Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Best Cars at the New York Auto Show

It's a good thing mayor Michael Bloomberg is paying more attention to sugary sodas than he is tire-shredding horsepower—the copious amounts of horsepower on display in New York makes the soda hazard pale by comparison

Porsche 911 GT3

We'll be wearing protective clothing when we hit the North American debut of what has long been one of the most hardcore 911 variants. Sparks will be flying when the faithful see that the newest GT3 comes only with Porsche's seven-speed PDK—that's right, an automatic transmission. A 9000 rpm redline, a 3.3-second 0-60 time, and a 195 mph top speed ought to limit the buzzkill, however, while rear-wheel steering will help it corner faster than any ordinary 911. But, slushbox mandatory? Aw, c'mon, Herr Doktors.

Range Rover Sport

The new RR Sport has the same luxe-appeal as its redesigned big brother Range Rover, but in a more aggressive exterior. Expect new boosted V6 and V8 powertrains in a model that joins its more expensive sibling in adopting an all-aluminum structure that is 800 pounds less than it's predecessor. The interior has also been cleaned up aesthetically—it has about half as many buttons as the previous model.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG

That sweet new A45 AMG hatch unveiled at Geneva? We're not getting that here in America. But we do get the sedan version, the CLA 45 AMG. In its basic form, the CLA sedan is Mercedes's most aggressive down-market move in our lifetimes, with a $30,000 point of entry. The hatch may look a little more purposeful, but both are rocket ships that may necessitate a change of underwear

Acura MDX

Worthy but also-ran Acura's worthy but also-ran crossover gets a much-needed redesign for 2014. Long overlooked in the market, the MDX was good (for a crossover) in its current form. But good isn't always good enough, and Acura will need to get this one absolutely right if the brand's future is to involve any serious sales. Raising the bar against the always-improving competition isn't easy.

BMW 328d

Now that the fuel is cleaner, the joys of torque-y compression engines—diesels, as they're more commonly known—can be experienced by Americans in myriad ways.  One of our first choices would BMW's 328d wagon. It's the first time BMW has offered a US-bound diesel wagon, but that's always been one of the ways Europeans like them best. We'd humbly suggest that with its compact 4-cylinder diesel, 180 horsepower, and a meaty 280 lb-ft of torque matched to 40 mpg, the 328d wagon could, with available all-wheel-drive, be the perfect car for many Americans—well worth dipping one's toe into the shallow end of the premium market.

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
Adrienne! After an 11-year absence, the Z28 is back. Aging boomers will appreciate how the archetypical bad-boy Camaro, first offered in 1968, has a brawny new 7.0-liter V8—which corresponds to the sainted 427 cubic inches of our glorious non-metric past—to scare would-be competitors on life's drag strip. At 500 horsepower at 470 lb-ft of torque, it's not as fast as the ZL1 on paper, but muscle freaks will place a premium on the displacement, the exclusivity, and of course, the incomparable feel of a big-block V8. Thanks to the elimination of much acoustic insulation and thinner-than-ordinary glass for a weight savings of nearly 300 pounds, the sound will be incomparably deafening, too. There's a reason you have to scream Adrienne's name.

Hyundai Equus
Sales projections were humble when the world's first $60K Hyundai debuted a few years back, but since then the Equus has managed to eek out a respectable slice of the full-sized luxury market. Deservedly so, for it delivered pretty much the full luxury tasting menu for those allergic to driving excitement, at an a la carte price. 2014 brings some cosmetic changes, and, steady thy beating heart, a new gear selector, but the Korean Town Car vibe remains the same. Drivers not wanted, this one's for passengers.

Infiniti QX60 Hybrid
The JX35 is kaput. Say hello to the Infiniti QX60, which is basically the same thing with a new name, as always-laggard Infiniti seeks to improve under new management. The first step is an all-new naming regime, that's all Qs and QXs.  The latter are the crossovers, and there's a hybrid QX60 now, too, which delivers a combined 26 mpg—five better than its all-wheel-drive sibling.

Jeep Cherokee

Arguably the most important debut of the show, Jeep returns to the smaller SUV fold and retools a fondly remembered name when it replaces the Liberty with an all-new crossover based on an Alfa Romeo platform. And it looks, well...interesting. The Cherokee is already proving controversial, which ought to keep things interesting, as Jeep has basically bet the farm on this one, with plans to sell it all over the world. We think it wins in the end on points.

Kia Soul
The heart and soul of Kia's small car range is the Soul—it's been a runaway success for the brand, which means Kia is playing it safe for the redesign. New direct injection four-cylinders help the car with the hamster commercials scurry out of its own way. But the big changes come in the looks department: Styling has been tweaked to reflect Kia's design cues, but the shape remains the same. Inside, the Soul gets a big honkin' touchscreen display, and there's a big rear door to help make loading your turntables—or walker, since face it, these cars have older buyers, too—easy.

SRT Viper TA

Ordinary Viper not good enough for you? How about a track-focused Viper TA, with all-new shocks, springs, and sway bars, as well as carbon-fiber bracing and a bespoke aerodynamics package? The engine stays the same, but really, you don't need more power, do you? Pick up one of the first 33 cars, yours in any color so long as it is Crusher Orange, and exclusivity is guaranteed.

Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

Subaru finally shows up in the hybrid world with this unobtrusively hybridized version of the XV Crosstrek, its jacked-up, Impreza-based soft-roader. The hybrid's mileage advantage isn't tremendous, so the payoff for highway hybrid drivers—who'll be asked to pay an as-yet announced premium (we figure at least three grand) for the option when it goes on sale this winter—will be pretty far down the highway.

Volkswagen Golf & GTI

Volkswagen has lifted itself up by its bootstraps with the Jetta and Passat in the USA. Next up is the new seventh-generation Golf, popular all over the world save for America, where VW has long preferred to sell you its close relation, the Jetta. VW built Jettas in low-cost Mexican factories (Golfs were imported from Germany) and the lower cost meant they were the cars VW wanted to shift. But when the German giant finally gets around to introducing this pair here in 2014 (they're already on the road in Europe) that reasoning may change, as VW will build the new models in Mexico. Meaning these nourishing bits of Euro goodness just might become more accessible to American consumers.

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