2001 New York Auto Show Highlights
Imports dominated the new models unveiled at this year's show in the Big Apple.
DaimlerChrysler hit the Big Apple with the latest rendition of the Chrysler PT Cruiser—a convertible. As with the previous PT Cruiser concepts such as the Panel Cruiser and GT Cruiser, the convertible concept is a "styling study." As Trevor Creed, senior vice president of product design, put it, "Once again, we want to demonstrate the tremendous potential of PT Cruiser. Lower, sleeker with even more attitude, the PT Cruiser Convertible styling study is the latest example of the sort of fun we can have with PT Cruiser."
Ever since General Motors Corp. gained exclusive ownership of the Hummer brand name in 1999, the automaker has been working on a smaller H2 Hummer. To properly debut the H2 SUT (sport-utility truck) concept, Ron Zarrella, president of GM North America, teamed up with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Rudolf Giuliani for a cruise down Broadway. Flanked by two jet-black Hummer H1s (the original regular-production Hummer), Schwarzenegger piloted the new H2 around Manhattan to the delight of onlookers.
A bit more elegant than Hummer is Lincoln's MK9 coupe. The sleek MK9 is reminiscent of the big Lincolns sold in the 1960s. Glossy black with chrome accents, the coupe features a signature Lincoln grille with twin xenon headlights. Twin dual exhaust outlets and red LED taillights highlight the rear of the coupe, with massive 10-spoke 22-inch wheels rounding out the design. Meant to represent a statement of "American Luxury," Lincoln design director Gerry McGovern said that the MK9 shows the direction that Ford's luxury brand will be heading in the next several years, both in production models and concepts.
Suzuki took a different tack when it showed what it calls the SX, or "Sport Crossover" concept. With a supercharged 220-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, the SX, according to the manufacturer, was built for two things: "hauling down the road and hauling the gear of an adventure-seeking weekend warrior." The SX features an aggressive-looking exterior with large wheel flares, 17-inch alloys with low-profile tires and integrated bumpers. Inside, the sport seats are the same bright yellow color as the exterior. All instruments are digital, and a video screen incorporated into the dash serves as a navigation system, television or DVD player.
Nissan debuted the Chappo concept, billed as a "virtual living room on wheels." Designers at the Japan-based automaker had a singular focus when penning the Chappo—create a vehicle that encourages socializing. The exterior is rather boxy, but interior seating can be manipulated to form an L-shape configuration. A retractable dashboard and swiveling driver's seat contribute to the roomy atmosphere, while a 15-inch monitor offering DVD, video games and Internet access provides entertainment. These vehicles are not available for purchase just yet, so here are some choices that may not be as sexy, but do go on sale soon.
Acura and Honda Get Sporty
Integra has been the entry point into the Acura lineup ever since Honda launched its premium brand in 1986, and the sporty coupe has been the best-selling Acura ever since. In New York Acura unveiled the successor to the Integra—the RSX. This flashy new coupe, which goes on sale in July, is virtually the same as the RS-X concept first shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last January.
Two new high-tech engines are available. The standard RSX gets a 160-horsepower VTEC DOHC 4-cylinder engine, while the Type-S gets a high-performance version of the same engine with power increased to 200 horses. A 5-speed manual or 5-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission is available on the standard RSX. The Type-S comes with a close-ratio 6-speed manual. RSX is expected to be priced between $20,000 and $25,000.
The Honda brand also gets a sporty new model, the Civic Si. The Si trim of the Civic was discontinued when the model line was redesigned in 1999. The Si being shown is considered a prototype, but Tom Elliot, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., said the Si would return in 2002. The Si sports a 160-horsepower VTEC engine teamed with a rally-style 5-speed manual transmission.
Audi and Subaru Head-to-Head?
Audi showed its latest-generation A4 to a North American audience for the first time in New York. The Audi A4 was originally introduced to the North American market in 1995, and it has since been the German automaker's top seller in this market ever since. The all-new A4 features fresh exterior styling and interior upgrades. A4 also sports a new four-link front suspension, a fully independent rear suspension, and a body that is 45 percent stiffer than that of its predecessor.
In addition to the 1.8-liter turbocharged engine, the A4 boasts an available all-new 3.0-liter V6 engine producing 220 horsepower, teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission. While most A4s are sold with Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system, front-wheel-drive models will be available for the first time, with a Multitronic continuously variable transmission.
Audi also announced that General Motors' OnStar advanced communications system will be incorporated into the automaker's lineup, beginning with the new A4.
Attempting to stake a claim in Audi territory is another automaker with a legendary all-wheel-drive system. Subaru unveiled the latest in the Outback lineup, the H6-3.0 VDC sedan. Arriving in summer, the Outback VDC sedan has Subaru's Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) all-wheel-drive system combined with a Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) stability system and all-wheel traction control. Power comes from Subaru's horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine, producing 212 horsepower.
The Go-Anywhere SUVs
If you don't want to wait for the Hummer H2, perhaps a G500 will suffice. Mercedes-Benz announced it would begin importing the rugged SUV that's sold in Europe as the Gelaendewagen. About four inches longer than the M-Class, the G-Class is described by the automaker as a "no-compromise off-roader with a cliff-climbing stump-pulling personality." The G-Class can climb an 80 percent grade, and does it in style. Features include leather and burl walnut trim, heated front and rear seats, and automatic climate control. Mercedes expects to sell about 2000 G500s in the U.S. next year at a price of $72,500.
If the Mercedes G500 is out of your price range, perhaps a Land Rover Discovery Series II Kalahari will fit the bill. The Discovery is the first in a series of special Kalahari Land Rovers with heavy-duty off-road components and a rugged exterior look. Only 150 Kalahari Discoverys will be produced for the 2002 model year, with a sticker price around $40,000.
All-New Altima From Nissan
The first thing noticeable about Nissan's all-new Altima is its size. Wheelbase is increased by more than seven inches, with overall length now extending past the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Styling is much more upscale than the 2001 model, featuring a new grille with a large Nissan badge, integrated fog lights, and available xenon headlights on the V6 model. Rear taillights feature clear lenses, and the dual exhaust outlets are integrated into the rear bumper. The Altima is also 170 percent stiffer than its predecessor, providing better handling and quieter operation.
Two new engines are available for the Altima. The standard unit is a new 2.5-liter four cylinder producing 180 horsepower—an increase of 25 horses over the 2001 powerplant. If that's not enough grunt, Altima now offers a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 240 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard with either engine.
The new 3.5-liter V6 engine has found its way to the Infiniti division of Nissan as well. Renamed to match its new engine, the 2002 Infiniti I35 features a number of revisions and upgrades for the new model year, although the most notable change is the engine. Making 260 horsepower in the I35, the 3.5-liter V6 provides a boost of 33 horses over the 3.0-liter V6 found in the 2001 I30.
Mitsubishi Debuts Lancer
Mitsubishi's new Lancer made its worldwide debut in New York. Replacing the current Mirage, Lancer takes its name from the Mitsubishi World Rally Championship racing car.
"Lancer represents a big step forward for Mitsubishi Motors and will significantly increase our sales in the compact sedan segment," said Pierre Gagnon, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motor Sales America, Inc. "With great style, a long list of standard features and abundant space, the new Lancer is the perfect car for young people and new families."
The Lancer goes on sale in August, with pricing expected to range from $14,000 for the ES to under $17,000 for the O-Z Rally edition.
In addition to Lancer, Mitsubishi showed freshened versions of both the Galant and Diamante. Both models get new grille treatments for the 2002 model year.
First Trip to North America
It may seem like old news since the media has been talking about it so much, but the Jaguar X-TYPE finally made its North American debut in the Big Apple. On sale this summer, the X-TYPE will be Jaguar's most affordable model, starting at only $29,950. The first all-wheel-drive sedan ever offered by Jaguar, X-TYPE is available with either a 2.5-liter 194-horsepower V6 engine, or a 3.0-liter V6 producing 231 horsepower. Jaguar officials say this new entry-level model could double the company's worldwide sales.
In another corner of Ford's Premium Automotive Group, Aston Martin showed off its newest model to a North American audience for the first time. The V12 Vanquish will go on sale to a lucky few this fall. Powered by a 460-horsepower 6.0-liter V12 engine, the V12 Vanquish reaches 60 mph in less than five seconds on its way to a top speed of almost 200 mph. Only 300 will be built this year, so the $200,000 price tag will not be the only obstacle to obtaining one of these supercars.