Highlights from the New York International Auto Show 2018

Each year, we look forward to the New York International Auto Show (or NYIAS for short). In addition to seeing lots of great concept and production car debuts, the beautiful Spring weather in New York this time of year is usually a welcome change of pace from any lingering winter flurries back home in Minnesota. Much like the weather surrounding the show, NYIAS has a mild but refreshing feel to it. It’s an exciting place to be, much like New York as a whole, and a great way to cap off the last big show of the season which started in Los Angeles last November. So with that, let’s take a closer look at what the highlights were at the 2018 New York International Auto Show.

Sensational Sensibilities

Compared to the other big auto shows in Los Angeles and Detroit, which usually focus on flashy sports cars or high-tech electric vehicles, the New York show seems to be the place where sensibility reigns supreme. We usually see lots of SUVs and crossovers making their debut in New York and this time was no different.

For instance, Subaru debuted their new 2019 Forester and Forester Sport models at the show. Although some people will be a little disappointed that Subaru sent their sportiest engine out to pasture by ditching the turbocharged 2.5-liter XT model, most people will be happy to hear that the new naturally-aspirated, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder offers slightly more power and better fuel economy than the outgoing model. Much like the rest of the vehicle, the exterior styling is new, but it looks familiar enough that you’d be forgiven if you thought it was just a refresh. Inside, the higher trim models get the luxe treatment with beautiful-looking leather on the seats and other interior surfaces. There’s also a new Sport model that gets cool-looking cloth seats, black wheels, and contrasting red accents inside and out. Finally, the big news here is that Subaru’s fantastic EyeSight camera-based safety system now comes standard on every Forester model! The outgoing Forester was so good that Subaru didn’t really need to do much to make the new model better. While there’s nothing radically new here, Subaru did make improvements where they could by improving interior quality and volume, and also by adding more technology that many people will likely use every day. That’s a win in our book.

Hyundai rolled out a fleet of new or updated SUVs and crossovers in New York including the all-new Santa Fe, an updated Tucson, the Kona Electric, and the Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. While it’s unlikely that the Nexo or Kona Electric will make their way to the midwest, the new Santa Fe and Tucson both look promising. The subtle tweaks to the Tucson’s exterior and interior styling make it slightly more handsome and the less cluttered center stack should make it slightly easier to use. The big news with the Tucson, however, is that the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 184-hp will be replacing the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine as the flagship powerplant. That 2.4-liter engine will also see duty in new Santa Fe, while also being complemented by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and a flagship 2.2-liter turbodiesel engine that is borrowed from the Asian and European markets, producing 190 hp and 322 lb-ft of torque. Switching between the Tucson and Santa Fe, the interior should look pretty similar, however, expect more legroom in the larger Santa Fe.

Volkswagen debuted two new concepts in New York, both based on their Atlas SUV. First, the Atlas Cross Sport is a smaller, sportier version of the Atlas. It’s 7.5 inches shorter than the 7-passenger Atlas and should be faster too, motivated by a gas-electric hybrid drivetrain that puts down a combined 355 horsepower from a 3.6-liter V6 and a pair of electric motors. The 18-kWh lithium-ion battery pack can also power the Cross Sport in full electric mode for up to 26 miles. That all sounds pretty good to us, and better yet, this concept is headed to production in the near future. What’s less definite, was VW’s other big concept debut at NYIAS: the Atlas Tanoak Concept pickup truck. The truck gets the same 3.6-liter V6 as the Cross Sport but this concept had a wild interior and all sorts of cool LED lighting both inside and out. Built on the same MQB platform that underpins the majority of VW’s product lineup, the Tanoak is 2.6 inches longer than even the Atlas, which gives it a roomy interior AND a decent-sized bed as well. Although they could easily be dismissed as over-the-top features of a wild concept vehicle, the Tanoak did have some really interesting accessories we hope will make it into production some day. For instance, the wrap-around front lighting could easily integrate some super-bright LED light bars for when you’re driving off the beaten path, and cooler still, the back of the truck cab features a roll-hoop structure that not only looks cool but can slide down the bedsides to better support big loads. What really makes that roll-hoop stand out is that it has a huge work light integrated into its underside that shines down into the bed, lighting up everything that is stored back there.

Lincoln typically has a good showing in New York and this year was no different. After debuting the production Navigator last year, Lincoln pulled the wraps off of the all-new Aviator three-row SUV. Unlike other Lincoln crossovers and SUVs that have shared platforms with Ford products, this is an all-new, RWD-based platform exclusively for Lincoln, and powered by either the company’s 2.7- or 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 and configured as a plug-in hybrid. Inside, the Aviator felt just as rich and opulent as Lincoln’s other recent successes: the Continental and Navigator. The materials used throughout the interior are of very high quality and look incredibly elegant. That elegance is continued to the outside of the vehicle where from some angles – namely the side profile and rear three-quarter views – it reminds us of the Range Rover Velar. The muscular, sculpted bodywork gives the Aviator a sporty, hunkered down look that belies its practicality as a comfortable cruiser for the whole family. Other details like the beautiful wrap-around taillight bar and unique, chromed grille make the Aviator stand out, and above, any other similarly-sized SUV on the market today.

Following up on the company’s successful XT5 crossover, Cadillac chose their home turf in New York to roll out their new compact crossover, the XT4. Starting at just under $36,000, the new XT4 should make a great volume player for the luxury automaker. We love the XT4’s stout proportions and beautiful detailing that we’ve come to expect from Cadillac. Inside, the XT4 features a good balance between physical buttons as well as an 8.0-inch touchscreen that should make the CUE system a bit easier to use than we’ve seen in some of Cadillac’s more expensive models, which rely heavily on capacitive touch panels that are sometimes difficult to use, especially with gloves on. Instead of choosing specific interior leather colors and trims, Cadillac will instead allow customers to choose from seven interior “environments” that are tailored to various trim levels. Powered by a 237-hp, turbocharged inline-4, the XT4 should return 25 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway when it goes on sale this fall.

On the sportier end of the spectrum, Jaguar debuted the much-awaited F-Pace SVR with a 550-hp, supercharged V8 nestled under the sleek, vented hood. However, with more power comes more heat, so the front bumper now features massive grille openings to feed air to all of the various heat extractors at the front of the car. To keep the brakes cool, there are now some beautifully sculpted slits cut into the front fenders just aft of the wheels to extract air from the wheel wells and channel it down the side of the car to improve aerodynamic stability. There are similar vents incorporated into the rear bumper that offer similar functionality for the rear wheel wells and help frame the aggressive quad-tipped exhaust that is sure to sound incredible. All told, the F-Pace SVR should hit 60 MPH in just 4.1 seconds on the way to a 176 MPH top speed. Inside, the interior has been properly embellished to liven things up and match the much more aggressive exterior styling. This is one grocery-getter that we’d relish the chance to drive and with a base price of $79,999, one could even argue that it’s a reasonably-priced performance bargain.

Walking next door to the Land Rover booth, a pair of Range Rovers stole the show. First, there was a wild blue and exposed carbon fiber Range Rover Sport SVR with a ridiculous 575 hp coming from its supercharged V8. Between the shouty exterior and equally shouty engine, this is the Range Rover you buy if you really want to make a statement. However, if you prefer to slip under the radar a bit but still want to be coddled in absolute luxury, perhaps the new 2-door Range Rover SV Coupe is more your style. Range Rover will only build 999 of these SV Coupes, each one custom-tailored to its owner at a price of almost $300,000. It’s fully hand-assembled at Land Rover’s SVO Technical center and the supercharged V8 makes a smooth 557 hp that will carry the big 2-door from 0-60 MPH in just 5 seconds flat.

Not content to let Jaguar-Land Rover steal their thunder with fast SUVs, Maserati unveiled their new Levante Trofeo. Displayed in a sinister matte grey paint that will be exclusive to this model, the Levante Trofeo borrows the twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 from the Ferrari Portofino to produce 590 hp. This will carry the Trofeo from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds, on to a top speed of 187 mph. Other changes that distinguish the Trofeo from the rest of the Levante lineup include exclusive 22-inch wheels, redesigned front bumper with bigger air intakes and glossy carbon fiber trim. Inside, the seats get special stitching in bright contrasting colors like red, yellow, or blue, and what isn’t covered in leather or Alcantara gets swathed in matte carbon fiber instead. Out back, a sportier rear diffuser makes room for four chromed exhaust tips, each of which serves as a trumpet for the gloriously symphonic Ferrari-derived V8 under the hood. Although Maserati has not capped production on the Levante Trofeo, they will build a limited run of 35 launch cars for the US and Canada, each featuring a customized dash plaque with the name of the vehicle’s owner engraved in it.

Sporty Sedans and Wild Concepts

Although SUVs and crossovers dominated the landscape in New York, there were also a handful of sporty sedans that got us excited at the show. One of the most exciting reveals in New York for us was the Cadillac CT6 V-Sport. With an all-new hand-built, 4.2-liter, twin-turbo V8 under the hood pumping out 550 hp, the CT6 V-Sport can scoot like the best of them. Perhaps the best news about this new engine is that it will also be put to work in lesser CT6 trims, albeit with “only” 500 hp… Inside, it’s everything you’ve come to expect from the typically luxurious CT6, with the one notable exception of Super Cruise which isn’t available on the V-Sport model, although with 550 hp on tap, most people would rather handle the driving themselves.

Mercedes-Benz also had their US debut of the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe in New York. We’ll get this out of the way right off the bat by saying that this isn’t a replacement for the CLS63 and it’s also not a true 4-door AMG GT S either. What Mercedes-AMG did here was take the E-Class Wagon platform and give it as many AMG GT styling cues as it could. Then, in pumped up the company’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 to a whopping 630 hp and made a blisteringly fast 4-door with looks to kill. And when we say it’s fast, we mean it. AMG claims 0-60 MPH in just 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 195 MPH, making it one of the quickest 4-doors on the planet. They weren’t at the show, but Mercedes-AMG also promised less extreme versions of this new AMG GT 4-door with a GT 53 model using the company’s new straight-6 with 473 hp, as well as a GT 63 model with a 577-hp version of the twin-turbo V8 as used in the AMG GT R. Inside, the interior is one of the most extreme we’ve seen from Mercedes-Benz with huge swathes of Alcantara and carbon fiber, with heavily bolstered sport seats designed to keep you glued in place during high-speed cornering.

It’s hard to compare Nissan’s new Altima to the likes of the 550-plus horsepower luxury sedans above, but the new 2019 Altima gets a sporty-looking redesign in addition to a new variable compression ratio engine option and all-wheel drive. Getting rid of the 3.5-liter V6 of the outgoing Altima, Nissan chose to replace it with their innovative, new 4-cylinder VC-Turbo engine. Pumping out a peak 248 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, the new engine boasts clever variable compression ratio technology that can maximize fuel economy without sacrificing performance. For those seeking all-wheel drive, it is only available with the base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, while the new VC-Turbo engine is front-wheel drive only and mated to a CVT. Inside, the new Altima offers more room than ever before with a new center stack design that reduces clutter. We’re excited to check out the new Altima for ourselves when it goes on sale later this year.

We also loved checking out Audi’s booth where they had a trio of new 4-doors: the RS5 Sportback, the A6, and the A7. The new A6 and A7 both look great and offer more room, technology, and fuel economy than the previous models, but the real star of the Audi booth was the RS5 Sportback. We’ve long lamented that we don’t get enough of the uber-fast RS models like the RS4 and RS6 here in the US. Well, the RS5 just started showing up in Audi showrooms earlier this year and now we get the 4-door version to help satiate some of that need for speed. The regular A5 Sportback looks quite handsome on its own, but with the more aggressive bumpers and flared out fenders, the RS5 has a much sportier demeanor. With a top speed of 174 MPH from the 444-hp twin-turbocharged V6, and a sub-4 second 0-60 MPH time, the RS5 Sportback might make the perfect daily driver for those that can afford it.

Mazda has been pumping out some beautiful cars recently, both in production and concept forms. In LA, we reveled in the beauty that was the Vision Coupe Concept, as well as the wonderful Mazda6. Now in NY, we got to drool over the Kai Concept which looks to be the future design direction for the next Mazda3 hatchback. Like the Vision Coupe Concept, the Kai is a perfect balance of smooth lines with sharp creases at the body edges. We look forward to seeing how this design language gets distilled down into future products!

And lastly, Genesis stole the show. We’d love to point to the G70 which we saw for the first time as a shining beacon at the Genesis booth but really, it was their new Essentia concept that made us nostalgic for auto shows of old, when brands would actually dare to bring wild, impractical, futuristic concept cars that had no bearing on anything besides our imaginations. Now in 2018, it seems that only Genesis has the chutzpah to be bold and they brought their A-Game to NYIAS with the Essentia. Although Genesis has received some flack recently for being the only luxury car brand to not offer any SUVs, they went 180 degrees in the opposite direction and showed us a copper and carbon fiber masterpiece, powered solely with electricity. The Essentia really is a technological tour de force with lots of racy features like a carbon fiber tub as well as front and rear subframes. The suspension utilizes inboard pushrods to bring mass towards the center of the vehicle, while a floor-mounted battery pack keeps the majority of the weight as low as possible in the chassis. This is all legitimate racecar stuff and if it weren’t for the back seats and windshield, you might as well call this Genesis’ entry into the Formula E racing series. Beyond that, much of the car was 3D-printed and the butterfly doors opened up to show a beautiful lattice of carbon fiber that forms the tub of the vehicle. The only negative about the Essentia is that it’s a concept vehicle that likely won’t see production in anything close to what we see here. But hey, we can all dream, right?

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