Curbside Classic Visits The 2017 New York International Auto Show, Part 2

Part one of this year’s auto show skewed heavily towards crossovers and alternative energy vehicles. In today’s coverage the sedans strike back.

The current generation Civic received positive reviews from pretty much all the major magazines, blogs, and YouTube channels, so it will be interesting to learn how these same organizations feel about the upcoming Si.

Honda currently rates the future Si at 205 horsepower and 192 Ibs. torque.

Honda Civic Si205192
Ford Focus ST252270
Volkswagen GTI220258
Subaru WRX268258

Performance compacts from rival manufacturers boast higher power ratings, a fact that may deter some shoppers from going with the Honda.

The Si may lack the horsepower of its competitors, but its numerous configurations and body styles help make it compelling.

Central exhaust tips are cool while massive, fake diffusers are not.

The Clarity represented Honda’s hydrogen ambitions for quite some time, but this is the era of the hybrid and the EV, so the large hatch will now be available in plug-in and full electric variants.

Given its rather quirky looks, the Clarity will likely stay a very niche product.

The minivan segment got a jolt of energy last year with the debut of the Chrysler Pacifica. Honda has one of the more competitive vehicles in the class, but people keep flocking to crossovers.

The 2018 Odyssey finally ditches the exposed door track, although it gains the floating roof motif that automakers seem to love, making the redesign a mixed bag, at least when it comes to looks.

Things are better out back, with the Honda gaining a rear end not unlike the dearly departed Volkswagen Routan.

The new CR-V looks substantially larger than its predecessor, even if its true dimensions tell a tale of a model that expanded in very small increments.

We’ve seen the floating screen motif, now Honda gives us the “disconnected center stack” look, as I’ve taken to calling it. I say disconnected because the glossy black section sits in front of the grey area. It’s definitely a unique style and the Honda pulls it off well.

The stitching fad spreads to another car, and in the case of the C-RV, its fake.

Honda put all previous C-RV rear end designs in a blender and went with whatever came out. That’s the only logical explanation aside from drugs, right?

The Ridgeline had no significant updates this year, but when I sat in this particular example I noticed the navigation system operating in 3D mode and showing a surprisingly accurate rendering of the Javits Center. Neat.

Mid-size sedans used to resonate with American families until crossovers came along. Toyota thinks it can resuscitate the Camry with the 2018 model, but it increasingly looks like that won’t happen. At some point the Rav4 becomes Toyota’s most popular model, right?

Toyota did a great job enhancing the traditional looks of the Camry while simultaneously sticking to a design that breaks with the past.

This is the angle Toyota likely wants you to see, as it clearly demonstrates the difference between previous Camrys and the 2018 redesign.

As usual, the trims Toyota labels as sporty end up trying too hard. The quad exhausts look fine but those fake rear diffusers connected to the tail lights are a bit much.

Blacked out Camrys will soon be a thing and its not the end of the world. Who would have thought such a feat could be accomplished?

The rear diffusers are still too much, as is the black spoiler.

Toyota didn’t just shake things up on the outside, as the cabin gets a pretty substantial makeover that carves out a large area for the drivers right knee. It looks much better in the flesh than it did on my computer screen.

The weakest section of the new Camry is probably the front end, as the large grille and sharp edges go a little too far, at least on this trim.

Overall, I’d say the Camry design is a success.

Toyota expands the Prius line as it sees fit, and now the plug-in variant is here to potentially give commuters a gas-free commute if their place of work is less than 25 miles from their home.

The Prime gets a massive touch screen that immediately evokes images of the Tesla Model S interior.

Like the Clarity, the Mirai (Japanese for “future”) has steadily become more accessible over the last several years, and now attendees can sit in one just like any other car.

The Mirai boasts an interior about as quirky as its alternative energy stable mate, the Prius.

Unlike the Prius, the Mirai separates the HVAC section from the audio controls in dramatic fashion. That area looks like a nightmare to keep clean.

The Mirai and the Prius also don’t share a body style, as the Mirai is a sedan.

Crossovers started to move away from a monochromatic appearance some time ago, but recently some models re-introduced lower body-color panels on their higher level trims. Aside from the Rav4, the Cherokee does a similar thing, and in Europe the Escape Vignale reserves the appearance for those looking to pay for it.

This is the back of the Rav4 hybrid. The battery in a compact crossover hybrid resides where the spare tire would normally go, an advantage over hybrid sedans that must sacrifice trunk space for their energy storage.

I never thought the Sienna looked particularly attractive, but the 2018 refresh caught my eye.

Altezza lights on stock production vehicles never really took off, but Toyota decided to give them another shot with this refresh, and I’m not sorry they did.

Not all refreshes at Toyota worked. Take this Yaris for example. The subcompact continues to do poorly in its segment, so Toyota probably felt a dramatic change was necessary. The current generation Yaris never looked attractive and this certainly doesn’t help.

Things aren’t much better out back, where the Yaris ends up looking like a shrunken Sienna. A note to automotive designers: if you’re subcompact ends up looking like a minivan you’ve screwed up.

Another example of Toyota’s inability to design a small vehicle with an attractive exterior is the car formerly known as the Scion iA. Fittingly, the iA is now a member of the Yaris family, a group with faces made for radio, or blogging. Fortunately I forgot to photograph the front end, so we get to gaze at the iA from its one good angle.

My initial disgust at the floating screen motif began when Mazda started to use the design on its vehicles. While I’ve since come around to interiors that feature the style, it just doesn’t work in this particular example because its so far away from the driver to be useful. I’m pretty sure that screen resides at the cruising altitude of most commercial airliners.

Cars with ugly exteriors and interiors become far more compelling when outfitted with standard equipment like the Toyota Safety Sense package. Competitors are at a serious disadvantage with safety conscious shoppers, especially with entry level vehicles.

Speaking of entry level vehicles, the Toyota C-HR should be arriving at dealerships right about now. Toyota’s entry level crossover injects some style into the subcompact segment, but lacks all-wheel drive, and critics weren’t thrilled about its driving dynamics.

With the C-HR, Toyota enters another vehicle into the floating screen club, an organization that is rapidly adding new members.

I can see the rear end of the C-HR turning off some buyers.

Rival automakers are no doubt envious of Jeep’s success with the Wrangler. While Ford works on resurrecting the Bronco, Toyota is actively thinking about developing an off-road crossover, as evidenced by this concept, which Toyota calls the FT-4X. A  relatively cheap, dedicated off-road vehicle is something Toyota hasn’t had in its portfolio since the FJ Cruiser, which ended production over three years ago.

Using a unibody crossover platform for an all-terrain vehicle would likely help Toyota keep pricing in line with the Wrangler, which starts at around $24,000. This is all speculation of course, as the FT-4X currently exists in pure concept form, meaning no powertrain information or anything of that sort.

Toyota’s swag has adult and kid oriented items.

Do you want a V90? If so, driving to your nearest Volvo dealer isn’t a wise decision, because they won’t have one in stock, nor will they be able to order one for you. American customers aren’t out of luck though, as the V90 is available via Volvo Concierge and Overseas Delivery.

I wouldn’t blame you for paying a hefty premium for this particular piece of Swedish luxury, as the cabin is quite sumptuous, just like the XC90

The tall center console is the only downside, but I’m a small dude, so your mileage may vary.

LED displays continue to get more sophisticated and the digital setup inside the V90’s cockpit is no exception.

Unlike the V90, the V90 Cross Country will sit on dealer lots until the right customer comes along. The Cross Country carries a $6,000 premium over the plain jane wagon, which probably means the Cross Country comes standard with some features that are optional on the V90.

The body cladding and increased ride height can’t bring this design down. In fact, I don’t think they damage the aesthetics at all.

The XC60 doesn’t deviate from the modern Volvo formula set forth by the XC90. In fact, the two look practically identical and the beauty goes beyond skin deep: the two crossovers share engines and a platform, which in this case is the Scalable Product Architecture.

Volvo’s new platform cannot shrink down to a size smaller than the 60 series, which likely means they’re currently developing at least one other platform.

Modular platforms allow automakers to manufacture a diverse amount of vehicles in one factory. For Volvo, this enables their production to shift between crossovers and sedans as demand dictates. For 2018 that shift in demand means America is getting the longer wheelbase S90 because Volvo is using its plant in Sweden to build crossovers. The new Chinese-built sedans boast a 4.7 inch increase in wheelbase, and up close the S90 looks massive with the new measurements.

Did overall length increase too? My gut says yes but my research has failed to find hard numbers to back up my claim. Even if that is not the case its abundantly clear which section of the S90 benefits from the stretched wheelbase.

Volvo’s got its mojo back and they know it.

Some nice concept diecasts.

Here are diecasts of production models.

The Volvo P1800 rested behind protective glass this year.

I don’t think this is the actual P1800 from the The Saint, but it did have an ST 1 license plate on the front.

As a new brand, Genesis needs to simply get the message out there that they exist. Each subsequent visit to their section demonstrates their continued education on cultivating awareness, as the displays become more colorful and complex. The tiled floor underneath this Genesis G80 looked suspiciously like asphalt, and the yellow lines on either side of the vehicle make me believe the designers wanted to create the experience of walking up to the sedan in a parking lot.

Unfortunately, the G80 doesn’t look nearly as impressive in person as it does on the internet, its biggest sin coming from this angle, where you could easily mistake the sedan for an Elantra if you were devoting your attention elsewhere.


The biggest letdown came upon sitting inside the cabin, where interior quality lagged surprisingly far behind the K900, an odd revelation given their shared platform. Buttons for the audio and climate controls were the main culprit here, as they felt far less premium than the switchgear in the Kia.

Luc Donckerwolke, head designer for the Genesis brand, recently went on record to state that headlights will soon become something of a vestigial organ on cars. Is he creating a narrative to justify the design aesthetic on the Genesis GV80? Yes, and unfortunately the world is poorer for it because this concept is straight up ugly.

Okay, perhaps its just ugly when facing it head on. This side profile improves the look quite a bit.

Thin lights do work – but on the rear end only. People just see headlights as the “eyes” of the car, and shrinking them down into nothing will be detrimental to automotive design.

Headlamps aside, the GV80 is a tasteful design, if a bit generic.

Jaguar continues its hot streak with the XE.

If you’re a luxury automaker you better make sure your digital dash looks superior to the setups featured in mainstream automakers vehicles. Fortunately Jaguar didn’t cheap out in that regard.

You’d expect a British automotive company to design a restrained interior, and the XE doesn’t disappoint there. This may be the least indulgent cabin of any luxury vehicle currently on sale.

This kitty purrs even when its sitting still.

Higher tier automakers resisted the call to make crossovers. Then they all caved, practically simultaneously. Fortunately, it seems like every luxury automaker that introduced one did so without diluting their brand. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio looks like its cut from the same cloth.

Stelvio is the name of a famous mountain pass in Italy. The namesake vehicle will certainly have some performance credentials to back its name up: the Quadrifoglio trim will boast 510 horsepower from a twin turbo 2.9 liter V6.

The Giulia is no longer forbidden fruit now that its on sale, and Alfa Romeo brought a bunch of examples to show off.

Its hard to fully gauge the interior of a modern vehicle when the infotainment is off. I have no idea if this display conveys information in a pleasing manner, or if it just broadcasts pictures of empty beer cans when its turned on.

Out back things are a little more subdued.

Maserati walls off its vehicles and only allows its section to be accessed by a select few at a time. After all, if too many members of the proletariat converge in the same area, something bad is bound to happen, right? That is why only the best among us get to experience the Levante up close.

Maserati’s first crossover is named after a Mediterranean wind, because of course it is. 

Clothing by Maserati: for the individual who’d rather not look like that churl behind the counter at Starbucks.

The Range Rover Velar will slot between the Evoque and Sport when it goes on sale in the near future. Velar is Latin for “veil” but also sounds like something from Game of Thrones.

I get a feeling the Velar’s two tone paint scheme will serve as an inspiration for other automakers.

When I came upon this Lincoln I got excited at the prospect of finally being able to sit inside the Continental. Then I realized this was the facelifted MKZ.

THIS is the Continental, and unlike last year, Lincoln brought some cars with actual color on them. The S90 may have a more interesting front end, but the Continental isn’t too far behind.

I stepped into the Continental thinking interior quality would be decent, but not fully competitive with the S90, CT6, and G80. Lincoln exceeded my expectations by a significant margin, and the Continental boasts a cabin more premium than the Genesis. As for the Cadillac and the Volvo, Lincoln ekes out a small victory over the former and is every bit as competitive as the latter. Three days after the auto show, Ward’s announced their 10 best interiors for 2017 and the Continental made the cut.

Eliminating an interior door handle freed up space for power seat adjustments and additional speakers.

And here’s the button you push in order for the door to open. It’s certainly different than grabbing a handle, but there’s hardly a learning curve behind it. The car pops the door open for you just like it would under manual operation. It was fun watching people enter the car, look around the cabin, panic a little bit when they realized no handle was present, then express wonder and relief once they figured out how to get out.

The Continental only gets one real demerit, and those of you familiar with modern Ford and Lincoln vehicles no doubt already know what I’m about to discuss…

Here’s the headlight dial and surrounding buttons on my 2013 Focus. This isn’t a case of Lincoln using the same design and upgrading the quality of the controls for their vehicles. They’re the exact same ones. How egregious is their inclusion? Opinions will vary, but from my experience these controls are not regularly used, so I don’t think its a big deal as long as Lincoln ends the practice in the near future.

An interesting side note: the Fiesta, Taurus, Flex, Expedition, MKT, and Navigator are the only products under the Ford corporate umbrella not currently using the aforementioned controls. The Expedition and Navigator redesigns are on their way, but for the rest of the group the future doesn’t look too bright. Flex production ends in several years, which means the MKT likely dies too, and other blogs recently reported on the lack of plans to replace the Taurus in North America. As for the Fiesta, Ford repeatedly states they’ll discuss their plans for the subcompact at a later date, which could mean any number of things.

Cadillac’s Escalade traditionally outsells its American competition in the large luxury SUV segment, but that may soon change, as the new Navigator boasts an exterior remarkably similar to the concept that debuted in New York one year ago.

Lincoln also went ahead and borrowed the 450 hp, 500 Ibs. torque 3.5 liter Ecoboost from the new Raptor, which will likely make the Navigator a pretty quick vehicle.

The compromises between the concept (left) and the production (right) version of the Navigator were marginal at best. Given Lincoln’s recent track record, expect future product reveals to very closely resemble their conceptual counterparts.

The biggest change lies with the tail light cluster, which grew in size compared to the concept version.

Minimal design concessions are definitely a good thing.

In case you thought your eyes were playing tricks on you, there were two Navigators on hand and I didn’t take a picture of the rear end of the light blue one that was on the rotating pedestal.

From a functional standpoint Ford’s upcoming Ecosport demonstrated the benefits of the floating screen motif. The aesthetic advantages of the design weren’t clear to me until seeing it inside the cabin of the Navigator. Too many luxury automakers either extend their digital display across half the dashboard or create a screen that rests entirely on top of it. The former method creates an imposing interior that makes the vehicle feel smaller inside while the latter approach simply looks cheap. The Lincoln avoids all those pratfalls.

I’ll conclude the second part of my coverage by showing you Lincoln’s Virtual Artist display, which presumably created a picture based on your appearance. How did it do that?

Via some app on an Xbox One, at least I think. But that is definitely a Kinect up there, waiting to do whatever it is Lincoln wanted it to do.

Superlatives for Part 2

Best interior: Lincoln Continental

Worst Interior: Toyota Mirai

Most likely to succeed: Lincoln Navigator

Most likely to fail: Toyota Yaris

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CC Visits the 2017 NY International Auto Show, Part 1