With rock music blaring and strobe lights flashing, automakers rolled out their newest models this week at the New York International Auto Show. New offerings for the American market range from sleek sports cars to midsize sedans to a new Jeep. And one Italian auto maker is back in the USA after an absence of nearly 20 years.
Alfa Romeo is returning in style with its 4C sports car, pictured above. The merger of Chrysler and Fiat, which also owns Alfa Romeo, paved the way for the first Alfa to be sold here since 1995. The company says that the 4C is designed for performance and has been developed from its experience in Formula 1 racing. It will be powered by a 237-horsepower turbocharged engine. The 4C will go on sale this summer with a $54,000 price tag.
BMW chose New York for the world introduction of its new X4 -- the latest in its X-designated line of SUVs -- or as the company calls them sports activity vehicles. The X4 combines sloping coupe styling with high ground clearance essential to vehicles that can handle rough terrain. In addition to a choice of gasoline engines, the X4 will have the option of a new four-cylinder turbocharged diesel. Senior analyst Alex Gutierrez of Kelley Blue Book notes that BMW is capitalizing on strong growth in the luxury SUV segment. "The new X4 should bring a little excitement to the segment with its emphasis on sporty styling rather than pure utility," he says.
Renegade is a new Jeep for a growing category in the U.S.-- subcompact SUVs. Getting its U.S. debut in New York, the Renegade will be built in Italy but was designed in the U.S. Its striking looks clearly retain some signature touches -- from the Jeep grille to the high-cut wheel wells. Renegade, on sale early next year, will fit into the Jeep lineup below the Cherokee, introduced last year. "If you think the new Cherokee is a hit, and it is, just wait until the Renegade arrives in Jeep showrooms," says senior analyst Karl Brauer of Kelley Blue Book. Competing automakers also clearly believe this subcompact SUV segment is about to boom. General Motors introduced its own entry, the Chevrolet Trax, at the New York Show. And Honda also is introducing an entry called the HR-V, in a competition that already includes the Kia Soul and Nissan Juke.
When Hyundai brought out its 2011 startling redesign of the Sonata with swooping lines, it shook up the ultra-competitive midsize sedan segment and boosted Hyundai sales. But Sonata sales have flattened recently. "The midsize sedan segment has heated up, with strong redesigns from a variety of competitors," notes analyst Eric Lyman of ALG, a research firm that collects data on auto sales and predicts future used car residual values.
The 2015 Sonata gets an attractive but less distinctive redesign. "It's likely that this redesign will be less polarizing and may have better staying power," says Lyman. The new Sonata will continue to offer a choice of four-cylinder engines between a 2.4 liter and a 2.0 liter with turbocharger. Options for the Sonata will include safety features like collision alert and lane departure warning. Lyman notes that the Sonata through 2014 has had a stronger-than -average residual value and thus is a good candidate for leasing.
The previous generation of Audi A3 was one of the few hatchback models to sell well in the U.S. And its TDI diesel version -- with a 46 MPG rating for highway driving -- won a green car award. Thus fans of that model were unhappy when Audi first announced that the new 2015 A3 would be sold here only as a sedan version, and they let the company know it. So Audi announced in New York yesterday it would after all be bringing back the Sportback, as it is known, to the U.S with a diesel option. "The A3 TDI Sportback has an incredibly passionate and loyal fan base," said Audi of America president Scott Keogh in making the announcement. The 150-horsepower diesel will be matched with a six-speed automatic transmission in the 2015 version, on sale next year.
In an era when most SUVs were squared off, the Nissan Murano's 2003 rounded, curving design attracted attention. Now Nissan is back for 2015 with a new look-at-me design featuring horizontal side creases sweeping upward toward the rear. "Nissan's original Muranpo succeeded with a combination of sleek styling and advanced technology," says senior analyst Karl Brauer of Kelley Blue Book. "The new Murano will follow the same recipe, but it is entering a far more competitive market than if faced in 2003."
On sale late this year, the new Murano will be powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Optional safety equipment will include forward collision warning and emergency braking and blind spot warning.