The 2018 New York Auto Show opened with a lot of energy surrounding releases of what Americans want: SUV’s, small and large, as well as vehicles with big performance engines, tried and true sedans, and yes electric powertrains, from plugin to hybrid to hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Body styles took center stage, while powertrains continued to jostle for attention.
We also saw the revival of the hatchback, and no question the station wagon is going to be making a comeback. Both now, much sportier and better tailored than ever before.
A lot of the models that were released are freshened models, though a couple of close to market concepts went on display. Powertrains from two different mindsets seemed to be everywhere; electric and an increasingly higher horsepower SUV’s and muscle cars.
The hatchback twins from Toyota and Lexus, The Kia K900, Volkswagen’s Pickup Truck Concept, Maserati’s Levante Trofeo, and the Mazda Kai concept were all stars of the show. Add to that a redesigned Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester and a very close to reality “Sport” version of the VW Atlas are just a few of what was on display in New York.
Hatchbacks, one of the most sensible vehicle designs is making a strong comeback and from Toyota, a brand that celebrated them for many years. Four-doors and a hatch make them easy to get into for both passengers and cargo. Toyota and upscale sibling Lexus brought the small hatchback into the spotlight, with the Toyota Corolla Hatchback and the Lexus UX. While you can see the family resemblance, each is very much a part of its own brand. Toyota has wisely included a 6-speed manual transmission in their offering, and Lexus has a hybrid version with their Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT.)
Luxury Cars and SUV’s
Driver’s today expect luxury touches no matter the brand, and both Kia and Maserati have stepped forward. Kia with a redesigned K900 that has an understated exterior and updated interior design and Maserati with a fire-breathing full-size SUV with a screaming 590 hp 8-cylinder engine. Not to be left out the luxury high-performance Sedan is still a strong contender, with Audi’s new 444 horsepower RS5 Sportback letting everyone know that the five rings are ready to roll.
The Subaru Forester, Nissan Kicks (shown above) and the Toyota RAV 4, took center stage, and rightfully so, these brands have a very loyal consumer following. Volkswagen sent the Atlas to the Gym and has returned with a buffer though tad smaller Sport version.
While four-door sedans are being left in the dust by the SUV in today’s market, Nissan has redone the Altima and put it in All-Wheel Drive mode and Kia has put some new energy into the Optima and has brought the K900 into modern style.
The SUV of last few decades seems to be growing into larger 3-row seat size. From the mundane to the ultra luxurious there are plenty of sizes and price points for the trusty family hauler. Be it the Ford EcoSport or a Land Rover Coupe, Lincoln Aviator to the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, there are plenty of sizes and price points for this trusty family hauler.
America has always been a country of roughneck cowboys, and what once was thought as a work | Farm vehicle is now the mainstream family car. With four doors and numerous creature comforts the pickup truck is no longer bare-bones with rubber mats, Naugahyde seats, and if you were lucky, an Am Radio. Even Volkswagen brought forth a Pickup Concept, that seems about ready for market. RAM, Ford, Chevy, and GMC, as well as Toyota and Nissan all, were displaying plenty of full-size pickups with more creature comforts than many cars. The mid-sized pickup is making a rebirth with the Ford Ranger, GM with the Colorado, and no doubt more will be coming.
Electric once only thought of as a very specialty vehicle driven by the look-at-me self-possessed eco-conscious consumer. Indeed the EV Fad is now mainstream, almost every band has at least one model that is pure battery-powered electric
As EV’s continue to be major sellers in markets where the tax incentives and other green benefits perks are dwindling. The panache of the electric vehicle is starting to be overshadowed by the technology and daily benefits with Plug-In Hybrids and hydrogen-fueled vehicles starting to become more commonplace. Nissan with the Leaf, the Tesla line up and most recently the Chevrolet Bolt is more mainstream and competing in the upmarket as well as the daily driver arena.
While there are several charging systems out there, and none are universal, Charge Point seems to be a big partner to these new vehicles, as well as pushing heavy in the home charger market.
There is no question that the New York International Auto Show is a collection of the latest and greatest automobiles, but it is also a place where technology meets the consumer. Nissan took center stage with its Pro-Pilot and Toyota has had XX for a while now.
Alexa? With the prevalence of Amazon’s Alexa in homes, the Alexa voice assistant was very well apparent being touted along with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Now the same voice-activated artificial intelligence service comes to your vehicle. Google’s AI product Google Home and Apple’s Siri were remarkably absent from in-car virtual assistants. Just when Android Auto and Apple CarPlay seem to be becoming more prevalent is when that witty woman’s voice is now becoming apart of your driving experience. And what a great way to just talk to your car. Anyone remember the short-lived TV show of the 1960’s My Mother The Car? Of course, you don’t, the future was displayed in a Model A.
Built-in Hotspots are becoming commonplace as the vehicles become more interconnected with their driver’s. Software that recognizes drivers by their phones upon entry is the next step in making vehicles more shareable.
What is in the future.
In the near term, hydrogen power and station wagons along with the continued expansion of models that powered by batteries will continue.
In the midterm look forward to seeing those odd 3-wheeled trike vehicles. A cross between a motorcycle and a 2-seater car. Several manufacturers and not motorcycle companies were displaying them. Malcolm Bricklin, founder of Subaru of America, the Canadian made Bricklin sports car and importer of Yugo cars, shared with me his electric version is about 2-years out to come to market.
Upscale Luxury vehicles. Manufacturers are learning that the ultra-luxury high-performance supercars and SUV’s mean one thing, a stronger bottom line. Each of them is starting to add such profitable models to their line up.
Until Next Year
Or the Next Auto Show, whichever comes first.
Words and photos by William West Hopper.