NYIAS (New York International Auto Show) 2006

The New York Auto Show is at the Javits Center on the West coast of Manhattan. Since garages will raise their rates to $40 for parking, take the bus to Port Authority and then catch the M42 bus (every 7-14 minutes) westwards, or take the train to the subway to Port Authority (most lines stop at Port Authority; take the A-C-E or 1-2-3 or another train from the Penn Station or the S shuttle from Times Square). Or park a distance away and walk the remainder. Security is high so backpacks may not be allowed in.

The format of this page: text, bunches of photos, more text. First part by David Zatz; special to Allpar. Second partby J. White.

The fun and exciting part of the day was the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited introduction. The specifications for this vehicle are simply amazing, as are the four wheel drive systems; Jeep apparently has no desire to let Hummer steal the off-road crown. The demonstration was held not in the Jeep off-road course, as it has been in years past, but in the Javits Center inner roadway. Journalists gathered early; some, like Ray Wert of Jalopnik and DetroitWonk, were clever enough to arrive early and get good camera positions. Others, like me, stood on top of the concrete tent supports. A full-sized city fire truck was in position at the entrance to the road, lights flashing; it later moved down past the bleachers (largely reserved for broadcast media wearing ponchos, their equipment unprotected) and firemen waited next to the large green screen. Joe Eberhardt and Frank Klegon spoke for a while about the new Jeeps, Frank Klegon mentioning that the Jeep Patriot is “spiritually linked to the Jeep Cherokee” and pointing out that its 172 hp engine is best in class for four cylinder SUVs. The CVT-L transmission is a continuously variable automatic that is programmed to act like a two-speed transfer case; it is, along with a locking center differential, part of the Freedom Drive II system. Not surprisingly, the Patriot, with various clearances being better than the Grand Cherokee and with such devices, is Trail Rated.

At that point, the purpose of the large heap of dirt and the fire truck became more clear; rather than being climbed by a Jeep, the six tons of dirt were hiding a new, bright red Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Firemen (we assume real firemen rather than actors) started spraying, mud and dirt started flying, and slowly a bright red Wrangler started to appear.

fire department waitingmud coming offsix tons of mud

NYIAS 2006

jeep wrangler unlimited reveal

jeep wrangler unlimitedThe new Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited actually look smaller than the outgoing models - as in lower to the ground (despite continuing to have good ground clearance). The Wrangler Unlimited is one of the best-looking mid-sized SUVs you can get, with an enormous fun factor from the doorless, windshield-folded-down, roofless form.

There is a surprising amount of space in the Unlimited; it's 20 inches larger than the standard Wrangler, but in the past we'd wonder if that was enough. It is - cargo space looks quite good and so does rear passenger space. The dashboard looks better than it has in years, and yet there is still a drain in the bottom for hose-outs.

While the rear seats look comfortable (and easy to get into), the roof of the Unlimited really is surprisingly low to the ground - if anything it looks shorter than the prior generation, which is good since the roof needs to go on and off. The interior is certainly a step up while the exterior returns back to the “authentic Jeep look” with parking lights underneath the headlighits once again - and no odd shapes here, both are perfectly round. The Wrangler Unlimited looks like a true Jeep, and the long wheelbase and short front and rear overhangs should make cornering and ride competitive for the first time in decades. This might be a rebirth for the Wrangler, which gets many first-time owners thanks to its fun factor, but tends to lose them after a few years due to its around-town issues. (Past models have been fun but tiring - not unlike most very fun vehicles.)

We also saw the Jeep Patriot for the first time in-person. This is based on the Compass, but it really does look much more like the Cherokee than any other Jeep, and is a worthy successor to the Cherokee from reports we've seen so far. Off-roading is supported via technology and clearances, with a package to bring it up to Jeep standards with skid plates and the like; that isn’t standard because most SUV owners never go off-road, and there's no point spending the money (and burdening the vehicles with that weight) if it'll never be used. The Patriot is one of the most attractive vehicles Chrysler builds, in our opinion. The Compass, on the other hand, looks odd but not quite ugly in person - it's probably a look we'll get used to.

Within the 2006 New York Auto Show (what you'll see)

To get into the New York Auto Show, you have to get a thorough dousing of Toyota. First, you go past the Scion exhibit - that’s Saleen down in the corner, by the way - with the three Scions and, at least today, an empty stand for the new model. Then you go into the show, and taking up more space than just about anyone else is Toyota, in the most prime spot - you have to pass the revolving Yaris to see anything else. Toyota has several Yarises, a few Camrys, a truly ugly concept minivan I thought was a next-generation Nissan Murano when I first saw it, and a scattering of other ’Yotas. The next best placement is probably from Cadillac.

Chrysler is in their traditional place both upstairs and downstairs; Jeeps and Dodge trucks are downstairs, Chrysler and Dodge upstairs. Downstairs, the Dodge trucks are moderately prominent and far closer to the entrance and exit than the car displays upstairs; they also take much more floor space. Toyota’s trucks are relegated to the side wall, next to Dodge, in the same places as last year.

The only commercial truck shown at the auto show, other than the Sprinter, was probably the Dodge Chassis Cab, possibly the best-looking vehicle in its class. The Rampage was also on display on a turntable, but it proved to be far too hard to photograph, so see our NAIAS coverage if you want photos. The LED headlights look as strange in person as in photography, and the vehicle in general seems ungainly and bulbous, but the electroluminescent tail-lights might be attractive on cars. The Charger squad is for some reason downstairs as well; either it’s a different demo model, or it’s been re-decaled, because now it’s part of the “Hemi squad” and is no longer Car 59.

dodge chassis cab

dodge ram chassis cab - rear

The new Durango is already on display, fresh from its recent introduction. The restyle makes the Durango seem far slimmer and more attractive, while the MDS system reduces gas usage by about 20% (we didn't see that but we’ll take Chrysler’s word for it). With these changes, the Durango should sell much better, if Dodge publicizes the gas mileage and makes it more visible; the 2007 model introduction seems to have come with relatively little fanfare. The Chrysler Aspen got much more display glitz, a huge Arc d’Aspen with glowing neon surrounding the “luxurified” version of the Durango. The Aspen looks much bigger now than the Durango, thanks to the difference in styling, though it is the same size; the ridges on the hood (Chrysler owners are supposed to pay others to wax their cars!) make the front more interesting, and the Plymouth egg-crate grille looks more attractive in person than on photos. Overall, the Aspen is a nice looking package that looks considerably bulkier than the Durango, even though it isn’t, but doesn’t look excessive or too pompous for its own good (in short, it's not a Lincoln Navigator) - we don’t know if that will be good or bad for sales, though!

Chrysler and Dodge cars at the New York Auto Show

The Chrysler/Dodge car display on the upper floor is all the way in the back, across the aisle from Maserati, who you might remember from Iaccoca’s flirtation with investment bankers, which proved that you don’t bring Chrysler upscale just by throwing in the name of a European luxury automaker; and from Bentley, now owned by Volkswagen, which served wine for its own announcements. (Nissan sponsored a sushi lunch; last year Lexus sponsored a box lunch.)

The first thing most people will see when they get near the Chrysler exhibit is the Imperial, now up on a rotating stand where we couldn’t get particularly good photos. In person, well, it looks just like it does in the photos, except better lit. We would not call the Imperial beautiful or handsome outside, but inside, it looks as though someone has spent a lot of time in the Chrysler Museum, and put that time to good use; in particular we liked the two-tone seats, attention to detail on the door and steering wheel, and the electroluminescent gauges with green highlighting. (There are more photos in the NAIAS page.) The brake, fog, and driving lights (all LED) are always on, and contribute to the odd look of the exterior.

Chrysler Imperial concept

small-imperial smaller imperial

new york auto show 2007

The long wheelbase 300C looks just like the standard 300C on the outside save for a grille that looks like an aftermarket add-on; but the door is extra-long, not that it looks it, and the interior is considerably more spacious than the standard 300C. Whether it’s as big as an LHS inside is your guess as much as mine... or maybe we should look it up in the spec sheets.

extended wheelbase 300C

We were less impressed by the Caliber, which seems to have a smaller interior than the Neon; while the exterior design is more pleasant than one would think after having seen the photos, the interior left us a little cold. The gauges are nice enough - black on white and nice and large - but overall it doesn’t stand out from the crowd or make any real impression. We suspect this Dodge will end up selling primarily as a Jeep in what might be a Chrysler Corp/Group first, and we wonder if the Neon will really be replaced before 2011’s next-generation compact and midsized cars. There’s clearly an opening for the Hornet, though we really wish Dieter wouldn’t insist on outsourcing the basic design

What did impress us, though it's a Nissan-subsidiary invention and therefore somehow Franco-Japanese, was the CVT - a model of compactness. No wonder they went for it in such a big way. We have big pictures of the 2.0 liter engine on our World Engines page.

CVT from Dodge Caliber (JATCO)

More exciting and quite attractive is the Dodge Super Bee, which has no philosophical relationship to the past model (a Dodge version of the relatively inexpensive but fast Road Runner); it shares stripes and flat-black decals with the Charger Daytona, emphasizing the forms and curves, but has the full SRT8 treatment. The Super Bee will be out in 2007.

dodge super bee

The most exciting vehicle was not there when we were: the Dodge Challenger had a large turntable reserved for it, oddly not at the front of the display where it would attract the most attention, but well within the Dodge area, surrounded by Calibers (the Super Bee was at the far end as well). Perhaps they didn't want people to see the most popular exhibits without being drawn in and surrounded by ordinary Chargers and Calibers; or perhaps they wanted to have more control and oversight given the tremendous cost of prototypes.

We'll be posting more photos of the World Engine displays, but this was probably the last text update.

J. White: alternative views

Jeep:

  • Compass looks much better in person and my wife actually liked it but felt it was too small for us.
  • Patriot looks great like the pics. I wish I could have gotten in one or even seen one on the floor to get a better guage of size.
  • Wrangler Unlimited, one word .... Awesome.
  • Commander, the more I see it the more I realize it's not what it should be. It needs a better touch interior and more room. There's just no way around it.

Chrysler:

  • Aspen looks pretty good - I agree with your assessment. There was a customized one there next to the stand, sitting on what must have been 28"'s, had a custom grille that oddly looks better in pics than in person and smoked out tail lights.
  • 300 LWB nice extra room. Should add nicely to the lineup.

Dodge:

  • Challenger - Love the lines. It works. The Charger is still the better car for me.
  • Caliber - I like it a lot. My wife was totally disappointed. She thought it was a bigger car than that. (I never bothered to tell her it was a Neon replacement before). She said the ads made it seem much bigger.
  • Nitro - Pretty good, I liked it - my wife didn't. I can see comparisons being drawn to the Pathfinder in overall appearance - She didn't like it either. (In fact Dodge's whole styling direction is very Nissan like)
  • SRT4 presentation was a bit whacky (used 2 simultaneous presenters) and could have been done MUCH better.

Mopar overall:

  • Chargers seemed very popular with the crowd as did the Caliber.
  • No Aspens on hand that I could find to check out myself -- just on the display stand (No 2007 Durangos either)
  • Not anywhere close to the emphasis on fuel economy, Diesel, FFV and new hybrid technologies in progress for the general public to hear or become informed. They really need to work on their message there.

Others:

  • Mazda CX7 and CX9 are very nice and to a lesser extent the Ford Edge. The Saturn Outlook and PreVue looked nice but with it not being a press day and being "future" models, I could not really check them out.
  • Yaris and Fit did nothing for me despite the buzz. Just not my cup of tea I guess. (though with the oil news today I might change my mind .
  • Hyundai and Kia are doing great things and I was very impressed with much of their lineup. The new minis can't come soon enough
  • Buick is also making great strides and my wife and I will be checking out the Rendezvous a bit more.
  • Toyota Rav4 is greatly improved over previous model, though for the money I think you can do better. Camry is a definite improvement in looks especially with a couple of the appearance packages.
  • GM's new large SUVs are a great piece and I came away impressed. All in all I think GM has the best SUV lineup around top to bottom.
  • Nissan is on a roll. Loved the new Altima, It along with the Saturn Aura should give DCX some real benchmarks for the S/S replacements. I hope they meet them.
  • VW is also doing better. Glad to see it. So what do you think about VW's return of the Rabbit?

Overall Show: Crowded as the day went on, Probably not as impressive overall as previous years but still good. I left a bit disappointed at the Mopar showings though I can't put my finger on what or why. Maybe knowing so much and seeing it on a less crowded press day last year ruined it for me.

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