While automakers are working swiftly to present a host of electric vehicles, whether by choice or bureaucratic behest, today’s venerable internal-combustion-powered machines dominate both sales and consumer interest.

Here are some of the more significant new products hitting showrooms this year.

Toyota’s RAV4
The redesigned RAV4 is arriving right now. Already the top-selling crossover in America, and as the top-selling non-pickup truck here in Maine, the latest RAV4 promises more fuel economy with its hybrid powertrain offering, and a more adventuresome design that reflects consumers’ shift to lifestyle vehicle preferences.

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Limited, at the Berlin City Toyota showroom in Portland. Photo by Joel Page.

A new Adventure trim will exploit design elements to create stronger off-roading appeal; the new interior layout will convince many shoppers that they don’t need a Lexus.
Toyota has a lot riding on the RAV4, as it displaces the Camry as the brand’s most important product in the US market.

Ford Ranger
The compact class version of the Ford Ranger went out of production eight years ago. The latest Ranger will be a mid-size truck, filling the gap left behind as full-size pickups have increased in size.

Toyota dominates this class. The Tacoma has been on sale for decades, building a loyal following. GM has two entrants in this segment. Honda has the minivan-based Ridgeline. Nissan is bringing a new Frontier.

This class is about to get very competitive. Will the Ford and its Ecoboost four-cylinder engine be able to regain lost buyers? Are buyers going to look for true compact pickups instead of 4/5ths scale mid-size trucks with prices that are too close?

Perhaps Ford’s reincarnation of the Bronco, using a chassis similar to the Ranger’s, will be the tipping point and help consumers forget the departing car marquees that Ford will discontinue this year.

Subaru Forester
The arrival of 2019 means that Subaru has been selling cars in America for 50 years. The fifth-generation Forester reflects the brand’s maturity: Subaru is no longer a snowbelt retailer specializing in AWD vehicles.

From Leone, to Loyale, to DL/GL series cars, this Forester illustrates the continuous improvements Subaru has bestowed on its small wagons, creating a market niche that has propelled the brand to unimaginable success here.

The new Forester loses the turbo-engine option, but gains 12 hp. Fuel economy increases, the cabin grows in almost every dimension, and the content and features places the Forester in very good company in the compact crossover class.

Refined, all grown-up, and primed for success, the newest Forester will please the loyalists and impress newcomers interested in value.

Cadillac XT4
Since 1990, Cadillac has been searching for an identity, as luxury car buyers have gravitated towards Asian and European brands. Despite widespread acclaim for its CTS, ATS, and XTS sedans, sales have never met expectations.

Now, Cadillac is shifting its product emphasis to crossovers. The mid-size XT5 debuted last year. The compact class XT4 debuts this quarter, and the full-size three-row XT6 arrives in late fall.

The interior of a 2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport at Bill Dodge Cadillac in Westbrook. Photo by Joel Page

The XT4 (starting at $35,400) uses a new 2.0-liter turbo-four engine, making 237 hp, running through a nine-speed automatic. An AWD system that can de-couple the rear drive shafts helps fuel economy, predicted to be 30 mpg. A V-Sport trim debuts later.

The styling is fetching – handsome, where some rivals are just plain ugly. Cadillac needs the XT4 to be a success. A big success.

Hyundai Kona EV
The Kona, a sub-compact crossover with impressive performance and driving verve, is on sale now. The electric Kona ($37,495) uses a one-speed direct drive transmission providing, essentially, one-pedal operation for savvy electric vehicle fans.

Retaining all the personality and athletic driving attributes of the gasoline-propelled Kona, the Kona EV has more than 300 miles of range, making this the affordable electric crossover that Tesla promised but has yet to deliver.
If the Kona rings up large sales, as it should in those regions that have embraced EVs, it will help lay the groundwork for other EV vehicle sales.

Honda Insight
This is the third iteration of Honda’s hybrid Insight.

The first Insight (which actually beat the Prius to market but never earned the sales or reputation of the Toyota) and the second Insight used unique styling that the masses never embraced. This time, Honda gave the Insight a version of the Civics’ body – meaning it looks like a conventional car.

With a city EPA rating of 55 mpg, the $24,000 Insight could, finally, make Honda a serious hybrid player. Or it might not, since buyers are rapidly transitioning to crossover-like vehicles, including hybrids and EVs.

Jaguar I-Pace
Despite huge infusions of cash, and some impressive new machinery across the lineup, the all-electric I-Pace could be the vehicle that makes Jaguar a true household name in the luxury segment.

The 2019 Jaguar I-Pace S, at Land Rover Scarborough in Scarborough. Photo by Joel Page.

The $70,495 sticker defines the segment, as do 394 electron-generated horses under the (floor), yet the two electric motors propel an AWD system that makes the I-Pace a real-world, five-passenger crossover with 240 miles of range. The traditional Jaguar styling will also help sales.

Other notable vehicles to watch:
Chevy’s new Silverado is larger, lighter and uses revised engines and transmissions in the pickup wars. Ford has moved further ahead of Chevy, and Ram is rapidly catching up; Chevy needs the Silverado to protect market share.

If the Silverado falters, GM’s plant-closing decisions, electric vehicle initiatives, and car abandonment plans will be blips compared to what havoc the Silverado can do to income.
Audi’s new E-Tron electric car, with a 310-mile range, debuts this spring. This Audi, and sedans coming from Mercedes and BMW, will test whether the electric vehicle market is real beyond the early-adopters thus far participating in this tiny segment.

Subaru’s new Ascent three-row crossover will prove how large the family wagon component is, or is not. Subaru’s research clinics have stated for years that the brand is missing out on this profitable niche; the Ascent will indicate how many Subaru fans have been buying Mazda CX-9s or Volvo XC90s in place of a Subaru badged vehicle.

And lastly, new sports cars arrive this spring. Chevrolet’s long-awaited mid-engine Corvette is slated to debut, and BMW and Toyota have teamed up to build reincarnated two-seaters.

The Supra coupe will revive a storied name for Toyota. The BMW Z4 will be the convertible version of these track-ready performers powered by turbo-four and turbo-in-line six-cylinder engines.

Sports car sales have been slowing. Let’s hope that buyers embrace these new offerings and jump-start this exciting class of driving machines.

Tim Plouff has reviewed vehicles for the Ellsworth American for more than 25 years.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.