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Redesigned, refreshed and all-new: What's the difference?

Negotiating the difference between redesigned, refreshed and all-new car models.
Redesigned, refreshed and all-new cars are three different types of new cars.

If you've spent any time looking for a new car, you've probably noticed that some terms keep popping up again and again. Phrases like all-new, redesigned or even refreshed may seem like variations on the same theme, but these terms actually mean different things.

"All-new" is widely used, but not always in the same way by car manufacturers.

"Automakers like to use all-new all the time," said Dave Sullivan, an analyst at automotive research firm AutoPacific. It's used in car commercials to generate interest among buyers who want a new car, Sullivan said, but it has another meaning, too.

All-new models have been created from a blank sheet of paper, said Chrysler spokeswoman Wendy Orthman. Honda spokeswoman Jessica Howell adds that all-new models can be ones that haven't been seen before. Two examples are the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C sports car and the 2015 Acura TLX luxury sedan.

Confusing matters, all-new and redesigned are sometimes used interchangeably.

Both Chrysler and Honda may call the next generation of an existing car all-new. Cars.com and other automotive information resources often make a distinction between the two. Kelsey Mays, Cars.com consumer affairs editor, said redesigned cars have a new platform and a version of the car has been offered before. Both the Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan and Cadillac Escalade SUV have been redesigned for the 2015 model year, while the 2015 Jeep Renegade is all-new.

The term refreshed is often applied to cars that get notable changes — an updated powertrain or revised exterior styling — but are short of a full redesign. However, companies "don't do a refresh for refresh sake," said Ralph Gilles, Chrysler senior vice president of design. Refreshes make the car closer to what the customer wants between full redesigns.

"It is a little makeover, a face-lift," Howell said. Honda makes these enhancements to meet consumer demand and keep up with market changes. One of the company's most highly publicized refreshes was for its 2013 Civic compact sedan.

Sometimes there are few changes between model years. If that's the case with a car you're considering, you might be able to get a good deal on the outgoing version and not miss out on any features. Automotive partner Cars.com breaks down the year-over-year changes in the What's Changed stories and in the Cars.com Research section to help car shoppers decide which car to buy.

Gilles recommends test-driving cars to experience the difference between model years. "Refreshes aren't just skin deep," he said. A revised transmission could sway you from calling a car a dog a year ago to responsive today. While a new touch-screen multimedia system could turn on tech-happy shoppers to a model that just a year ago seemed stuck in the Stone Age.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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