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2007 New York International Auto Show
New York show brings out best and brightest
By Bill Roebuck
CarTest! had the opportunity to visit the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) media preview this year (the show's open to the public April 6-15, 2007). With over 1,000 vehicles on display, it was nearly impossible to get a good look at them all in just two days of previews. However, there were plenty of highlights, from daring and oddball concepts to newly launched mainstream models.
But first, I want to tell you about the venue. I've driven around New York City -- downtown Manhattan specifically -- a few times (and quite capably, according to my friends who live there). But on my pre-Easter visit, my mode of transportation was by taxi. That's partly because I wanted to maintain my calm, which it's hard to do when you drive in the city.
You might think it's odd that the most-attended car show in the North America is held in Manhattan. It's a town where parking is nearly impossible and astronomically expensive when you find it. And many of the drivers zoom around in their cars and trucks like they're insane, honking madly at the slightest delay in traffic, despite a law against it. With the narrow lanes and congestion, I'm surprised any car still has its side mirrors intact.
Traditionally, the NYIAS sees lots of expensive vehicles highlighted, mainly because such models specifically appeal to the money-makers on Wall Street and its environs. The show also typically launches several models in North America that have only been seen before in Europe, particularly at the Geneva Auto Show that takes place a few weeks earlier.
The show was expected to attract more than 1.2 million visitors this year, although there were few dramatically exciting models to really draw out automotive enthusiasts.
Over the two days of previews, several brand new models were shows, including debuts presented by Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Infiniti, Kia, Lamborghini, Lexus, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Saab, Subaru, Suzuki, Volkswagen and Volvo.
These debuts included the world reveal of the 2008 Infiniti G Coupe; world premieres of six production models from General motors, plus 11 future production models; the launch of the Jeep Liberty by DaimlerChrysler; and the world debut of the all-new Lexus LX 570 luxury utility vehicle.
Subaru was one of the much anticipated stars of the show with the launch of its all-new 2008 Impreza and WRX models, as well as a refreshed 2008 Tribeca SUV. They were unveiled for the first time ever at the New York show. Subaru enthusiast websites were buzzing with commentary about the new design in the days leading up to the reveal.
The 2008 Impreza introduces a redesigned chassis, body construction and drivetrain, as well as substantially improved overall performance. It has more interior room and more distinctive rear-end styling compared to the model it replaces. The same goes for the new WRX sports model, which is basically similar in design to the base Impreza but boasts distinctive tail-lamps in addition to its extra power and handling features.
During its other product launch, Subaru admitted its Tribeca SUV had the lowest consumer awareness of any of its products. It intends to fix that with a refreshed body style, mainly a new front end and revised rear.
The 2008 Tribeca also gets a new, larger displacement, 256-hp 3.6-litre H6 engine, for a boost in power and performance, in an attempt to solve a complaint about the first generation model being underpowered. Fuel economy was another often-cited criticism, so the new model will provide better fuel efficiency and now uses less-expensive regular-grade gasoline instead of premium.
There were many other highlights at the NAIAS.
The BMW 2008 5 Series premium sedan was revealed for the first time in the U.S. It features a wide range of driver assistance features, including active steering, night vision, active cruise control with stop and go functions, and lane departure warning.
Mercedes-Benz held the North American debut of its 2008 C-Class sedans. The models boast higher levels of standard equipment than ever before. As well, the company's 2008 GL 550 sport utility vehicle made its first auto show appearance, again with more standard features -- along with more power.
The German automaker also announced the Black Edition AMG CLK63. The Black Edition is the official safety car for Formula One racing circuits, as was revealed so equipped. Then the car was converted to a street spec model simply by removing the rooftop light bar and F1 stickers on the door panels and hood.
It was a fairly spectacular presentation, with huge flames shooting high out of tubes on either side of the sedan as it was unveiled. I guess we were supposed to think it's a pretty hot car.
Nissan also held a North American debut , this time for its Nismo 350Z sports car. The 350Z isn't new, but the new Nismo iteration features a long list of unique equipment and a special aerodynamic body package that improves handling.
Other models seen for the first time in North America were Suzuki's all-new 2008 SX4 sedan and Ford's unique 2008 Flex, a full-size crossover model that the company says it will build at its plant in Oakville, Ont.
Among the concept cars at the show were a Honda Accord Coupe with a new V6 engine that has variable cylinder management technology; the Dodge Demon roadster; Hyundai's world debut of its Concept Genesis premium rear-drive sports sedan, which is scheduled for production in 2008 but under another name; and the Mazda Hakaze compact crossover coupe concept, "inspired by the sport of kite-surfing." That should make it popular in Quebec's windswept Iles de la Madeleine (a.k.a. the Magdalen Islands), where the sport is like a cult. They've even got special parks dedicated to it.
General Motors garnered quite a bit of attention when it showed concept models of its Beat, Groove and Trax mini cars. But will they build them? No word on that yet.
Fuel economy was the focus of some other concepts, including the Ford Airstream Concept hydrogen-electric vehicle; the Chevy Volt that uses electricity, gasoline, E85 ethanol or biodiesel (I like that idea a lot); the Mazda Nagare hydrogen-powered three-seater; the 400-hp Toyota FT-HS hybrid sports car; and the Saab BioPower 100 Concept that runs on E100 bioethanol fuel.
Among awards presented at NAIS was the 2007 World Car of the Year, which was presented for the Lexus LS460. Runners-up were the Audi TT and the Mini Cooper. To be eligible, contenders had to be in production and sold in at least five countries on two continents during 2006.
Bill Roebuck is the Editor of CarTest! (c) 2007
Posted April 12, 2007