2007 New York Auto Show
By Chris Haak
Press days ended last week for the annual New York International Auto Show. While this show is not the site of major model introductions that the Los Angeles and Detroit shows traditionally are, it is considered a major international show, and some significant production cars made their debut.
2008 Buick LaCrosse Super/Lucerne Super
Buick is a GM division that’s really been on the ropes lately. With the upcoming demise of the Rainier and Rendezvous SUVs and the rollout of the Enclave crossover, Buick’s lineup now consists of three vehicles. The Enclave has been well-received so far, but the Lucerne and LaCrosse have received a lot of criticism for their derivative 1990s styling (the LaCrosse being a little “oval happy” and the Lucerne looking disturbingly similar to an Infiniti Q45). GM figured that a great way to spice things up would be to increase the horsepower of these cars – the LaCrosse gets a 303-horsepower 5.3 liter OHV V8 also found in the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP and Chevy Impala SS, and the Lucerne gets a 291-horsepower 4.6 liter Northstar V8 found in the higher-end Cadillac DTS. Both models also receive some styling tweaks for 2008, mainly a new shield-shaped grille and different interior trim. More horsepower is always a good thing, but the grilles that look so good on the Enclave look out of place on these sedans. What Buick should really be working on is translating some of their models (and success) from China.
2008 Cadillac STS
This one is a frustrating one to see from GM, considering that with the imminent rollout of the impressive 2008 CTS, the CTS is outclassing its larger, more expensive brother (at least in V6 trim). GM added fender vents (the styling cliché of the mid-2000s) and a grille similar to the DTS/CTS, and re-did parts of the interior. The exterior changes aren’t bad, but after having seen interior photos of the Chinese-built Cadillac SLS (which is a stretched STS), I’m disappointed that GM didn’t bother to use the SLS interior in the STS. Instead, it looks like they went for a cheaper, far less attractive alternative. Increasing the wheelbase of the STS to SLS size wouldn’t hurt either, since the 2008 CTS and STS are extremely close in size.
Chevrolet Beat/Groove/Trax Concepts
GM showed three potential minicar concepts at the show, and hinted that if any were particularly popular or well-received, one might see US sales at some point. Photos of the Beat and Trax are visible on the right side of this website; the Groove is visible if you close your eyes, visualize a 2008 Scion xB, and paint it in semi-gloss black. They established a website where users could vote for their favorites at http://www.vote4chevrolet.com/ and got all sorts of favorable publicity for this attempt to shed GM’s image as a purveyor of gas guzzlers. Then Vice Chairman Bob Lutz stuck a needle in the balloon of optimism by telling Car and Driver that Americans didn’t want cars this small and that horsepower sells, and that the public’s wishes will be considered. As of this writing, over 363,000 people have voted for their favorite (the xB-like Groove is in first and the Chevy WTCC-like Beat is in second place, with the Trax at a distant third). I hope that GM seriously considers producing one of these cars and offers it in the US. The American consumer isn’t going to buy a small car if nobody offers them for sale. If they don’t sell a minicar like this in the US, the least they could do is to incorporate some of the interesting styling cues into their next-generation small cars such as the Chevy Aveo and Cobalt, and Pontiac G5. The current Aveo is a decent-looking car, but not very interesting to look at. Kudos to the GM design teams in Korea who came up with these small cars.
Ford Chip Foose F-150/Funkmaster Flex Expedition/Shelby Mustang GT500KR
Ford showed three special edition vehicles in New York. The Foose F-150 is a lowered, stylized 450-horsepower pickup. The Funkmaster Flex Expedition features a two-tone red and black paint job (which reminds me very much of the old orange and black Super Duty Harley Davidson edition trucks) and 20 inch chrome wheels. Finally, the Shelby has an upgraded engine good for about 540 horsepower (up from 500 in the “regular” Shelby GT500) and some other special trim features. Ford sure is prolific with the special editions of its vehicles. The engine in the GT500 is a little over-the-top, but it’s Ford’s performance king with the GT being out of production, and the Chip Foose F-150 really has some tasteful styling tweaks.
Ford’s most significant introduction in New York (by far) was the 2009 Ford Flex. This large, three-row crossover vehicle is intended as a stylish competitor to the Honda Pilot and GM Acadia/Outlook/Enclave, as well as an alternative to minivans. With Ford having abandoned the minivan market as GM is also on the verge of doing, both companies are placing their bets on large crossovers that are attractively styled yet manage to maintain most of a minivan’s utility (excluding the sliding doors). While the GM crossovers are styled more like aerodynamic large SUVs, the Ford Flex is boxier, like a cross between an enlarged Mini Cooper and a Scion xB. The boxier shape makes the interior space very usable, and from the high-resolution photos I have seen, Ford did a nice job on the Flex’s interior in terms of design. Ford needs this vehicle to be a hit, and its styling is somewhat polarizing. I like it because it’s unique – but I’m not sure that I would buy one.
2008 Hummer H2/H3 Alpha
For 2008, the Hummer H2 is finally receiving an improved interior worthy of its price tag. Gone is the tacky, cheap-feeling plastic. In its place is a very attractive, yet Hummer-looking instrument panel. They’ve also ditched the 2007’s powertrain in favor of the 6.2 liter 393-horsepower V8 found in the Escalade, plus the Escalade’s 6-speed automatic. The result is improved performance and economy. The smallest Hummer, the H3, is finally receiving an optional 5.3 liter 295-horsepower V8 if equipped with the Alpha package. The loudest complaints about the H3 had been its anemic, yet inefficient, five cylinder engine, so the Alpha model should address that issue finally.
Hyundai Genesis Concept
I’ve already discussed this vehicle in an earlier post here, but the Genesis is an attractive, 300-plus horsepower V8 rear wheel drive sedan concept from Hyundai. The pricing targets seem very reasonable. The only problem is that it looks similar to many other cars on the road, including some that this car would directly compete against. They will probably still sell many of these once it hits dealer lots, though.
The Infiniti EX Concept is a crossover smaller than the current Infiniti FX crossover. To me, its exterior styling looks very near to production and also very similar to a 2007 G35 sedan’s. The “wow” show car feature is that it uses a liquid crystal roof that can darken or lighten electronically. The rumor then is that once the EX is in the fold, the next generation FX will grow in size. Right now, it doesn’t seem to make sense to have it in Infiniti’s lineup, but once it’s there and the FX has moved to a different size class, it makes more sense. The EX would be a competitor to the Acura RDX price and size-wise.
2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe
The G37 is the coupe version of the 2007 G35 sedan. As the name suggests, this car gets an all-new 3.7 liter version of Nissan’s legendary VQ V6 engine, pumping out 330 horsepower without the benefit of forced induction or even direct injection. For comparison purposes, the 3.5 liter V6 in the G35 sedan puts out 306 horsepower. Design-wise, this car combines the best of the new G35 sedan’s style with the best of the old G35 coupe. The interior is almost identical to the G35 sedan’s, but unfortunately, the fact that the Nissan Altima coupe shares a very similar greenhouse design with the G37 seems to cheapen the look a little bit. Still, I bet this car can MOVE!
2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Apparently Jeep introduced an updated Grand Cherokee also. It’s extremely hard to spot the differences visually (they changed the headlight design ever-so-slightly), but the biggest news is probably under the hood. The mid-level 4.7-liter V8 gets a 24 percent increase in horsepower to 291 while getting better fuel economy. The interior materials have been upgraded, but the design is still sub-par to me.
Jeep took the wraps off of its 2008 Liberty. When Dodge built the Nitro on the Liberty platform, Jeep then returned the favor and built an all-new Liberty on the Nitro’s platform. The exterior is entirely different (also slightly shorter than the Nitro’s), and takes Jeep’s third attempt at capturing the 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee’s mojo with a square motif (previous attempts were the Commander and Patriot). The interior design is incredibly boring and straight-edged; good thing Chrysler decided recently to create an interior design group whose sole mission is to improve the perception and design of their interiors, because they really need it. Overall, the Liberty is a nice package, and may have moved a little further toward the masculine side of the automotive spectrum relative to its forebear.
2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS65 AMG
The Mercedes-Benz CLS65 AMG is a two-door executive rocket ship, featuring a monster 6.0 liter 612 horsepower (737 lb-ft of torque) twin turbo V12. This large, heavy car can go from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds. It will be a heck of a cruiser for those who can afford it (Wall Street bonuses were great last year; how will they be for 2007?)
2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
It made its world debut in Geneva, so it’s been seen before, but the U.S. debut in New York still managed to be an event. This car has big hit written all over it, and Mercedes should do well with it in all of their markets worldwide.
2008 Subaru Impreza
Subaru’s all-new 2008 Impreza has already taken a major beating from fans of the car on Internet forums around the world. Personally, I disagree – the old Impreza/WRX was an ugly car made even uglier by its constant front end styling changes – and the new one looks handsome. The interior is much better looking too. My only critique style-wise is that the non-WRX hatchback (which replaces the wagon) looks like an old Daewoo Lacetti. Powertrains are carryover, but the car is getting bigger, so each horsepower will have to do a little more work most likely.
2008 Subaru Tribeca
2008 Subaru Tribeca
Subaru has given its Tribeca crossover a nose job, replacing the controversial nose with a more pedestrian looking one in hopes of stimulating more sales. The vehicle is certainly more attractive than before, but its new nose reminds me (unflatteringly, I might add) of a Chrysler Aspen. It lost its unique angle and now just looks like any other small/midsize crossover (the Hyundai Santa Fe in particular comes to mind). The excellent cockpit-style interior was kept largely intact, and under the hood, the 3.0 liter flat-six becomes a 3.6 liter version for more power and torque with better fuel economy, and has the newfound ability to run on regular fuel (premium is no longer required).
Other Semi-Notables Worth Mentioning…
Nissan gave us a NISMO 350Z with suspension, brake, engine, and styling improvements. Volkswagen showed a wagon version of their current Jetta, called the Jetta Sportswagen; it will be sold in the US. VW also revealed the Touareg2, which features a new Passat-looking front end treatment and a vitamin-fortified V6 (now at 280 horsepower) and a 45 state legal V10 TDI diesel. A V6 diesel will also be available in the Touareg2 in the near future.
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