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by David Zatz and Jeremy White
Featured cars: SRT Viper • 2013 Ram • 2013 Ram Powertrain • Mike Manley
When we entered the main show floor, we did so through one of two doors, which led us past either BMW— with their coffee and tea served on white china, and superb petit fours — or Ford, with their massive Ford-blue display area and immense signs. Toyota also had a prominent spot up front.
BMW, despite being right at the entrance, was less visible than Jaguar, because when you walked in, if you looked straight ahead, you saw Jaguar’s display; I partook of BMW’s refreshments twice before realizing they were BMW’s, and not Jaguar’s. (Disclaimer: Using the name “BMW” four times in an Allpar article is rough payment for coffee and a petit four.)
What about General Motors, you ask? They had a pavilion of their very own, with their cars staying in the North building (except for trucks and the Volt). It did not seem like a good choice, even with the Corvette as a draw.
Chrysler’s cars are just behind Hyundai’s, a bit of irony because Hyundais are sold as Dodges in Mexico, apparently selling more briskly than the real thing. Part of that is the financial equation, with the Hyundais being cheaper and in some cases better suited to Mexico. Thanks, Hyundai, for the generous lunch on the first day (a thickly packed turkey and Swiss rollup in a useful thermal bag with cookie and drink).
That said, while Chrysler has a relatively small display all the way in the far corner for cars, and a large but similarly out of the way display for trucks, they have something nobody else does: a Jeep play area out front, with various Jeep vehicles going over logs, steep inclines, and the like. Visitors can drive one of the Jeeps through the (by necessity) brief obstacle course, in full view of the public. That’s a pretty good advertisement and perhaps as effective as their main displays. A single Grand Cherokee is also sitting in the main hallway under a huge banner.
SRT itself has an alleyway between Nissan and Honda.
The Dart showed up with two regular cars, both locked — one on a rotating display — and the rally car, up on a little hill, situated so you could see the rear underside but not the interior.
Chrysler cars used the Imperial logo on their license plates, very subtly — why? (Thanks, Gabriel Dal’Maso and Gerald from NYC.)
640 horsepower, 600 lb-ft of torque, one hundred pounds less weight. See the Viper page for photos and more. The Viper launch was, as one would expect, extremely well-attended, and also well executed. There was standing room within the theater area, and spilling out into the rest of the displays; after the car was rolled out, the stage was jam-packed for hours.
Overall, the Viper has been given more power, a stiffer, lighter chassis, and electronic controls that make it easier to handle without robbing it of its character — according to Ralph Gilles, who was clearly proud of the way it turned out. The styling returns to the first generation’s core look and feel, while the new grille replaces the simple crosshair with a toothy grin. The engine was enhanced but is clearly an evolution of the prior V10.
Meanwhile, the 2013 Ram adds just five horsepower to the Hemi, nothing to the 4.7, and a good jolt to the V6, which is completely new — the Pentastar. Generous space for the exhaust allowed for an upgrade to 305 hp, more than in any car except Challenger. More important, perhaps, it adds the eight-speed ZF automatic to both Hemi and Pentastar engines (not to 4.7). With the ZF, an associated stop-start system, and the active shutters under the grille, Ram claims best in class gas mileage — not that they have any numbers yet. 2013 Ram in detail
We spoke with Mike Manley, CEO of Jeep, and he did his best to answer our questions without actually revealing specifics about upcoming products. Among other discoveries, we learned that the Trail Rating system varies by car, so that the standards for Compass are not the same as those for Wrangler; the goal is to produce the most off-road capable in each segment. This contrasts with the AMC days, when every Jeep had to meet tough off-road criteria. He told us about the future of Wrangler and Liberty/Cherokee and provided more insights, which we’ll go over next week.
A representative from Ram met with us briefly as well; he said the chassis cabs are doing very well, and that according to Light and Medium Truck, Ram is the #1 truck maker in the Class 3-6 chassis cab segment. That’s especially impressive when one considers that Ram does not make a class 6 truck. Ram’s entries came after the segment had been dominated by Ford and GM; but with the class-leading Cummins diesel and the largest brakes in the segment, for better stopping power and much longer brake life, the Rams have made an impact. Working with the aftermarket certainly helped; the industry-standard chassis cab frame, with obstructions carefully moved, is reportedly easier on upfitters than those of some competitors.
There are currently no plans for Ram to enter the class 6-8 segments. The problem is not how to make a truck; there’s technical expertise at Iveco which could be tapped. Rather, the problem is that Dodge has little knowledge of that customer base, which would make it far harder both to tailor a truck to their needs, and to sell it once it was there.
The Chrysler and Dodge areas are be re-arranged for the public show, but both are all the way in back, on the far left side of the convention center, by Nissan and Honda. We have yet to see how many people will make their way back there, but the Viper should be a fine draw — with the Dart Rally car highly visible at the corner for those who like it small.
Most of the company’s engines are on display, with working models (pistons moving, cams rotating) under Plexiglass. The new Hyundai six-speed automatic (for Dart), Fiat double-clutch, and Fiat 1.4 are there, too.
On the lower level, the best placed display was for Mitsubishi, featuring their new electric cars (photos to come). Ford had their usual attention-getting brilliant blue color all around their display, attracting the eye much more than Ram's and Jeep’s signs.
The Business Link outfit was heavily advertised, albeit all the way in the back, as Dodge and Ram reach out to small businesses and other commercial buyers, a market that had been partly abandoned to Ford and GM.
The 2013 Ram was present but hidden under a veil; Jeremy White tried to take a photo through the cracks, but a rep stopped him, giving him a stuffed animal as a reward for being understanding. Another publication, perhaps less demanding, ran a photo of the veiled truck, whose outlines are identical to the 2012, with great fanfare.
Visiting the New York Auto Show: Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children under 12, $13 for adults in groups of ten or more. Backpacks are not allowed; wheelchairs are available. Public show dates are April 6-15.
The more comfortable your shoes, the happier you'll be in this show, with so much ground to cover (on two floors) not to mention getting to Javits in the first place. (This year I dropped my dress shoes and used Nunn Bush nursing shoes, picked up on closeout; they look closer to dress shoes than sneakers, and are supportive and well-padded. It made a real difference. On regular open days there’s no need to suit up and sneakers are fine.)
Attending with a friend makes a real difference. Having someone there to point things out you might have missed, share your appreciation, and argue small points with adds to the experience, and makes it more enjoyable.
For lunch, we recommend the hot dog stand just outside, if you can leave and still get back in; otherwise, Javits has a few mildly overpriced diners.
Parking lots raise their rates dramatically for the show (as in $50, cash only — Detroit lots charge $10 at most). You can use a New Jersey or Connecticut park-and-ride if you’re driving in, to go that last step into the city via rail or bus. The best route via subway is Penn Station to the M34 bus. At some point, the MTA will finish the 7 line extension — excavation has started, which is a good sign — and then you can take the subway nearly into Javits (or, possibly, all the way. I’m not privy to the MTA’s plans.) By then, of course, Governor Cuomo’s plan to have a foreign investor pay for a new, suitably large convention hall across the river will have made Javits obselete, but the subway will still be needed, since the Javits site is to host high-rise apartments.
Other ways to get in (I've tried them all, including walking from Port Authority, which I do not recommend):
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