In 2015 Americans bought more new cars than in any previous year, but those numbers can’t hide one of the auto business’s dirty little secrets: even when shoppers buy lots of cars, not every model sells well. We’re now winding down the 2016 model year, so we know which models won’t return for 2017. There are a few we won’t miss too much (take care, CR-Z!), but happily, a number of good models that won’t come back for 2017 have already been replaced or will move on under new names. Here are some vehicles we’re glad will return, even if they’ve had to adopt an alias to do so.
The Chrysler Town & Country won’t return for 2017; the Dodge Grand Caravan will, but only to fulfill fleet sales. Given that Chrysler pretty much invented the modern minivan when it debuted the 1984 Dodge Caravan, it’s a good thing the reborn Chrysler Pacifica has already launched a new era for Chrysler minivans. We don’t understand why FCA re-used the model name of a large retired crossover that generated better reviews than mileage and sales, but we’re happy to have a good-looking, technologically up-to-date American minivan on the market, particularly since the first plug-in hybrid minivan ever sold in the U.S. will join the team later this year. The Pacifica’s Advanced SafetyTec package will be offered only on higher trims for its debut year, but we hope Chrysler sees fit to offer it across the lineup in the future, and we look forward to hearing more about the possibility of an all-wheel-drive (AWD) Pacifica. So far, the company has only said that its platform could support AWD, but c’mon, FCA—you’re not going to let Toyota’s Sienna continue as the only minivan offering AWD in the U.S., are you?
Cadillac and its new president, Johan de Nysschen, got some press last year for moving the company’s home base from Detroit to New York City and opening Cadillac House, which looks and feels more like a gallery than a car dealership. While many driving enthusiasts are fans of the CTS and ATS, the SRX crossover sells more than 3 times the volume of any other current Cadillac model. But because Cadillac clearly feels that change is a good thing, 2016 will be the SRX’s last year, and the company will offer the new Cadillac XT5 for the 2017 model year. The SRX was originally intended to compete with the segment-leading Lexus RX 350, but it will also battle with German offerings from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. We don’t yet know whether the XT5 will offer enough driving excitement to compete with the Germans, but it will definitely offer slightly more power and higher mileage than the outgoing SRX.
Porsche has made a number of legendary cars known by three-digit numerical model names, including the 356, the 928, and, of course, the hallowed 911. Perhaps that’s why the company decided to rename two models by putting a “718” in front of their previous names. The 718 was an open-cockpit racing car built from 1957 to 1962 and which was driven to victory in the 1959 Targa Florio, an endurance race held near Palermo in Sicily. (This race is also the source of the name Porsche used for the distinctive removable roof panel it added to the 1966 911 and trademarked.) The new names, 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman, probably won’t have much impact on sales, but we can’t wait to see how shoppers respond to a more important and fundamental change: previous Caymans and Boxsters used an inline 6-cylinder engine, but the 718s will get a turbocharged 4-cylinder. Only two trims for each new model have been announced so far, with base versions getting a 2.0-liter 300-hp engine and S versions using a 2.5-liter engine that produces 350 hp. We suspect both lineups will grow in size and power over time, but we’re sure debuting versions will start showing up at track days soon (if they haven’t already).
We just noted that Porsche managed to retire two model names for 2017 without retiring the models themselves. Hyundai wants to take a similar step, but instead of continuing existing models under new and longer names, it wants to continue two models with shorter new names under the umbrella of a new brand that shares the original name of one of those models: Genesis. Hyundai launched its Genesis luxury marque on November 4, 2015, with help from an impressive list of executives with experience at Lamborghini, Bentley, Audi, Hyundai-Kia, and BMW’s M performance division. Genesis’ first car is the G90, basically an evolution of Hyundai’s Equus luxury sedan, although it uses a completely new platform. The second, the G80, will be a new version of the well-received Genesis luxury sedan. Hyundai’s quality and design have improved dramatically over the years, and while the Genesis brand’s first offerings are solid, we trust they’ll improve over time as well.
While Hyundai’s adding a new luxury marque, Toyota’s shutting down its Scion brand, which focused on younger shoppers and did relatively well in its early days. Most of Scion’s vehicles became less distinctive over time, but its last new model, the FR-S, didn’t have time to turn bad. It wasn’t as powerful as the retired Toyota Supra, but it was an inexpensive rear-wheel-drive sports coupe that turned some enthusiasts into big fans. That car is known as the Toyota 86 outside America, and while its 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque will make it difficult to set lap-time records, it’s relatively light and simple and offers a manual transmission, so it has a similar appeal to the Mazda Miata, the world’s best-selling 2-seat convertible. Best of all, the Toyota 86 will finally get sold in the U.S. for the 2017 model year, and manual-equipped versions will produce 5 more hp and lb-ft than the ’16 FR-S. We’ve enjoyed driving the FR-S and look forward to testing the 86, and we hope to hear more than rumor-mill rumblings about a convertible version in the near future.
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