Day one features the ultimate in luxury hybrid-ness, a sexy new Altima and a new Outlook from Saturn
NEW YORK – Manhattan in the early hours is a jittery, jumpy place, a cranky city waking up to another day with a cup of coffee in one hand, a Post in the other, a firm stomp of the throttle and a yank of the wheel. It’s not the time for tourists, and barely okay for businessmen trying to get from point to point. The professional, slickered doormen have yet to report in; the polite and smiling cabbies – the few that exist in this dirty dare of a city -- have yet to leave their morning paper at the local coffee stand.
What’s left is an intolerant lot of rebels with hangovers and house payments due yesterday. The cabbies out and about are intolerant, impatient, reckless and as colorful as the bright yellowish-orange cars they fling from lane to lane on the clogged arteries of midtown, their day-to-day survival a mix of luck, guts and street smarts. If they could drive on the sidewalk, they would. If they could run red, they would – and do, whenever possible. On the way to the 2006 New York International Auto Show, one cabbie, a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth and a dirty gray scarf wrapped around his neck, took a look at the traffic coming up, swerved dramatically to the left, around the delivery truck and in the gutter, sprinting past the stacked up cars and onto the next intersection. His brother cabbies, left in his dust, caught up at the next light and proceeded to give him a rousing Bronx cheer.
He didn’t hear it.
“They don’t make cars like this anymore,” said the smoking cabbie, patting the wheel of his beat up old Ford. “The imports, they fall apart. And parts are so expensive. Why don’t people buy these cars instead of those fancy little imports?”
It was a good question, one executives from Dearborn to Detroit ask on a daily basis. What a surprise it was, then, to arrive at the show, sit down and listen to Carlos Ghosn, Nissan head man and roving prophet of automotive passion give domestic automakers a subtle lecture on the fading perception of value that comes from boring cars. The cabbie would agree, for the most part, though the ability to plow through a pothole is anything but boring, and nothing beat dumping a cup of hot java on an unsuspecting businessman. He would also likely agree that hybrid are pretty exciting --- and, as a matter of fact, another cabbie, later in the day, spoke in glowing words about his Ford Escape Hybrid, saying that the fuel mileage was amazing and the vehicle itself was as dependable as anything on the road.
He was one of the smiling, happy cabbies, without smoke or scarf but with a beard full and long enough to keep his neck warm. He would certainly like the new Lexus LS 600hL, which debuted in New York for well-heeled baby boomers looking for a car that offers V12 performance with V8 fuel economy, and makes them feel good about what they drive – even if it doesn’t really help global warming too much. The LS 600hL also has a camera mounted inside the dash that monitors driver attentiveness and triggers safety actions if the man behind the curtain decides that you aren’t paying close enough attention to the road. First, Park Assist, and now a video-recording nanny to help save your life.
There were more normal cars at the show this year, too, such as the Nissan Altima, a larger and sexier upgrade that should give the sedan mainstays a run for its money. Jeep got dirty with a new four-door 2007 Wrangler Unlimited, and Nissan announced the sale of the GT-R. General Motors also got into the act, with a new Outlook on a new (Lambda) platform that carries on it the hopes of the General’s turnaround.
Cabbies would like that car. And next year, when we come again, perhaps we’ll see one, painted yellow with a glowing red meter installed up front and a wild-eyed, crazy-haired cabbie behind the wheel.
By Brian Chee
Completely redesigned and boasting what Acura calls “best-in-class” safety and V6 power, the MD-X Concept introduced at the 2006 New York Auto Show previews the all-new 2007 MDX that arrives this fall. Like its predecessor, the new 2007 Acura MDX is a seven-passenger sport/utility vehicle, but this time around the emphasis is on the sport portion of that equation. In addition to a stronger V6 engine and as much safety technology as its manufacturer could pack into it, the 2007 Acura MDX also features accoutrements such as an Acura/ELS premium surround sound system with XM satellite radio, a HandsFreeLink wireless communications system that works with Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, a navigation system with real-time traffic reporting, and a collision mitigation braking system that can detect an impending accident and take action to reduce speed and prepare the safety systems before impact.
--By Christian Wardlaw
2008 Audi TT
Let’s see – runway models in sheer clothing that clings, a German glamour puss named Tatjana Patitz, and the 2008 Audi TT. Do you sense a theme to Audi’s press conference at the 2006 New York Auto Show? If you guessed contemporary fashion and beautiful design, give yourself a gold star and smack it onto your forehead! By unveiling the 2008 Audi TT in Manhattan using Patitz, a supermodel-slash-actress who couldn’t read a Teleprompter if her life depended on it, and fashion designer doo.ri, who could be the superhero costume designer E from The Incredibles incarnate, the automaker attempted to underline its assertion that the TT sports coupe is a “global design icon.” Aside from decorating the stage with gorgeous women, the effort was lost on the mostly male audience. Audi may have felt it needed to shake reporters out of their complacency, because at first glance the new 2008 Audi TT appears to be no more than a freshening of the existing 2+2 sports coupe. However, this a complete redesign that is 5.4 inches longer and 3.1 inches wider than the original TT. Shaped to reflect the original TT’s design vocabulary, the 2008 version clearly employs current Audi styling cues, such as the single-frame grille which is clearly seen in the car’s face. Established design themes of circles and domes continue in the new car, preserved though Audi wanted the new TT to appear stretched, taut, striving to move forward even when standing still. Audi has employed its ASF Space Frame architecture to the new TT, but in a 69/31 blend of aluminum and steel for optimum balance. At the rear, a spoiler automatically deploys at 75 mph to increase downforce and high-speed stability. A convertible version of the 2008 Audi TT will also be available shortly after the car arrives in the spring of 2007.
--By Christian Wardlaw
2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H and GT/CS
Ford must be crazy, and Hertz Rent-A-Car is insane. In a world gone mad with lawyers and litigation, these two companies announced at the 2006 New York Auto Show that they are teaming up to offer a limited-production run of about 500 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H muscle cars for rent through selected Hertz airport locations. Getting your hands on a Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H isn’t going to be cheap, and the handful likely to survive will probably sell for big bucks after a variety of indifferent drivers and Hertz lot attendants have had their way with them.
What’s the point? Forty years ago, you could walk up to a Hertz counter and rent a Shelby GT350H, take it to the track, run the rubber off the tires, and bring it back. The handful of GT350H’s that didn’t get wrecked are rare and increasing in value. The 2007 version is based on the standard Mustang GT with an automatic transmission, painted black with gold racing stripes like the original GT350H. A Shelby Performance hood with pins, a brushed aluminum grille, a unique front fascia, and body side scoops differentiate the GT-H from a regular GT.
Under the hood, the GT-H gets a Ford Racing Performance Power Pack good for 25 extra horsepower and 10 lb.-ft. of torque. The Power Pack includes a cold air induction kit, a special muffler, and a cat back exhaust system. The GT-H is also equipped with a Ford Racing Performance Handling Pack including lowered springs, revised shocks, bigger anti-sway bars, a strut-tower brace, and a 3.55 rear axle ratio for improved off-the-line performance. The rent-a-racer rides on stock 17-inch Mustang GT wheels equipped with P235/55R17 Z-rated tires. The 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT-H will be available in larger cities around the country and in Hawaii later this year. Contact Hertz for reservations.
Also recently announced were two other special-edition Mustangs. The 2007 Ford Mustang GT/CS is a modern interpretation of the classic 1968 Mustang “California Special,” and it arrives late this summer as a $1,895 option package available in five colors. Highlights of this special “feature car” include restyled front and rear fascias, side scoops, a unique bodyside racing stripe, and chrome rolled-tip exhaust outlets. Ford fits polished 18-inch wheels to the 2007 Ford Mustang GT/CS, and if you order the optional GT Appearance Package, you’ll get a hood scoop, too. Inside, there’s plenty of aluminum and chrome accent trim, black leather seats with Dove or Parchment GT/CS inserts, and embroidered floor mats. And finally, under the hood, there’s a special engine cover that Ford says gives the car a custom appearance.
The 2007 Ford Mustang GT/CS doesn’t get any engine or suspension modifications, but Ford reminds buyers that Ford Racing Performance offers a variety of aftermarket equipment designed to improve the Mustang’s power and handling. The GT/CS will be available as a coupe or convertible in Redfire Metallic, Performance White, Vista Blue Metallic, and Black. A Valencia Yellow will be added to the product mix after the car arrives.
The other special-edition Mustang is the Stampede Edition, on sale now but only in Oklahoma and Texas. Ford is building just 500 examples of this car, which gets unique stripes, painted 17-inch wheels, and chrome Pony spinner caps. There’s also a chrome Pony grille with fog lights, chrome exhaust tip, a rear spoiler, and special badges. Inside, there’s a distinctive brushed chrome script on the floor mats, and a serialized badge.
Obviously, Ford gets it. To sustain interest in a two-door sport coupe or convertible like the Mustang, even one with such a loyal and fanatic following, special-edition models like these are almost a requirement. In 2006, Ford brought back the popular Pony Package for the Mustang V6 and announced a new pavement killer called the Shelby Cobra GT500. This year, it’s a return of the Rent-A-Racer and California Special. Wonder if we’ll be seeing a new Boss, Bullitt, or Mach 1 in 2008?
--By Christian Wardlaw
2007 Infiniti G35 Sedan
Among upwardly mobile young professionals, those who work long and hard hours in an effort to fight for their rung on the ladder, there are few items that better demonstrate their success than a new ride. In keeping with their newly adopted corporate culture, said vehicle must be an upscale, quality machine that would look appropriate in that coveted management parking spot. Being a hoot to drive and marked by conspicuously attractive styling are just added benefits. Within the broad premium sports sedan segment are a number of respected autos, such as the Acura TL, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CTS, Lexus IS, and the Infiniti G35. First introduced for the 2003 model year, the G debuted with a contemporary design and up to 280 horsepower. For 2007, the look is much the same, albeit with revised fascias and lights, a new flare to the flanks, and another 20 horses extracted from the 3.5-liter V6. Four models, all built in Japan, will be available when the 2007 G35 goes on sale in November, 2006: G35, G35 Journey, G35x AWD, and G35 Sport. Prices have not been released.
--By Thom Blackett
2007 Jeep Patriot
Jeep is growing. From a small, niche lineup of cars, the Jeep brand, which is more like a way of life to many, is no longer content with sitting back and watching competitors help themselves to buyers who, with just the right nudge, may go for the image and allure of a Jeep.
Even if it doesn’t go off-road.
Wait just one New York minute, snort Jeep marketing types. The Patriot will go off road, and in fact is Trail Rated -- just not for the expected base sticker price of under $16,000. Debuted at the 2006 New York International Auto Show and available later this year, the Jeep Patriot will come in three drive configurations: front-wheel drive, Freedom Drive I (a full-time, active four-wheel-drive system with Lock mode) and Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package (a full-time, active four-wheel-drive system with low range that provides the famed Trail Rated capability. Compared to the new Compass, this Patriot is much more along the lines of what Jeep aficionados had in mind when they thought of an entry-level Jeep. And while you're not getting the off-road capability for under $16,000, you're getting a bunch of features that make the Patriot a tough competitor in a field that includes the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4.
Once Patriots make it to showrooms, buyers will get a choice of two trims: the Patriot and the Patriot Limited, with optional 4x4 capability available for both trims. Standard features on the base Patriot include side curtain airbags, Brake Traction Control, Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation and anti-lock brakes with rough-road detection.
So the base has got the basics covered. Other standard features on the base Patriot include luxuries as Vinyl Tech seats, rear 60/40 fold-flat seats, AM/FM single-disc CD radio with an auxiliary audio input jack, outdoor temperature display, 12-volt power outlet, manual windows, locks and foldaway mirrors, tilt steering wheel, dome and cargo lights, rear window defroster and a center console sliding armrest that moves forward to accommodate shorter drivers. Limited Patriots will offer standard air conditioning, power windows with driver one-touch down feature, speed-sensitive power locks, Remote Keyless Entry, power fold-away mirrors, deep-tinted sunscreen glass, all-season floor mats, a standard fold-flat, reclining rear seat, fold-flat front passenger seat, driver height adjuster, passenger assist handles, 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, removable/rechargeable cargo lamp, speed control, premium cloth low-back bucket seats with YES Essentials fabric, fog lamps, rear-view automatic dimming mirrors, temperature and compass gauge, universal garage door opener and tire pressure monitoring system.
All Jeep Patriot models get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing (VVT) that produces 172 horsepower and 165 lb.-ft. of torque. According to Jeep, VVT enables the Patriot to offer more power, and better fuel economy than other, comparable models. The Patriot comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission -- with an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). A 2.0-liter diesel powerplant will also be offered, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. With diesel fuel and engines meeting stringent emissions standards, look for diesels in markets where they once were unable to tread.
--By Brian Chee
2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Now you can take more friends on your next off-road adventure. And as odd as it is to say – especially for Jeep enthusiasts – those friends of yours can get in and out much more easily, as the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited now has four doors. Debuted at the 2006 New York International Auto Show, the Wrangler Unlimited follows in the footsteps of the redesigned 2007 Jeep Wrangler, with a revised style, nicer interior, more power and an improved on-road demeanor. Don’t worry. Jeep promises the same sort of off-road capability as you’d get from the 2007 Jeep Wrangler. According to Jeep, it’s just as capable, if not more so, when it comes to off-roading, with 20 inches more in length. As with the 2007 Wrangler, the Unlimited features superb ground clearance, approach and departure angles, enhanced Dana front and rear solid axles, and available Command-Trac and Rock-Trac transfer cases, new electric axle lockers, and electronic-disconnecting front sway bar. Like its smaller brother, the Unlimited features an open-air design, with removable doors, and, according to Jeep, the most cargo space ever offered in a Wrangler. Built on a 116-inch wheelbase (added onto the 2007 Wrangler’s 95.4 inch wheelbase) the extra room is most noticeable in the back, with a larger rear seat and more leg, hip and shoulder room. There’s also a standard 60/40 split fold-flat rear seat. As with the regular Wrangler, the Unlimited comes with two-or four-wheel-drive capability, and the same five-link solid-axle suspension setup. As with the Wrangler, the Unlimited will be offered in three models: Unlimited X, Sahara and Rubicon. Power and safety features are also the same as the 2007 Wrangler, with a 3.8-liter V6 engine making 205 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of torque. Safety equipment standard on all Wranglers include Electronic Stability Program (ESP), electronic roll mitigation and Occupant Classification System (OCS). Seat-mounted side air bags are optional.
--By Brian Chee
2008 Lexus LS 600hL
There’s hybrid. And there’s hybrid, the difference between the two being as startling as the difference between a crow and a canary. For every youngish, hip and green-tinted Prius driver, for every grey-tinged commuter driving a Civic Hybrid, there’s a guilt-laden, moneyed housewife cruising suburbia in a Lexus RX 400h. The Lexus saves gas and lowers emissions compared to what she would normally buy, which is a good thing – but not a great thing, like the savings you can get from the likes of the Prius and the Civic Hybrid. It’s all about making the upper class feel good. Few things are as important as that, which makes the 2008 Lexus LS 600 hL, introduced at the 2006 New York International Auto Show, the most important car ever assembled. Okay, hyperbole aside, it may well be one of the most fantastic cars ever built, an amazing machine that offers luxury buyers V12 performance with V8 fuel economy, a SULEV emissions rating and a slew of safety technology – including a driver-facing camera that monitors your facial ticks and orders you a latte – should you need a pick me up. It also detects when you’re not looking at the road ahead, and takes escalating steps to get your attention or save your life – whichever comes first.
--By Brian Chee
2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
There’s something to be said for a re-skin. Many people, especially in areas such as Southern California, go in for a mid-cycle refresher all the time. It makes ‘em beautiful again, at least for a little while, and besides, once the botox or the tan or the lift wears down, one can easily go in and get another round of re-skinning done. Mercedes-Benz is onboard with this type of thinking, and they just got back from the automotive plastic surgeon, in time to show off the new “them” in the guise of a re-skinned 2007 E-Class, at the 2006 New York International Auto Show.
It was a shock – literally. With models juking around the new 2007 E-Class, wearing chain metal suits – and who knew chain metal could be so sexy -- passing streams of electric energy back, forth and through the car, all the assembled journalists left the press conference with a sudden boost in brain power.
That’s too bad for Mercedes-Benz, if true, because many of these smarter scribes will likely write that shoppers of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class should wait a model year or two, and get a thoroughly revised model – reportedly due to debut this summer. For those who just can’t wait, the 2007 model gets a mild freshening to bumpers, grille, headlights and tail lights, and the addition of another two models: the E550, featuring a 5.5-liter V8 delivering 382 horsepower and 391 lb.-ft. of torque, and the E63 AMG, which will be powered by a new 6.3-liter V8 that makes 503 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque. The E-Class will also get a bevy of S-Class technology, including Pre-Safe, the proactive safety feature that prepares the car and its occupants for an impact by setting into motion pretensioners, head restraints and other devices. Also standard on the 2007 E-Class will be Mercedes’ innovative intelligent headlamps, which sense the type of roadway and adjust accordingly.
Unfortunately, this technology is not yet available in the U.S. New standard equipment on the E-Class includes an upgraded stereo with six-disc CD changer, a new steering wheel, and a larger sunroof. Mercedes-Benz also announced plans to launch the E320 BLUETEC, which they claim to be the cleanest diesel passenger car in its class.
--By Brian Chee
2007 Nissan Altima
Shoes. Everyone needs them, but not everyone cares what they look like, what special features they have, or whose feet they adorn. Kinda like family sedans. At one point or another, most every driver will require the service of a four-door car, whether it’s for efficient commuting, transporting the kids, or just running errands on the weekends. Choices are numerous, including heavyweights like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat, all available with countless features and four- or six-cylinder power. Also included in that bunch is the Nissan Altima, a ride that entered the market years ago with only a four-banger, slated above the compact Sentra and far below the Maxima flagship. Then came the rebirth of the Altima in 2002, with an edgy new design and an available V6. Five years later, Nissan’s most popular sedan gets a host of substantial updates, including updated engines, a redesigned interior, and most noteworthy, a thoroughly revised exterior.
--By Thom Blackett
2008 Nissan GT-R
NEW YORK – It’s been billed as the 2006 New York International Auto Show, though the first media day had a strong focus on one manufacturer – Nissan. The company’s President and CEO, took the opportunity to discuss the current market, unveil three updated products, and finally, announce that the GT-R sports car will be sold through U.S. and Canadian Nissan dealerships in the spring of 2008, while Japanese customers can get their hands on one about six months earlier. No specific details regarding the vehicle’s price or powertrain are available. As mentioned, April 12th marked the official debut of three revised Nissan and Infiniti models shoppers are already familiar with. The 2007 Infiniti G35, with its massaged styling and more powerful engine, will be available in November, as will the thoroughly revised 2007 Nissan Altima. The last of the trio, the 2007 Nissan Maxima, hits lots in June marked by slight styling changes, a new CVT transmission, and revised seats.
--By Thom Blackett
2007 Saturn Outlook
“Like always. Like never before.” That’s the new Saturn advertising slogan, meant to invoke memories of a pressure-free no-haggle sales environment and outstanding customer service while conveying that with the debut of the new 2007 Saturn OUTLOOK, 2007 Saturn AURA, and 2007 Saturn Sky, there are new products in the showroom unlike anything we’ve seen from Saturn. The 2007 Saturn Outlook debuted at the 2006 New York Auto Show, a crossover suv able to seat up to eight passengers. Yep, that’s right: eight. See, this is actually a full-size SUV, even though it’s designed to compete against vehicles like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Murano, and Toyota Highlander. With 116.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the second and third-row seats folded down, how could it be anything but a full-sizer? Representative of Saturn’s emerging corporate look, the 2007 Outlook features a bold and bright grille, projector beam headlights with jeweled reflectors, chrome-accented taillights that resemble those on the Sky roadster, chrome-trimmed door handles for an upscale look, and standard 18-inch wheels. Inside, Saturn’s effort to make the 2007 Outlook feel roomy with great outward visibility appears successful, and the materials used to construct that cabin are of much higher quality than you’re accustomed to seeing in a Saturn.
--By Christian Wardlaw
2007 Saturn Sky Red Line
The clouds are clearing and the Sky is almost ready to appear in showrooms, yet Saturn is already giving buyers a reason to get into a different line at the dealership: the 2007 Saturn Sky Red Line. You knew this car would become a reality as soon as Pontiac trotted out the Solstice GXP at the Los Angeles Auto Show and when the Opel GT debuted in Geneva complete with the same turbocharged, direct-injection engine as the Pontiac. Under the 2007 Saturn Sky Red Line’s hood is an Ecotec 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection four cylinder engine making 260 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,500 rpm. That’s a significant bump over the standard Sky’s 170-horsepower four banger, thanks to a dual-scroll turbo with a lightweight turbine, air-to-air intercooler, and dual-cam phasing that optimizes valve timing at lower revs to help create a broad torque band and eliminate turbo lag. A standard five-speed manual transmission delivers power to the big 18-inch rear wheels, and a five-speed automatic is optional. Thanks in part to a 3.73 rear axle ratio and limited-slip rear differential, the 2007 Sky Red Line will dash from zero to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds according to Saturn, regardless of which transmission you choose. Other goodies include a sport-tuned suspension, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, and a StabiliTrak stability control system. Saturn says the 2007 Sky Red Line boasts a near 50:50 weight distribution for optimum handling. To differentiate the Sky Red Line from the standard model, Saturn has added dual chrome tipped exhaust outlets, polished 18-inch wheels, and a unique front fascia with brake cooling vents and black headlight surrounds. Inside, the Sky Red Line gets embroidered seatbacks and floor mats, metallic sill plates and pedals, a special gauge cluster, and a turbo boost meter in the Driver Information Center.
--By Christian Wardlaw
Scion Fuse Concept
There are 142 million reasons for Scion to build a concept like the Fuse.
That’s the number of “under 35s,” people who are young enough to get away with driving a coupe such as what the Fuse portrays.
Not that age ever stopped anyone from buying the Scion tC, the youngish, sporty coupe that is arguably one of the best buys on the market today. Given this type of demographic makeup, and the fact that Scion attracts a wide swath of all ages with its exciting design and order-form style of buying, it’s sure no surprise that Scion had some fun at the 2006 New York International Auto Show, debuting the Fuse and pointing to the future direction of coupe Scions, and, well, keeping Calty designers busy, thinking and happy.
From the back, wide-body rear flares span the entire rear mass, encasing deep-set vertical taillamps. The dual exhaust also serves as fog and reverse lamps as lighting encircles each exhaust tip. Wheels are 20-inch custom-machined with LED’s on the end of each spoke, which illuminate as turn indicators. Inspiration for the exterior of the Scion Fuse came from the “HAKO” super GT racing cars of Japan, commonly known as the JGTC series. From the side, the Fuse has a low, aggressive stance with a race helmet-inspired wraparound window that provides a panoramic view. The visor-like wraparound windshield is balanced by a strong C-pillar. The front of the Fuse glares at you with slim, high-mounted, deep-set headlamps communicating a serious and aggressive attitude. A massive rectangular air intake hints at potential for a large intercooler.
This is the future of cars, dontcha know, so get used to what the Fuse represents: long and wide stretches of sleek sheet metal, an aggressive tail, short overhangs a low-slung stance and wrap-around ceiling-to-sides glasswork. On the inside, get ready for the ultimate in multi-function – and not your typical 60/40 split, but function that’s more like multi-lifestyle, with a design that caters itself to gamers, cargo and comfort. With special treats like a dual exhaust setup that doubles as lighting – and more – as well as butterfly wings and multi-color headlamps, the Fuse is indeed special – and just what around 142 million people are getting ready to order up at their nearest Scion – Toyota – Lexus dealer.
--By Brian Chee
Photos by Ron Perry and courtesy of the manufacturers