Curbside Classic Visits The 2017 New York International Auto Show, Part 1

Change is in the air. That was the overwhelming feeling in my gut as I walked around the Jacob Javits Center on April 14th. On the surface nothing looked askew. Automakers still hawked their wares with attractive and impeccably dressed spokespeople. The difference this year involved the emphasis manufacturers placed on a certain type of vehicle. No doubt many of you already know what I’m alluding to: crossovers. Just like disco, the space shuttle, pogs, and compact discs, sedans have had their time and place. The die is cast, and my coverage of the NY auto show in 2017 is a reflection of this change. 

On the same day I ventured into Manhattan the world got its first glimpse at the next installment of the Skywalker Saga. Obviously this is a coincidence, but thematically what we’re seeing in this tantalizing footage reflects the realities facing the auto industry today. Change is inevitable, and if the Jedi Order is fallible, did sedans ever have a chance?

The crumbling of the status quo is everywhere, even directly outside the venue that houses the auto show. The trickle of change within this section of Hell’s Kitchen has become more of a steady flow, as made clear by these new buildings, which are likely going to be residential units.

Within the walls of the Javits Center automakers shook things up a bit. The first notable change was the absence of a Ford performance vehicle hanging from the corner of this wall, which makes sense, as the Blue Oval didn’t have any dramatically exciting or new specialty vehicles to reveal this year. Unbeknownst to me, this would represent the first of many big time changes, as a substantial number of automakers uprooted themselves from their traditional spots in the Javits Center and planted their flags in areas far from their former homes.

It wasn’t surprising to see the 2018 EcoSport at the show, as Ford debuted the North American variant back in January. With the EcoSport, the Blue Oval continues its tradition of revealing its newest vehicles approximately 26 years before they go on sale. Contrast this with Honda, a company that typically introduces their new vehicles about eight minutes before they arrive at dealerships.

The official photos that followed the EcoSport reveal seemed to portray a rear end that didn’t quite meld with the rest of the exterior. In person the design looks much more cohesive.

A cursory glance at the rear tail light might fool you into thinking this silver piece is simply a reflector rather than a cleverly hidden handle for opening the tailgate.

I’ll have a better assessment of the EcoSport’s interior when I can sit in one next year, but for now I’d say materials quality is quite high.

Ford had a second EcoSport on the lower level, which gave me another opportunity to ponder the floating screen motif that has popped up recently in numerous vehicles, including several Mercedes products. From a functional standpoint these start to make sense when they’re positioned in front of the dash and not above it. Has my stance on this interior aesthetic softened?

Pictured here is the interior of a 2017 Fiesta (bottom) and its 2018 counterpart (top). Until I encountered the above comparison shot my opinion of the floating screen motif was decidedly negative. Now I see the value of the design and the drawbacks of the traditional setup. The most obvious flaw with the 2017’s infotainment screen is its distance from the driver. It looks significantly easier to reach out and interact with the touch screen from the next gen Fiesta. The dash of the current Fiesta also has to rise and meet the top of the infotainment section in order to maintain design cohesiveness, a concession that makes the entire dash seem larger than it is. The new Fiesta doesn’t suffer from such a malady.

Back to the exterior. This particular model is a Titanium, and as such it gets some chrome treatment and some “teeth” its grille.

The EcoSport will be the first in its segment to sport a three cylinder engine in the form of Ford’s 1.0 liter unit, a powerplant that currently sees duty in the Fiesta and Focus to the tune of 123 horsepower and 148 Ibs. torque.

At the opposite end of the market lies the 2018 Expedition. Freshly redesigned with the same platform that currently underpins the F-150, the SUV gains all of the aluminum advantages that come with the new body structure. Like other Ford products the Expedition will also get a range topping Platinum trim.

Overall I’d say the redesign looks good.

The interior borrows the majority of its design from the F-150, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

My hot take? The new Expedition ensures that the non-legacy of the Flex will live on. I was surprised at how similar the two resemble each other.

For 2018 the F-150 gets a new front end, a ten speed automatic transmission, an optional diesel engine, a new 3.3L base V6, and power bumps for all of its returning engines.

The Raptor also returns, and it also gets a big power bump: output stands as 450 horsepower and 510 Ibs. torque.

Aluminum also sees use on the recently redesigned Super Duty.

Ford had actual engines on display at the show. There were fewer mechanical displays this year, so seeing these on the floor was a treat.

Here’s the engine, transmission, and frame for the Super Duty.

I’ve written previously about Fusions being used by police departments, so the reveal of the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan isn’t too surprising. Will this be the last Fusion variant officially rated for law enforcement use? I think not. I’d be shocked if the Taurus lasts beyond the current generation; the Fusion’s interior is spacious enough for basic patrol duty, and when paired with all-wheel drive and the 2.7 liter EcoBoost V6, the Fusion has the performance credentials to match the Police Interceptor Sedan.

The NYPD’s decision to outfit the Fusion for their fleet motivated Ford to create an official model for police use. Here’s two of the many NYPD Fusions that were parked just outside the Javits Center.

The Fusion looks good with police markings, but why is the US flag facing the wrong way? Kinda weird.

Law enforcement agencies can pick from a number of different models that have good performance credentials, which makes it unlikely you’ll see a pursuit rated Mustang, but it would be cool, wouldn’t it?

The big news for 2018 is the loss of the V6 Mustang. The plethora of available modifications for the 2.3 EcoBoost is a likely sign that the enthusiast community already moved on, so I doubt many people will miss the 3.7 liter Duratec.

Speaking of Mustangs, Roush was at the show this year, which I think might be a first. I believe this particular model was a Stage 2.

Roush also modifies the F-150! Pretty cool.

With the debut of the Ioniq last year, Hyundai didn’t have anything super interesting this year. The refreshed Sonata injects a bit more passion into a design criticized for being too sedate, but will it be enough to deter people from picking up a Santa Fe instead?

I thought it prudent to snap this pic of Amazon’s advertisement for Alexa’s integration into the Hyundai lineup. Tech companies are vying to get into automakers infotainment systems, and with the amount of gadgets the average American carries with them on a daily basis, its now becoming increasingly likely that their car will allow them to interact with an operating system they’re already familiar with.

The Dodge Demon is appropriately named. FCA continues to get mileage out of a platform that is over a decade old by creating a diverse amount of special editions models, a smart move on their part.

Notice the very skinny front tires. Looks like a spare!

The Demon attracted many spectators. I could have been standing next to someone who will inevitably crash one of these leaving a Cars and Coffee event and not even realized it!

Yeah, that’s a skinny tire alright.

What you’re seeing here is a drag strip simulator tied into the actual controls of the Demon. The car even lifted up and everything! Interestingly enough most automakers had something similar for their own products.

There’s really nothing new with the Charger this year but I liked this color and thought you might too.

Paul recently wrote about Nissan’s climb to ten percent market share. Its an accomplishment that could be felt at their display this year, as their floor space contained more energy than ever before. The Rogue is  currently the crown jewel for Nissan North America, so its not surprising to see one outfitted with a continuous track design, a not-so-subtle suggestion that the crossover is capable of handling anything you can throw at it.

Ford recently inked a product tie-in deal with Marvel and its likely the above pic demonstrates why they did it. Nissan’s Rogue One advertisement campaign definitely helped move some metal for the brand.

As stupid as this looks the idea of having a droid is alluring.

I guess this means the Rogue is outfitted with a Hyperdrive? I forgot to ask the R2 unit.

But wait, there’s more! Here’s a Rogue decked out in a color scheme not seen in any Star Wars property.

At least they got the Rebel Alliance logo right.

The Rogue coverage isn’t over yet! The Rogue Dogue (ugh) concept is dedicated to making trips with Fido a cinch.

The carpeting designed to mimic real grass felt quite different than the base carpeting of the Javits Center and it was oddly jarring to walk on.

The bright, bubbly lady showing off the dog friendly cargo area helpfully went through all the accessories contained within this Rogue, which included a drying and washing system, among other things.

I would not want a functional water system in the back of my car, and I’m not sure where Nissan thinks an owner would clean the dog.

Soon after I snapped this pic a gentleman who may have sported a Genesis logo on his suit jacket strolled up to the female Nissan representative and said “are you going to introduce me to your friends?” in the creepiest tone possible. Her immediate response was “uhhh…” and at that point I determined my time was best spent elsewhere.

Here’s a sight that was all too common at this year’s show: a sedan being absolutely ignored by pretty much everyone.

Volkswagen always makes their section feel bright, airy and vibrant, and this year was no exception. The big difference this time around was the amount of people looking at VW’s products, up substantially from last year when people avoided the brand, likely due to Dieselgate still being fresh on everyone’s mind. This Golf Alltrack got the attention of a lot of people.

Floor cars tend to be in a zombie like state at the show. Not quite alive, but not dead either, as some electronics are functional, presumably because the automakers want you to interact with their vehicles as much as possible. I get the feeling this Golf knew something was wrong with itself.

The Golf lineup makes do with an interior that is a mixed bag in terms of quality. This picture shows the contrast between the hard plastics of the center console and the excellent leather seat that brushes up against it. Those slots by the exposed 12V power outlet are card holders.

I was surprised by the stealthy engine start stop button, which resides to the upper left of the gear shift and close to the drivers right knee. Usually automakers make these buttons very visible, with some even coloring them bright red. It’s probably not much of an issue once you get used to it.

One big demerit against the Alltrack: the method of opening the rear liftgate is far too cumbersome. You have to press the top of of the VW logo and hold that position until the hatch disengages the lock. An older couple kept opening and closing the liftgate, apparently in disbelief that a modern car was designed in such a way.

It’s no secret that Volkswagen tends to misunderstand the American market. Case in point: the three row crossover segment. If VW introduced the Atlas five years ago it would have been considered a latecomer even then. With that said, the Atlas does feature an attractive design, and this particular color is fetching. The big news surrounding the Atlas is the standard 6 year, 72.000 mile bumper to bumper warranty. The Koreans gained a lot of market share with their generous terms and it looks like VW hopes to do the same.

Out back the Atlas looks like a more refined Grand Cherokee, with elements of past VW crossovers mixed in.

Inside things are also good. Switchgear quality is satisfying and that big, beefy steering wheel feels great in your hands.

Like the Golf, the Atlas features premium quality materials for the things you touch, and cheap plastic for all the other stuff, like the sides of the center console.

USB charging ports are essential these days, but I’m at a loss at to where VW thinks you should put your device while its charging.

An Atlas RLine was also at the show, but my research seems to indicate this trim level doesn’t exist. Perhaps the I stepped into an alternative reality around that spot.

It’s very possible the long wheelbase Tiguan will end up being more important for VW than the Atlas. With available third row seating and a 185 inch length, the Tiguan competes directly with the Nissan Rogue.

“The all new 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan has been engineered to specifically meet the needs of American customers…” Perhaps VW is finally gaining some self awareness?

Over at Kia the exterior of the Optima gets marred by a blunt rear bumper and tacky rear deflectors.

But the nearby K900 made me quickly forget about the Optima.

I did not expect this sedan to be outfitted with such high quality materials. The K900 boasts a fantastic cabin.

Automakers have started to put more care into the design of their HID headlights, and Kia followed suit.

K900 swag!

Even the side mirror indicators look good!

The next gen Rio sheds its cartoonish look for a more mature appearance.

Peter Schreyer has done wonders for Kia, even if the new Rio comes very close to being a simple clone of the Golf.

Interior quality is about what you’d expect for a subcompact.

The Koreans are making serious moves in the hybrid segment. Hyundai with its Ioniq hatchback, and Kia with the Niro. The Rogue and Rav4 hybrid models can be equipped with all-wheel drive, but neither of them come close to the Niro’s 50 MPG combined figure.

While the Japanese compact crossover hybrids use CVT transmissions, the Niro uses a dual clutch setup, an interesting configuration that likely makes the Niro more fun to drive when compared to the competition.

The Chevrolet SS failed to find many buyers, but that didn’t stop Kia from developing the Stinger, a full size performance sedan ostensibly designed to compete with the likes of the Alfa Romeo Giulia and similar vehicles.

The Stinger will join the Cadenza and the K900 as Kia’s third full size sedan, although it distinguishes itself from the pack with its available all-wheel drive. With the market rapidly shifting away from sedans of all sizes, the Cadenza is likely the only member of the trio with any sort of future, as its platform is shared with the Optima.

This is Kia doing its best Mercedes impression.

While Nissan sides with the Rebel Alliance, Chevy seems to be embracing its dark side with the Tahoe RST, a quasi performance SUV that gains 22 inch wheels, some blacked out trim, and the 6.2 liter paired with the new 10 speed automatic transmission.

The blacked out trim fad will eventually fade, but for now its here to stay. I’d say the Tahoe wears the look well.

The Bolt stands as a sharp contrast to the Tahoe, but not when it comes to darker trim.

The BMW i3 and Ford C-MAX got busy one night and nine months later the Bolt arrived on Earth. Nothing wrong with that at all! I could see myself in a Bolt someday.

Groundbreaking powertrain aside, the Bolt is also pioneering another nascent technology: the rear view mirror camera system. It’s also available on the Cadillac CT6 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it spread throughout the GM lineup in the coming years.

Critics weren’t too fond of the Bolt’s interior quality and I’m not sure why. I think its right in line with something like a Rav4 or a Sonata, its likely competition given its price point. The issue lies with the grey buttons. Make them too big and they’ll come off as cheap, even if their actual quality is good. This is an affliction that affects most modern GM vehicles.

The Bolt’s availability is still limited so sales have been understandably muted. I’m looking forward to the inevitable Model 3 comparisons.

Chevy’s website claims the 2018 Traverse is a mid-size SUV, but we all know its actually a full-size crossover. The Traverse was already one of the bigger entries in the segment, and the new model gains .7 inches in length, which makes it a pretty big family hauler.

The GMC Acadia got downsized for the current generation in order to better compete with the likes of the Ford Edge, which enables the Traverse to spar with the Highlander and Explorer.

The Traverse clearly emulates its American competition, a good move since its predecessor looked quite bloated when viewed from a similar angle.

Definitely seeing elements of the Explorer and Durango here.

The new Equinox follows a similar styling path as the Traverse but manages to keep a bit more of its personality intact.

Chevy’s current generation of cars look far more attractive than their predecessors, now their crossovers are following suit. The Equinox also will also stand out with its optional 1.6 turbo diesel, a first for the segment. I’d be curious if the decision to offer an oil burner in the Equinox and Cruze was made before or after Dieselgate.

Superlatives for part 1

Best interior: Kia K900

Worst interior: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

Most likely to succeed: Ford EcoSport

Most likely to fail: Kia Stinger

Most likely to give me heart palpitations when I’m exceeding the speed limit: Ford Police Responder Hybrid

Related Reading:

2016 NY International Auto Show, part 1

Part 2

Part 3