New York, New York… Autos Galore And More

Photo credit: New York International Auto Show

[Photo credit: New York International Auto Show]

by Allan Brewer

The New York International Auto Show has always been a special event for the Big Apple and the huge crowds it attracts draw the interest of domestic and foreign automakers looking to impress the public with their automotive hardware. Though it’s not as large or as old as the show in Chicago, and without the glam, glitter and bombast of Geneva, NYIAS always manages to create plenty of excitement with its world-premiere introductions, innovative fan activities and automotive panel discussions.

The Jacob Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side hosted the media on April 12-14th for a couple of days of tire-kicking and questions prior to the official public opening of the NYIAS on Friday, April 14th. As expected there were some models that figure to set a new standard for automotive performance and safety, and others that … well, for lack of a better word, are headed toward more conventional operation.

Summertime car-movie superhero Vin Diesel made a “Fast and Furious” appearance to bestow some additional muscle to Dodge’s new Challenger “Demon” model. With 840 horsepower and cranking out 770 foot-pounds of torque, the most of any production V-8 ever produced in America, the car has but a single seat unless you order the optional passenger and rear seats. Dodge boasts a 2.3 second zero-to-sixty measurement—all fine and dandy if you have a prodigious tire budget to match your spend-thrift right foot. The car is so precocious that the National Hot Rod Association has already decided the “Fate of the Furious”—it has banned the car from competition in NHRA-sanctioned events (unless you have a competition license from the NHRA and stuff a roll cage into the cabin).

One of the highlights of the NYIAS for the automotive-writing press is the “World Car Awards” presentation. The distinction often goes to the usual suspects, but advancement in technology inside the cabin was the deciding factor in a nod toward several newcomers over the old guard. The Jaguar F-class deservedly won the best design and best car awards—a double-win for the British marque. The Toyota Prius Prime turned heads with its innovative battery technology, and the BMW i3 took honors for best electric vehicle.

On the flip side of enabling technology, a certain mini-van whose name will go unmentioned probably set a new low for family values with the introduction of a PA system in the cabin front and rear that overrides the commonplace audio outlet jacks the kiddies are listening to, putting mom’s (or dad’s) voice into their sensitive little ears airline-cabin “This is your Captain speaking” style. As I said, I won’t give names but suffice to say the offspring are in for a ride redolent of “a Greek myth involving a long, long journey home.”

Honda Civic Type R is the fastest Honda ever to come to the American roads. A two-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine powers this Ninja-warrior: 306 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque are mated to a slick aero-deflating body with rear wing, an adaptive steering system, Brembo brakes, a helical limited-slip differential, and as much macho as a family man might care to put on public display to the neighbors. The car comes with a single transmission option: manual with an auto-matching engine-revolution system that simplifies down-shifting for the novices among you who never learned to drive a stick.

A 2.5 liter turbocharged I5 engine makes 400 hp in the new-to-America Audi RS3 sedan that made its debut at the NYIAS on Wednesday. The RS3 looks the part of a sibling to the Audi TT on the inside with ample leather, aluminum and panache to give its driver a true James Bond behind the wheel aura. The engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch “S-Tronic” gearbox and in true Quattro form it powers all four wheels when conditions require.

An interesting demographic fact concerning the NYIAS: the number of women who will attend the show this year is predicted to slightly exceed the men who will pass through the turnstiles. It is the women who drive the mania for big sport-utility vehicles with their high center of gravity and driver’s perch, and makers have responded in kind. As such, the largest demo area of the show is courtesy of Jeep: an outdoor Disney World style landscape of steep ramps, strewn boulders and rollover-ready inclines about which show-goers can punish themselves by bouncing and careening like ten-pins on a greased bowling lane while confined within some Fiat/Chrysler tin.

The car show hasn’t forgotten the suburban housewife who yearns for some high-horse powered excitement either. On display at the AMG booth was a magnificent suburban soccer-mom bombshell: the AMG E-Class E63 S station wagon fitted with four exhaust outlets on the rear and a huge air scoop on each side of the Tri-Star emblem that graces the front grill. If your wife has suffered anxiety at the stoplight when a young thing in a Volvo Turbo station wagon has glanced over and gunned the engine with a sly “better than yours” look, this is the car for your besmirched better half. Its twin-turbo V8 produces six hundred and three horsepower, 627 pound-feet of torque, and matched up with a nine-speed automatic transmission the behemoth charges like a roaring bull to sixty mph in 3.4 seconds. That’s enough to dust that Volvo wagon even on a bad day, and Porsche 911 and Corvette ZO6’s the rest of the time.

The New York International Auto Show runs through Sunday, April 23rd at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, on Manhattan’s west side just a few steps from the new Hudson Yards subway station at the terminus of the 7 line.

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