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Nearly every major automaker was present at the New York Auto Show, as usual — and this year we bring you a scattering of the events and cars to be seen.
Ford showed its full lineup with the crazy-priced GT, a car reportedly led by former Chrysler leader Chris Theodore, quite probably to give the company more experience in exotic materials — just as Prowler was created, by a team led by Mr. Theodore, largely to give Chrysler experience with aluminum (and to usher in a new Plymouth style that was afterwards only used on the PT Cruiser).
One nice thing about the display this time was the absence of a glass barrier, which was in place at the Chicago Auto Show.
The new Ford Focus RS, a hot hatch boasting well over 300 horsepower from its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, was also on display, both hung up on the wall at the entrance to the show, and behind glass in a corner display. This car may well cause Dart SRT4 to be delayed or renamed, unless engineers can beat its performance (or grossly undercut its price).
Ford Mustang is interesting — it comes out around the same price as Challenger, but it’s far smaller inside in just about every way. Now that the Challenger has an eight speed automatic, making the V6 much more lively, the extra space and comfort of the big Dodge seem to outweigh any minor performance gains from the Mustang’s lower weight. The interior had a nice retro feel, but the styling got in the way of the function.
Once nice thing about having Ford pickups opposite Rams is that one realized just how dignified the Laramie Limited is, in comparison to the various gaudy Fords.
Chrysler’s domestic competition was most prominent, along with Toyota, which has long been pushing to be seen as American though decisions and most engineering are Japanese. The most important reveal, if not the sexiest, was the Chevrolet Malibu, which has greater interior space than the new Chrysler 200. It doesn’t have a nine-speed automatic but it’s fairly comfortable and has a more accessible back seat. The hybrid’s 47 mpg (combined) is nothing to sneeze at, and there is a 250 horsepower turbo-four (which gets around the same mileage as the 295 hp V6 in the 200).
The front has been called somewhat derivative of the Chrysler 200 and other cars, but that’s fairly typical; the 200 was also called derivative. Cars do tend to run in fashions, and at least the Malibu wasn’t a direct rip-off of any particular car (e.g. the Kias with their new Ford/Aston Martin look, or the Lincoln Continental with its Chrysler 300 body and Kia-esque grille).
More exciting was the Cadillac CT6, which is targeting the Germans but will probably take along some Chrysler 300 buyers for the ride. The company had a nice motorized chassis/cutout set up, with the rear wheels sometimes being bounced around and the all wheel drive sometimes being highlighted.
Inside, the Cadillac has a unique design which is pleasant to see; it takes the traditional Cadillac shallow-V shape and applies it without being grotesque. The climate controls’ ergonomics are open to question, though.
The door has easily understood seat and mirror controls, and a nicely sculpted knob, with a small amount of wood and a lot of surface joins.
Downstairs, the new Colorado and Canyon were on display along with numerous Silverados. Sales of the midsize pickups have been decent, in line with the 1997-2004 Dakotas so far, but not high enough to give one the idea that a new Dakota would sell well enough to pay for itself. Toyota Tacoma remains the sales leader in the segment.
Yes, these are ostensibly two different pickups, not just one pickup shot from different angles. Having the bikes in both of them was probably a mistake...
Corvette Stingray is a nice looking car, but the seat cushions are way too firm, especially when getting in requires some contortions and sometimes a hard landing. Here’s proof that we tested one out.
There seemed to be plenty of room, on the lighter side; the occupant is five feet, eleven inches tall and had plenty of head room. Corvettes have long been a good value for the money, providing a great deal of performance with an affordability that has been hard to match. Hellcats are a blast but they’re clearly large cars, albeit large cars that handle very well and have 707 horsepower; while Corvettes are more wearable.
Here is a GM truck V6 and the Duramax 6.6 liter diesel...
The second launch for Chevrolet was the Spark, and we actually attended that one. The car is styled in line with other Chevrolets; the top half of the grille is solid and does not draw air in.
Storage space is minimal with the rear seats up, and rear seat space is fairly sparse, but the car has a tiny footprint, so that’s not surprising. This is really a competitor for Fiat 500 and other small cars.
The interior is not bad; note the fairly large center screen display and the oddly not-quite-integrated electronic display to the right of the dual gauges. Compared with Toyota Echos and other small cars of the not distant past, this is really quite a premium interior, especially with the steering wheel controls. It wasn’t uncomfortable, either.
Here’s the president of GM North America introducing it. He stuck to the script (the usual prompter was clearly visible to those of us in the side rows) and many reporters probably got photos of him with the word “Porsche” clear in the background.
GM had some good press kit thumb drives, heavy and solid Cadillac ones and Chevrolet bowties in nice cases.
Nissan has had its ups and downs in North America for some time. There was a period when auto writers said that the Nissan Titan would dominate the pickup industry, but it barely made a dent (Tundra did somewhat better, but nowhere near Toyota’s expectations). Now, Nissan has tied in its fate with Cummins’ recent diesel engines, — not the B-series engine in the bigger Rams, but V-series powerplants. The last thing a Mopar fan wants to see is the Cummins badge on a Titan, but here it is.
It would have helped if Nissan had not done such a good job on styling the interior, but they did, from the traditional dash-mounted lights switch to the color scheme. There’s a lot of borrowed design elements, but that’s not unique to Nissan. The proliferation of steering wheel buttons is a bit much, but otherwise, Nissan seems to have done quite well. The test of the market awaits the above-1500-but-below-2500 trucks, which can come with a hitch in the pickup bed.
Nissan Juke was voted “ugliest car of show” by the Allpar correspondents, with its generally bug-like appearance and lavish collection of design cues that were far too much for the space available. It seems to sell well, but perhaps Jeep dealers should keep one in the used lot to show to people who find the Cherokee unappealing.
McLaren had three cars behind glass, tucked in tightly to minimize floor space.
The Camry Driving Experience was around the same size as Camp Jeep and seemed designed to convince people that the Camry is a real sporting car. We’re not sure why, since it sold very well as an appliance; maybe to justify the NASCAR expenditures?
There was no Fiat 500e at the clean air test track, where every car had to be safe for driving around indoors (hydrogen fuel cells and electrics). We took a drive in a Nissan Leaf, given the lack of a Chevy Volt; other choices included an electric BMW. The course was just a big square, and the driver took the turns fairly hard. The Leaf, like the Volt, seemed to corner very well despite its weight, or perhaps because its weight is low in the car. She seemed to be a skilled driver, taking hard turns at fairly high speed (all things considered) while talking up the attributes of the car and explaining the gauges.
Toyota Tacoma showed off its new six-speed automatic transmission, at a time when many others are leaving six speeds behind and moving on to more gears. It has leaf-springs in the rear. The front bumper is cleverly hidden, — why, we don’t know. This is the best selling pickup in its class.
The North Hall contained brands with relatively low sales: Subaru, Fiat, Scion, and Mitsubishi, with the latter all the way in back.
Mitsubishi was a puzzle; they brought just a single Outlander and had it on a small stage, making photography difficult at best. They also had two hot-dog carts and free beer, an odd choice for a Japanese brand (perhaps they thought people would assume they were German). The salad line quickly devoured all there was, but the cookies held out longer despite high demand.
The new Outlander has the fashionable black front bumper and a sort of Lexus-y front end look overall, but the interior was nicely done, and the doors had a solid feel completely absent from the prior generation, also on display (and looking quite nice inside).
The new model actually seemed to be a step down in some ways from the old one, but it has a nicely designed center information display and a large telematics system with teeny tiny knobs that will probably not stand up to the UConnect. The dull gray interior did not help. No, this is not a black and white photo.
The Outlander should sell much better than it does, given the segment it’s in, and perhaps this will be a more serious threat to all the other cars, but more likely, it will wither as Americans pass it by for cars whose brands they can pronounce and spell more easily. (There was a point when Mitsubishi was to be acquired by Chrysler, but hard financial times put an end to that idea.)
It was hard not to take a closer look at the wild Scion Super Street FR-S Series 1.0, and not just because of the bright yellow paint.
Chrysler is coming out with new minivans soon. The competing Toyota Sienna dash is interesting, with its old fashioned information panel but nicely integrated large center screen. Overall, the Chrysler does have a more upscale feel, but it’s hard to blame people who want Toyota’s resale values.
We could write more, but... here are some Subarus. All but one Subaru has all wheel drive, standard, and for a long time, the company was all wheel drive and nothing else.
Camp Jeep • Mopars at NYC • Al Gardner (Chrysler) • Bob Hegbloom (Ram) • Press Kits
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