New York 2011: Day One Wrap-Up and Gallery
By Chris Haak
There was too much to cover everything that happened in New York in separate articles, while still doing everything justice, so we’ll delve into some bullet points. We already noted a few news items in the introductory post for day one, but let’s dig a big deeper into those.
The day began with the opening breakfast, and Nissan’s Chairman of the Americas, Carlos Tavares – a potential replacement for Renault’s newly-departed COO Patrick Pelata, who was taken down by that company’s spy scandal. There wasn’t much to report from there, but Tavares did note that Nissan would resume accepting Leaf reservations in that car’s launch states on May 1. He also added that the Infiniti JX crossover – which will be the brand’s first three-row crossover – will be produced in the US. Tavares discussed some vehicle-production shifts that will move Frontier and XTerra production from Smyrna, Tennessee to Canton, Mississippi. That will then allow the next-generation Rogue to shift production from Japan to Tennessee, which is part of Nissan’s plan to increase production in the Americas from 1.1 million units to 1.7 million units. By 2015, 85 percent of Nissan vehicles sold in the Americas will be built here, up from 69 percent currently.
2012 Honda Civic
Honda then hosted the first press conference of the day to reveal its 2012 Civic family in production form, as we covered here. The cars held the line on pricing, and don’t really break any new ground, but see safety and fuel-economy improvements, particularly in the Hybrid and HF models.
2013 Ford Taurus/Ford Taurus SHO
Ford invited members of the SHO club (and, by the way, it really bugs me that they pronounce the name “show” rather than “S-H-O” nowadays) to the big reveal, and they apparently got what they wanted: a revised Taurus SHO that doesn’t get any powertrain improvements, but does get improved brakes and suspension modifications. Seemingly most importantly to the club members, though, were the car’s visual tweaks, intended to further set the SHO apart from garden-variety Tauri. The Taurus’ 3.5 liter V6 base engine gets the Ti-VCT treatment that the Edge got, so its power was bumped to 290 horsepower. Meanwhile, the Taurus becomes the first Ford product to offer two EcoBoost choices, with a new 2.5 liter twin turbo I4 joining the fray as the car’s fuel-economy leader. Ford projects that the new 2.5T will hit 31 MPG on the highway. The Taurus also gets MyFord Touch in a slightly-revised interior.
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8/Jeep Wrangler Mojave
We covered the Grand Cherokee SRT8 in depth already here, and it’s great-looking and great-sounding. Just don’t try to take it off-road. But hey, now you can tow with it, and that’s been made easier by moving the former SRT8’s center-mounted exhaust outlets to the outside corners. The Wrangler Mojave is basically a parts-bin special, taking pieces off of other special-edition Wranglers (such as the Rubicon’s wheels and tires) and adding a desert-themed decal and interior color scheme. Personally, the lizard stickers were a bit much. Earlier today, I tweeted that they seemed to be nearly as tacky as the 70s-era decal packages, and I stand by that.
2012 Nissan Versa
We covered the Versa in depth here. Basically, it’s a form-follows-function car to get you from point A to point B reliably and efficiently. Except that it’s now stepping on the Sentra’s toes size-wise even more than it did before. They also showed a Leaf race car prototype.
2012 Hyundai Accent
Continuing Hyundai’s steady influx of new products, and right on the heels of its 2011 Elantra and Sonata, the company’s smallest US-sold car is now up for its conversion from ugly duckling to “fluidic design” swan. It’s a little tougher to capture the same grace of the Sonata in a package that’s maybe five-eights its size, but the Accent looks all right. It’s rated at 40 MPG on the highway (30 in the city), and now one of four Hyundais topping the big four-oh on the highway. The others are the Elantra, Sonata Hybrid, and Veloster.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe/E63 AMG/Concept A-Class/SLS AMG in Gulf Oil Livery
Mercedes-Benz showed all ends of the spectrum, but with three-fourths of the cars boasting gas-guzzling V8s, it’s clear which end of the spectrum its fans prefer. The lovely C63 AMG Coupe gets a 6.2 liter V8 that produces 451 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque (or up to 481 horsepower with the AMG Development Package). The E63 gets the new 5.5 liter twin turbo V8, which produces either 518 or 550 horsepower, depending on whether the car has the AMG Sport Package. In spite of the power, the new engine is 22 percent more efficient than the old 6.2 liter naturally aspirated V8 it replaces, but smart money says it can never sound so delightfully evil as the old NA motor.
The Concept A-Class is almost certain to come to North America for the first time as a production car. The concept has a 2.0 liter, 210 horsepower four cylinder under its shapely hood. The car ditches the “sandwich” construction that the current A-Class has, which is interesting, but makes the small car costly to build, and a bit top-heavy. As for the SLS AMG in baby blue? You’re reading this site, so you probably have seen a few other examples of this paint job over the years. I think it still looks much better on a Ford GT.
2013 Chevrolet Malibu/Malibu Eco
We discussed the 2013 Malibu, or what we knew of it at the time, here. We now know exactly what the car looks like, and the fact that it goes on sale early in 2012. The car is all-new from top-to-bottom, inside-out. You wouldn’t necessarily know that from looking at it from the outside, though, as GM undertook a fairly conservative evolutionary redesign on its popular midsize sedan. Look more closely, though, and you’ll see much more interesting surface detailing, such as the Camaro-inspired rectangular tail lamps, three-dimensional grille, and optional wheels as large as 19 inches. Inside, the car looks great, with soft-touch materials on the dash, contrasting ice-blue stitching surrounding the seats and instrument panel, and lots of interesting shapes and textures. The center stack finally – FINALLY – includes navigation, and actually has next-generation infotainment options.
The Malibu Eco, announced at the show, launches with the “regular” Malibu. The Eco will be similar to the eAssist mild hybrid that Buick is employing in the LaCrosse and Regal. This model will feature EPA ratings of 26 city/38 highway. Not quite hybrid numbers, but very good considering the simpler design of the GM system compared to a “full” hybrid.
2012 Subaru Impreza
Subaru has been on quite a run over the past two years, but one thing you’re unlikely to call Subaru is a builder of beautiful cars. They almost sell in spite of themselves. The current Legacy looks awkward with its super-sized fender flares, and the current Impreza was a design dud from the moment it leaked onto Internet forums several years ago. Subaru is trying to change that, and turned the Impreza into a baby Legacy, only not quite as odd-looking as the Legacy. As Subaru goes more mainstream, though, its vehicles are losing their character. The Forester, which once looked like a car with a very, very tall greenhouse, now looks like any old compact crossover.
Nonetheless, the 2012 Impreza promises to be the most fuel efficient all wheel drive car sold in America (sounds like another asterisk. Just ask the Honda Civic what I mean by that) with a 36 MPG highway rating. Fuel economy was never a strong suit of Subaru, so it’s great that the company’s new clean-sheet engine is helping it dramatically improve mileage, despite having to lug around AWD hardware in every car. Incidentally, the Impreza gets its best mileage with a dreaded CVT.
Scion FR-S Concept
The Scion FR-S Concept is the car with many names, and the car with many concepts. Toyota has showed Toyota-badged versions of this car, which is inspired by the well-regarded AE-86 Corolla of decades ago. You know, before old ladies drove Corollas. This is the car that is half of the joint venture with Subaru, sometimes referred to as the Toyobaru. Subaru will also get a version of this car, and that version hasn’t been seen in public yet, only in development mules that are wearing Impreza STI bodies.
Scion threw us all for a curve when it called the car the FR-S, which means simply Front engine, Rear wheel drive, Sport. Kind of like 4-4-2, but not exactly. The concept has a 2.0 liter boxer four, and could be coupled to a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, or a six-speed manual with a short-throw shifter. Its shape is inspired by the Toyota 2000 GT, at least in profile, and it’s large enough to seat four in a 2+2 configuration. The rear seat folds flat, and can conveniently hold four spare racing tires and a jack when the rear seat is folded. As Scion pointed out, not everyone has a trailer to tow their track car. The FR-S will spawn a new Scion production model that is to come next year.
The new New Beetle is again just called the Beetle. Thank goodness. VW is serious about shedding the “chick car” image of this vehicle, and may actually be moving in the right direction if that’s the goal. It was probably smart of Walter de Silva to have his designers use the original Beetle for inspiration rather than the caricature of the Beetle that is the old New Beetle. Anyway, the C-pillar shape reminds me of a Chrysler Crossfire (though I overheard someone say it reminded him of a Porsche. I’d love to know which one.) The interior looks good, but just don’t touch it. It has the same hard plastic that the dash of the new Jetta does, but also throws in plenty of body-color trim which will most assuredly not feel soft to the touch. Speaking of the Jetta, I checked out a Jetta GLI, which is basically a GTI in the Jetta body, and it’s not quite as penny-pinched as the regular Jetta. It has the excellent 2.0T under its hood, independent suspension for its back wheels, and a dash that’s soft to the touch. Kind of like giving you all the good stuff about the new Jetta, but leaving a lot of the bad stuff behind.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The Panamera S is the performance flagship of the Panamera line. It boasts new turbochargers that enable it to produce 550 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. It goes on sale this spring starting at $173,000 plus destination, and its lowered suspension manages to make the Panamera look weird from the front as well, and not just the rear.
Chrysler 300C SRT8/300C Executive/300 S
Chrysler revealed brand extensions for its well-regarded 300. We’ve already covered the 300C SRT8 in depth here. The other “300” news is that there is a new luxury variant called the 300C Executive, which features two-tone seats with upgraded leather, a 360-degree heated steering wheel (“Not 360 degrees Fahrenheit!”-Hardee har har!) (Yes, Olivier Francois, Chrysler Brand CEO did make that awful joke) and real wood inlays on the center console and in the dashboard. It looks fantastic, particularly the wood. The 300 S is a sport-trimmed model, and can be had with either the Pentastar V6 or the 5.7 liter Hemi.
There was an intense focus on fuel economy at the show’s first day. Every automaker was quick to point out how it was the one selling the most efficient vehicle whose name began with a W, or the most efficient hybrid, or the most efficient non-hybrid, and so forth. The show was a nice mix of the absurdly fun and thirsty (SRT8s and AMGs) with the more practical (Civic, Accent, Impreza, Malibu, Taurus, and Versa). High gas prices are going to make consumers change their buying habits soon, if they haven’t already. Car companies are smart to exploit every possible avenue that they can in order to gain a consumer’s attention with the best economy possible. Look for more gas-mileage leapfrogging in the coming months and years. At this rate, the 35.5 MPG CAFE standard will be a piece of cake to meet.