10 Most Important New Cars of 2016

The 2016 Lincoln Continental is seen here, on display at the 2015 New York Auto Show.

Take a deep breath. Ah, there’s nothing quite like the smell of a new car, and for the 2016 model year there are about 50 new, redesigned, or significantly updated and upgraded models rolling into showrooms. Our team of auto experts has reviewed the full list of upcoming debuts, and decided that these are the 10 most important new vehicles of 2016. Check ‘em out!

 

Acura NSX

Acura desperately needs the new NSX sports car. Having lacked a true halo model for a decade, following the cancellation of the first-generation NSX, this upscale brand from Honda has struggled with how best to communicate what Acura means and why Americans should pay more for a car or SUV wearing its silver caliper emblems.

acura nsx front at new york auto show

The Acura NSX is hybrid-powered and has all-wheel-drive fitted as standard.

Representative of the meticulous engineering that goes into every Acura, and as worn on the new NSX, those calipers signal the most sophisticated vehicle the brand has ever built, a twin-turbocharged, sport-hybrid, all-wheel-drive sports car wrapped in aluminum, carbon-fiber, and high-strength steel. Starting in 2016, the NSX once again defines Acura.

Cadillac CT6

Based on what people actually buy, Cadillac is now a purveyor of SUVs, not luxury sedans. While the ATS and CTS are dynamic automobiles, and the overpriced ELR nevertheless provides an innovative alternative to traditional expressions of luxury, it is Escalade and SRX that sell in the greatest quantities.

2016 cadillac ct6 at new york auto show

The 2016 Cadillac CT6 made its official global debut earlier this year, during the 2015 New York Auto Show.

Cadillac pivots with the new CT6. This luxury sports sedan introduces the company’s new naming convention for cars, refines Cadillac’s design language, debuts new powertrains (including a plug-in hybrid), and serves as the automaker’s first credible flagship car in decades.

Chevrolet Camaro

Redesigned for 2016, the smaller and lighter Camaro sits on the same critically acclaimed platform that Cadillac uses for the ATS and CTS sport sedans. This change, coupled with significant interior improvements, sensational styling, and refined driving dynamics, brings a new level of sophistication to the traditional American muscle car.

Chevrolet unveiled the 2016 Camaro during a special event held in Detroit, Michigan, on May 16.

Chevrolet unveiled the 2016 Camaro during a special event held in Detroit, Michigan, on May 16.

Turbocharged 4-cylinder, V6, and V8 engines matched to manual or automatic transmissions and installed in a coupe body style will be available at launch, though a convertible is almost certainly in the works. Expect at least one, or perhaps two, high-performance variants to arrive later in 2016 or for 2017, providing stiff competition for all versions of the Ford Mustang. Let the Chevy vs. Ford battle resume!

Fiat 500X

A compelling entry in a hot segment, the new Fiat 500X is exactly what this brand has needed since its American re-launch several years ago. Sharing its underlying component set with the Jeep Renegade, if not the Jeep’s maximum off-roading capabilities, the 500X blends Italian style with genuine sensibility, giving consumers a good reason to visit a Fiat “studio” aside from nostalgia and big rebates.

Fiat has tuned the 500 to American tastes with the larger, roomier, and more powerful 500X.

Fiat has tuned the 500 to American tastes with the larger, roomier, and more powerful 500X.

Available in a variety of color combinations and varying levels of equipment, the 500X is offered with a choice between two engines, two transmissions, and front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Attractively designed and priced, and roomy enough for a family, this Fiat has the potential to double the company’s sales in America.

Jaguar XE

With the XE, Jaguar aims to alter global perceptions. This new compact, entry-level luxury sport sedan takes on the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class with aluminum construction, a new family of powerful yet fuel-efficient engines, and the latest in touchscreen infotainment and safety technologies.

The Jaguar XE is not a radical compact sports sedan, nor does it need to be. But it may have the chops to take on the best Germany has to offer.

The Jaguar XE is aimed directly at cars like the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C Class, and Audi A4.

Possessing the potential to double the company’s sales, Jaguar needs for the new XE to be a success. It must be brilliant to drive, it must be utterly dependable, and it cannot force concessions in exchange for exclusivity because, unlike other Jaguars, it won’t be exclusive. The XE takes Jaguar mainstream, and must deliver substance beyond the svelte styling.

Lincoln Continental

Members of our team characterize the new Lincoln Continental as a “make-or-break” car. Created to serve as a flagship model, one introducing yet another design language for the brand, one resurrecting a classic name out of step with current “MK” conventions, the Continental almost certainly shares underpinnings with the next-generation Ford Taurus.

Meet the new Continental Concept, and get used to the looks, as you'll be seeing it soon on all future Lincolns.

The Lincoln Continental Concept, seen here, is strongly rumored to be very similar to the upcoming production model.

Will this approach convince large luxury sedan buyers to return to Lincoln showrooms, or is this a Cadillac XTS in the making, a vehicle more likely than not to be painted black and used for shuttling people to airports? It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

More than any model in the company’s history, the Miata represents the essence and spirit of Mazda. For 2016, the MX-5 Miata is redesigned, engineers expertly shaving every last gram and millimeter to the barest possible minimum in order to ensure that the 2-seat sports car remains the quintessential embodiment of driving pleasure.

Mazda has managed to substantially trim the weight of the 2016 MX-5 Miata. This should make the two-seat roadster even quicker and more fuel efficient, too.

Mazda has managed to substantially trim the weight of the 2016 MX-5 Miata. This should make the two-seat roadster even quicker and more fuel efficient, too.

Light, quick, and fuel-efficient, the new Miata is terrific fun, a street-legal go-kart equipped with modern infotainment and safety technologies. Purposeful design lends more aggression to the Miata’s looks, underscoring the car’s potential for performance. A masterpiece of minimalism, the new Miata perfectly underscores what makes Mazda different.

Tesla Model X

Is Tesla here to stay? It certainly seems that way, with the pricey Model S outselling every electric car on the market except for the Nissan Leaf. Naturally, then, an electric SUV is the next logical step for the company. Enter the Tesla Model X.

tesla model x suv

The Model X features gull wing doors and a fully-electric drivetrain.

Tesla’s oft-delayed crossover is due in early 2016, featuring seating for seven people and “Falcon Wing” rear doors designed to make it easier to get into and out of the back seats. While the styling is not quite as upscale and dramatic as the Model S – think of an egg on wheels – the Model X is expected to feature the same powerful, extended-range electric propulsion technology that has made the Model S so appealing.

Toyota Mirai

Though it may not be the first fuel cell-powered electric vehicle, the futuristic Toyota Mirai might well be the most significant one. That’s because Toyota intends to produce more than just a handful of them, and plans to sell the Mirai at what is a contextually reasonable price. All the car needs now is a hydrogen infrastructure to fuel it.

You might not think it’s pretty, but the Toyota Mirai is irrefutable proof that fuel-cell technology has finally arrived.

It’s not pretty, but the Toyota Mirai is proof that fuel-cell technology has truly arrived.

That’s underway in some regions of the country, but until hydrogen is available on a broader scale, initial demand for the Mirai will be light and spotty. When you do see one on the road, you won’t mistake the Mirai for anything else. Put kindly, it is about a visually appealing today as a Plymouth Valiant was in 1962. Revolutions aren’t necessarily pretty, though, and the Mirai is nothing short of a revolutionary automobile.

Volvo XC90

America’s economy has recovered from the Great Recession, and people with money are spending it again. But they are not buying Volvos. While nearly every other automaker has enjoyed robust sales gains during the past several years, Volvo is stagnant, idling in Neutral while waiting for new products to arrive.

The exterior redesign doesn’t exactly pale by comparison, as the new XC90 appears more muscular and defined in the hips and shoulders than before, with elements of Range Rover in its nose and tail.

The exterior redesign doesn’t exactly pale by comparison, as the new XC90 appears more muscular and defined in the hips and shoulders than before, with elements of Range Rover in its nose and tail.

For 2016, the redesigned XC90 comes to the rescue, or so Volvo hopes. The seven-passenger SUV debuts a new design direction for the automaker, and is a showcase for Volvo’s engineering and technological know-how. It looks terrific, with clean Scandinavian styling and upscale detailing. Whether it appeals on a long-term basis to people who are not already loyal to Volvo remains to