Curbside Classic Visits The 2007 Empire State Plaza Auto Show, Part 2


2012’s Looper follows a mob assassin (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) on the run after he fails to “close the loop” and kill his future self (Bruce Willis), who is forcibly brought back to the past once the criminal enterprise has no more use for him. Part 2 essentially has me closing my own loop by finishing what I started.


The 2000’s saw Mazda enter its own renaissance period with a slew of visually exciting vehicles that pushed the boundaries for vehicle handling dynamics. That doesn’t mean the company had a perfect record though, and the CX-7 represents one of Mazda’s duds. The crossover was oddly positioned between the compact and midsize segments with a large exterior footprint and limited interior space.


At least it looked good.


The first generation CX-9 shared its platform with the Ford Edge and Fusion. Looking at its dimensions makes me wonder why Ford didn’t just use that architecture for the 2011 Explorer since their measurements are quite similar. My guess is that Ford decided to go with the D4 platform because they were already producing vehicles (The Five Hundred/Taurus and Freestyle/Taurus X) that were using it, which meant no plant needed to be retooled for the new products.


Ford’s dysfunction meant the United States never got the true second generation Focus. Technically that’s not entirely true since instead we got Mazda’s interpretation of it via the Mazda 3.


Mazda builds some pretty sweet interiors. Contemporary models suffer from the glued-on iPad look I mentioned before, but materials quality is outstanding.


The Mazda 6 slumped a little bit in its second generation, but the first gen, pictured here, is visually appealing. Regardless, all iteration of the midsize are quite the lookers. This was one of the first cars that made me notice the “antenna above the rear windshield” trend that is common on a substantial portion of vehicles today.


Nicely done, Mazda.


If someone told me in 2007 that Subaru would be handily outselling Volkswagen in 2016 I would have scoffed and possibly placed myself on the losing end of a bet. But it’s true: Subaru sold almost 400,000 more vehicles in 2015 compared to 2007. You have models like the Impreza to blame, or rather, Impreza-based vehicles with larger tires and increased ride height.


I’ve found nearly all generations of Impreza to be pretty ugly, and our pictured model is no different. The 2017 model is the exception though. It looks reasonably attractive.


It’s a shame Subaru is one of the only automakers still making a midsize wagon. That being said, at least they’re making a decent one. I really like the color scheme on this particular Outback.



Honda had a bit of a malaise period with this generation Accord due to the sedan’s awkward looks. The coupe, at least from this angle, doesn’t look that much better, but it was the more attractive variant.


This is definitely one of the worst interior designs ever put out by Honda. Aside from the aesthetically offensive center stack, Honda decided to sink the screen deep into the dash, which is something they still do in the Accord. It’s a deal breaker for me because the design raises the height of the entire dash, which makes the car feel more imposing when you’re sitting up front.


In the early 2000’s Ford wisely decided to utilize the platforms of its corporate partners in order to divert its limited cash reserves elsewhere. Alan Mulally’s tenure at the blue oval tends to overshadow this extremely smart move, which was in part made possible by Mark Fields, the current CEO. Until the debut of the Explorer, the Fusion and Edge were the most visible products made possible by using a platform from a corporate subsidiary, in this case the architecture that debuted with the Mazda 6 in 2004.


In 2007  Ford’s SVT team strongly hinted at a “GT” performance trim Fusion. Motor Trend interviewed several engineers, who claimed that the sporty Fusion was about two years off and would feature a 3.5 liter V6 with an output of 340 horsepower. Less than a year later the 355 horsepower, 3.5 liter EcoBoost debuted in the Lincoln MKT concept at the 2008 auto show in New York. Coincidence? Hardly. I’d say its more than likely Ford nixed the performance Fusion once the economy tanked. Instead, the Lincoln MKS got the honor of being the first Ford product to feature the new twin turbo engine. A sporty Fusion featuring an EcoBoost V6 would have to wait until this year, with the 2017 Sport having an output of 325 horsepower and 380 Ibs. torque and combined with Ford’s all-wheel drive system.


The Fusion saw quite a bit of upgrades between its debut in 2005 and 2007, gaining such niceties as the all important aux jack and a navigation system. This particular Fusion is an SE equipped with the appearance package, which added a nice lip spoiler and fancier wheels.


While the Fusion received credit for its balanced driving dynamics critics rightfully pointed out the spartan interior as an area in need of improvement. This was a feature of pretty much all Ford and Lincoln products of this era, and while the materials weren’t terribly cheap, the aesthetics seemed a generation behind the competition.


The Edge debuted about a year after the Fusion featuring the same platform pulled from Mazda and modified by Ford. Like the Rogue, the Edge has the Murano to thank for opening the market to this type of styling.


Aside from borrowing platforms from Volvo and Mazda, Ford also saved money by simply continuing to use its already existing platforms on a number of vehicles. With the American second generation Focus, its unclear if Ford succeeded in being fiscally responsible. Regardless, the 2008 redesign did reasonably well for itself and held its own in the compact segment.


Two things helped the Focus maintain its competitiveness in its second generation: its ride and handling balance, and the SYNC system.


Now that almost every car has Bluetooth and USB connectivity its easy to dismiss SYNC as revolutionary, but Ford was the first to democratize this technology across its lineup, and years later competing automakers still didn’t offer a system that enabled a driver to choose a specific artist, album, or song from their MP3 player via voice control. I imagine this technology was quite appealing to the entry level buyer in 2008.


The second gen Focus wasn’t the most attractive car on the market. My thoughts on the exterior design of the 2008 Focus weren’t favorable upon its debut, but these days I don’t find it offensive, just acceptable. We’ve got the biggest weak spot right here in front of us: the rear end. Limiting the tail lights to the outer edges really hampered the look; the flat trunk didn’t help either.


Like its small sedan stablemate, the Escape soldiered on into its second generation with an older platform. Unlike the Focus, the styling of the Escape was well received. It’s easy to see why: Ford decided to continue the “baby Explorer” motif it began with the 2001 Escape.


The biggest issue with the second generation Escape is probably the copious amount of chrome that adorned upper trim levels. It feels largely unnecessary. Another issue is the black dots that comprise the reverse sensing system which stick out like a sore thumb. Body colored reverse sensors have been a thing for a while now, which makes me wonder if the technology in 2007 didn’t allow for that. Could have also been a cost cutting move by Ford too.


The second generation Escape and Focus sold well, and this is partially due to the platforms that underpinned them. Despite being developed in the 90’s they were still competitive and worthy of continued use. Unfortunately the cost effectiveness of this strategy was probably cancelled out by the lingering effects Ford’s fiefdoms had on the company, which in this case resulted in Ford having to foot the bill for redeveloping the Focus and Escape for North America and Europe, the latter receiving a completely new architecture for their compact crossover (the Kuga) and sedan.

Ford’s financial instability possibility resulted in the delay of new powertrains arriving simultaneously with the new generation of the Escape, which saw the 2.3 liter four cylinder and the older variant of the Duratec 3.0 liter replaced after only one model year. The replacement 2.5 liter four and revised V6 were vast upgrades over the previous engines due to their superior power figures and the addition of a new six-speed automatic transmission into the lineup. This wasn’t the last time Ford did something like this either, as the 2011 model year brought massive upgrades in power to the Mustang. Owners of the 2010 Mustang were understandably pissed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if 2008 Escape customers felt the same way.


And now for our last Ford product. Confused? The Land Rover Freelander was based on Ford’s EUCD platform, which itself was an extension of the C1 chassis, which was most notably used for the European second gen Focus. EUCD also saw use in the Volvo S80 and the Ford Mondeo. The Freelander came equipped with either Volvo’s 3.2 liter straight-six or a 2.2 liter diesel. Before I did the research on the Freelander I always thought the crossover was based on the first generation Escape, given the similarity in exterior design.


I’m now wondering if it was a mistake to feature all the notably departed brands at the beginning of my coverage. Regardless of my thoughts, here is the tC, a dead coupe from a dead division. I took a ride in one of these once and came away very impressed by its solidly Germanic-like handling characteristics, which I didn’t think a Japanese automaker could properly emulate until that experience.


The final stop on this nostalgia tour involves a brand that probably should be dead, at least in the United States. Eventually, Mitsubishi will likely introduce new products as a result of its recent acquisition at the hands of Nissan, but until then it soldiers on with a subcompact, a compact, and two mediocre crossovers. The final generation of the Eclipse, pictured here, didn’t really win the hearts and minds of the modern tuner crowd, but I find the design to be pretty attractive.


Optional on the Eclipse was the Sun and Sound Package, which unsurprisingly came with a power sunroof, but more impressively it featured an ear-busting 650 watt Rockford Fosgate sound system with ten inch subwoofer and 6 CD in-dash changer. You certainly can’t accuse Mitsubishi of ignoring their target demographic.


Our last featured car couldn’t be anything other than the Lancer, as its the only car at the show that is still in production and on sale in the United States for 2016. Despite its age the exterior design holds up remarkably well. I certainly wouldn’t call the Lancer dated based solely on the styling.


The Lancer does have a couple of things going for it: available all-wheel drive, a generous 10 year, 100k mile powertrain warranty, and presumably high amounts of cash on the hood. Those are decent reasons to buy a car that can take you back to 2007.


In case you were wondering what exactly constitutes the Empire State Plaza, here is an overhead view of the whole thing. The southern end begins with that square shaped building on the right, with its northern end belonging to those two buildings to the left of the fourth, smaller skyscraper.

Governor Nelson Rockefeller presided over the most important gubernatorial administration in New York State history. While many of his policy initiatives continue to affect the lives of everyday New Yorkers, his two most visible achievements resulted in the creation of the largest public university system in the United States and the construction of the Empire State Plaza (officially named the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza) in Albany, New York.  Of course we’re here to talk about the latter, which is still a hotly debated subject among academics and residents of the capital city. It’s easy to understand why so many people still talk about the project: it single-handedly destroyed a number of historic neighborhoods and displaced about 7,000 people.


Another major criticism of the plaza relates to its mid-century modernist architecture, a style that has fallen out of favor from its heyday about fifty years ago. Critics fairly see the modernist buildings as devoid of any meaning while visually employing motifs more suitable for dictatorships and anti-democratic regimes. I don’t necessarily agree with those who dislike modernist architecture but can certainly understand why people abhor the style.

This particular building is the Cultural Education Center, a name that sounds like something out of Maoist China. It also looks like something a communist or fascist regime would construct to project power. That being said its home to a lot of great stuff: the New York State Museum, New York State Archives, New York State Library, and New York State Education Department.


Since these pictures were taken after my friend and I went car gawking you’re seeing the plaza in early November. This doesn’t paint the complex in the best light, as the days become increasingly grey this time of year, which my fellow northeastern Americans can attest to. The four identical skyscrapers are simply named Agency 1-4, depending on which one you’re referring to. Obviously those names don’t do much to dispel the feeling that this architecture is more fitting for a super villain’s lair or a futuristic dystopian government, but I’m not sure what the alternative is in this situation.


I’m sure you’re wondering what that strangely shaped structure is at the forefront of this picture. I’ll get to that in a bit, but for now I’d like you to gaze at the stone structure underneath it. The area above those tunnels is the space where the auto show is held, and its called the Concourse. Its total length is about a quarter of a mile and it runs underneath all the structures you see above it, while simultaneously existing as its own building.


The Erastus Corning Tower is named for the longest serving mayor in Albany history and is currently the tallest skyscraper in New York State outside of New York City. A lot of people think the plaza was designed by the same architect responsible for the Twin Towers, since all three buildings shared a common appearance, but this is not the case. Wallace Harrison designed the plaza and many other notable buildings, including but not limited to the Time-Life building and the Metropolitan Opera House (The Met), both in NYC. He was also part of the team of architects that developed the UN headquarters and Rockefeller Center.


New York State’s Capitol is considered part of the plaza and is connected to the newer structures via an underground tunnel. This is important when the legislature is in session, as its the most convenient way to get to the Assembly and Senate chambers from the Legislative Office Building, which can be partially seen in the foreground on the left side of the picture. The capitol is one of the eleven state capitol buildings to lack a dome and in my opinion is all the better for it.


I saved the strangest and best building at the plaza for last. This is The Egg. It is a giant egg, as you can see. Its a performing arts center, and I’ve seen a great number of stand up comedians and musicians there over the years.

As part of their 2004 album Venue Songs, They Might Be Giants understandably focused their attention on the plaza when writing a song about Albany as part of their project to document all the places that tour would take them via music. The gentlemen who calls the plaza “a concrete shrine to Nelson Rockefeller’s vision of dehumanizing democracy” is none other than John Hodgman, a stand-up comedian you probably recognize for being the PC in the famous Apple vs. PC ad campaign.

As much as I like the plaza for its uniqueness, They Might Be Giants aptly describes the reaction one may have when standing and looking around at the complex: “At the outside, I am thinking: What. Were. They. Thinking?”

Stay tuned to find out if any other unhelpfully named electronic folders yielded pictures from past auto shows.