Power, Performance and Luxe Saloons Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple

NYIASAnother auto show season is almost in the bag. The final stop on this annual mechanical mystery tour, the 2015 New York International Auto Show, draws to a close this coming weekend.

However, the media preview days, the two days that that journos get an up-close-and-personal glimpse at all of the new toys without having to rub elbows with the riff-raff, ended last week. All that’s left is for people like me to wax poetic about all of the new cars, trucks and SUVs about to take over our roadways.

NYIAS is typically an easy to cover two-day affair. However, this year the festivities were extended to five days; somewhat needlessly if you ask me. As always, there were plenty of significant debuts, both global and for North America, as well as some not-so significant ones. What differentiated this year from others was that there didn’t seem to be one over-riding theme to the unveilings. Instead, they seemed to be a mixed bag, ranging from ultra-luxury saloon to slick sports cars to the pretty spiffy daily drivers.

Fabulous Four-Doors

With the U.S. car market enjoying a 13th straight month of growth, analysts are predicting annual sales will topple 17 million in 2015. In addition, the average transaction price per vehicle rose to $32,200, up from 2014.

When the good times are rolling, expensive, luxurious cars are in vogue and nowhere more so than the Big Apple, a place where luxury offerings for the rich and shameless have traditionally taken center stage. That didn’t change this year as new SUVs from Land Rover, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz, as well as Haute saloons from Cadillac, Jaguar, and Lincoln were all took center stage.

Many of these sumptuous rides were specifically designed with both the American and Chinese markets in mind. China’s growing thirst for luxury cars has offered automakers the opportunity to boost their sales and expand their portfolios tremendously.

Lincoln’s Continental Concept was one of the most notable of these hot to trot, high-priced intros. The big beautiful beast – long, low, and wide with an opulent, spacious interior — wowed the crowds early on, especially its front grille that proudly wears a Lincoln cross that lights up when the car is turned on. It’s officially just a concept car, but close to the production model that will hit the streets next year.

There was some drama after the unveiling, though, regarding the Continental’s unmistakable resemblance to Bentley’s Flying Spur. Bentley’s chief designer started a war of words on Facebook, saying the Continental was simply a rip-off and a joke. Lincoln did not respond in kind.

Cadillac’s all-new big sedan, the CT6, also made a big splash in the city that never sleeps. Like Lincoln’s Continental, the new CT6 is intended to serve as a halo car for the Cadillac brand. But unlike the Lincoln, which is designed for quiet, cosseted cruising, the CT-6 will have a much sportier intent with the power and agility of a top sports sedan, putting Cadillac’s European rivals on notice that it is gunning for them.

And while some experts complained that the new Jaguar XF looked way too much like the outgoing model, we felt that it has significantly more road presence. However, we agree; the real news went on underneath the skin. The all-new XF is brimming with advanced technologies that were sorely missed in its predecessor, including a new 10.2 inch touch-screen infotainment system that boasts impressive connectivity and personalization capabilities. Plus, the all-aluminum chassis shaved off more than a couple hundred pounds, making the car more agile and efficient than the vehicle it replaces.

Sporty Without Breaking the Bank

Performance automobiles have captured the spotlight all year. And even though Geneva showcased more powerful, agile machines than New York, the city that never sleeps had a better mix of down to Earth and rarified models. So while Aston-Martin, McLaren and Mercedes all had announcements surrounding their rarified supercar offerings, Ford, Honda and Subaru upped the ante in their respective segments. Possibly the most notable, more attainable sports cars, shown in NYC was the Porsche Boxster Spyder.

Simply put: It’s a purists dream. The lightest, most powerful and, thus, fastest Boxster ever built. Designed for the driving purist, this slick drop-top isn’t weighed down with luxury niceties like air conditioning or a radio, nor does it have heavy motors that raise and lower the top automatically – that would be too civilized. And it’s only offered with manual six-speed. But the Spyder can reportedly blast from zero-to-60 mph in 3.8 seconds on up to  a top speed is 180 miles per hour.

Honda stole everyone’s thunder by pulling the wraps off the all-new 2016 Civic. One of the more comprehensive redesigns we’ve seen from Honda in years, this Civic is anything but mundane. In fact, it’s downright radical, exuding an aggressiveness not seen in a Honda for a long time. The base model will get a new 2.0-liter four-banger while higher trims will get an all-new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 206 horsepower and 192 foot-pounds of torque. There will also be a Type R in the mix that boasts at least 300 horsepower and lots of performance bits and pieces.

Can I Help You Drive?

And finally, there was the further democratization of sophisticated safety features, advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), previously found on larger, more expensive vehicles.

General Motors outfitted its entry-level Spark with blind spot alert, lane-departure warning and forward collision alert. The active safety features help drivers avoid collisions through camera-based technology, providing alerts to possible collision threats.

The leader is ADAS technologies couldn’t be outdone. The 2016 Smart Fortwo hatchback includes antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and Crosswind Assist, which slows the car when it threatens to drift off track. Forward collision warning also is available.

And finally, the lowly 2016 Scion iA sedan gets a laser-based collision avoidance system to help minimize damage in the event of a crash. A rearview camera is also standard.

When all is said and done, the 2015 NYIAS offered a mixed bag of vehicles. Significant debuts ran the gamut from economy cars to luxe sedans to fast and furious sports cars. It seems intense global competition inspired automakers to put their best foot forward. We hope they keep it up.

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