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Production car debuts dominate in New York 2012

New Chevrolet Impala, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Toyota Avalon among those unveiled

Published: April 11, 2012, 9:00 PM
Updated: June 7, 2015, 10:55 AM

The New York International Auto Show claims to be the oldest in the U.S., dating from 1900, and it remains one of the four most important, along with Detroit, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Where it ranks among the four is a matter for continual debate, its status seeming to move up and down from year to year. If the criteria for determining that ranking is number of new-vehicle introductions, for this year at least, it would seem to be second only to Detroit.

They were important introductions, too, for they included some of the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. And there was a broad representation of automakers from Asia and Europe, as well as North America, ensuring that the show lived up to its International label.

Arguably the biggest news from the show, in terms of eye candy if not market significance, was the reintroduction of the Dodge Viper, sans the Dodge nameplate. It’s now branded SRT) and incorporates a whole raft of high-tech features that would have been anathema to its predecessor. Those features include launch control, four-stage stability control (which can be turned off), cruise control, two-mode adjustable suspension and an uplevel "executive performance driver's office."  It’s still powered by a V-10 engine, displacing 8.4 litres and making 640-horsepower. And itwill be returning to the racetrack, with official backing from Chrysler.

Exciting as the Viper is for enthusiasts, it is far less important in the marketplace than many of the other vehicles making their debut in New York. Here are some of those vehicle highlights, in relative order of importance to consumers, as we see them:

2014 Chevrolet Impala – Delayed a year or more by GM’s near-death experience, the next-generation Chevrolet Impala will be launched about a year from now as a 2014 model. While its look is clearly that of a Chevrolet, it is considerably more stylish than the current version. Like the Cadillac XTS, it is based on a stretched variant of the Epsilon II front-wheel drive platform used by the 2013 Malibu, as well as the Buick Regal and LaCrosse. To be built in Oshawa, ON, as well as in Michigan, it will be offered with a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a 2.4-litre four with GM’s eAssist system, or a 3.6-liter V-6, all mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.

2013 Nissan Altima – Nissan previewed its all-new 2013 Nissan Altima, which, as the second-best-selling car in the U.S., is a hugely important vehicle for the company. It’s not as popular in Canada, where compacts rule the sales charts, but it’s still a major player in the key mid-size market. The new car seems like a play-it-safe design, continuing the current car’s styling theme with a slightly more adventurous look, but not so far out as to alienate typically conservative mid-size buyers. It promises reduced fuel consumption, in part due to a new Continuously-Variable Transmission (CVT). Other new features include a ‘Drive-Assist Display’ and connectivity system. A hybrid version was not shown but is expected.

2014 Mazda6 – The all-new 2014 Mazda6 features design elements that are strongly influenced by the Takeri Concept, introduced at the Tokyo show last year and also on display in New York. The Mazda6 will be the second of Mazda’s next-generation vehicles to receive the full suite of SKYACTIV Technologies, after the just-launched 2013 Mazda CX-5. It is expected to go on sale during the first quarter of 2013, equipped with a SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine and available with two transmissions, the SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual and SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. Best-in-class fuel economy o is targeted. Thefull  global lineup of the new Mazda6 is expected to make its world debut at the  2012 Paris Motor Show in late September. 

2013 Subaru Legacy and Outback – Both Subaru’s Legacy sedan and Outback CUV get a major update for 2013 that includes exterior styling and a new, more powerful and more efficient, 2.5-litre, DOHC, four-cylinder boxer engine. Subaru says the four-cylinder Legacy will have the lowest fuel consumption of any mid-size sedan with all-wheel-drive. The current 3.6-litre flat six remains available in both models as well. Enhancements to the body structure, suspension, and steering are said to give both a smoother and quieter ride, while also helping increase handling agility. Both vehicles include new convenience and audio features and they will be the first cars to offer Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist system.

2013 Ram – The 2013 Ram pickup carries on with the big-truck look that has separated it from its competitors but it is substantially new, with a stronger and lighter frame and a new variant of Chrysler's Pentastar V-6 engine, rated at 305 horsepower. A Hemi engine is also available and both engines can be mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission – with a rotary gear selector – that improves performance and fuel economy. Also available are such fuel-efficiency enhancing features as grille shutters, a thermal management system, and an automatic stop-start system.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe – Hyundai unveiled not one but two redesigned Santa Fe models – the five-seat Santa Fe Sport, similar in size to the current model, and the LWB Santa Fe, with an extended wheelbase and three rows of seats. Both versions build on Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design theme, giving them a dynamic style in line with that of the company’s current sedans and the smaller Tucson. The body structure is said to be both stronger and lighter. The Santa Fe Sport is powered by a 190-hp, 2.4-litre DI four-cylinder engine, with a 264-hp, 2.0-litre turbo four optional, both of which are also used in the Sonata. The LWB gets a 290-hp, 3.3-litre DI V-6, shared with the new Azera sedan. Both versions employ a 6-speed automatic transmission and are available in either front- or all-wheel-drive form.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek – 

New York marked the official North-American premiere of Subaru's new XV Crosstek, but the small CUV actually made its continental debut at the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS) in Toronto in February. The strangely named XV Crosstek is to the new Impreza as the Outback is to the Legacy. Based on the Impreza hatchback it features significantly increased ground clearance and a host of different design details to give it a more rugged appearance of it own.

2013 Lexus ES – Sometimes dubbed a gold-plated Camry, because that’s the car on which it is based, the new Lexus ES family has been totally redesigned for 2013, moving it further apart in both appearance and appointments from its lesser Toyota sibling. It will be offered as an ES350, with a V-6 gasoline engine, and as an ES300h, with the same four-cylinder hybrid powertrain as in the Camry Hybrid.

2013 Toyota Venza – The new Venza is far from all-new but it is significantly updated, with subtly revised exterior styling, some new convenience features, and the availability of Toyota’s Entune multimedia system. Two engine choices remain available – a 181-horsepower, 2.7 litre four-cylinder or a 268-horsepower, 3.5-litre V-6 with either front- or all-wheel drive. 

2013 Honda Crosstour Concept – It’s Honda’s practice to label any new model it shows in advance a “concept,” and the Honda Crosstour Concept, which previews the 2013 model, continues that pattern. A direct competitor for the Toyota Venza, the refreshed Crosstour takes on a more rugged demeanour that might move it closer to the Subaru Outback in perception. More efficient powertrains might also make this slow-seller more attractive.

2013 Toyota Avalon – The Avalon has oft been referred to, not kindly, as the Japanese Buick. But like Buick itself, the new Avalon full-size sedan takes a turn for the better with far-more adventurous, dare we say handsome, styling that tends more in the direction of Audi. It’s interior prompts comparisons to the German marque as well. While marginally smaller than its predecessor, it is said to be roomier and  more comfortable, with increased cargo space. Safety is a dominant theme in the new car, with ten airbags and a rearview camera as standard equipment and blind-spot monitoring an option.

2014 Acura RLX Concept – Like the Honda Crosstour, the new Acura on display is called a “concept” but make no mistake – this car is a near-exact preview of the next-generation RL, now renamed RLX, which will arrive in 2013 as a 2014 model. It will be offered as a front-wheel-drive model with a gasoline engine and in all-wheel-drive form with a hybrid powertrain, combining a new 3.5-litre direct-injection V-6 with a pair of electric motors and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Infiniti LE Concept – Another concept that is headed for production, the all-electric Infiniti LE Concept is based on the Nissan Leaf and will be assembled alongside the Leaf in Tennessee. It’s much bigger however, close to mid-size, and it’s aimed at a luxury-oriented buyer. It’s also much more stylish with a long, swoopy look. Inside it features a big, tablet-like touch screen as part of its high-end infotainment system.

2013 BMW X1 – BMW is planning to bring its baby crossover to North America next year, slotting in below the X3. Looking very much like its larger siblings it will be available with turbocharged four- or six-cylinder engines.

2013 Cadillac SRX – Apart from some interior upgrades, the newest feature of the 2013 Cadillac SRX is its instrument-panel interface. Along with the ATS and XTS, it will get the Cadillac User Interface (CUE), with a capacitative touch-screen like that used in an iPad. The SRX will also incorporate an active noise cancellation system. 

2013 Lincoln MKZ – Lincoln showed a well-received teaser concept of its new MKZ sedan in Detroit in January. The real thing, revealed in New York, is surprisingly close to that concept in appearance, including use of huge panoramic sliding roof option. Among its more novel features is a push-button transmission selector, and it includes a wealth of driving aids such as a new Lane Keeping System and a new driver-selectable Lincoln Drive Control system. 

BMW i8 Spyder Concept – A convertible variant of the plug-in hybrid concept that has made the round of other auto shows, the BMW i8 Concept Spyder is a stylish look into the future. Its hybrid powertrain can drive either the front or rear wheels, or both. Futuristic features include laser headlamps, swing-up windowless doors, a two-piece folding top and a glass-covered hatch at the rear – for storing your electric kickboards, the concept suggests.

2014 Fisker Atlantic – Beleaguered by problems with its current Karma model, Fisker chose the eve of the show to reveal its forthcoming Atlantic model, which is still likely two or three years from production. Unlike the Karma, the lower-priced, more mainstream Atlantic is scheduled to be built in the United States. It will employ a small BMW engine driving a generator to supply electric power to the wheels.