We’re biased, of course, but it looks like 2014 should be another amazing year for car fans. We unfortunately couldn’t attend this year’s Detroit Auto Show, but based on the heaps of coverage we’ve seen, automakers are doing exceptionally well, and that means they’re putting on quite an impressive show in Motor City this week and next. CarGurus did attend the New England International Auto Show press preview this week, and while our local show featured fewer debuts and smoke machines, we did get to see plenty more evidence that the car business feels strong—and that new cars keep getting better and better.
The first stop on the show’s press preview was hosted by Toyota, where Cooper Ericksen, General Manager of Toyota’s Boston Region, presented the redesigned 2014 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid. Toyota engineers focused on three aspects for the redesign: styling, family features and driving dynamics. They improved cargo capacity by more than a third, added a new 6-speed transmission that improves mileage and increased the Highlander’s seating capacity to fit 8 adults.
Ford’s Philip Podgorny, Boston Regional Manager, didn’t have a brand-new Mustang or F-150 to present, because those vehicles are on display and getting a wealth of attention in Detroit. He’s certainly excited about the prospects for both of those new vehicles, but he’s even more excited about the fact that 2014 will feature more launches than any other in Ford’s 111-year history. The company plans to launch 23 vehicles worldwide this year, and we can’t wait to see more of them.
Mazda’s David Matthew presented the 2014 Mazda 3, a nominee for 2014 North American Car of the Year. We like the looks of the new version, but we’re most impressed with the extensive list of swanky features available in a compact car that starts at less than $18,000. Leather seats, navigation and a rich assortment of safety features are all available for the 3, and while it’s not available yet, Matthew said the bigger 2.5-liter SkyActiv engine that powers 3 s trims will eventually be available with a manual transmission.
Cadillac’s Escalade has always had an instantly recognizable look, and Marketing Manager Todd Brown clearly enjoyed presenting the 2015 Escalade, which manages to be both instantly recognizable and better looking than past versions. Among the improvements in the new version? The Escalade now features selectable 4-wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive, improving mileage on the road and giving the vehicle more off-road capability. Cabin doors are now inset, which allows Cadillac to use some of the Buick Enclave‘s widely praised sound-insulation features (including triple-sealed door gaskets and laminated windshield glass), and a new V8 engine has the same 6.2-liter capacity as the old one, but produces more torque, which means the new Escalade can run on 4 cylinders more often than the old engine, improving mileage.
The last presentation on the press circuit came from the Director of the Ram Truck brand, Bob Hegbloom, who’s clearly proud of and excited by the 2014 Ram 1500. Ram’s truck lineup includes a number of vehicles offering best-in-class specs, including towing and payload capacities as well as mileage. The Ram 1500, in fact, is the first vehicle to repeat as Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year, and the 1500 EcoDiesel’s mileage rating of 20 mpg city/27 highway sets a new bar for light-duty pickups.
After completing the press-preview circuit, we sat down briefly with some other journalists and Cadillac’s Brown and GM East Coast Product Communications Specialist Steve Martin to discuss the show and the coming year. We found it interesting but unsurprising that the Middle East is the Escalade’s most important overseas market, and Brown clearly enjoys working on a vehicle that appeals to customers with expensive tastes as well as coachbuilders. One Escalade owner surveyed by Cadillac told them the vehicle has to serve many of the same purposes the dinner table did for past generations—it serves as a place for adults and children to gather and talk after each work/school day. Not every American family has the means to purchase a $60,000 dinner table, but we agree that as American life changes, the vehicles Americans drive need to change as well. And based on evidence from the first auto shows of 2014, many of the cars available to American buyers this year offer lots of changes for the better.
Anyone planning to attend the New England International Auto Show can save $2 off admission with this coupon.
If you’re in the market for a new car this year, which cars would you most want to test-drive?