By DEE-ANN DURBIN
DETROIT — More than 81 U.S. car models will be new or refreshed in the 2014 model year, from big-selling mainstream cars like the Toyota Corolla to rarified supercars like the $1.3 million LaFerrari.
The auto industry is feeling good after several rough years during the recession. Sales of new cars and trucks are expected to reach 15.5 million or more this year, their highest level since the recession, and many think they’ll continue to rise in 2014. Low-interest auto loans and moderating gas prices are helping spur consumers to buy.
There are some common threads among the new models in 2014. Automakers are all updating their interiors, replacing hard plastic with soft-touch arm rests and dashboards, and adding larger touchscreens, cooled seats and more ways for drivers to access their smart phones.
Luxury carmakers like Mercedes and Maserati are adding lower-priced models to their ranges, hoping to boost sales, while lower priced brands like Kia are moving upmarket.
Fuel economy is important. Honda and Porsche have new hybrids, BMW is releasing its first electric car and Mazda will soon become the first Japanese automaker with a non-commercial diesel in the U.S. market. Electric car maker Tesla expects to introduce its Model X crossover by the end of this year.
Many automakers are also adding stop-start technology, which automatically shuts the car down at stop lights to save fuel. There’s also more use of aluminum and high-strength steel to cut the weight out of cars.
But here’s what you really want to know: Which vehicle has a new in-car vacuum cleaner? The Honda Odyssey minivan, of course. And which one has optional fiber optics sewn into the headliner to look like stars? That would be the Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Here are the 2014 highlights from each brand.
CAMARO: The muscle car gets a small freshening for 2014 with a reshaped front and rear to make it more modern and athletic looking. But the big news is that the Z/28 is back as a no-frills, lighter, high-performance version. Last sold in 2002, the Z/28 has been reengineered at 3,800 pounds, about 100 pounds lighter than a standard Camaro. It can hit the racetrack with bigger brakes and the Corvette’s powerful 7-liter, 500 horsepower V-8. But to shed weight, it forgoes some creature comforts. It has a one-speaker radio, stiff seats and only comes with a manual transmission. Air conditioning is an option, and there’s less sound insulation. Goes on sale early next year. Expected to cost more than $55,000.
CORVETTE: First new version of the American sports car icon in nine years arrives at showrooms late this summer. The 2014 Corvette Stingray has a 455 horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that can take the car from zero to 60 mph in under four seconds. Yet it can get up to 30 mpg in “Eco” mode with a seven-speed manual transmission. The aerodynamic car’s engine can run on just four cylinders at highway speeds. A 1,000-person team at GM made the 2014 version lower and sleeker, saving weight by replacing the steel structure with aluminum. The hood is made of lightweight carbon fiber. The interior gets a more modern look with new touch screens. The new car starts at just under $52,000.
SILVERADO: All-new 2014 pickup trucks hit showrooms during the summer with a badly needed revamp that was delayed by General Motors’ bankruptcy. The 2014 trucks look a little more aggressive and aerodynamic than their predecessors, and GM says they have quieter cabs and updated steering, suspensions and brakes. They’re also 200 pounds lighter than Ford and Chrysler competitors, according to GM. GM offers three revamped engines: a 262-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-6 that it says can tow a substantial trailer; a 325-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8; and a 6.2-liter V-8 with 376 horsepower. They can switch seamlessly to run on only four cylinders to get better gas mileage. There’s also a step built into the rear bumper to gain access to the bed. Doors fit into recesses in the body to make the trucks quieter. A heavy-duty version also is due out next year. A Silverado crew cab with a standard box, the most popular variation, starts at $33,495.
SS: First Chevy high-performance rear-drive sedan in 17 years goes on sale late this year. The Australian-built car is a new version of the Pontiac G8, a much-revered sporty car that died when GM scrapped the Pontiac brand late in 2010. All SS models come loaded and seat five. Leather seats with added side bolstering for spirited cornering. Lane departure warning, blind-spot detector and backup camera, plus front collision alert are available. Wide, athletic stance with wheels pushed out. Slight “power bulge” in the aluminum hood. Big brakes. Same 6.2-liter V-8 engine now used in the 2013 Corvette, with 415 horsepower. The SS can go from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds. Price hasn’t been announced.
DURANGO: The big seven-passenger SUV gets freshened with a new interior, additional electronics and voice commands, and a new eight-speed automatic transmission that raises gas mileage nearly 13 percent on the V-6 model to 25 mpg on the highway. The outside gets new LED lighting for running lamps and new tail lamps. Price wasn’t revealed, but the current model starts at $29,795 excluding shipping.
LAFERRARI: Ferrari sold all of its 499 limited-edition LaFerrari hybrid supercars before they even debuted at the Geneva Auto Show in March. The LaFerrari has a 6.3-liter V-12 engine that gets a staggering 950 horsepower when it works together with the electric motor. The LaFerrari costs $1.3 million.
MUSTANG: A new version of the sports car — which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014 — is expected to go on sale in the spring. No details have been released.
FUSION: The Fusion midsize sedan, which went on sale at the end of 2012, has a new engine choice: a turbocharged 1.5-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost with 178 horsepower. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 1.6-liter I4 EcoBoost that used to be paired with that transmission is still an option on the Fusion, but only with a manual transmission. The new engine gets 28 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The 2014 Fusion starts at $21,900, but to get the new engine, you have to upgrade to an SE, which starts at $24,650. Other new options include inflatable rear seat belts and cooled front seats in the high-end Titanium trim level.
F TYPE: The two-seat, rear-wheel-drive sports convertible was unveiled at the Paris auto show in 2012 and went on sale in the U.S. earlier this summer. Jaguar says the F Type has the company’s most advanced use of lightweight aluminum to date, giving it a stiffer and more dynamic ride. There are three engine choices: Jaguar’s new 3.0-liter V6 with either 340 horsepower or 380 horsepower outputs, or a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with 495 horsepower. The latter can go from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and has a top speed of 186 mph. All are mated to an eight-speed transmission. On the inside, Jaguar has modified its touch-screen controls and now has physical dials for heating and ventilation. On the outside, there’s a big grille and vertical headlights that follow the sleek lines of the car. To help the flow, the door handles remain flush with the car until they’re unlocked, and a hidden rear spoiler rises at 60 mph and lowers again when the speed drops below 40 mph. The F Type starts at $69,000 excluding shipping.
CHEROKEE: Chrysler Group’s answer to the hot-selling Honda CR-V will make its way to showrooms late in the summer after some software tweaks to the new nine-speed transmission. The new Cherokee has a dramatic look that makes one wonder if it’s a Jeep. It ditches the traditional boxy look for a more aerodynamic style and replaces the brand’s round headlights with sharply angled slits. It has a much smaller grille. The interior is plush and full of luxury options. The Cherokee replaces the aging Liberty, which was badly in need of an update. It comes standard with a 184 horsepower four-cylinder engine that can get up to 31 mpg on the highway. The Cherokee also has a system that disengages the rear axle when all-wheel-drive isn’t needed. It will start at $22,995, or $400 less than the Liberty.
ACCORD HYBRID: The Accord, which was new for the 2013 model year, gets a hybrid version in 2014. Honda says the hybrid, which goes on sale in October, should get 49 mpg in the city, 45 mpg on the highway and 47 mpg combined, which would make it the most efficient midsize hybrid on the market. The Accord hybrid has Honda’s new two-motor hybrid powertrain. One motor is fixed to the back of the engine and serves as a generator for the lithium-ion battery, which can power the car in all-electric mode at low to medium speeds. A second motor transfers power to the front wheels and is recharged from regenerative braking. The hybrid system is paired with the Accord’s new, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Icy blue accents around the grille and headlights will help you spot them on the road. Pricing hasn’t been released, but a plug-in hybrid version of the Accord, which gets 46 mpg combined, went on sale last year starts at $39,780.
FIT: A new version of the subcompact Fit is expected sometime in 2014, but Honda hasn’t released any details. A Fit-based small SUV, shown in concept form at the Detroit auto show in January, is also expected to debut in 2014.
ELANTRA: The Elantra small-car will get a refresh in 2014. Expect more details in a few months, possibly at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
MAZDA3: The third generation Mazda3 small car, which goes on sale this fall, now has the same elegant swooping lines, elongated hood and narrow headlights of the larger Mazda6. The Mazda3 now has Mazda’s Skyactiv suite of fuel-saving technologies, which include lighter materials and a more efficient engine. The interior is upgraded, with new standard features including push-button start, automatic power door locks and keyless entry. It also offers new safety features, including a lane departure warnings system, a forward collision warning system and a system that automatically applies the brakes in low-speed situations to avoid a collision. There are two four-cylinder engine choices: the 2.0-liter with 155 horsepower and a 2.5-liter borrowed from the Mazda6 with 184 horsepower. Hatchback and sedan models with the 2.0-liter are estimated to get around 40 mpg on the highway; fuel economy with the 2.5-liter is a little lower. The Mazda3 starts at $16,945.
GHIBLI: Maserati hopes to expand its customer base with the new Ghibli, a smaller four-door sedan designed and priced to compete with the Audi A7, BMW 6-Series and other high-volume luxury car makers. Pricing hasn’t been released, but it’s expected to be in the $65,000 to $70,000 range, or around half the cost of the larger Quattroporte. There are two engine choices: a 3.0-liter V6 with 345 horsepower in the base model and a 3.0-liter V6 with 404 horsepower for the sporty S version. The transmission is an eight-speed manual. Maserati promises more details in late September.