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J.D. Power Awardees at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show: Where Are They Now?

J.D. Power Awardees at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show: Where Are They Now?

By Ethan West, November 24, 2015

The L.A. Auto Show is in full swing, and we took the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the models that received a J.D. Power award in any of our key U.S. automotive studies in 2015: the Initial Quality Study (IQS); Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study; and the Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). We set out to see what changed on these models for the coming year and contemplated what to expect in the future.

2016 Audi A3 e-tron
The Audi A3 is already a crowd favorite, having received a segment award in the 2015 U.S. APEAL Study. Audi further expands upon its popular and well-liked A3 model line by adding a 4-door hatchback with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The 2016 Audi A3 e-tron pairs a 1.4-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine with a Lithium-ion battery to create 204 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. The e-tron charges in just over 2 hours and nets 83 MPGe, per Audi’s estimates.

The Audi A3 e-tron won’t be the only alternatively fueled model in the Small Premium Car segment when it goes on sale: it’ll join the BMW i3, Lexus CT, and Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The A3 has two distinct advantages over these competitors, however. According to the 2015 U.S. APEAL Study, the A3’s largest advantages are related to the engine and exterior categories. The ’16 e-tron, though a hatchback, will retain the A3’s styling and will have more horsepower than the i3, CT, and B-Class.

The 2016 Audi A3 e-tron adds a further dimension of energy efficiency and environmental friendliness to an already proven lineup. The new model looks to increase the scope of the A3’s appeal even further in the coming year.

2017 Buick LaCrosse
Hot on the heels of receiving a 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study award for the LaCrosse, Buick has redesigned its largest car for 2017. The 2017 Buick LaCrosse debuts with a new look comprised of swept-back body lines and a coupe-like roofline. The new interior is a big departure from the outgoing model, looking much more airy overall, containing large expanses of wood trim and no shortage of leather. An electronic shifter stalk replaces the traditional P-R-N-D analog shifter. Power is slated to come from a new 3.6-liter V-6 engine. No power figures have been released, but the 2015 Buick LaCrosse with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine produces 304 horsepower.

While the previous-generation Buick LaCrosse has proved reliable, this past year marked the sixth in its current life cycle. After six years, a model is bound to fall behind its newer competition in some regards. The 2015 U.S. APEAL Study shows that the LaCrosse has fallen behind its Large Car competition most severely in the areas of fuel economy, storage, engine, and audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (infotainment).

An all-new interior and exterior design with clean, contemporary lines, in addition to a new engine and an updated version of Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system, seek to add a renewed measure of anticipation for Buick’s durability standout, LaCrosse.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu
Although the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu debuted earlier in the year, the redesigned midsize sedan was on display at the LA Auto Show. The previous-generation Malibu was the recipient of back-to-back Initial Quality Study segment awards in 2014 and 2015, so the 2016 model has large shoes to fill. The Malibu has also displayed strong long-term reliability as the recipient of a 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study award in the Midsize Car segment.

For 2016, the Chevrolet Malibu is all new and comes standard with a turbocharged, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. A larger and more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder can be found on higher trim levels. The redesigned sedan is both larger and lighter than its predecessor to improve passenger comfort and fuel economy. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available for buyers looking for more mobile connectivity.

A Malibu Hybrid will be available later in the year and will contain some technology shared with Chevrolet’s hybrid-electric Volt. Chevrolet looks to build upon the Malibu’s previous quality and dependability strengths while offering a more stylistically and technologically advanced car for 2016.

2017 Ford Escape
Since the Ford Escape was redesigned in 2013, the Compact SUV segment’s market share has increased from just over 12% to just over 15%, according to the Power Information Network® (PIN) from J.D. Power. A 3% increase in market share over two years may not sound like a whole lot, until it’s realized that 3% in this case means more than 730,000 vehicles. That makes the Compact SUV segment quite possibly the most important segment an automaker can play in. It’s for this very reason that Ford is keeping their compact Escape SUV fresh and up to date. The Ford Escape has already proven its penchant for quality by receiving a 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study award in a tie with the Chevrolet Equinox.

For 2017, the Escape receives stylistic updates, with the front end taking a cue from big brother Ford Edge that was redesigned this year. A new base engine, a turbocharged, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder, will be introduced for 2017 with an updated version of the current 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder joining the Escape in higher trim levels. Ford’s new Sync 3 audio and entertainment system will be added to the 2017 Escape and promises to be Ford’s most advanced and intuitive infotainment system yet. An additional suite of safety and driver-aid features like lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and parallel park assist will also be available on the upcoming Escape.

The 2017 Ford Escape aims to be the most advanced and highest-quality Escape yet, and it will need to be to get a sufficiently large piece of the ever-expanding Compact SUV pie.

2017 Ford Super Duty
Ford recently unveiled the 2017 Super Duty at its design center in Irvine, California. At the time, only a single F-250 was shown in real, live steel. Ford brought more versions of the heavy-duty truck to L.A., including the top dog F-450 with dual rear wheels.

To recap a bit about the redesign of the 2015 IQS Large Heavy Duty Pickup award recipient, the Ford Super Duty will receive an aluminum body to allow for more weight being used to beef up stressed components like axles and springs. The heavy-duty truck receives a new set of blocky lines on its body along with bountiful amounts of LED lighting. The massive truck will use updated versions of its familiar 6.2-liter gasoline V-8 and 6.7-liter, turbocharged diesel V-8 engines. Both engines will funnel their power into a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Super Duty will also receive many new technology features, the most useful of which is a system that offers 7 cameras to help ease the stress of maneuvering such a massive vehicle.

Buyers who like big honkin’ trucks, but can appreciate technological advances and top quality, will want to take a serious look at the 2017 Ford Super Duty. After all, it’s pretty hard to miss.

2017 Kia Sportage
Kia, which ranks second overall in the 2015 IQS, rolled out its new Small SUV challenger in L.A. Although the new Sportage is a 2017 model and won’t go on sale until next year, Kia looks to capitalize on the booming small and compact crossover market.

Kia has proven itself worthy in the segment with the current Sportage, having received the Small SUV segment award in the 2015 VDS, and capturing an award in the same segment in the Initial Quality Study in both 2013 and 2014.

In addition to a more upscale-looking exterior and interior, the 2017 Sportage will offer increased connectivity through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with a number of in-vehicle telematics services and applications. Power is sourced from a standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine or a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine on higher level trims. Front-wheel drive is standard while all-wheel drive can be added as an option.

The 2017 Sportage employs much the same formula that has made it so likeable the last few years. A new appearance inside and out, plus added technology, will attempt to draw buyers to a brand that is on the rise.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda MX-5 Miata, which historically performs well in the Initial Quality Study, has been fully redesigned for the 2016 model year. The previous-generation MX-5 Miata has received an IQS segment award in each of the past six years, and has received nine awards since it was last redesigned in 2006. Although the 2016 MX-5 Miata is new throughout, Mazda has kept the same approach as it has for all of the model’s lifespan.

The redesigned MX-5 remains a 2-seat, 4-cylinder, rear-wheel-drive convertible whose credo is more about driving feel and enjoyment than brute-force power or rich luxury. The 2.0-liter Skyactiv engine creates 155 horsepower, which doesn’t sound too overpowering, until one considers the fact that the car weighs between 2,300 and 2,400 lbs., depending on the transmission. That’s about 30% less weight than a typical family sedan and down 150 lbs. from the previous-generation Miata. Further improving upon the previous generation, Mazda has added a slick and minimalistic interior as well as a Mazda Connect infotainment system that offers control of entertainment, navigation, and even social media apps.

The reinvigorated sports car is on sale now and looks to continue Mazda’s vaunted tradition of a unique driving experience delivered in a top-quality product.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
Mercedes-Benz will replace its GLK-Class Compact Premium SUV, a 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study award recipient, with the new-for-2016 GLC-Class. Mercedes has renamed its compact SUV offering to better align with the brand naming scheme found on their sedans. Mercedes’ compact sedan, the C-Class, and its midsize sedan offering, the E-Class, were the influence behind changing names to GLC-Class for the compact SUV and GLE-Class for the midsize SUV.

The 2016 GLC-Class turns in the GLK-Class’ boxy styling for the brand’s new sleek, coupe-like design language. In appearance alone, the GLC looks substantially more sporty than its predecessor. The interior takes on the family resemblance as well, with an interior that is curvier and has a warmer feeling than its predecessor.

A turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine comes standard with 241 horsepower. That 241 horsepower will run through a 9-speed automatic transmission before it reaches the rear wheels. Mercedes-Benz’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is available for those that will be doing any light off-roading, or perhaps more accurately, any driving in inclement weather.

Though the GLC-Class loses the hard-edge design of the bygone GLK-Class, the GLC-Class hopes to continue Mercedes’ hard-edge approach to durability.

2016 Nissan Sentra
On the heels of the Nissan Sentra receiving a 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study segment award, the compact car has been given a refresh to better align it with the rest of the brand’s offerings. The big news here is Sentra’s bold new face, which has been appended with influence from Nissan’s redesigned 2016 Maxima and freshened 2016 Altima. Small stylistic updates have been made to other areas of the Sentra as well—both outside and inside.

Most of the new Sentra’s mechanical running gear carries over from last year, including the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and choice of 6-speed manual transmission or CVT. Nissan has added more technology content inside, such as new displays that house the car’s NissanConnect system—Nissan’s suite of mobile apps. The 2016 Nissan Sentra is a light evolution of its former self rather than a full redesign, but Nissan hopes to cement the Sentra’s position as award worthy with its new model.

2016 Scion iA
In its time on the market, the Scion xD has proven to be a reliability standout, receiving Vehicle Dependability Study awards in both 2013 and 2015. Scion replaces the xD—along with its name—with a brand new model, the 2016 Scion iA. The new iA trades the xD’s boxy hatchback styling for a new set of smooth lines, molded in sedan form. The iA’s exterior and interior styling are a welcome arrival, as the xD’s styling had begun to age as other competitors were introduced over the last few years.

The new iA is powered by a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 106 horsepower. But perhaps more noteworthy is that those 106 horses achieve an estimated 33 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. Strong fuel economy is accompanied by a full list of standard features like a 7-in. display for the audio system and backup camera, Bluetooth audio and call connectivity, and voice recognition.

In the 2015 IQS, Small Car buyers say that fuel economy was the most influential reason for purchasing their vehicle. Expected reliability and previous brand experience are the third and fifth-most mentioned purchase reasons by Small Car buyers. It seems that Scion has gotten their math correct in making the 2016 iA— strong fuel economy, outstanding predicted reliability, and a customer base that already knows and is happy with their outstanding reliability, all wrapped in attractive new packaging. The Scion iA is currently on sale and takes on such competitors as the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, and Hyundai Accent.

Additional Research:

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