By Marc Lachapelle
New York is a city of extremes and its auto show this year is a feast of sharp contrast when rounding up new production iron. While struggling US automakers Chrysler and GM presented a mere couple of new models amidst discussions of restructuring plans, European rivals were rolling out new 500 horsepower-plus sport-luxury SUVs alongside eco-friendly diesels and hybrids. And in the Japanese and Korean camps, shiny new metal ranged from stylish to sensible and frugal to fast.
Arguably the star of this year’s New York auto show for its rakish, edgy styling, the Acura ZDX concept is likely a thinly-disguised version of the production model that Honda’s luxury brand will soon be building in its Alliston, Ontario plant. The ZDX, built on the same ‘flexible’ architecture as the MDX, is smaller and sleeker than expected.
BMW rolled out the X6 M and X5 M, performance versions of its two mid-size utility offerings. Both models are powered by a 555-horsepower, twin-turbocharged iterations of the 4.4-litre V8 and become the first all-wheel drive models created by the Motorsport division.
Arch-rival Mercedes-Benz is aiming at entirely different targets with the models it unveiled in their world premiere. While the E 63 AMG sedan is the unapologetic performance king of the revamped E-Class with its 518-hp, 6.3 litre V8, the all-new E-Class Coupé is all about style, its sleek lines good for a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.24 that makes it the most aerodynamic production car of the moment. On the green side, the E 250 Vision Bluetec concept sedan is powered by a four-cylinder diesel engine with exceptional 5.3 L/100 km fuel economy and the new ML 450 Hybrid production SUV has 335 horsepower with 60 per cent lower emissions and fuel consumption.
There is plenty of muscle under the hoods of the three 2010 Land Rover models unveiled in New York. The Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and LR4 models are all available with a brand-new Jaguar-Land Rover-developed 5.0-litre V8 that develops 375 horsepower in naturally-aspirated form, with a 510-horsepower supercharged version optional on both Range Rover models.
Jeep, the other legendary off-road brand, introduced the fully-redesigned, third-generation 2011 Grand Cherokee. Built on a version of the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class platform, it will be offered with the choice of Chrysler’s brand-new 3.6-litre, 280-hp ‘Phoenix’ V6 or the strong-but-thirsty 5.7-litre, 360-hp Magnum V8. Also available; a Quadra Lift air suspension that raise this Jeep by 11.4 cm, for a total ground clearance of 28.1 cm.
General Motors rolled out the GMC Terrain, a mid-size SUV-crossover with a choice hi-tech, direct-injection engines: a 3.0-llitre, double overhead cam V6 that produces 264 hp and a 2.4-litre, 182-hp inline four. Both promise a range of more than 800 kilometres and will be built at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario.
One of the most interesting, attractive and promising cars of the NY show was a European version of the Ford Fiesta that was made available to journalists for short drives outside of the Jacob Javits Center. The Fiesta is scheduled to make its North American début as a 2011 model.
Just as sleek and promisingly light on its feet is the 2010 Kia Forte Koup, introduced in New York on the heels of the new Forte sedan. The Koup is powered by a 2.0-litre, 156-horsepower and will be launched on the Canadian market next summer.
If you are looking for even more muscle in your compact, Mazda has the all-new, second-generation Mazdaspeed3 at the ready. The four-door hatchback is powered by a 2.3-litre, turbocharged, direct injection four-cylinder that delivers 263 hp at 5,500 rpm and a stout 280 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s GTI, the icon and pioneer of all sport compacts, is also getting a revamp for 2010 as the Golf enters its sixth generation and loses the name Rabbit, once and for all, hopefully. Also introduced in New York, the Golf TDI is the ultra-frugal yin to the GTI’s performance-focused yang in the VW line-up with city/highway fuel economy ratings of 6.8 and 4.8 L/100 km.
In the eyes of enthusiasts, one of the most desirable production cars to début in New York is the 2010 Porsche GT3, powered by a naturally-aspirated, 429-horsepower, 3.8-litre ‘flat six’. The new GT3 has racing-style center-lock rims, a full-size rear wing and a system that lifts the car by 3 cm to clear driveway entrances.
In the midst of numerous niche-dwelling models, Subaru had the world premiere of its fully-redesigned Legacy sedan and Outback all-purpose vehicle, both built off an all-new platform. Aimed more sharply than ever at the heart and core of the market, the Legacy rides on a 7.6 cm-longer wheelbase and is 9 cm wider and yet only 3.5 cm longer overall. It offers a welcome 10 cm of extra rear legroom and its trunk is 30 per cent bigger.
The Outback has grown in about the same measure, spacewise, and its ground clearance is now a sizable 22 cm. Both models can be ordered with a 2.5-litre, 170-hp base engine or the newly-available 3.6-litre, 256-hp powerplant, both horizontally-opposed cylinder or ‘boxer’ type units. The former is available with a 6-spped manual gearbox or Subaru’s new continuously-variable Lineartronic transmission (CVT) and the latter with a conventional 5-speed auto box.