New York City – One grizzled veteran suggested this New York Auto Show has more going on than did the Detroit auto show last January. While that seems a slight stretch, there’s no argument this is the biggest Big Apple show we’ve attended since we started attending them. It helps that even before press days began, Ford Motor Company tried to upstage General Motors’ long-planned unveil of the Cadillac CT6 by surprising everybody with its Lincoln Continental concept.
Who won? Who lost? What surprised and confounded us? Here is our scorecard:
Hit: The answer is? Big, ballsy American sedans
“So, what are your favorites?” It’s the stock question constantly muttered at any auto show. Here, the first cars out of just about everyone’s mouths were the Lincoln Continental Concept and the #firstever 2016 Cadillac CT6. They have different missions given how their brands are positioned, but they’re both full-size luxury sedans with presence and style, the kind of cars that America used to turn out by the bushel full. Those glory days are gone, and efficient turbo sixes, 30-way seats, advanced telematics, and aluminum construction are the way of the future, but the spirit of what made American sedans great are in small part represented by the Continental and CT6.
— Mike Floyd
Miss: Lincoln Continental
Look at the bold, striking lines and clever technologies of the Cadillac CT6. Look at the gorgeous, show-stealing curves of the Buick Avenir concept. And then look at the Lincoln Continental concept, a Bentley with a Kia K900 grille stuck on the front. While it’s significantly more attractive than a Lincoln MKS, I think the Lincoln Continental lacks the sex appeal and daringness to be a serious luxury flagship. It’s a bulky, derivative, and unimaginative take on what it means to build an American luxury sedan.
— Jake Holmes
Hit: Cadillac CT6
By contrast, the CT6 shows the most convincing take yet on how American luxury brands can take on the best from Germany. Fabulous interior, great technology, and sharp styling all make me optimistic for Cadillac’s future.
Revelation: Cadillac CT, 6, Lincoln Continental, 2.
The Lincoln Continental’s sheetmetal is lovely and rounded and looks rather British next to the BMW-chasing “Cadillac Touring-6,” the moniker brand president Johan de Nysschen used in the show introduction. The Lincoln has a couple of things going for it; 30-way power seats, and a cool “Mad Men” name that rolls off the tongue. But the Continental is on some form of transverse-engine, Ford Taurus– or Fusion/Mondeo-based platform, while the CT6 is on an all-new, aluminum-intensive longitudinal-engine platform, and it has yielded its own important patent. GM has perfected a process to weld aluminum, says president Mark Reuss, and so the “mixed-material” car that weighs less than 3700 pounds with the base 2.0-liter turbo four will weigh less than 4000 pounds, even with the twin-turbo V-6 and all-wheel-drive. Cadillac also uses high-strength steel in the structure where it makes sense. Even considering the Lincoln’s surprise showing, Cadillac wins this one.
— Todd Lassa
Revelation: What’s in a name?
Ford CEO Mark Field’s said the first few design concepts weren’t good enough, but when he and his exec team told the designers, “What if this was the next Continental? … The body language changed immediately,” and the next design was much more what they were looking for from the beginning. But one car pundit was overheard saying this: “the Continental will benefit from low expectations.” Funny.
— Mac Morrison
Hit: Honda Civic Concept
I like surprises. Especially when they come in screaming lime green. Better still that this concept—and the news that the Civic hatchback and Type R (!!) are U.S.-bound—is living proof that Honda hasn’t totally lost its mojo.
— Eric Weiner
Hit: Honda America delivers its own Civic
More than half the 20 million Honda Civics sold during its 43 years on the market were sold in America, and so for the 10th-generation Civic, Honda America was tasked with leading the global effort to design the all-new car from the ground up, right down to the platform. It’s a white-hot signal of how important this car has become here in America to Honda. It has been primarily developed and engineered in Ohio, and will be built there. “We have never in our history embarked on such a comprehensive redesign of the Civic,” said Executive Vice President of Sales for American Honda John Mendel during the reveal of the Civic coupe concept. It’s a thinly veiled look at the new production model due this fall. “And for the first time, our U.S. R&D team took the lead on the final design and development of the sedan and the coupe.” From what we’ve seen so far, they’ve nailed it.
Revelation: The Honda Civic coupe’s design influences.
The daylight opening mimics the sports coupe form first seen on the Nissan GT-R, and when the car is angled for a rear-three-quarter view, the long, straight hood disappears from sight, and the outer fender curves make the short-overhang front fenders look like they’re from a Porsche 911.
Hit: Porsche Boxster Spyder
This is an obvious car-guy choice, but that’s only because it’s so damn fantastic. Pure and purpose-driven, the Boxster Spyder is sure to be a masterpiece with its 375-hp flat-six, six-speed manual, and open-top thrills. Even better, Porsche promised me that the nightmarish soft top from the last Spyder is a shadow of the past, and the new mechanism is a breeze to operate. If you’re sour that the Spyder doesn’t have the GT4’s suspension components, maybe you’ll rest easier knowing that they actually weigh more than the Boxster S bits it uses.
Revelation: Porsche values stick-shifts after all
Porsche spent no small amount of time during the 991 GT3’s launch telling the media that PDK was the only logical solution for such a performance car, and in some cases almost mocked those of us who suggested, “yeah, but a manual is so much more engaging.” Now with the Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder, Porsche reps insist that the manual-only offering on those cars makes sense because, “These cars are about engagement, not just numbers.”
Miss: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu
I’m happy to see GM selling a midsize sedan that’s actually competitive with its Japanese rivals, and the new turbocharged and hybrid powertrains are impressive. But when I look at this Malibu, I’m bored. It may have the silhouette of an Impala and it certainly should be very fuel-efficient and practical, but the Malibu’s jutting-out nose and style-free cabin are letdowns when we know GM is capable of great designs elsewhere in its model range.
Hit: Chevrolet Malibu and Spark
The new Malibu isn’t nearly as handsome as the 2008 model, but it’s a huge step forward from the current car. Meanwhile, the Spark looks more mature, more developed, and offers safety features still trickling down from luxury/premium brands; forward collision, blind spot and lane departure alerts.
Miss: “Malibu” spelled out in a badge on the Chevrolet’s front doors
Not a good look. But at least it’s tacky.
Upgraded shocks, a limited-slip diff, and a shock-tower brace should make for even sharper handling, and the optional Brembo brakes and BBS wheels are a must-have for Miata freaks like me. (Mazda tells me the forged BBS rims are lighter than the standard rolling stock, but they don’t have an exact weight yet.) The Miata gets some flak for being an underpowered, relatively limp sports car, but fitting it with all these options should help dispel that criticism. As the Internet commenters like to say, shut up and take my money!
Hit: Mazda Miata Club Edition
The Miata is definitely not the cutie it one was, but one look at the Club Edition on the show floor in New York was enough to make me adore it. Badass 17-inch BBS wheels, Brembos, and a limited-slip diff is a tempting combination, but I could do without the aero side skirts. The Miata is supposed to make you happy and light of heart, not pumped up full of testosterone. There are enough aftermarket performance upgrades to take care of that.
Revelation: More than half of Mazda MX-5 Miata buyers are men
So next time you make outdated, sexist jokes about the roadster, check your facts.
Hit: Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Alltrack
Even if this car is probably 10 years too late, I’m not one to complain about a handsome-looking wagon with all-wheel drive arriving on U.S. shores. Maybe make-believe off-road capability from tough-ish skidplates and one more inch of ride height is what it takes to trick Americans into buying wagons. So be it. Subaru figured that out with the Outback a long time ago, although it has the benefit of a good reputation for quality and reliability, while VW is still digging itself out of that hole.
Hit: Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Alltrack
We know most people don’t need all-wheel drive, but many buyers want it all the same. The Golf SW Alltrack gives them that capability, plus the higher ride height and rugged fender cladding otherwise reserved for crossovers. Given how great the regular 2015 Volkswagen Golf hatchback drives, I’ve got high hopes that the Alltrack will show Subaru how to really build a functional, affordable AWD wagon. Only question: Where does this leave room for the next-gen Volkswagen Tiguan?
Miss: Subaru BRZ STI Concept
We all know Subaru has no intention of selling a hopped-up, turbocharged BRZ at this point. But given how much that car has resonated with enthusiasts and the aftermarket, it really would make sense to at least sell a mildly tweaked Subaru BRZ with, say, better brakes and handling bits. The idea behind this concept is a total hit, but the fact Subaru won’t ever sell it is a miss.
Miss: Scion iA
Scion made a lot more sense when it was building adventurous and funky cars marketed to young people.
Hit: Nissan Maxima, full-size sedan
Design chief Shiro Nakamura describes the new Maxima as having a “wind-swept” look, with long, flowing lines. It makes perhaps the best use of the “floating” c-pillar, so far. The beltline remains linear past the b-pillar, kicking up only at the back of the door, to avoid the “cavernous” feel of most modern sedan back seats, including the new Chevy Malibu. The Maxima’s interior looks rich and inviting, and while I’m not normally a big fan of diamond-tufted interior, when done up in a suede-like fabric, as in the Maxima, it looks tasteful.
Miss: Nissan Maxima, four-door sports car
Its 300-hp 3.5-liter V-6 is up 10 horses, but it’s still mated to a continuously variable transmission (with paddle-shifters flanking its flat-bottom heated steering wheel). And, of course, it has front-wheel-drive. To paraphrase an old joke, “that’s no sport sedan, it’s my family car.”
Miss: The 2016 Nissan Maxima‘s styling
Miss: Jaguar XF
Technically speaking, the XF is an impressive accomplishment. It’s 75 percent aluminum, it’s lighter than before, there’s a diesel in the works, there’s even a longer wheelbase for more legroom and a shorter roofline without compromising headroom. But do you know who else is capable of technical achievements as a selling point to consumers? The Germans. Can you guess what the Germans could use a bit more of in this segment? Emotion. Jaguar shouldn’t be suffering from Audi syndrome, where all of its cars look exactly the same and equally inert.
Miss: Rolls-Royce’s Wraith Inspired by Film
What’s next, a Bentley inspired by an SD card or a flash drive?
Revelation: Lexus RX
The RX is the antithesis of what enthusiasts value, and it was comically easy to lob grenades at it for being so boring. Love or hate the wild new styling, we can’t say it’s bland anymore. Props to Lexus for taking a design chance on a car they rely on to keep the lights on.
Miss: Lexus RX
The first Lexus RX looked like a bland moon buggy. Auto journalists derided this premium vanilla-mobile, prompting America’s upper-middle class to purchase them by the boatloads. Now designers have responded with the biggest Remington shaver grille yet and body surfacing that indicates the designers didn’t know when to lift their pens. Its floating d-pillar creates a small window framed on the inside, making it look like the modern interpretation of ‘70s opera windows. In other words, it’s a guaranteed bestseller.
Hit: McLaren 570S
McLaren’s most “affordable” offering, the 570S, is also it’s most attractive.
That’s the word from Jeep head honcho Mike Manley. So quit whining about a unibody Cherokee.
Hit: McLaren’s SUV plans
McLaren executive director Jolyon Nash was adamant that, “We won’t be doing an SUV.” Good news for brand snobs.
Its new design language appears to be relegated to the front and rear fascias, styled to evoke the long-gone Montero, and the partial list of “more than 100 improvements” Mitsubishi made to its ’16 Outlander made me think I had jumped into the Hot Tub Time Machine and landed in 1982.
Miss: Kia Optima
The new Optima‘s busy grillework and chrome overdose spoils a lovely, clean interior design featuring quilted seats and a fat, flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Revelation: BMW understands our frustration
BMW North America head product planner Paul Ferraiolo heeds our woes about the new M3/M4 feeling less inviting to drivers. “Those cars have everything you need for a day at the track. But yes, it’s difficult to utilize all of their power and performance capabilities on public roads. There isn’t one type of enthusiast, and they all have different needs.”