Curbside Classic Visits The 2018 New York International Auto Show, Part 1: General Motors And Nissan

It’s been about five years since I started developing content related to the New York International Auto Show on Curbside Classic. My initial auto show coverage contained about twenty photos. This latest trip yielded five hundred and fifteen pictures. That means one, or even four separate parts, would be packed with far too much information to absorb, which is why eight sections are now needed to properly detail all the vehicles that were present at the Javits Center this year. And to further improve readability, the 50-70 pictures that comprise one particular section are now themed, which means you’ll know what to expect simply by reading the title of the post.

Will you be able to entirely digest the first of this eight part series while you sit on the toilet and expel the contents of your bowels? I have no idea. But if you were successful in doing so, I will hail the changes I’ve made as my crowning achievement.

Chevy celebrated the Camaro’s 50th anniversary last year, and 2018 brings another one: it’s been fifty years since the inception of Hot Wheels. One of the first cars Mattel introduced was in fact the Camaro, and the initial run of those die-cast models are worth about $2,500 due to their rarity. Which is obviously why General Motors decided to produce some limited edition examples celebrating their partnership with Mattel.

Aside from the convertible, you can also get the Hot Wheels Edition in coupe form. It starts at a not-unreasonable price of $31,500 due to its availability at the 2LT trim level.

I suspect the majority of buyers interested in a Hot Wheels Edition Camaro will opt for a more well equipped model like our featured car. Without options, this convertible has an MSRP of exactly $48,000. Opting for the Hot Wheels Package ($5,000) 8 speed automatic transmission ($1,495) performance exhaust ($895) a front license plate bracket ($40, I can’t believe they charge customers for this) and destination ($995) gets you an eye watering grand total of $56,420.

Is it worth it? I think it might be. You’re getting an exclusive color (“Crush,” which I assume is a subtle nod to the soft drink) combined with a whole bunch of worthy aesthetic upgrades like illuminated door sill plates, a unique suede steering wheel with orange stitching, and a blacked out Chevrolet Bowtie, among other things. Sure, it’s pretty much all cosmetic stuff, but it’s tastefully done, and I have a feeling something like this could have easily gone the other way.

Unfortunately, opting for the Hot Wheels Edition means you’ll be buying a Camaro that’s already outdated, as Chevy announced the refreshed 2019 model several weeks ago. Aside from the exterior changes, other notable upgrades include the availability of the 10 speed automatic on the SS trim and an upgraded infotainment system.

As is tradition, automakers brought whole displays full of swag. Apparently you can buy either Chevy or Camaro branded luggage.

While show attendees swarmed the bright orange Camaro, they completely ignored this Sonic. There’s been a lot of digital ink spilled about Ford’s recent decision to axe every sedan in its lineup. It’s hard to understand the changes affecting the auto industry when you see plenty of late model sedans on the road. That doesn’t disprove the rapid shift to crossovers. And this picture illustrates what I’ve been seeing at the auto show for several years now: sedans and smaller cars are steadily getting less popular and do not make compelling displays at the auto show.

While sedans sputter and die, trucks and sport utility vehicles roar back to life. Ten years ago, not many would have envisioned the midsize truck segment rebounding. And now that the Raptor has demonstrated interest in truly off-road vehicles, Chevy wants a cut of the pie with their Colorado. The ZR2 can go over rocks, which I’m not sure I could have ever guessed if it wasn’t for this very informative display. Also, this thing starts at around $40,000. That’s a lot of money.

Over at GMC, the Sierra was out in all its redesigned glory. Due to arrive at dealerships this fall, the truck will boast some features new to the segment, like the rear view camera system that effectively replaces the rear mirror, which is already available on select GM models. A heads up display, which automakers are now calling “head up,” will also be available.

The big news is the Sierra’s new rear tailgate, which can be configured in six different ways. It’s seven if you count “high profit mode,” but I think that comes standard on every model, and has for many years.

GMC also had this current generation Sierra outfitted with tank treads, which they dubbed the “All Mountain.” Apparently its a corporate tie up with Vail Ski Resort, which is located in Vail, Colorado. Perfect for those who want to ride out the apocalypse far away from any road whatsoever.

As for more civilized transportation, the Buick Regal TourX will get you around the urban jungle in style, although it won’t be the easiest to park in a place like Manhattan, as any vehicle with a length of 196 inches needs a decent amount of space. No wonder why people are switching to crossovers like the Terrain, which can hold more people in a shorter length: 182 inches.

But does the Terrain have as much style as the TourX? For me, the answer is no. Wagons deserve to make a comeback. Hopefully they will.

Unfortunately, the Regal is a huge let down inside. A Chevy Malibu wagon priced a couple thousand dollars cheaper? Sure, this cabin would work for that application. But this Regal starts at 29k. I’m not sure the materials justify the cost.

Cadillac’s XTS is still a thing. In a world where sedans that sell in much greater numbers are being axed, I can’t imagine this thing hanging around for too much longer. And it even sells more than the CTS!

And this particular model is a damn V-Sport too! I had no idea these existed. Is there really be a market for something like this, and at a price of $73, 490?

I’m with Car And Driver on this one. It’s a cool powertrain, but not for a boat of this size.

CTS, ATS, XTS, CT6. These are a bunch of uninspiring names that do little to stir the senses. Should Cadillac have followed the path blazed by the likes of Mercedes and BMW? My instinct is to say no, but Lincoln decided to carve out its own niche and so far that effort resulted in mixed success. Long term I think Lincoln is on better footing. The Continental is a lot less risky than something like the CT6, which apparently sits on its own unique platform.

And now you know why Johan de Nysschen is no longer in charge of Cadillac. Don’t get me wrong: this is a very cool vehicle. But any model that struggles to sell 1,000 units in a given month is a dead car driving.

I assume “first ever” will soon become “last ever.”

It’s a shame, really. Because the engine in the V-Sport sounds pretty great: a 4.2 liter twin turbo V8 with an estimated output of 550 horsepower and 627 Ib-ft of torque, mated to the new 10 speed automatic. This is a powertrain that should be in more than just a full size sedan. And in order to recoup the development costs, it probably will be in the future.

It’s taken GM quite a while to develop a compact luxury crossover, but they’ve finally done it with the XT4. When it arrives later this year, it will compete with the likes of the Lincoln MKC and Lexus NX. I imagine if this came out four years ago, there would not have been a shake up at Cadillac in April.

Art & Science is alive and well. I went from liking it, to loathing it, to liking it again. It’s like one of those comedy sketches that takes a bit and runs with it way past its natural conclusion.

For example, this classic, which features Pierce Brosnan being uniquely terrible at sketch comedy.

More swag! And that’s it for GM.

Midsize sedans are an endangered species these days, but the main players aren’t cutting any corners on their redesigns. Nissan decided to make the 2019 Altima a bit bolder and add some new features to the long running nameplate.

I’ve always felt Nissan repeatedly tried to recapture the glory of the third generation model with each subsequent redesign. Now it appears they’ve finally decided to break with the past and forge ahead with a new look. It’s a little bit derivative of the Maxima, but who cares? It’s not like full size sedans really matter anymore anyway.

Aside from the available all-wheel drive for four cylinder variants, the big news surrounding the next generation Altima is the variable compression engine that will be the range topper for the entire lineup.

Yes, you heard right: Nissan is putting a variable compression ratio engine in the Altima. Infiniti already has one in the new QX50, and it will basically replace the 3.5 naturally aspirated V6 in certain applications.

In the Altima, buyers will be getting a 2.0 turbo with 248 hp and 273 Ib. ft of torque. Not bad numbers, especially if the powertrain can demonstrate substantially improved fuel economy.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Altima fares against the new Accord and Camry. I imagine it will do quite well if Nissan continues to undercut both in price.

Just like the Sonic, absolutely no one was interested in the Sentra. Seriously. It’s normally impossible to get a shot without people at the show, but the immediate area around the Sentra was a ghost town.

Jim Klein checked out the new Leaf back in October, and he had favorable impressions of the car. I concur. I think the second generation is a huge visual upgrade over the original, and its price point and range make a lot of sense.

Sentra hatchback? That’s what the Leaf looks like. And I mean that as a compliment.

The interior isn’t terribly high quality, but that is also a fault of the Bolt. You’re paying for the powertrain with these cars. Everything else takes a backseat. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. My beef is with the transmission gear selector. At this point I’m a bit peeved that Congress hasn’t done more to regulate shifters. I know there are more important issues that the government needs to tackle, but people have died because of these unintuitive systems. And this particular one isn’t even worthy of a video game peripheral.

Nissan carved a niche out for itself by pricing its cars a bit below everyone else. This propelled the Rogue to the top of the sales charts. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, because Nissan lumps the Rogue Sport in with the regular Rogue. These are two different cars, and in international markets the Rogue Sport is known as the Qashqai. Not entirely honest, is it?

Dishonest sales reporting aside, how does the Rogue Sport succeed on the merits? Just fine, actually. Interior quality is solid, even if the aesthetics aren’t incredible. And the black trim is a magnet for fingerprints, although it’s nothing that a microfiber cloth couldn’t solve with a quick wipe. The little crossover looks good too, which is saying something for this segment, because a lot of the designs look awkward.

This isn’t a terribly thrilling picture, but you’re going to want to scroll back to it after you read about the next vehicle.

The rising popularity of crossovers means we’re seeing newly created segments gain traction. Is there a limit to how many crossovers an automaker can sell in one particular segment? We’re about to find out. Case in point: the Nissan Kicks. I guess someone at Nissan really liked that song by Foster The People? It’s a weird name.

The Kicks is basically a sub-subcompact crossover. Does that mean it’s smaller than a Rogue Sport? Not really. It’s about three inches shorter than a Rogue Sport, an inch and a half thinner, and the wheelbase is exactly one inch shorter than its bigger brother. Historically, such similarly sized dimensions generally meant that an automaker would look at the specs and decide there was only room for one of these products in their lineup. But Nissan clearly has a strategy here.

And what is that strategy exactly? The Kicks starts about $3,000 below the Rogue Sport. It also doesn’t have an available all wheel drive system. Cheaper price. Less features. And of course parts sharing, as evidenced by this steering wheel, which is the same one in the Rogue Sport.

The Kicks also differentiates itself by virtue of its cheap interior. Really cheap. This picture is focused on the shifter because when I attempted to play around with it, the entire section surrounding it moved as well. It really felt like it was about to fall apart or crumble into pieces. It’s an impressively brittle interior. I suspect Nissan realized they needed a crossover to sell to subprime borrowers who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Sentra or Altima, so they created a substantially downmarket model to appeal to them.

In addition to the Kicks, Nissan also builds vehicles for more affluent folk. Here is a Pathfinder in its uh, natural habitat? No, that would be the JCPenney parking lot.

Is this Titan in its natural habitat? No. That would be the Dick’s Sporting Goods parking lot.

Ok, that’s more like it. I can picture an Armada owner towing a boat like that. Of course I can also picture it sitting near the local little league field as well.

I will conclude part one with this blurry picture of the cargo area of a Pathfinder. I thought it was pretty cool that Nissan also makes rubber mats for the seat backs. My friend, who accompanied me on the trip, owns a current generation Pathfinder and really liked the idea of rubber mats for the seat backs because he once transported some heavy bulk items when the seats were folded down, which resulted in them getting permanently scratched. Makes sense, which might be more than we can say about the Kicks in a couple of years.