy look to the aerodynamic elegance.
The interior, or “cockpit” as Lexus calls it features fighter-jet seats, powerful sound and handsome two-tone leather with offset stitching. It targets driving enthusiasts who can drop at least the base price of $80,800. For the size of the beast, the 5.0 L 460 HP V8 delivers decent mileage at 17/24 mpg. But still, Al Gore is not going to endorse this one. You just might though.
5 Subaru WRX STI
The STI name is questionable... Of course, it stands for Subaru Tecnica International. And the console features a rocker switch labelled C.Diff which is also medical shorthand for a deadly superbug often contracted in hospital settings. A lot of reviews call it underpowered overpriced and poorly designed. But its cult-like reputation from the rally car world makes it highly desired. It’s featured on the “Driving” list of cars journalists would actually buy with their own money.
Car and Driver captures the spirit of the thing whether you're off road or not: “when you’re on a dirt road, going inadvisably fast and banging up through the gears of the six-speed, this is the perfect car.” Good on dirt but not dirt cheap, starting at $34,495
4 BMW X5 M and X6 M
The M series is a Beauty on the outside and A Beast under the hood. The verdict from the BBC Top Gear drivers is succinct: “Ability to pulverize supercars while carrying four in massive comfort”. BMW calls M “the strongest letter in the world”. There is one standard engine, oh sorry “Imperious Powerplant” offering: a 4.4 litre twin-turbo V8, a ridiculous 560 hp with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Zero to 40 in 4.2 seconds. If you’re in a rush, the optional Competition Package bumps output to 575 horsepower and hits 40 in 4.1 seconds.
The increase shaves 0.1 seconds from the car's zero to 60 mph sprint. The X5 once topped out at a max speed 205 mph but is now computer-limited to 155. Yet more imperious powerplants will be available. Where you get to use them outside the freeway from Kazakhstan to Siberia is less clear. Mileage information is also very well hidden but Edmunds.com reveals that, with 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg highway Russian oil barons want you to buy this car.
For those who have more money than they can fold, BMW is offering an M5 birthday special, a 30th Anniversary Edition pushing out 600 hp starting at $138,275. The entire U.S. production run is only 30, so make a reservation with BMW HQ in Woodcliffe Lake NJ. For those short on cash, the everyday model starts at $93,600.
3 Lamborghini Huracán
The Germans, Americans and Asians have strutted their stuff. But no one can strut like the Italians. This looks like the last car made before we all fly around like the Jetsons. A futuristic sculpture in aluminum and carbon fiber the Huracan follows the company tradition of naming its cars after famous bulls. This one fought in 1879 and became legend for “his outstanding courage and strong sense of attack,” according to the Lamborghini Facebook page.
For the uninitiated, the founder Ferrucio Lamborghini loved bulls and was a Taurus, astrologically speaking. The Hurucan (OO-rah-kahn) replaces the popular Gallardo, the most prolific seller in company history as well as Justin Bieber’s favourite car for drunken drag racing. Having also shed two hundred pounds, the Hurucan’s 5.2L, V-10 delivers 610 horsepower that gets from standing to 62 in 3.2 seconds, topping out at 202 mph. And that’s no bull. Carbon ceramic brakes make for that quick stop when the State trooper pulls you over. Teamed with ridiculous electronics, nappa leather interior, Racing Car Exhaust system, you can follow it on Twitter at (where else?) #drool.
Best optional feature: Dynamic Steering changes the steering performance from normal, comfortable steering to a racing feeling. Hell yes! Do keep in mind though driving a Huracan is neither wallet nor planet friendly. The EPA has it at 14mpg city/20 mph road. You will get birthday cards from OPEC signed by Saudi sheiks. And you better clear that AMEX from holiday shopping. Base U.S. price is $241,945.
2 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe
Cadillac is trying to shed its image as car of choice for rich old farts. The luxury car market has been growing but Cadillac’s share of it isn’t. The company down market move with the entry level ATS may fix that singlehandedly. Everybody may have loved Raymond but not as much as reviewers love the ATS. Forbes says “Cadillac has hit the nail on the head from an aesthetics and material quality standpoint”.
Car and Driver calls it one of the best Cadillacs ever.” Aerodynamic yet elegant, the exterior design literally shines at night with ambient light and illuminated door handles. The interior is more like debauchery than luxury. The sound system is by Bose. Leather seating surfaces come in an array of rich colours complete with French stitching and are finely accented by distinct interior themes featuring exotic wood.
If it’s safety and technology you want, the ATS features two cameras, eight ultrasonic sensors and six radars. It can do everything but froth your latte. There is a 272hp, 2.0 litre 4 and for the impatient there is a 321 hp 3.6 litre V6. There are reservations about clumsy interfacing on the entertainment panel but we’re quibbling about a great machine. Starting at $39,995.
1 FORD F-150
Yes Cadillacs and Mercedes have the flash, dash and cash and prestige. But there is no more important and innovative vehicle or better story line in 2015 than the awesome, incomparable F150. Ford lives or dies on the truck’s sales which generate one third of its total profit. Accounting for over $30 billion in sales, the F150 on its own would be in the top hundred Fortune’s 500 largest companies. Its success is staggering; the bestselling vehicle in the U.S. for over three decades; and best-selling pick-up for more than four. According to Car and Driver, “there has been no greater profit machine in the history of the industry than the F-series.”
However, EPA guidelines dictate it has to improve its mileage by over 50% by 2025(from19 mpg to 30.2). So Ford has re-engineered its meal ticket on the fly, by putting it on a strict aluminum diet, replacing steel body panels with more expensive but lighter aluminum. The result: a 12%, 700-pound-lighter truck that they say is still “military” quality that retains best-in-class towing capability. Also a fuel-friendlier twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 engine is available, and for Sultans of Brunei, a 5.0-liter V-8 is optional. The catch: a heftier price tag of up to more than $3000.
Starting price is $26,615 and the Platinum Super Crew tops $52,000.Not that there’s any pressure. If sales don’t fly the entire company may crash and burn and threaten the fate of the free world. The companies’ executives are putting everything, including their necks on the line here. A whole new meaning to the term Ford Tough.