This year’s New York Auto Show was the most upbeat in years. Record sales, technological breakthroughs, and high horsepower/high miles per gallon monsters dominated each press conference as the manufacturers spewed numbers to the press and onlookers. The theme for this year was undoubtedly social connectivity. Each carmaker touted its own innovative system for integrating driver and society, and harped on its ability to mishmash each driver with their favorite app. Matte paint was also displayed by many luxury brands, adding a touch of serious to some already potent machines like the M3 and R8. For those concerned, the so-called horsepower wars are still ongoing (we know, we love it too), which made for some great vehicles and innovative concepts.
To keep things easy, I’m rolling everything out in chronological order by press conference:
Chevrolet opened the first day by debuting the new Impala, which was long overdue for a refresh. It seemed to be the bowtie’s big push to take on other big domestic sedans like the Taurus and the 300; Chevy also (finally) brought a 300-plus-horsepower engine to the table that will allow it to compete with the Taurus SHO and 300 Hemi models. Aesthetically, the new Impala looks great; the split twin-bar grille and minimal headlights are just some of the highlights. Better lines and some LED and chrome round out the package. It’s worth mentioning that a vintage Impala was also brought out for comparison, and despite being wedged in the back still had a few onlookers craning their necks.
Mercedes-Benz usually puts on a great show, but this year happened to be an exception. The mega-horsepower SL65 AMG was their star, but on its heels was the announcement of new GL and GLK sport-utes. All of these seemed like easy outs for M-B, who can think up an AMG model for anything in their sleep. It’s safe to say most people were hoping for a little more creativity here.
BMW arrived ready to play ball. With four vehicles waiting under silk and two more i-Series electric models glowing in the periphery, they unveiled a pair of M6s (coupe and convertible), an X1, and a 6-series Gran Coupe in a simply outstanding and apparently production-ready matte bronze that looked stunning. While the Ms are always exciting (as was a baby blue matte M3), the X1 looked promising and should dominate the entry-level SUV market. BMW appears poised to match Mercedes’ level of commitment (see: insanity) by offering awesome cars that serve almost no purpose other than to take away from someone else’s market share. The all-electric i-Series was also a huge hit, boasting carbon fiber and advanced lighting that made them a crowd favorite.
Lincoln, normally tame at most shows, brought out the production-spec MKZ, and it was impressive. A new grille paved the way for upcoming Lincoln model aesthetics, and a panoramic roof and aggressive styling further hinted at the brand’s desire to make competitive luxury cars again. The MKZ will share a platform with the also-refreshed Fusion, and brought everyone’s attention to the fact that Lincoln was not content to rest on their laurels. As if to remind the audience of what they were capable of, a 1934 Edsel Ford Speedster was on display as well, and it received just as many stares as the rest of the line.
Lexus retooled the ES, uncovering it in two different spots throughout the show. Although the ES in undoubtedly the most boring model offered by Lexus, it will now share the pinched grille found on the GS and has grown a little bit as well, as if to further distance itself stylistically from the Camry on which it is based. A hybrid model was also announced, not a huge surprise given the brand’s reliance on them.
The Chrysler Group, specifically SRT, stole most of the thunder on the first day. An enigmatic and energized Ralph Gilles touted the resurgence of the Viper and the establishment of the SRT brand as one devoted to performance enthusiasts. Video, statistics, and general hype led up to Ralph himself driving the snake onto the podium and onlookers strained for a glance at the top-secret supercoupe. Simply said, the new Viper promises to be one of the purest and fastest driver’s car available. I hope the bevy of electronic wizardry doesn’t interfere with the driveability of the vehicle…after all, that’s what made the original Viper so much fun. All said, a gorgeous car and a great step forward for the Chrysler group. Their head is on straight and their commitment to building exciting cars is no doubt forging ahead thanks to Ralph, Sergio, and others like them.
Nissan, regrettably, had to follow Chrysler, but Carlos Ghosn, perpetual MOY candidate, had prefaced their press conference during his opening remakrs, and onlookers were eagerly anticipating the debut of the new Altima. There were a few curves in the wrong places, but overall the Altima looks fresher, bigger, and more and more like the car it was supposed to be ten years ago. The base engine has been revamped and will be an excellent chance from the anemic 2.5-liter currently offered, and the interior looks great too…a nice step forward for Nissan. A refurbished Pathfinder now bears a striking resemblance to a minivan, but a quick glance at the always-awesome GT-R quickly wiped the imagine from one’s mind.
Hyundai, a manufacturer that typically lays its cards on the table, unveiled a new Sante Fe designed to snatch up some market share from its Japanese competitors, by stretching the wheelbase and offering an optional third row. A bevy of engine choices will be offered, and I think I heard ’33mpg’ in their press release somewhere; impressive numbers indeed by a company that has made as much progress as any other in the last five years. The stylish of the new Sante Fe was met with mixed reviews, but I for one enjoyed it; plastic has dominated the exterior of their vehicles for so long that any change is welcome at this point.
Acura once again bored the crowd to tears with its RLX, which could have used an infusion from Ralph Lauren’s brand rather than the latest in wireless technology. The ILX was equally unmoving, and while Acura remains at the head of the table in the technology game, if they don’t being making exciting cars again they’re going to lose what remaining enthusiast fan base they have left.
Bentley, despite being Bentley, doesn’t typically wow at the shows either. Everyone knows what Bentley brings to the table, and while it was nice to see the V8 GT (which gets hammered this month in Automobile magazine) and Continental GTC droptop, it was nothing new.
Jaguar followed up a terrific 2011 show by decloaking a mini-Jag, dubbed the F-type. The two-seater appears to slot perfectly into their lineup, and is dubbed a ‘spiritual successor’ to the E-Type, a decidedly bold claim since the E will go down in history as one of the greatest sports cars of all time. Created to compete with the Porsche 911 and Mercedes SL (among others), the F-type seems poised to take the reigns of a resurgent Jaguar and carry them forward for years to come.
Honda unveiled the new Crosstour. Since most people are still trying to decipher the unveiling of the first generation Crosstour, imagine our confusion that it’s still being produced, especially in the absense of a single fun-to-drive sports car. Honda will, at least in my opinion, remain MIA until they can build a car that even seems reasonably inspired.
Mazda rounded out day one the right way, showing us the TAKERI concept, which essentially previewed the forthcoming Mazda 6 refresh. Lots of talk, but even if 25% of it makes it to production Mazda will have another hit on its hands. The 6, despite the recent absence of a Mazdaspeed version, continues to be a hit and offers a lot of bang for the buck. The styling of the TAKERI was excellent and the Mazda CX5 and tweaked Miatas reminded us that Mazda is still passionate about making good cars. And having the brightest display at NYIAS.
Day two is typically much more low-key, and this year was no exception.
Subaru kicked it off by announcing the pricing for the lauded (and drop dead sexy) BRZ, which should land just south of $26k. Regrettably, they failed to announce obligatory Subaru dealer markup, which should make the BRZ about as coveted as a used Supra until supply outweighs demand. Also unveiled was the XV Crosstrek, which felt familiar but was in fact a new vehicle for the brand, suggesting 33mpg via a CVT transmission. A host of affordable safety technology was announced as well across the Legacy and Outback lines, making Subaru one of the only brands at the show to make us believe they are well-rounded. I expect they will continue to grow, as they strive to increase quality and connect with buyers’ needs.
As much as I love to bash Toyota, I will give them credit for revamping the Avalon into a great looking sedan. While I enjoyed certain things about the outgoing model, well rounded it was not, and if the latest variant has even a mildly stimulating drive I think Toyota can chalk one up in the win column here. Expect to see a ton of these on the road shortly.
Infiniti rounded out the day properly, with the always-ready Carlos Ghosn exposing the new LE Concept to the world. The LE looked terrific on the platform, very fluid like the Infiniti logo itself, and boasted some impressive technology (albeit unproven) that included a charging pad and a 100-mile range. A great way to finish up the show and leave everyone thinking about the future.