The last of the auto-show season’s big events—the 2012 New York Auto Show—runs from April 6-15, and you could easily spend all those days checking out the new offerings from the world’s top automakers. On the other hand, spending 240 hours at New York’s Javits Center would tax even the most hard-core gearheads, so Autobytel is happy to cut to the chase with its list of the 10 most important debuts at the show, based on their likely impact on the U.S. marketplace.
Acura RLX Concept Car—Honda’s premium brand is making a serious effort to get back into the luxury game with the redesigned Acura RDX crossover and Acura ILX compact sedan, but its new flagship, the RLX, should take things to ye olde next level. Technically speaking, the vehicle shown in New York will be the RLX Concept Car, but it if it follows the usual Honda pattern, that means it will be virtually identical to the production version. Look for “an array of new Acura technologies, including the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system.”
BMW X1—The Bavarians achieved new records for sales, revenue and earning in 2011, and the company is hoping for more of the same by jumping into one of the industry’s fastest-growing niches with the X1. Competition will include the Audi Q3 and Buick Encore, but the X1 will get to the market well before the former and offer much more performance than the latter: drivers will be able to enjoy one of BMW’s much-praised twin-turbo I6 engines, which is expected to offer 300 hp in the new-to-the-U.S. vehicle.
Buick Enclave—The vehicle that kick-started the Buick renaissance had been getting a bit long in the tooth, but it now gets a long list of upgrades for the 2013 model year. Buick just unveiled the new Enclave this morning, and it boasts a more detailed and sophisticated design, along with an array of next-gen technologies including the Buick IntelliLink infotainment and connectivity system, which is standard on the crossover. The result? A large premium crossover that now fits in with leading-edge stable-mates like the Buick Regal, Buick Verano and Buick LaCrosse.
Chevrolet Impala—Practically forgotten by all but the country’s fleet customers, the brand-new Impala is expected to assume the mantle of Chevy’s full-size flagship sedan. Cars like the Chevrolet Malibu and Chevrolet Sonic have clearly shown that the Bowtie brand can craft some fairly premium vehicles, so there should be no worries on that front; a bigger concern may be how the car will fare against the all-new Toyota Avalon, also launching in New York, as well as recently refreshed versions of the Hyundai Azera and Ford Taurus.
Hyundai Santa Fe—The overall sales records keep falling for Hyundai, yet unfortunately, so do the individual numbers on the Santa Fe. But the all-new 2013 model should turn things around with revised styling and the brand’s typically strong mix of high efficiency and relatively robust power numbers. Remember, the Santa Fe’s corporate cousin, the Kia Sorento, supplies a peppy 175 hp and a 32-mpg mark in highway driving, and it’s long been Kia’s top seller.
Lexus ES—Never exactly known for its progressive approach to design, Lexus is hoping to (pleasantly) surprise luxury drivers with the all-new Lexus ES sedan. It’s expected to incorporate the brand’s new “spindle” grille and cues from the radical Lexus LF-LC concept that was introduced at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, as well as significantly improved driving dynamics. Knowing Lexus, a hybrid model also could see the light of day—the only brand with a stronger commitment to hybrid technology is, of course, Toyota.
Lincoln MKZ—The dramatically redesigned 2013 Lincoln MKZ made its debut a few days early, showing off a fresh new look, a huge new panoramic roof, a standard EcoBoost engine and available next-generation hybrid system, push-button transmission control, and Lincoln Driver Control—a comprehensive ride-and-handling system that enables a superior driving experience across all conditions. Naturally, the newest version of Sync with MyLincoln Touch also will be onboard as well. More importantly, the MKZ creates a new template for the future of the Lincoln brand and will carry huge expectations when it goes on sale later this year.
Nissan Altima—This hot-selling midsize sedan has been racking up serious sales numbers this year, highlighted by a February that saw dealers move almost 33,000 units, representing a 58.4 percent leap northward. And this is despite the fact the car is among the oldest in its segment. The next-gen 2013 Nissan Altima will no doubt be looking to build on that momentum with a new “Advanced Drive-Assist Display” and a sharper focus on the driving experience.
The Chrysler Group’s own super snake has been topic No. 1 at rumor central, and it’s in line for a big-time reveal in the Big Apple. Details are few at this stage, but with supercar-style rivals from the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang already packing well over 600 horses and a like amount of torque, the Viper should at least do the same, all while being wrapped in highly dramatic sheet metal. Oh, and a new Nürburgring record wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility either.
Subaru XV Crosstrek—Although the brand has been driving under the radar lately, sales remain at record levels; the introduction of the all-new 36-mpg Subaru Impreza has been the main driver here, and a high-efficiency compact crossover would be the perfect way to capitalize on the Impreza’s success. An interesting comparison can be made with Mazda, too, since that company has recently introduced a high-mpg version of the compact Mazda3 and its own Mazda CX-5 small crossover, and has been reaping big sales gains ever since.