Hot Cars (and Lotsa SUVs) Roll Out at the New York Auto Show

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Mar 25, 2016

NEW YORK—It was another over-the-top New York International Auto Show, this one featuring a ton of hot-right-now SUVs (even Maserati had one, the Levante) because, well, gas is cheap now. There were plenty of green cars, too, for contrast. Because, well, that’s the future.

But first, here's this baffling presentation I encountered at the end-of-the day party today, right in the middle of the show floor. 


The dancers were writhing around for some time before I thought to get my camera. Is it a living sculpture? Is it performance art? I suspect they were aiming to recreate the logo of the New York Auto Show. Did they achive it? You tell us in the comments.

"I know, let's make this out of tuchuses!" (New York Auto Show Photo)Now that that's out of the way, on to the cars! First up, the Genesis New York Concept, one of the more spectacular entries in the field.

The Genesis New York: No bagel with a schmear. (Jim Motavalli photo)Though a design exercise, it points the way to this luxury spinoff of Hyundai’s future. With massive styling that recalled nothing so much as the Bentley Turbo R, the New York stood out. I loved the just-because hump that straddled the front and rear doors.

Design team member Nicola Danza told me to think of it as gills on a fish. “We wanted to have a fresh and young car, because the brand is fresh and young,” he said. I thought it was an immobile display object, but Danza said not so: There’s a two-liter diesel hybrid drivetrain under that shapely hood, and it's drivable.

The Ioniq lineup: green, greener and greenest. (Jim Motavalli photo)“Aesthetics matter,” said brand director Manfred Fitzgerald. “Good design shapes the perception of the brand.” Hey, I wanted one. Hyundai is also launching the green-themed, Loniq brand, and in New York it unveiled a trio of cars covering the hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric bases—reportedly the first time any manufacturer offered that 1-2-3 punch. The cars, introduced by “environmentalist and adventurer” David de Rothschild, are conservatively styled, and offer the expected virtues.

The plug-in hybrid goes 25 miles on a charge, the battery car-- with some componentry undoubtedly shared with the Kia Soul EV-- has 110 miles of range. The battery packs stow under the rear seat, there is 53 percent high-strength steel, a six-speed dual-clutch transmission (except in the electric car) and multi-link rear suspension.

Analyst James Bell told me he thinks Loniq might be a bit slow out of the gate—it’s a new brand, after all. And the battery range is up against the Chevy Bolt’s 200 miles.

The Prius Prime is a hot ticket, with 22 miles electric and subtle styling cues. (Jim Motavalli photo)I was wowed by the new Prius Prime, the long-awaited plug-in hybrid version of the car. It was driven onto the stage among illuminated bubbles. The prime virtue of the Prime is its 22 miles of all-electric range—up from 13 in the previous model. It’s got some distinctive styling to distinguish itself from lesser Priuses, especially in the rear end. And you’ll go 600 miles between fill-ups—there’s an impressive 120 MPGe rating.

The Miata-based Fiat 124 Spyder. Too bad it's a U.S. appearance package. (Jim Motavalli photo)Toyota has partnered with ChargePoint, which operates 20,000 battery stations, 60 percent of which are free to use, to make plugging in easier. The Prime will be available in all 50 states. No word on pricing yet.

Ford's Mark Fields with the Lincoln Navigator. The doors won't make it into production, but they wow show audiences. (Jim Motavalli photo)Meanwhile, Lincoln was flaunting it with a new and bold Navigator concept—featuring gullwing doors. I asked Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra whether those doors will be on the production version, and he slowly shook his head. But CEO Mark Fields got to conduct interviews in their sheltering embrace. Lincoln is making a big China push, he said, and opening dealerships equipped with tea rooms. American customers can get their cars picked up for servicing a la Tesla-- which, by the way, is now opening its Model 3 order books.

The Nissan GTR has a long performance history. And it looks the business, too. (Jim Motavalli photo)Galhotra, using nautical themes throughout, said the Navigator recalls “high-end sailboats and yachts.” I don’t know about that, but it will sure announce its presence on the boulevards. Did I mention that actor Matthew McConaughey was in attendance? He’s in the commercials, as you probably know unless you’ve been stuck with Matt Damon on Mars. He said he is a “former and current” Lincoln owner, and that the relationship will probably “continue for a few more years.”

The Saint's Volvo 1800S: Star's car on a pillar. (Jim Motavalli photo)Yes, ST1 is the license plate on the Saint’s Volvo 1800S, and there it was up on a high column. It’s probably the most iconic Volvo in the world, and was great to see with its twin spotlights and mag wheels. The 1800 is zooming in value, which makes me wish I’d kept my ‘67. Actually, I had two of them.

Audi's Scott Keogh with the V10-powered R8. The most rip-roaring Audi ever. (Jim Motavalli photo)And in other news... Acura unveiled a new MDX and a GT3 race-going NSX. The first NSX went for $1.2 million in a charity auction... The Abarth version of the very nice Fiat 124 Spyder, based on the Miata, was tucked in a corner. It’s an appearance package for the U.S. with no performance upgrade (though the Euro version adds 10 horsepower)….Mercedes unveiled a passel of new AMG models. A pop diva named Grace Capristo was on hand to introduce them. By year’s end, there will be 48 AMG variants.

The Porsche 911R: Zero to 60 before you left. You'll leave your wallet behind, too. (Jim Motavalli photo)Audi’s V10-powered R8 reaches dealers next month. It’s the most powerful production car Audi ever built. Audi R and RS sales have doubled in the past five years. U.S. CEO Scott Keogh says Audi will have 12 new models over the next three years. The company claims it will be selling 25 percent electrified models by 2026. Did you know Audi arrived in America in 1969, the year of the moon landing?...Porsche’s 911R will rocket to 60 in 3.7 seconds…The new Boxsters aren’t quite that fast, but won’t dig as deep into your wallet…Kia refreshed the Cadenza, with a trendy deep-dished front grille. I predict they’ll sell ‘em like hotcakes...The New York International Auto Show opens to the public March 25 and runs through April 3.

Here's the Toyota Prius Prime on video:


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