While the minivan segment may not be setting the world on fire, it does account for about a half million unit sales per year. In a segment that only lists a few players, there’s room to make money. And Honda has been doing that quite well with the Odyssey. It’s been a long time since the last new Odyssey, and the 2018 model more than makes up for the wait. The new Honda’s design isn’t a radical difference from the previous model, but there’s only so much you can do with a big box. The signature lightning-bolt beltline remains a prominent feature, and gives the minvan instant recognition. New features include LED taillamps, available hands-free liftgate, a new Display Audio interface, new Magic Slide second-row seats that make ingress/egress a cinch, and a host of family-friendly items. Power for the Odyssey is Honda’s strong 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 horsepower matched to either a nine- or 10-speed automatic transmission. The Odyssey also features new chassis technology, better aerodynamics, and Honda predicts best-in-class EPA fuel economy numbers, which won’t be released until closer to launch date. The new Odyssey was designed and developed by Honda R&D in North America, and will be manufactured exclusively in North America, with the new 10-speed tranny coming from a plant in Tallapoosa, Georgia. Go USA!
While many still struggle with the new nomenclature (yours truly included), that hasn’t stopped Infiniti from introducing new models, such as this QX50 Concept. Struggling in the luxury segment, Infiniti sold just under 140,000 units last year in the U.S. Although it’s up about 3.5 percent year over year, it still only has less than a one percent share of the market. The QX50 Concept hopes to add to those numbers. The midsize luxury crossover retains a lot of Infiniti’s signature styling, with a sleek, modern exterior design that’s an evolution of the 2016 QX Sport Inspiration concept. The QX50 puts its eggs in the autonomous driving basket by featuring a new graphic user interface with a wide touchscreen that can display both driving and personal functionality. It also shows off its VC-Turbo, the world’s first production-ready variable compression ratio engine. The 2.0-liter VC Turbo claims to be an alternative to diesel powertrains because it can adapt its compression ratio depending on driving conditions for optimal performance and efficiency. No official power numbers, but Infiniti says it will be higher than many competing GTDI four bangers, with performance closer to some V6 engines. In addition, it’s said to deliver almost a 30-percent jump in fuel efficiency. No word on when the QX50 production model will be ready for viewing.
Kia continues to conquer new worlds (segments, anyway), which makes the introduction of its new sport sedan a natural fit. On sale later this year, the Stinger was designed by Peter Schreyer, and performance was under the talented eye of Albert Biermann, head of Kia’s Vehicle Test and High Performance Development group. Biermann, late of BMW Engineering, probably knows a few things about tuning a performance vehicle. The GT is sexy and well proportioned, with a long hood and strong haunches. LED headlamps and quad exhaust give us a hint front to rear of Kia’s desire to be competitive in this new segment for the company.
Although no engines have been announced officially yet, Kia is playing with its 2.0-liter I4 Theta II engine with 255 horsepower, and its popular and powerful 3.3-liter V6 that might be cranking out 365 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. More than adequate for this sedan. The transmission will be an eight-speed automatic, set up to mimic race transmissions with a Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber (CPA) torque converter that reduces torsional vibrations through the drivetrain. There will be a lot of ways to set up the Stinger however you’d like, with drive options for the suspension and steering. Plus, the Stinger will be available in rear- or all-wheel drive. Judging from personal experience, we have no doubt that Kia will do well with the Stinger, and continue on its path toward world domination with a laundry list of great automobiles.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe
Last year was quite successful for Mercedes-Benz, winning the luxury title over BMW and setting new sales records for many of its models. For NAIAS this year, MB celebrated 50 years of AMG vehicles, and introduced a few more products to the North American market, starting with the E-Class Coupe. The E-Class Sedan and wagon have been on sale for a while, and now it’s the two-door’s turn. The new E-Class Coupe looks as good as you’d expect, with a strong stance and good proportions. The long hood, long greenhouse, and wide back end definitely give off the appearance of wealth. Inside is more of the same, with a large 12.3-inch display screen, touch control steering wheel buttons, beautiful materials and finishes, and LED ambient lighting with a choice of 64 color options. The E400 Coupe will feature a V6 engine good for 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, and be mated to a standard 9G-Tronic automatic transmission. Optional will be an air suspension system, Magic Vision Control (wiper system) and other high-end luxo features. No price yet on the Coupe, but it will go on sale this summer.
Not a complete redo, the GLA receives a freshening that was long overdue. A focus was on fuel efficiency, so the GLA is more aerodynamic than before, as well as quieter on the road thanks to adjusting the area around the A-pillars and sideview mirrors. The GLA also offers and available LED high-performance headlamp that features not only brighter lighting but also more energy efficiency. Inside features include an available 360-degree camera, new gauges with red needles, new chrome trim accents, and improved material quality overall. The GLA AMG45 will boast 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which Mercedes-Benz claims will run a 0-60-mph time of 4.3 seconds. Not bad for any car, but especially impressive for a midsize crossover. The engine in the AMG45 is paired with a Speedshift DCT seven-speed automatic transmission. No pricing till the GLA goes on sale this summer in the States.
Aiming to broaden the audience for the Rogue midsize crossover, Nissan introduced the Rogue Sport, set to go on sale in a few short months. The Sport joins the Rogue and new Rogue hybrid, and should appeal to those DINKs (double income, no kids) who want something about the Rogue’s size, only sportier. What makes the Rogue Sport sportier than the regular non-sporty Rogue is a size reduction (-2.3 inches in wheelbase and a foot shorter overall) to make it more maneuverable, tons of cargo space, Nissan’s available Divide-N-Hide cargo system, and more. Power will come from a not-so-powerful 2.0-liter I4 that makes 141 horsepower and is mated to Nissans Xtronic continuously variable transmission. We stand by the idea that if you’re going to call something sport, then make it so. A more powerful engine would have been appreciated here. Available in S, SV, and SL trim, the Nissan Rogue Sport will go on sale this spring.
Photography by CarBuzzard staff and various automotive manufacturers. You know who you are.