2007 New York International Auto Show:

2007 Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG: New York Auto Show

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Halo Car for CLK Range is a Street-Legal Race Car
For the 2007MY, the Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG replaces the CLK 55 AMG as AMG does away with most supercharged engines in favor of naturally aspirated units. The normally aspirated 6.3L 32v V8 delivers 475HP in the CLK 63 AMG and gets a seven-speed transmission. That isn’t quite enough for some, though, especially as the same engine delivers 503HP in the R 63 AMG and ML 63 AMG. Plus, Mercedes has an F1 Safety Car derived from the CLK. Why not make one you could buy, assuming the right income level?

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Pricing for the CLK 63 AMG Black Series has not been announced, introduced at the 2007 New York auto show, but on the stand it looked terrific, and the photos don’t do justice to the impact of the front bodywork and the seriously aggressive impression the car gives in person. This vehicle will be rare, expensive, and a serious toy for the rich boy racer in you. Not only does it look great, but the details on the transformation from CLK 63 AMG to CLK 63 AMG Black Series is just as impressive.
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Painted silver instead of black, but indicated by the black 63 AMG badge, as a street-legal version of the official F1 safety car the Black Series gets design and technology from F1, as well as 500HP instead of the CLK 63 AMG’s 475HP. The extra power comes from redesigned intake and exhaust systems. The Black Series gets larger intake ducts, an AMG sport exhaust with full-length twin pipes, and a recalibrated engine control unit provides quicker throttle response.
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2008 Volvo XC70: New York Auto Show

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Volvo’s First Crossover Revived
Though the Volvo XC70 and V70 had worldwide introductions at the Geneva auto show, the 2007 New York auto show provided a venue for Volvo’s North American reveal of the XC70. As the XC70’s largest market is North America, it is no surprise the beefier model has been introduced here ahead of its tamer V70 wagon sibling. The XC70 will continue to offer only one powertrain in the States, but with the 2008 model year it gets the new 235HP 3.2L inline six mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

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On sale in October 2007, this will be the third generation of XC70. It builds on the blend of wagon and SUV that made the first two generations the niche successes they were and substantially adds to the electronic aids intended to make being on the road safer. The XC70 stays only AWD, with basics like Volvo’s Instant Traction System and Dynamic Stability and Traction Control still standard. It is the launch product for Volvo’s version of Hill Descent Control and available with the three-setting (comfort, sport, and advanced) Four C active chassis control system.
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Other electronic aids include adaptive cruise control, Blind Spot Information System, a system that delays incoming phone calls or messages if it decides a given driving situation is too complex (IDIS assesses the complexity of a given driving situation through steering, throttle, brake application), the Personal Car Communicator introduced on the S80, and advanced braking functions including hydraulic brake assist, ready alert brakes, and a system for avoiding brake fade. Collision Warning with Brake Support system will warn the driver if they are getting too close, and brakes are prepared for action to help the driver stop as fast as possible when they notice the danger ahead. This particular system has three settings available, to adjust sensitivity for a particular driver’s tendencies and usual driving conditions.
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The XC70’s passive-safety arsenal, between the standard and optional equipment lists, keeps the optional HID cornering headlights, updates child safety (including adjustable booster seats for the second row), and makes the second-generation WHIPS whiplash system and extended side curtain airbag standard.


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2008 Jeep Liberty: New York Auto Show

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And the Show Goes On…
At easily the wettest press conference yet attended by VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents, Jeep revealed their new Liberty outside the Javits Convention Center, home of the New York auto show. Not willing to cancel a press conference over something as small as a constant downpour (quite rightly thinking letting rain scare them off isn’t in good Jeep form), Chrysler’s PR staff simply made sure Frank Klegon, Chrysler Group Executive Vice President, Product Development, had an umbrella to keep the worst of the rain off during his presentation. And the vehicle showing off the new Sky Slider canvas roof still drove up with its roof open, though an umbrella could be spotted sticking out in an attempt to keep the interior a little dry.

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Rain aside, the Liberty burst out of the ground as planned. The Liberty doesn’t go on sale until late this year, about twelve months after its new-for-2007MY Dodge Nitro sibling. The Jeep Liberty gets a new look inside and out, more technology and convenience features, and takes up more space outside to provide more space inside. Liberty gains two more inches in wheelbase and overall length and is wider, to improve cargo space and make passengers more comfortable. (While this Liberty is larger than the outgoing car, the Nitro is appreciably larger than the new Liberty.)
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Liberty Returns to Square
The new Liberty also goes back to a squared-off look along the lines of old Cherokees, though it isn’t as stiff looking as the new Patriot. This is an interesting choice, given the introduction of the Compass and the company’s current traditional/modern SUV point/counterpoint showroom. Consider: Compass and Patriot, Liberty and four-door Wrangler Unlimited, Grand Cherokee and Commander. Given these almost logical pairings of modern complementing traditional Jeep styles, why did the Liberty go square again?
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Quibbles aside, the new Liberty looks good, and more important looks all Jeep. Of the four introductions over the past year, Jeep’s only misstep in the looks department is the Compass. Wrangler maintained and improved its image and capability; Patriot provides a true entry Jeep, in looks and capability; and the Liberty looks all the better for losing its softer form.
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2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR: New York Auto Show

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The King of the Road Returns
Though not actually arriving in dealers until spring 2008, Ford used the 2007 New York auto show to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500KR, which was introduced at the 1967 New York auto show. And how best to commemorate the fabled first King of the Road? Build another, of course.

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The 2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR will be the third high-performance result of the current relationship between Mustang and Shelby Automobiles, after the 2007 Shelby GT500 and the GT-H Hertz rental Mustangs, with the example on display in New York a near-production show-car version. Ford is going forward with offering a special edition each year, as 2007 saw the Shelby GT500 and 2008 will see the GT500KR and the Mustang Bullitt. This is easily the best-looking of the Mustang editions shown so far.
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Back forty years ago, the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500KR was the most powerful Mustang yet built, and the 2008 model carries the same distinction, with a 540HP 5.4L supercharged V8. Ford will only offer 1000 examples of the 2008 model, ensuring all will be accounted for before being built and making it more rare than the 1968 model, of which 1053 fastbacks and 517 convertibles were built. The 2008 example will only be offered as a coupe.
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More below the fold.


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Infiniti EX Concept: New York Auto Show

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A New Infiniti Is Just Around the Corner
Infiniti‘s EX Concept at the New York auto show previewed a vehicle you’ll find on showroom floors late this year, in plenty of time for the 2008 model year. The concept also previewed some new technology, including the next-generation of Infiniti’s Lane Departure Warning (now upgraded to Lane Departure Prevention) and a system for seeing all exterior views called Around View Monitors.

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Infiniti’s FX has found a niche in the crossover SUV world based on its highly styled, coupe profile, but the brand missed the boat on a higher-volume entry like the Lexus RX. Though they weren’t the only ones (witness the Lincoln MKX for 2007MY and the Buick Enclave for 2008MY), and this product should address the issue. Typical of most Infiniti products, the EX offers a stylish exterior and nicely designed interior. The concept highlighted a nicely executed interior design with a simply stunning level of materials that may slip a notch between now and production.
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2008 Cadillac STS: New York Auto Show

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Flagship Sedan Gets an Updated Look and New Technology
Among General Motors‘ many New York auto show introductions this month was a facelift for the top Cadillac sedan, the STS, due on sale midsummer 2007. A new face, a new engine, and new technologies highlight the Cadillac‘s changes.

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In 2003, Cadillac showed a stunning large sedan concept called the Sixteen, so named for its V16 engine, and since then there has been talk of bringing the ultrasedan to market. While never-ending rumors have not yet been enough to make it into a real product, Sixteen is claimed as inspiration for Cadillac’s latest grilles, including the 2008 STS and 2007 Escalade.
The STS face gets new stacked headlights, a new lower front fascia, and narrower side marker lamps. Cadillac was not able to resist the urge to add vents to the sides of the front fenders on the STS, this time called “side air extractors.” Changes at the sides and rear of the STS were minimal, included are chrome-plated door handles and new lower rocker moldings along the side and a body-color rear fascia and new polished, aluminum exhaust tips.
The STS’s interior was already quite a nice place to be, so interior changes for 2008MY are minor. There is a new steering wheel with Sapele Pomelle wood trim, an available heated steering wheel, and a new wood trim with metallic surrounds for the center stack.
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Appropriately, Cadillac adds new technology on its flagship sedan, though they could have introduced these systems with the all-new 2008 CTS revealed in January. The revised STS can be ordered with a lane-departure warning system as well as a blind-spot alert system. The lane-departure system uses a camera in the rearview mirror to read the lines in the road, while the blind-spot alert is a radar-based system. StabiliTrak has been updated to include active front steering (helps turn front wheels into the skid when rear wheels lose traction). A new steering motor assembly works with the computer-driven electronic controls to measure wheel slip at each wheel independently during acceleration, braking, and on low-traction road surfaces. There’s also a new performance handling package for some models, with eighteen-inch wheels and summer-only tires.
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The base STS gets more power for 2008, with GM applying direct-injection to the 3.6L DOHC 24v V6 and mating it to a six-speed automatic transmission. The change means an increase in output to 298HP. Even at 255HP, the V6 offered enough power to make the base STS a comfortable drive, so the extra power will make the base STS that much more desirable, especially as looking to direct injection and the six-speed autobox also means there will not be a fuel economy penalty for the extra power. The available options list has grown for the V6 models as well, and you will now be able to order it with IntelliBeam headlights and the head-up display.
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Concept Hyundai Genesis: New York Auto Show

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Next, Hyundai Takes on Luxury Sport Sedans
As VehicleVoice reported earlier (click here), Hyundai revealed an upcoming rear-drive sedan as the Genesis concept at the New York Auto Show, and at what must have been one of the best-attended end-of-day press conferences ever. There was surprisingly little traffic around Genesis the next day during my walkaround. It was more difficult to get post-conference photos of the Infiniti EX or Ford Flex than the Hyundai, and we see the Genesis as one of the most significant introductions at this year’s show. (Click for our posting of Hyundai’s official Genesis photos.)

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Genesis, known internally at Hyundai as “BH”, telegraphs Hyundai’s intention to seriously go after rear-drive sports sedans. The exterior design builds on styling credibility Hyundai has been developing, but the interior and the driving dynamics that will make or break this car are still under wraps. A miss on the exterior styling would keep people away, but even with strong styling the car will not make it all the way to consumer driveways if the interior is a disappointment.
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Hyundai designers have created a smooth and elegant design, but Genesis does have one risk: It could blend in with the pack. Genesis takes styling cues from luxury brands all over the world (long, thin taillights much like the Lincoln Zephyr concept, though the MKZ production lights are taller; decklid bump from BMW; narrow headlights similar to Acura; lower LED fog lights along the lines of the Audi S6) and shown off on a silver car, created a credible look for their upcoming sports sedan. The wheels are sharp, as is the subtle character line running from front fender, over the door handles, and into the taillights. Though the grille is among the elements that may be revised before production, it is clearly a Hyundai grille and shares some relationship to the Azera.
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Hyundai gave no hints as to the interior, but the exterior design is ready to play. There’s a fine, fine line between hitting the mark and going too far. Genesis won’t be accused of moving the needle and does not offer new design elements. But Hyundai is working its way into relatively conservative segments, and Genesis takes the safe route. Luxury sedan buyers look for elegance, simplicity, and style and don’t seem to adapt quickly to dramatic style shifts; witness the brouhaha that surrounded the latest 7-Series introduction. Hyundai is wise to start off with something elegant but that does not push the envelope just yet.


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2008 Hummer H3 Alpha: New York Auto Show

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Hummer Brings its Second Alpha Product
Back in 2005, Hummer introduced a new performance label for the range, Alpha. The first was a short-lived H1 Alpha that boasted a 6.6L Duramax diesel, available only for the 2006 model year. In 2007, we see the second Alpha product, in the form of a much-needed V8 for the H3. Hummer introduced the Alpha H3 along with updates to the H2 and H2 SUT at the 2007 New York auto show, with sales set for summer 2007.

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The H3 launched with only the 220HP in-line five-cylinder from the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, an engine American buyers don’t really understand, and more power had been in the works since launch. Enter H3 Alpha.
The H3 Alpha gets a 295HP 5.3L OHV 16v V8 (from the Chevy Silverado) under the hood. Bundled with the Alpha package is the Chrome Appearance package, the Luxury equipment package, a 4.10 rear axle ratio, and Alpha insignia on the tailgate, horn pad, and embroidered into the front headrests. A real in-your-face look can be created by adding the H3 X package, which adds bright roof crossbows, chrome fuel door, body-color grille, and specific spare tire cover, tires, wheels, and brush guard.
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Along with the H3 Alpha, Hummer announced a few minor changes the full H3 2008 range. The previously optional head curtain side air bags become standard and the Rear Vision system introduced on the H2 and a navigation system join the H3’s options list. New standard safety equipment includes StabiliTrak and four-wheel antilock brakes with traction control.
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2008 Subaru Tribeca: New York Auto Show

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Facelift Brings Toned-Down Look and Tweaked Name
Introduced at the 2007 New York International Auto Show and due on sale in summer 2007 is an important facelift for Subaru‘s top-of-the-line crossover SUV. At the same time, Subaru is wisely dropping the “B9” portion of its name, choosing to simplify life by just calling the model the Tribeca.
EDITOR’s Note: Apparently Subaru couldn’t take the heat from flacks referring to the vehicle as the “benign Tribeca”. Some wags, referring to its unfortunate nose styling referred to the Tribeca as the “malignant Tribeca”. Those of us here at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice had divided opinions on the styling of the Tribeca’s nose. Some liked it others thought it abhorrent. I was on the side of liking it. It showed Subaru was brave enough to take a chance with distinctive style.

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The exterior changes dramatically quiet the Tribeca’s previously expressive styling, for better or worse. Subaru may find themselves in a situation where changes intended to help improve sales and make the product more palatable to more people have taken out too much of the Subaru personality. Though the B9 Tribeca was polarizing in its first couple of years on market, and sales have yet to meet the initial internal targets, it had Subaru character. Subaru goes into the 2008 model year with a freshened lineup including a facelifted Outback/Legacy (of which we brought you news from the Detroit show in January), new Impreza, and facelifted Tribeca. All carry more subtle looks than prior versions, and the Subaru badge is about the only common element among them.
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2008 Subaru Impreza: New York Auto Show

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New Chassis and New Look Means a Quieter Impreza, Inside and Out
Subaru was busy at this year’s New York International Auto Show, delivering both a new Impreza and an updated look for their Tribeca crossover SUV. The new Impreza will go on sale in fall 2007, continuing with a five-door and a four-door and, of course, the highly coveted WRX model. We’ll have to wait until next year to get hold of the coveted STi.

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Subaru revealed a more conservatively styled Impreza in New York, as they also did with the updated Tribeca. Impreza, particularly disappointing for the WRX models, lost much of its front-end character, gained side surfacing reminiscent of BMW, and the five-door traded in its Subaru edges for a more rounded form. The new look takes as much adjusting to as the 2006 model year facelift did when it brought us the wing-form grille from the Tribeca, but this time it makes you miss the Subaru feel.
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By time the Impreza goes on sale in fall, buyers may well be used to the new face and less disappointed. If the new look brings in new buyers without losing the old, the change could be worth suffering initial criticism. In New York, Subaru had the sedan in WRX trim and the five-door in 2.5i trim on display, and both models looked better in person than in photographs. While the new five-door isn’t as quirky as the outgoing car, it is also less clumsy. Its shape is more elegant, though it doesn’t look like a Subaru from the rear.
EDITOR’s Note: Subaru aficionados appear to be initially turned off by the look of the new Impreza. Chat rooms are full of negative buzz about the styling. Maybe the performance will offset some of the criticism.
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Here in the States, Subaru will continue to offer four- and five-door bodystyles for 2008MY (in 2.5i and WRX form), but the four-door sedan will be available only here. All-wheel drive continues as standard equipment for the States, with Subaru’s Vehicle Dynamics Control optional on Impreza for the first time. The airbag system has been updated to deploy driver and front passenger airbags in stages depending on passenger sensors. The driver’s seat has a sensor in the seat track to allow deployment based on seating position, while the front passenger’s side senses the weight of the passenger. Side-impact airbags are standard as well.
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