Good times or bad, recession or recovery, there is one constant in the auto business, and that’s a fleet of shiny new models headed to dealerships like clockwork each fall. The class of 2018 is no exception, led by an array of highly anticipated debuts and major redesigns on the passenger-car side of the business that range from sedate to sexy. Here’s a look at a dozen of the most significant new sedans and sport coupes premiering in the months ahead (we’ll look at the coolest trucks and SUVs arriving for 2018 in a separate post).
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Dodge Challenger SRT Demon. The limited-production Challenger SRT Demon takes the muscle car concept to a new level of outrageousness as a bona fide street-legal drag racer. Packing a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that channels as much as 840-horsepower through a pair of extra-wide Nitto street-legal drag radials.
Sucking a roomful of air through what Dodge claims is the largest functional hood scoop opening ever, the Demon can leap to 60 mph in a sudden 2.3 seconds and reach the quarter mile in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph. It’s also the first production car to do a front-wheel lift (certified by Guinness World Records), and generates the highest g-force at launch ever recorded in a stock model, at a NASA-like 1.8 g. It may be a one-trick pony, but that’s some trick.
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Ferrari 812 Superfast. If there was an award given for truth in advertising, this would certainly win hands down, given its rip-roaring 6.5-liter 789-horsepower V12 engine. How fast is Superfast? Try 0-60 mph in a scenery-blurring 2.8 seconds and a highly illegal top speed of 211 mph. And that’s without either turbocharging or supercharging. Not only is it the fastest car to ever wear the Prancing Horse logo, it's also the first Ferrari to come with electric power steering for added agility. The only way Ferrari could have been more honest in naming the car is if they called it the 812 Superfast and Looks Good Doing it, given the car’s sensually sleek – and aerodynamically slippery – bodywork.
Lamborghini Huracan Performante. Another aptly descriptive vehicular moniker, the latest Lamborghini should indeed perform like a hurricane, ratcheting up the standard-edition Huracan’s faculties by several notches.A retuned version of the base model’s 5.2-liter V12 engine puts 631 horses to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and can reach 60 mph in just under three seconds. Built with extensive use of aluminum and carbon fiber as a weight reduction measure, the Huracan Performante features Lambo’s new “Ala” active aerodynamics system in which air valves in the front and rear spoilers open and close to either accentuate cornering downforce or flat-out top-speed.
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Honda Civic Type R. Technically a late 2017 model, the just-released Civic Type R is the ultimate factory “tuner” car, coming propelled by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that lights up the pavement with 306 horsepower, which is exceptional for such a small and light car.The dynamically styled coupe channels all that power through the front wheels via a proper short-throw six-speed manual transmission (with no automatic offered) and a helical limited-slip differential; it rides and handles adeptly via an adaptive suspension, and stops on the proverbial 10-cent piece with a solid set of Brembo brakes. And yes, there’s a giant-wing spoiler at the rear for the sake of both visceral and visual appeal.
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Lexus LC. In what’s shaping up to be a banner year for sports-car aficionados, Lexus goes all in with a new top-drawer rear-drive luxury performer. It traces its roots to the brand’s LF-LC concept car, the low-slung and extremely rounded LC (the name could stand for Lots of Curves).
It offers a choice of a 5.0-liter V8 with 471 horsepower and a 10-speed automatic transmission (0-60 mph in around 4.5 seconds) or a hybrid version that pairs a 3.5-liter V6 with dual electric motor/generators to produce the combined equivalent of 354 horsepower. The hybrid uses a gearless CVT transmission in tandem with a four-speed automatic to simulate 10 separate gear ratios for energetic performance, with quasi-manual operation via a pair of paddle shifters. An available Dynamic Handling system with Variable Gear Ratio Steering and Active Rear Steering is engineered for enhanced cornering thrills.
Tesla Model 3. The proverbial 500-pound elephant in the room for 2018 is the long-awaited smaller and less-expensive ($35,000 with a one-time $7,500 federal tax credit still up for grabs) alternative to the Tesla Model S. with a clean and uncluttered exterior that wraps around a five-passenger cabin, the Model 3 can run for a claimed 215 miles on a charge and hit 60 mph in around 5.6 seconds. And like its larger showroom siblings it will offer Tesla’s Autopilot system that turns it into a semi-autonomous ride. What’s more, a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version is expected. To suggest the car will be a make or break model for Tesla would be an understatement.
Nissan Leaf. A redesigned second-generation version of the full-electric four-door Nissan Leaf is expected by year’s end, and like the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt, promises a maximum operating range in excess of 200 miles on a charge.While few details were available as of this writing, the 2018 Leaf is expected to come wrapped in revised (and hopefully less bulbous) exterior styling, offer multiple battery options, enable one-pedal driving via advanced regenerative braking, and (similar to Tesla’s Autopilot) will debut Nissan’s ProPilot technology that promises limited autonomous highway driving abilities.
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Buick Regal. The current edition of the midsize Regal has been the poor relation in Buick’s lineup, accounting for only token sales at best. Sharing its underpinnings with the Chevrolet Malibu, the next generation Regal seeks to shake things up.
It adds new four-door coupe Sportback and higher-riding crossover-like TourX station wagon versions in addition to a revamped GS sports sedan. Styling is far sleeker than before, with the GS being the performance leader with a new 3.6-liter 310-horsepower V6 engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and an adaptive sport suspension with selectable driving modes. Meanwhile, the Sportback and Tour X pack a 2.0-liter 250-horsepower turbo-four engine, with all-wheel-drive optional with the former and coming standard on the latter.
Kia Stinger. Though Kia hasn’t had much success finding buyers for its upscale sedans, the Cadenza and the unfortunately named K900, the new rear-drive Stinger might provide a welcome spark to the line with a decidedly sporty character.It’s got European fastbacks in its sights with its passionate four-door coupe styling and sophisticated chassis engineering with an adaptive suspension that affords energetic handling, with a more comfortable ride alternately available via adjustable modes. The base car comes powered by a 2.0-liter 255-horsepower turbo-four, while the GT leverages a meatier 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 with 365 horses with an estimated five-second 0-60 mph time; the latter also includes Brembo brakes for enhanced stopping power. An eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard, with all-wheel-drive optional.
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Lexus LS: The Yin to the Lexus LC’s Yang, a redesigned version of the brand's flagship luxury sedan comes wrapped in fresh styling that’s both expressive and formal. It’s longer, lower, wider, and lighter in weight than before, and was re-engineered to achieve a more engaging, yet still serene, driving experience.It eschews the former version’s V8 powerplant for a new twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that enables 415 horsepower with a launch-happy 442 pound-feet of torque; It drives the rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission. A racier F-Sport rendition, along with a hybrid version that shares the LC’s electrified twin-turbo V6 powertrain are also part of the lineup. Among the LS’s new features is an Intuitive Pedestrian Detection with Active Steering system that can automatically brake and steer the car to avoid colliding with someone in the car’s path.
Honda Accord. Still among the industry’s top models – even in the face of skyrocketing SUV sales – the redesigned midsize Accord sedan is a bit shorter and lower, with a sharply sweeping roofline, and rides on a longer wheelbase that helps maintains a roomy cabin. Power now comes from a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines, with the base 1.5-liter producing 192 horsepower and a new 2.0-liter adapted from the Civic Type R generating a V6-like 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A gearless CVT automatic is standard in most versions, while the 2.0 turbo four comes with a 10-speed automatic; Sport versions can be fitted with a six-speed manual. A new two-mode driving system allows motorists to choose between normal and sport settings. An Accord Hybrid continues with an electrified 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine for added mpg.
Toyota Camry. While we’ve never encountered a Camry owner who complained it was too boring for their tastes, the midsize sedan’s overall lack of emotional engagement has long been a common and constant thread among automotive journalists’ reviews. Whether to expand the Camry’s appeal, or just to get the journos off its corporate back, Toyota’s created an all-new Camry with enhanced driving dynamics; coming with a fresh new look across the line, the SE and XSE versions are infused with racier styling cues. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 206-horsepower comes standard, while Toyota bucks the trend by retaining a revamped version of its stalwart 3.5-liter V6 with 301 horsepower as an alternative; both come mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A Camry Hybrid continues with an estimated 52 combined city/highway mpg.