It's Friday once again, which means it’s time for another round of my Five For Friday: Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for January 31, 2014. The Kia Sedona's new lease on life, the Chevrolet Reaper takes on the Raptor, a more efficient Toyota Prius, a more expensive Cadillac Escalade, and the Infiniti G37's never-ending story. Let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
01. Kia Sedona Minivan To Be Redesigned, Shown Off In NY
The crossover/SUV onslaught has not been kind to the once-dominant minivan. Right now there are only three distinct versions of these people movers available in the North American market: the Toyota Sienna, the Honda Odyssey, and the Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country twins. There used to be a fourth - the Kia Sedona - but it was put out to pasture last year before being brought back for 2014 with only a few small changes. Years of flagging sales and a general disinterest from the automaker in spending the necessary development dollars have kept the Sedona from being truly competitive.
It looks like the minivan world is about to be shaken up, however, as Kia is planning to bring an all-new Sedona to the New York Auto Show. While it might seem unusual to get excited about a fresh box-on-wheels, there's reason to believe that Kia will be able to inject its usual mix of style and value into a segment where it's hard to get a bargain without making a few feature sacrifices.
02. Lingenfelter Introduces Chevrolet Reaper Pickup
It's been quite a while since a high performance edition of the Chevrolet Silverado has been available - too long, according to the gearheads at aftermarket tuners Lingenfelter, who have come out with the 2014 Chevrolet Reaper. The Chevrolet Reaper is based on the redesigned Silverado, taking its top-tier 6.2-liter V-8 and supercharging it to produce 550 horsepower. The Reaper also features a number of off-road-oriented suspension upgrades and styling tweaks designed to help it compete against the popular Ford SVT Raptor. The Lingenfelter Reaper will be sold through Chevrolet dealerships, and while (surprise, surprise) the modifications made to the vehicle void its factory warranty, the tuner provides a three-year warranty of its own to cover the truck.
03. Next Toyota Prius To Be Even More Efficient
The upcoming redesign of the Toyota Prius promises to be roughly eight percent more efficient than the current model, according to an article published by the Automotive News. This would push its fuel mileage to just under 60-mpg in city driving, thanks largely to a new engine that is much more thermally efficient. Toyota is also likely to move to lithium-ion batteries across the board, which introduce lightness and greater energy capacity compared to the nickel-metal hydride units currently found in the standard edition of the Prius. Finally, the redesigned hybrid will ride on a new platform that will be shared with a greater number of vehicles, helping to keep production costs down.
04. New Cadillac Escalade Goes Further Up-Market
New styling and a refreshed platform aren't the only changes to have been made to the 2015 Cadillac Escalade - the full-size luxury SUV also boasts a much higher price tag than ever before. The starting MSRP for the Escalade lists at $72,690, which is almost $10,000 more than an entry-level Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and $8,000 more than the least-expensive Escalade from the 2014 model year. Yes, Cadillac has boosted pricing across its entire lineup, but that only explains part of the chasm between the two trucks. The real secret is the elimination of 2014's base model in favor of a more heavily-equipped starting point for the Escalade that includes niceties such as heated and cooled seats and a magnetic adaptive suspension system. The 'stripped-down' Escalade of years past simply wasn't selling, sealing its demise and moving the SUV further up the luxury ladder.
05. Zombie Infiniti G37 To Gain New Name, Roam The Earth Indefinitely
Despite the presence of the Infiniti Q50 - the replacement for the premium brand's G series sedan - in showrooms across the country, Infiniti has been quietly offering the G37 four-door alongside its newfangled successor as a bargain-priced option for entry-level buyers. An unusual strategy, to be sure, but one that is occasionally adopted by car companies looking to clear out excess inventory. Stranger, then, is the decision by Infiniti to actually rename the G37 as the Q40 to slot in directly under the Q50 as a continued part of the automaker's luxury lineup. According to Car and Driver, the Q40 will be sold as a model-year 2015 vehicle despite its last-generation platform, adding another semi-confusing dimension to Infiniti's recent rebranding strategy.