Car-design lifecycles are becoming briefer. Automakers know new sells and today, new means more than freshened styling. The pace of change in powertrains, safety features, and connectivity is rapid and unyielding. A plan that not long ago relied on a basic automotive design that could serve for six or seven model years with a midcycle update around year four is no longer competitive.
Five years or fewer is the new normal, with ongoing revisions annually to stay abreast of advances in technology, progress by determined rivals and yes, tightening gas-mileage regulations and even crash-testing protocols conducted by the insurance industry.
Presented here, in alphabetical order, are a dozen of the most significant model-year 2015 redesigns. By the strictest definition, a redesign occurs only when a vehicle’s main underbody structure – called a platform – evolves to its next design generation. That’s usually signaled by some change to the vehicle’s key dimension, the distance between the front and rear axles, known as the wheelbase. All else builds from there, and redesigns also include new sheetmetal and interiors and often, new families of engines.
Our roundup includes full redesigns, such as the all-new Audi A3 and Chrysler 200. It also encompasses new-for-2015 cars that have no real predecessors, such as the Alfa Romeo 4C. And it’s liberal enough to cover cars with modified rather than all-new platforms if they change enough overall to qualify as more than mere midcycle updates. The ’15 Dodge Charger and Toyota Camry are prime examples.
The base prices cited include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fees, which average around $800. So climb aboard for reviews of 12 new cars fresh out of the box and ready for your consideration.
1. Acura TLX
Model class and body style: Premium midsize four-door sedan
Last full redesign: New model; replaces TL and TSX
Base price range: $31,890-$45,595
This new sedan says Honda’s upscale brand has rediscovered the formula that brought it so much early success: expertly engineered, fun-to-drive cars at value prices.
The TLX replaces two models in Acura’s lineup, the smaller and underachieving TSX, which was a gilded Honda Civic, and the midsize TL, which was saddled with ugly styling and indifferent performance. Like the TL, the TLX shares some structural elements with the Honda Accord. But it’s buffed and cut, with a strengthened understructure, some innovative technology, and a clearer focus on sporty road manners.
The TLX repeats the TL’s 109.3-inch wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – but slices several inches of sheetmetal fore and aft, giving it tauter proportions and a more athletic stance. The styling is cleaned up, too, with a more palatable version of Acura’s kooky chrome-fang grille and more graceful body contours. LED headlights are standard.
The base version has a 206-horsepower four-cylinder engine linked to an innovative eight-speed transmission that combines the fuel efficiency of a dual-clutch automated manual with the smoothness of a conventional automatic transmission. It rates 28 mpg city-highway combined and, fortified by a system that steers the rear wheels slightly to sharpen handling, is a surprisingly spry performer.
V-6 TLXs have a 290-horse 3.5-liter and a nine-speed automatic that employs a row of center-console buttons instead of a traditional shift lever. They come with a choice of front-drive and the rear-steer system or with Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive. Fuel economy rates 25 mpg combined either way, and the extra power versus the four-cylinder is instantly obvious.
Our choice would be the budget-friendly base model or the sport-sedan-grade all-wheel-drive V-6. But any TLX is worth considering against costlier rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Lexus IS. Acura’s delivered a spacious sedan that’s refined, easy to live with, and feels high-quality in every way. Welcome back.