This 18-35 looks like a nice lens. I have the old AF version of this lens, and it was my primary ultra-wide zoom on film, before I "upgraded" to DX digital, and now it's a paperweight (because who needs a 27-52 zoom?). My old 18-35 was very contrasty, with wonderful colors. It was sharp in the center. It's been criticized for corner sharpness, but I never noticed it, and I don't put critical elements of my wide angle photos there anyway. It's also very light and small, even though the front filter ring is kind of Mickey Mouse (widened for 77mm filters, though the glass is considerably smaller).
By my calculations, this lens will sell for half what the 16-35 f4 sells for. You don't need VR for this lens, and it's much lighter. I think it is a solid amature lens for those who just can't bring themselves to spend $1,000 for a lens, and who don't want to carry a heavy lens when traveling.
That said,...as stated above, it seems odd that Nikon would update this lens before the 300 f4 and the 80-400 VR. This says to me that we're seeing the beginning of the end for pro-sumer DX Nikons (cough! D7000 and D400). A lens like this tells me that Nikon thinks everybody above the snap shooter will be shooting FX in coming years, like the film days. Could Nikon be envisioning a world of D3200/5200 DX / D500 (something cheaper than $2,000 would be required), D600 and above FX?