The New York International Auto Show is always a smaller affair than the bigger annual confabs in Detroit and Los Angeles. Still, this year’s show brought with it several interesting unveilings, a fair number of hot cars, and yet more evidence that the hybridization and gradual electrification of the automotive scene continues apace. Here are a few highlights.
A compact competitor to the upcoming Ford Fiesta, the 2011 Mazda 2 arrives in the US this summer, powered by a 1.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine.
Just three days after the Chinese company Geely finalized its purchase of Volvo from Ford, the Swedish automaker unveiled the redesigned S60 sedan for the first time in North America. Volvo calls it the Naughty S60 sedan, which is a marketing flourish we don’t quite understand. In any case: Tech-wise, the S60 is interesting for its pedestrian safety system, which uses radar to watch out for pedestrians. If the system senses an impending human-car collision, automatically slams on the brakes.
Chevrolet Cruze RS
In New York Chevrolet unveiled the optional RS appearance package for the 2011 Cruze, a collection of aesthetic touches, sporty front and rear fascias,fog lamps, a spoiler designed to sex up a potentially bland (but sensible) car. The Cruze goes on sale late this year.
The extended-range electric Volt probably hasn’t missed an auto show since its unveiling in January 2007, but now the car is close to completion. We took a prototype on a quick spin the evening before the show began and found it surprisingly dialed in; even the XM satellite radio, accessed via a touch nav screen, worked perfectly. (We honestly didn’t expect the prototype to have working satellite radio.) The battery was already depleted from numerous previous test drives, so the car only operated in range extender mode, in which a four-cylinder gas engine kicks in to power the electric motor. That was fine, though, because we’ve already driven the Volt powertrain in all-electric mode. It was smooth and seamless, but the gas engine is definitely audible. We weren’t allowed to do anything other than tool around a few parking-garage ramps, but in the limited test the Volt felt peppy, nimble, and solid. We look forward to getting in the finished product, which goes into production this November.
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
The CTS-V wagon is exactly what it looks like: A stretched out, truly ridiculous version of Cadillac‚s latest and hottest. This family truckster is powered by a 6.2L, 556hp V-8, and yes, you can get it with a manual transmission.
Hyundai Sonata 2.0T and Hybrid
Hyundai managed to dazzle the crowd by unveiling two new versions of its existing midsize sedan. Weird, right? Well, the dazzle is all about performance for price. The Sonata 2.0T, for instance, combines a direct injection with high-performance twin-scroll turbochargers to squeeze 274 horsepower out of a four-cylinder engine. And? When it arrives later this year it‚ll cost less than $25,000 (exact pricing yet to be announced). The other variant is the Sonata Hybrid, which uses lithium-ion batteries and,according to Hyundai gets, up to 39 mpg on the highway and 37 mpg in the city. If they live up to the promises Hyundai has made for them, these will be extraordinarily competitive cars.
Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
For its first production hybrid Porsche uses a decoupling clutch to connect a V6 gas engine and a 47hp electric motor; that means that either one can drive the car solo, or they can both pull together to make a combined 380 hp. Around town, the Cayenne can travel at up to 40 mph in electric mode. But the coolest part may be what Porsche calls sailing mode. At up to 97 mph, when you‚re coasting on the highway, take your foot off the gas and the gas engine will shut off and decouple from the drivetrain you simply coast until you hit the gas again. Porsche hasn’t announced EPA fuel economy numbers, but it does say that the hybrid reduces fuel consumption by 23 percent under a particular European driving cycle.
For the future of Chrysler, look to Fiat, the company’s new corporate overlords. Chrysler is set to bring the Fiat 500 across the Atlantic later this year; it‚ll run on a 1.2 liter, 70hp engine. (Tiny car, tiny engine.) Last month the company said that it would be making an electric car based on the 500 platform in 2012.
Sadly, Infiniti will probably never make a car that looks exactly like the dazzling Essence concept, but eventually we’ll be able to trace the lineage of certain lines and curves in future Infiniti models back to this silver beast.
On the eve of the New York International Auto Show, Nissan announced pricing for the Leaf, its upcoming electric car, and the numbers are impressive good: $32,280 MSRP, minus a $7,500 federal tax credit that brings the price down to an effective $25,280. That’s not counting state-level tax credits. In California and Georgia, for example, knock another $5,000 off the price, which makes the Leaf a $20,280 proposition. Importantly, though, even at that price the Leaf will be nicely equipped, with a navigation system, Bluetooth, Internet- and smartphone-connectivity, stability control, traction control, Sirius/XM radio, and six airbags all standard. You can also lease the Leaf for $349 a month. Nissan starts taking reservations on April 20; you‚ll have to pay a refundable $99 fee to get in line. The car starts rolling out in December, and Nissan currently has the capacity to build 50,000 cars in 2011.
This small crossover is all about style and driveability. The exterior is marked by sharp, sporty angles, big shoulders, and bubbly headlamps reminiscent of those on the electric Nissan Leaf. Inside, an interestingly rounded center console keeps the aesthetic flourishes coming. The Juke is powered by a 1.6 liter direct injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine; that’s mated to either a continuously variable transmission with a manual mode (which comes standard) or an optional six-speed manual.
Lexus CT 200h
Unveiled earlier this year in Geneva, the Lexus CT 200h is a small hatchback hybrid that‚s powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. It goes on sale here early next year.
Mercedes R-Class Wagon
It’s not a minivan, Mercedes protests. No, the redesign of the much-derided R-class is now officially filed under the umbrella that covers everything smaller than a Hummer and higher-set than a sedan: Crossover. Alas, even after the redesign the adjective being tossed around most frequently for the R-Class appears to be hearselike.
“Do we see a little Nissan Cube styling in this?” we asked the Nissan rep. “Um, no, probably not.” Never mind the official publicist denial: To us this big box of unabashed luxury SUV looks like the Nissan Cube after getting a real job, buying a house, having a couple kids and putting on some weight.