The New York Auto Show: Does The Excitement Ever Start?!
I’ve been going to the New York International Auto Show for about 35 years now. And of all the times I’ve been, this was one of them. The New York show has never been a truly important stop for exciting new launches or concepts. There are some, for sure, but coming a month after the Geneva blowout, and being in a city that doesn’t really care about cars that aren’t yellow and available, it’s not a show with a tremendous buzz.
This year was a solid edition, with the stalwarts in place and a few pockets of shiny newness. In the days before the internet it was far more exciting to head down an aisle not knowing what treasures might be at the end. But now, you’ve seen everything teased and scooped months in advance.
So, fasten your seatbelts. Here’s my highly subjective trip through a few moderately interesting corners of the New York International Auto Show.
First, a trend which I hope the manufacturers realize was a flop: a stand full of white cars. And I mean full of nothing but white cars, save for the single halo vehicle meant to shine brightest in a bold color. Audi, Infiniti, and Lexus were the worst offenders.
On the Audi stand, for instance, one had to walk through an acre of nice cars, S4s and S5s, TT-RSs and the regular As – all in plain white – to get to the matte blue R8 V10 Plus. Which looked crap, all covered in handprints and dust, the collection and display of which seems to be the only thing that matte paint is good for. The stand looked like a fleet car parking lot.
The Lexus stand was even more boring. Even the luscious LFA was white and nearly invisible. The LFA’s display in New York neatly sums up the show – it sat sadly on a plinth with speakers playing the shrieking engine sound. It was the highlight of the Lexus stand, and it is a car they no longer produce.
Over at the Scion display (like being in a skate shop designed by Apple) I was amused when the tattooed hipster ‘sales’ person dropped the LFA bomb talking about the Subaru engine in the GT86: “Yeah, the block is a Subaru, but we completely reengineered it, and by we I mean the same engineers that did the LFA engine.” Hmm…
One white car that worked for me was the new 991 series 911 GT3. I don’t care about the paddle shift. Get over it. Trust the future people, because it’s here to stay. Buy a damn vintage car, which you should have anyway to know anything about driving dynamics, and then set your fingertips a-flicking and get some modern kicks in the new GT3.
There was another white car with the hallowed GT moniker on the other side of the hall. But it might as well been in another universe. The Jaguar XKR-S GT is just not cricket. I don’t know who is making the big decisions over at the Jaguar brand anymore but they have lost the plot. This car is a monstrosity. Will it be as good a sports car as a Porsche or Ferrari? No. Will it be as good a GT car as an Aston or a Bentley? No. Perfect.
The only thing worse was the electric blue, be-winged, XFR-S sharing the stand. I didn’t feel like I was in a Jaguar display so much as a Mustang tuner’s stand.
A more successful sedan was over at the Hyundai display. The HCD-14 Genesis Concept was striking if a bit contrived. The proportions are pleasingly long and low and they’ve obviously borrowed the frankly brilliant idea of the sedan hatchback from the Audi A7, whose profile they cribbed almost completely. They’ve also borrowed the BMW beltline crease and the new gaping Aston Martin Rapide grille. South Korea doesn’t make crap cars anymore. Almost no one does. And they’ve figured out that style, in the age of the ultra-reliable vehicle, is everything. They’ll continue to shift units and make the Chevy Malibus of the world look like the last century cars they are.
But over at Chrysler, another anachronism is all the better for its combination of last century tech and modern bulletproofness. The new SRT Viper looked badass in orange TA form. It apologizes for nothing and is wonderful for it.
It’s arch rival, the new Corvette Stingray, looked ready for anything the Viper could dish out, even in standard form. Sitting completely unregarded next to the coupe was the new Stingray convertible. It could have had something to do with the woman in the painted-on dress extolling the virtues of the coupe, but I thought the lack of people checking out the convertible could have been because, with its angular new roofline missing, it really doesn’t look that different from the outgoing C6 convertible.
Another performance icon entering its 7th generation is the new VW GTI. Its shape has benefited from the subtle straightening and tautening of the openings and surfaces. The interior is a masterclass in classless charm and desirability. What more would 90% of motorists need?
What most surely don’t need, but want to want anyway, could be found over at the McLaren stand. No, not the new P1 – don’t get excited, this is New York, remember – but the, Oh-God-I-Wish-I-Was-More-Excited McLaren MP4-12C in standard, targa (because, surely that isn’t really a convertible) and Can-Am Edition forms. I watched the stand for a while to see any form of interest or excitement from passersby. I could see none. McLaren have a long way to go if they want to connect with peoples’ hearts and shift these types of cars. Ferrari created more buzz and they didn’t attend the show.
Another sports car sitting unloved by the masses was the ‘new’ NSX concept. It looked tiny and perfect sitting there, so I’m assuming the the lack of eyeballs on it was due more to the fact that it’s been around the shows forever by now.
Finally, there was one concept that was new to me, BMW’s handsome cute-ute Active Tourer concept. It looked slick, yet production ready. A surefire winner in Europe but I wonder if Americans would care for such a practical and pretty device. They were all crowded around the matte silver M6 Gran Coupe dreaming of fitting fewer people and getting fewer miles per gallon.
That’s it for subjective tour of the New York Interna – Oh wait, one more.
There was also this thing…