Dozens of U.S. car models will be introduced or refreshed in the 2014 model year. Some common threads among the updates: interiors featuring soft-touch armrests and dashboards, larger touch screens and more ways for drivers to access their smartphones. Plus, luxury carmakers are adding lower-priced models, while lower-priced brands are moving upmarket.
Here are the 2014 highlights, by brand.
Fiesta: Ford has freshened its smallest car by adding a trapezoid grille to match Ford's other new sedans, the Fusion and Focus. But the real difference is under the hood. Later this fall, Ford will offer its 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine — now only in Europe — for the first time in North America.
The 1.0-liter engine gets 123 hp and should deliver more than 40 mpg on the highway. Also new this fall is the sporty Fiesta ST hatchback, featuring a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine with 197 hp and a six-speed manual transmission. The ST has a specially tuned sport suspension, racing seats and aluminum pedals.
The 2014 Fiesta starts at $14,000 for one with a base engine, a 1.6-liter four cylinder with 120 hp that gets 32 mpg in city and highway driving. Pricing for the 1.0-liter EcoBoost version hasn't been announced, but will likely be higher. The Fiesta ST starts at $21,400.
Mustang: A new version of the sports car — which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014 — is expected to go on sale in the spring. No details have been released.
Fusion: The Fusion midsize sedan, which went on sale at the end of 2012, has a new engine choice: a turbocharged 1.5-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost with 178 hp. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 1.6-liter I4 EcoBoost that used to be paired with that transmission is still an option on the Fusion, but only with a manual transmission. The engine gets 28 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
The 2014 Fusion starts at $21,900, but to get the new engine, you have to upgrade to an SE, which starts at $24,650. Other new options include inflatable rear seat belts and cooled front seats in the high-end Titanium trim level.
Transit Connect Wagon: After a seven-year hiatus, Ford gets back into the minivan market with the Transit Connect Wagon, expected to go on sale at the end of this year. The vehicle, based on Ford's Transit Connect commercial van, has the van's high roof and industrial look but the tapered nose and trapezoid grille of Ford's cars. It comes in five- or seven-seat versions and has sliding doors on both sides.
Ford will offer two four-cylinder engines: A 2.5-liter and a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that will get an estimated 30 mpg or more on the highway. Pricing hasn't been announced, but Ford says it will compete at the lower end of the minivan market with vehicles such as the Dodge Grand Caravan, which starts at $19,995.
Canyon: This new midsize pickup aimed at upscale commercial users is coming sometime in 2014. Few details have been announced, including the price.
Sierra: Completely revamped 2014 versions of the upscale pickup reached dealers during the summer. Like the Chevy Silverado, the Sierra looks a little more rounded and aggressive than the current model. It also gets three revamped engines: a 262-hp, 4.3-liter V-6 that it says can tow a substantial trailer; a 325-hp, 5.3-liter V-8; and a 6.2-liter V-8 with 376 hp.
They can switch seamlessly to run on four cylinders to get better gas mileage. GM is trying to give the Sierra the image of a more upscale truck through its nicer interior materials. A heavy-duty version also is due out next year. The Sierra crew cab with a standard box, the most popular variation, starts at $33,995, including shipping.
Yukon: The new version of the big SUV, based on the Sierra underpinnings with the same engines and transmissions, is due out in the first quarter of next year. The price starts at $42,955.
Accord Hybrid: The Accord, which was new for the 2013 model year, gets a hybrid version in 2014. Honda says the hybrid, which goes on sale in October, should get 49 mpg in the city, 45 on the highway and 47 combined, which would make it the most efficient midsize hybrid on the market.
The Accord Hybrid has Honda's new two-motor hybrid powertrain. One motor is fixed to the back of the engine and serves as a generator for the lithium-ion battery, which can power the car in all-electric mode at low to medium speeds. A second motor transfers power to the front wheels and is recharged from regenerative braking.
The hybrid system is paired with the Accord's new, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Icy blue accents around the grille and headlights will help you spot them on the road. Pricing hasn't been released.
Fit: A new version of the subcompact Fit is expected sometime in 2014, but Honda hasn't released any details. A Fit-based small SUV, shown in concept form at the Detroit auto show in January, is also expected to debut in 2014.
Odyssey: The world's first in-vehicle vacuum cleaner makes its debut on the updated 2014 Odyssey minivan. The styling is a little sharper on the front and rear. A six-speed transmission is now paired with the 3.5-liter V-6 engine on all trim levels, improving fuel economy to 19 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway (up 1 mpg from the previous model, which offered a five-speed transmission).
Other features now standard on all trim levels are Bluetooth connectivity, a four-way power passenger seat, and a text-messaging system that lets you hear and respond to incoming texts. The Odyssey starts at $28,825, including shipping, but you'll have to pay a lot more for the vacuum cleaner. That's available only on the Touring Elite model, which starts at $44,450.
Elantra: The small car will get a refresh in 2014. Expect more details this fall, possibly at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
Equus: The 2014 luxury car gets some revisions, including a grille that has thinner chrome bars, 19-inch wheels and a revised suspension for better handling. Inside, the materials have been upgraded, and both the instrument panel and the rear console controls have been redesigned to improve their ergonomics.
There's a larger, 7-inch instrument panel display and 9.2-inch dashboard display that has more legible graphics. A blind-spot detection system is now standard. The 5.0-liter V-8 engine with 429 hp remains the same, as does the fuel economy; it gets 18 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The 2014 Equus, which starts at $61,000, went on sale in July.
Infiniti is changing the names of its vehicles in the 2014 model year. All sedans, coupes and convertibles will have the Q badge (the M becomes the Q60, for example), while SUVs and crossovers will be called QX. The move helps clarify where each model stands in the brand's lineup and also gives a nod to the brand's original flagship sedan, the Q45.
Q50: New to Infiniti's lineup is the entry-level Q50, a small competitor to the Lexus IS and BMW 3-Series. It has a low, wide look and taut lines. Under the hood is a 328-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 that gets 20 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.
A hybrid version, which gets an estimated 36 mpg on the highway, is also available. The Q50, which went on sale over the summer, starts at $36,700, excluding shipping, for the base model and $43,950 for the hybrid.
QX60: The QX60 crossover now on sale, previously called the JX35, gets a hybrid version available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive. It gets 20 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway. Prices start at $41,550.
F-Type: The two-seat, rear-wheel-drive sports convertible was unveiled at the Paris auto show in 2012 and went on sale in the U.S. this summer. Jaguar says the F-Type has the company's most advanced use of lightweight aluminum to date, giving it a stiffer and more dynamic ride.
There are three engine choices: Jaguar's new 3.0-liter V-6, with either 340 or 380 hp outputs, or a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 with 495 hp. The latter can go from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and has a top speed of 186 mph. All are mated to an eight-speed transmission.
On the inside, Jaguar has modified its touch-screen controls and now has dials for heating and ventilation. On the outside, there's a big grille and vertical headlights that follow the sleek lines of the car. To help the flow, the door handles remain flush against the car until they're unlocked, and a hidden rear spoiler rises at 60 mph and lowers again when the speed drops below 40 mph. The F-Type starts at $69,000, excluding shipping.
XJR: After a four-year absence, a top-of-the-line R sport model returns to Jaguar's XJ sedan lineup. It has a 5.0-liter V-8 engine with 550 hp and 502 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed transmission, and it can go from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. The XJR also has low-profile 20-inch wheels. A stop-start system helps save fuel economy, which clocks in at 18 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The XJR starts at $116,000.
Cherokee: Chrysler Group's answer to the hot-selling Honda CR-V, which went on sale over the summer, has some software tweaks to the new nine-speed transmission. The Cherokee has a dramatic look that makes one wonder whether it's a Jeep.
The Cherokee, which replaces the aging Liberty, ditches the traditional boxy look for a more aerodynamic style and replaces the brand's round headlights with sharply angled slits. It has a much smaller grille. The interior is plush and full of luxury options.
It comes standard with a 184 hp four-cylinder engine that can get up to 31 mpg on the highway. The Cherokee also has a system that disengages the rear axle when all-wheel-drive isn't needed. It starts at $22,995, or $400 less than the Liberty.
Forte: The 2014 small car, which went on sale in March, is bigger and sportier than the outgoing model. There are three trim levels: the base LX, featuring a 1.8-liter, 148-hp four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission, starting at $15,900; an LX that has an automatic transmission, starting at $17,400; and the EX, which has a 2.0-liter, 173-hp four-cylinder engine and starts at $19,400.
The LX gets 29 mpg in combined city and highway driving; the EX gets 1 mpg less. On the inside, the Forte has premium standard features, including wheel-mounted audio controls, satellite radio, power windows and heated folding side mirrors. Cruise control and keyless entry are optional.
Two variations will go on sale this fall: The Forte5 hatchback and Forte Koup two-door. Those performance-oriented models will have two engine choices: A 2.0-liter, 173-hp four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.6-liter I4 with 201 hp. Pricing hasn't been announced for the Koup or the Forte5.
Cadenza: Kia pulled its full-size Amanti sedan off the market three years ago. Now it returns and gets significantly more upscale by offering the 2014 Cadenza. The Cadenza's 18-inch wheels and long, contoured hood give it a premium look. It's equipped with Kia's most powerful V-6 engine, a 3.3-liter with 293 hp.
The Cadenza has several new standard features, including a navigation system and rear-view camera in an 8-inch dashboard touch screen. Options on higher trim levels include Kia's first lane-departure warning system. The Cadenza starts at $35,100, which includes complimentary scheduled maintenance for 36 months or 37,500 miles.
Sorento: The 2014 Sorento crossover has been significantly updated. It sits on a new chassis — to improve ride and handling — and has a new standard engine, a 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder with 191 hp. A new 3.3-liter V-6 with 290 hp is also available.
The redesigned Sorento — which seats five or seven with the optional third row — offers two Kia firsts: a blind-spot detection system and a power liftgate that has programmable height levels. The outside has a larger grille and optional 19-inch wheels, while the inside features a simpler dashboard and a bigger, 8-inch touch screen that's standard on higher trim levels. The Sorento, which went on sale in the spring, starts at $24,100.
Soul: The funky, boxy Soul has a more premium look in its second generation, featuring more width and length and a more aggressive grille. Inside, there are upgraded materials and a larger, 8-inch touch screen in the dashboard. To improve the driving dynamics, the body is stiffer and the suspension has been reworked.
There's an updated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 130 hp on the base model, and a 2.0-liter, direct-injection I4 with 164 hp on higher trim levels. The Soul, which goes on sale this fall, starts at $14,700, excluding shipping.
Range Rover Sport: Land Rover boasts that the 2014 Range Rover Sport is its fastest vehicle ever, with a zero-to-60 time of 4.7 seconds and a much more agile feel thanks to its new, lighter aluminum underbody. The inside is more luxurious and contains a new folding third row with two seats.
Under the hood, there's a 3.0-liter V-6 with 340 hp or a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 with 510 hp. The base engine gets 23 mpg on the highway; the V-8 gets 17 mpg. The Range Rover Sport, which goes on sale this fall, starts at $63,495.
IS 250/IS 350: The 2014 IS, the smallest sedan in the Lexus lineup, now stands apart thanks to the bold, spindle-shaped grille of other new Lexus models. The engines — a 2.5-liter, 204-hp engine in the IS 250 and 250 F Sport and a 3.5-liter, 306-hp V-6 in the 350 and 350 F Sport — are carried over from previous models, but fuel economy has improved slightly, to 30 mpg on the highway for the 250 and 28 mpg for the 350.
The biggest difference is in the driving dynamics. Lexus says steering is smoother and responds better to the driver, while a revised suspension improves performance. Inside, there's more room, thanks to a 3-inch increase in the wheelbase and thinner front seats. Another feature new to the IS: standard folding rear seats. The IS 250 starts at $35,950, while the IS 350 starts at $39,465.
MKC: Ford relaunched its luxury Lincoln brand in the spring by introducing the new MKZ midsize sedan. It was the first of four new Lincolns expected over the next four years. The company hasn't yet confirmed which new vehicle will be next, but it's widely expected to be the MKC small crossover.
If it looks anything like the concept shown in January at the Detroit auto show, the MKC will have subtly undulating sides and a panoramic glass roof. It will also get the brand's new Black Label trim level, featuring exclusive paint colors and premium interior touches such as suede-wrapped pillars. Pricing hasn't been released.
Next week: Maserati to Volvo