New York Auto Show:

New York Auto Show – A3 and Cherokee Most Important

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The 2013 New York International Auto Show was full of important reveals this year… renewed crossovers –  Toyota Highlander, Acura MDX, an all new Range Rover Sport, the new BMW 335GT, freshened Dodge Durango, the all new Cadillac CTS and many more.  The most important, however, were the Audi A3 and the Jeep Cherokee.  Why?  Both vehicles are very important to their brands and have the potential to generate substantial sales.

Audi Takes the Safe Route with A3: The 2015 Audi A3 really was not at the New York Auto Show.  The A3 will be officially introduced at the Shanghai Auto Show in late April 2013, but there was a reveal for about 120 journalists the evening before the first press day.  It will be launched in the USA in early 2014.

The smaller Audi A3 has anchored the Audi lineup with a five-door hatchback (“Sportback”) that never had much sales potential in the USA.  American buyers continue to perceive liftback cars as cheaper, flimsier and less desirable.  In Europe, the five-door is the preferred bodystyle primarily because European car-owners do not have the American-style family fleets where there is a vehicle for every purpose. For a one vehicle family,  the hatchback can carry out a multitude of duties.

Recognizing that to really succeed in the USA market, the 2014 Audi A3 becomes a much more traditional three-box four-door sedan.   This gives Audi an opportunity to really step up sales in the face of the upcoming front wheel drive Mercedes-Benz CLA and the already-on-the-market BMW 1-Series.  Audi did not stray from its own winning formula.  Audi DNA is present in the exterior styling and the interior with an A8-like sweep at the front of the instrument panel.  Very nicely done, but not one obvious risk.

The A3 comes with four 4-cylinder engine choices – 170HP 1.8L turbo, 2.0L turbo (we’re guessing at about 230HP), 150HP 2.0L turbo diesel and high output 2.0L turbo (we’re guessing at about 275HP).  The high output goes in the S3 model.  The Sportback will return in the 2014 calendar year with e-tron plug-in hybrid technology.

The A3 will not be a Spartan A-Segment car.  Audi is positioning it as a fully-featured Audi – just smaller.  It will offer Audi’s MMI system, 4G LTE connectivity and even Audi’s Bang & Olufsen audio system.

One key takeaway from the A3 reveal is that the car is the same size as 1994 model year A4.  A very successful car with solid sales results, the A4 was key in establishing Audi as a very desirable premium brand in the USA.

Something tells us that the A3 will not be an inexpensive car with its impressive standard equipment load (leather seating, bluetooth, rain sensing wipers and panoramic moon roof standard).  With the slightly larger Mercedes CLA announced at a sub-$30,000 price we are wondering where the new A3 will be positioned?

Jeep Cherokee Returns While the Audi A3 is a low risk opportunity for volume growth, Jeep’s new Cherokee is at the polar opposite on the risk scale.  Jeep describes the Cherokee’s styling as “polarizing” and it certainly is.  Mike Manley, President of Jeep cautioned journalists in a December briefing before the Detroit Auto Show that “you might not understand” the vehicle.  This was somewhat reminiscent of Wayne Cherry’s (head of GM styling in the late ’90s) statement that “you are too old to understand the (Pontiac) Aztek.  In Manley’s defense, he describes the styling direction for the Cherokee as “something that will be fresh in 2019”.  So Jeep has not taken this path lightly.  It is a calculated step.

What is so polarizing about the Cherokee?  First, it takes the name of one of the most successful SUVs ever produced.  The 1980s Cherokee was the first high volume SUV to add a 4-door bodystyle to the lineup and soon proved that 4-doors, not 2-doors, were the way to go.  The Cherokee had the seven vertical slot grill that is part of Jeep’s DNA, but it had rectangular headlamps that, while modern for the time, broke away from the traditional round headlamps Jeep used.

While the new Cherokee is relatively conventional from the A-Pillar rearward, its front end design is the most surprising and, yes, controversial.  Instead of round headlamps, the Cherokee has horizontal units styled into the front fascia and fenders.  Cherokee still has the seven vertical slots in the front fascia – part of Jeep DNA since the beginning – but they now are bent in the center giving the vehicle a more aerodynamic appearance.  The story of the capability of the vehicle is being lost in the commentary about its front end styling.

Under the skin, the Cherokee uses the same Alfa/Fiat platform used by the new Dodge Dart.  It has a 9-speed automatic transmission and three advanced 4×4 systems.  The Trailhawk model is fully “Trail Rated”. Think of Trailhawk as the Cherokee Rubicon.  Powered by a 184HP 2.4L Multi-Air TigerShark 4-cylinder engine, Jeep claims a cruising range of up to 490 miles and highway fuel economy of 31mpg.  The optional 3.2L Pentastar V6 gets 271HP.

Cherokee has a full array of Chrysler’s latest features available from its UConnect information system with an 8.4-inch center screen and programmable instrument cluster, new steering wheel controls, parking assist systems, blind spot monitoring, cross path detection and adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability. These features are becoming the price of entry in mid-size vehicles and even some smaller entries.

When Bob Lutz was a Chrysler he once said (of the early 2000’s Peterbilt style Ram pickup), “I don’t care if people love it or hate it as long as 15% of them love it enough to buy it”.  That may be the case with the new Cherokee.  A Polarizing design will certainly get people talking and writers writing.  So far, it seems that the negatives are outweighing the positives on the Cherokee.  It won’t take long to tell if the vehicle is a sales success.  It begins production in April 2013.


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New York Auto Show 2008 – 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

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A New Coupe, A Year Away
Hyundai spent their New York auto show time introducing their new rear-drive sporty coupe, the Genesis Coupe. Related to the Genesis sedan on sale this summer, the coupe arrives in spring 2009.

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Genesis sits on Hyundai’s first in-house rear-drive car platform. The stylish coupe tames down its looks from the concept introduced in Los Angeles in November 2007, but mostly in losing hood scoops and refining lights, front grille, and spoiler shapes. What Hyundai held back for introduction was that the powertrain lineup includes a turbocharged and intercooled 212HP 2.0L I4 as the base engine. The 3.8L V6 arrives as expected, but most figured the second powertrain would be the sedan’s V8.
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New York Auto Show 2008 – 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe

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It’s All About the Look
Pontiac introduced a hardtop version of the extroverted Solstice at this year’s New York auto show, along with the G8 GXP and G8 ST. As cool as it looks, don’t rush to the dealer. Your Solstice coupe won’t be there until early 2009.

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The Solstice coupe looks great. With the same engines and suspension setup as the roadster, you can bet it’ll be just as fun on the road. But Pontiac built in compromises with a lift-off roof panel, liftglass (versus tailgate), and useless but nicely styled rear quarter windows. Yes, small coupes always offer less interior and cargo space and poor visibility compared with sedans and SUVs. Small, sporty coupes (or convertibles) are always compromised. But the compromises don’t need to be this obvious.
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New York Auto Show 2008 – A Pair from Kia

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Kia‘s New York auto show stage held both concept and production surprises. We believe that the KOUP concept, though too cutely named, hints at the next-generation Spectra. Kia described the KOUP as “closer to production than you might think,” strongly hinting Kia may add the coupe itself. The production surprise was the facelifted 2009 Optima. This new look takes Optima a step forward.

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Kia KOUP: Is there a pocket rocket in Kia’s future?

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2009 Kia Optima gets a fresh look


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New York Auto Show 2008 – MINI JCW Brings History Up to Date

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The next time someone calls my Cooper S “cute” I think I’ll commit a felony. While I understand the sentiment, it misses most of what a MINI is.
At the New York Auto Show Jim McDowell, Vice President – Marketing, MINI USA introduced the John Cooper Works MINI to North America with a reminder that MINI has racing in it’s blood, including Monte Carlo Rally wins in 1964, 1965, 1967. John Cooper has been synonymous with the high-performance MINIs for forty years. Earlier this year, MINI acquired John Cooper Works JCW as a sub brand of MINI.


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New York Auto Show 2008: 2009 Infiniti FX

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Coupe SUV Refined
The next new Infiniti arrives in June 2008, in the form of an updated FX, and facing new competition from the only other coupe-SUV in the BMW X6. The new FX offers more power from a refined 302HP 3.5L V6 or an all-new 390HP 5.0L V8, with all-wheel drive still optional. There is a new standard seven-speed automatic transmission, new electronic aids for crash avoidance and easier city driving, and even self-healing paint. Infiniti gave the FX a worldwide introduction at the Geneva motor show, launching the brand in Europe at the same time, the U.S. introduction is at the 2008 New York Auto Show.

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2009 Infiniti FX35

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2009 Infiniti FX50

The FX keeps its unique overall shape, with short overhangs and coupe-style roofline, but a slightly longer wheelbase makes for a longer hood and better-proportioned stance. Everything about the FX has been tucked and reshaped. The reshaped integrated rear spoiler and tailgate surround are bodycolor, though the tailgate opening looks as though it is smaller this time. There are still dual exhaust pipes, but the shape of the lower rear fascia is smoother. The new LED taillights carry a more distinct, decorative shape than the prior car.
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2009 Infiniti FX50


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2009 Volvo XC60: First Official Pictures

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Formal Worldwide Reveal Set for Geneva Auto Show
Volvo is among several luxury makes adding smaller and smaller crossover SUVs over the coming years, as consumers get more concerned about fuel economy and worldwide regulations get tighter. Whether the European CO2-emissions regulations or U.S. CAFÉ standards, the combination of buyer sensitivity and governmental interference means smaller, more efficient, and lighter vehicles are on the horizon.

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The XC60 goes on sale in the States in early 2009, and will be offered with only one powertrain. This single powertrain, a 285HP six-cylinder, should provide a nice combination between get-up-and-go and efficiency. Judging by these photos, I’m looking forward to seeing the XC60 on the road and getting my chance behind the wheel. Smaller and better-looking than the aging XC90, its size is better suited to my own life. U.S. buyers get their first look in March at the New York auto show.
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There are buyers for whom small but Spartan will not be acceptable, and they are being targeted with vehicles like the XC60. Small, nimble, but still practical in both cargo and their cost-per-mile. Volvo looks to sell 50,000 XC60s around the world, with the United States one of the top five markets. These entries are not poised to take the lion’s share of SUV sales, but they will be important for the bottom line, for meeting regulations, and for keeping market share.
Enough talk. More photos, plus Volvo’s official release, below the fold.


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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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