Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Events: The New York International Auto Show

The Big Apple put on a good show this year. I drove into town on Friday afternoon and had a nice time catching up with a friend I had not seen in a while. With an early start on Saturday, I got to take advantage of New York's world class public transit system, including the fairly recently installed Citibike bike-sharing service, and arrived at the Javits Center bright and early. Waiting in line, I had a chance to chat with a lovely couple, who also had come down from Boston to attend the auto show, and observe the chaos that was caused by the governor deciding that he wanted to make an appearance. Taking advantage of early entry, I was able to spend some quality time with a number of cars, shoot a lot of photos, and generally enjoy my long day.

Toyota wins the prize for being the most ADD at the show, with not only a huge number of cars, but also all sorts of entertainment options such as racing simulators, distracted driving simulators, fuel cell car ride-alongs, and much much more. GM looses points for figuring out how to get stuck in its own wing away from the rest of the show, making it less crowded, but also less inviting, although their display was quite plentiful. The biggest losers were supercars, which were poorly represented with only one local dealer bringing a few to show. The biggest winners were almost certainly consumers, who got to see just how good cars of gotten in the last decade.

Below, we take a look at a number of the significant vehicles from the show and I offer my thoughts about each. You can also view the full gallery of photos from the show in our Photo Gallery.
Acura TLX

Replacing their two best selling sedans, the controversially styled TL and sporty TSX, with a single new model is a daring move by Acura to avoid having too many models in the same segment, competing for the same customers. The TLX offers up an all new design that we first saw in prototype form at the Detroit Auto Show and is now on display in its production form. The new shape is a huge improvement over the outgoing TL and is much more dynamic than the somewhat conservative TSX. While there are still aspects of it that I would change if I were designing the car, it is a great new effort from Acura and is hopefully a sign that, at least design-wise, they are serious about change.

Alfa Romeo 4C

This gorgeous little two door is Alfa Romeo's second vehicle to come to the US in recent years. The first, the 8C, was available in such limited quantities, it might as well not have been sold here, but hopefully the much less expensive 4C signals a real attempt by Alfa to re-enter the US market. It is not perfect, as the interior looks horrendously chintzy and the multi-element headlights cannot help but conjure up comparisons to a bug, and not the VW variety, the mid-engine layout and low-wide stance recall recent Lotus cars and should make for an entertaining drive.

Chrysler 200

I tested the previous version of this car and the new version is infinitely better. The shape of the car is attractive and all of the brightwork seems to fit, somehow. Inside, the new interior is so far ahead of the old one, that I am not even sure they are still in the same universe. Sure some of the materials could stand an upgrade, but the design is both modern and comfortable. Combine that with the more than usable rear seat space, large trunk, and swoopy design, Chrysler dives back into the mid-size market with not just another piece of crap, but a true competitor.

Dodge Charger

Sure it now looks like a Dodge Dart on steroids, but there is something awesome about this muscle sedan that I have always liked. The redesign brings the car in line with the rest of the corporate line-up and still gives it that mean presence that can only come from being used as black-and-whites by your friendly local law enforcement. Chrysler claims that basically every panel is different, but it all looks almost the same as the outgoing car, just sharper. Buy it with the big HEMI V8 or the Pentastar V6 and enjoy!

Hyundai Genesis

The last iteration of this car cemented Hyundai as being truly serious about changing how people perceive the brand. With this all new Genesis, I think Hyundai can safely claim "Mission Accomplished!" Everything about this car feels impressive, from its exterior design, to the interior details, it feels like not only a proper car, but a damn good one. Sure people will complain about derivative styling or modest performance from its motors, but at the end of the day, the very fact that Hyundai is even being discussed and considered by the luxury snobs of the world, just goes to show how dramatically different the current Hyundai is from its humble start as a purveyor of cheap crap.

Hyundai Sonata

Yes, two Hyundais! While the Genesis is a big deal, an even bigger deal from a sales perspective is the Sonata sedan. This new version sports styling that is still reminiscent of the well-received last generation car, but with some styling cues borrowed from its recently re-sculpted big brother, the Genesis. The new Sport version, with a revised 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that makes less power than the old one, wears a set of athletic looking wheels and has an exhaust tip for each cylinder poking out of the aggressive looking rear fascia. Inside, the car borrows a few cues again from the Genesis, but largely feels similar, if not the same as the last generation car. On whole, I find it an appealing option among mainstream mid-size cars. It continues to offer a stylish alternative to the blander options from its competitors, though cars like the Mazda6 and Ford Fusion have seriously upped the competition in the category.

Jaguar C-X17 Concept

I am not a fan of SUVs, so you know it is a big deal when I make a point of highlighting one. Jaguar has been on a roll lately with the XF, XJ, and F-Type. It's first SUV concept in the form of the stunning looking C-X17 Concept is a testament to its recent growth under management from India's Tata Corporation. The SUV, whether I like it or not, is a segment that continues to grow in the US market and for a company like Jaguar to survive and continue to bring us cars like the F-Type, it is a necessary evil. In part, I am hoping that it is also foreshadowing the new XE, a mid-size Jaguar that will compete directly with the likes of the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes Benz C-Class. 

Kia K900

This is the first time I have seen this particular car in person and I have to admit, it is impressive. On the outside, it is absolutely enormous and imposing, giving it proper presence for a car of its size and price. Up front, the LED headlights add to the premium look while huge wheels fill those large wheel wells. Open the hefty doors and climb into an interior lined with stitched leather on nearly every surface. Even the center of the steering wheel feels like leather and not just vinyl. Minor touches like soft-closing doors and the power trunk are smart touches that help give the car the right level of equipment for its class. While it may not be quite packed to the gills as the Hyundai Equus, it is still a fantastic luxury car bargain.

Toyota Camry XSE

A redesigned Camry is always a big deal since as much as the Camry has been a transportation appliance, its particular version of vanilla seems to have a lot of pull with the masses. Of course, even Toyota is tired of its plain-Jane reputation and has decided to up the ante a ton with the introduction of a totally redesigned Camry as well as a new variant, the XSE. This is supposedly the sportiest Camry of them all and certainly makes an effort to look the part with big wheels, sporty lines, and a very Lexus-looking blacked-out front grille. It seems that Toyota is getting serious about this whole global domination thing and the introduction of this car, along with the possible return of the Supra, may just be signaling that the big red giant is awakening.

VW Golf Sportwagen

I love this car. VW, please build it, but with the 2.0L turbo motor that is in the GTI. Even without the bigger motor, this has the potential to meet every one of my potential requirements for my next car. On top of that, the R-Line body kit looks great. Skip the AWD, keep the 6-speed manual, and I might just be ready to put up my own money to buy one. Just need to go through the rear cargo area with a tape measure to make sure that my bike fits.