The real buzz in NYC this week wasn’t the Easter Parade. It’s been about the New York International Auto Show, which its president, Mark Schienberg, described as “kind of like a fashion show for cars,” ranging from haute couture to off-the-rack affordable. The NYIAS closes Sunday after a 10-day run.
The NYIAS is America’s oldest auto show and among the largest, with 1,000 vehicles on display. The 61 vehicle concepts and introductions include a flying car and a new NYC taxicab. Prices range from under $20,000 to a $25 million original Shelby.
The clearest message is how well the auto industry is responding to rising gas prices with much greater fuel economy. It’s translating into better sales: an increase in March of 14 percent for cars and 11 percent for trucks. The NYIAS is a showcase for even better things to come – everything from mean and lean to clean and green.
Nissan’s new Altima, available this summer, has two engine options, a continuously variable transmission, the ability to drive faster at lower rpms and a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy. Cool features include automatic steering intervention, upgraded safety and hands-free communications. Nissan also showed off the Infiniti LE concept luxury redesign of the Nissan LEAF all-electric. Expect to see it in showrooms in 2014 with the LEAF’s 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack, a bigger electric motor, better aerodynamics and a wireless charging system.
The Volkswagen Up! sub-compact snagged “World Car of the Year” honors. It was praised for its “…responsive steering, sophisticated suspension setup, new efficient engines and quality of materials and finish.” Unfortunately, it isn’t available in the US… yet.
Fuel economy competition also has migrated to trucks. Chrysler Group’s RAM 1500, available next fall, comes with a V-8 Hemi, or V-6 Pentastar, offering 42 percent more power and 13 percent more torque and 3.3 percent more fuel economy. Its closable grille shutters lessen drag at higher speeds and a stop-start system turns the engine off at idle and on when the driver hits the accelerator, improving economy in city driving. Additionally, an eight-speed automatic will be available, new technology that Chrysler is advancing in multiple models at a fast clip.
There are no EPA fuel economy ratings for the new BMW X1 compact crossover, but BMW has added fuel-saving technology to the vehicle, including start-stop function on the rear-wheel-drive sDrive 28i, and regenerative brakes on both the 28i and AWD 35i. Prices start at $31,545. The Porsche Cayenne Diesel, coming next year, is a proven fuel-sipper, promising 740 miles on a 26.4-gallon tank of diesel. It’ll be priced north of $55k.
Hyundai’s two new Santa Fe models caused a stir. The shorter Sport comes in either 2.0 Turbo (23 city/31 hwy) or 2.4 liter (23/33) 4-cylinder, front-wheel drive options. The longer-wheelbase 3.3 liter V-6 (19/26) Santa Fe has three rows of seating. Both come standard with Blue Link communications and optional AWD and touch-screen navigation. The Sport, beginning at $25,000, will be available this summer, the full-size Santa Fe ($30,000) next winter.
The Chevy Impala first came out in 1958. The 10th generation full-size Impala turned heads with three engine choices, including a 2.4-liter direct-injection eAssist (mild hybrid) version. It also has lane departure warning, collision mitigation braking, and both forward collision and side blind zone alerts. This is not your father’s Impala.
Arguably, the sexiest thing on wheels at NYIAS is the SRT Viper – spun off from Dodge into its own brand. With an 8.4 liter V-10, capable of 640 hp, 600 lb-ft of torque and 100 fewer pounds, it screams speed. Several have already been ordered, although cost and release date have not been announced yet. The only thing faster might be a $2 million Bugatti, able to go 253 mph and zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds.
And, yes, there is a fully operational, street-legal two-seater flying car, the Terrafugia. Yours for just $279,000. Land or air, this is the newest in versatile driving machines.