Curbside Classic Visits The 2019 Hudson Valley Auto Show, Part 1: General Motors, Nissan, Acura, And Mazda

For the past three years or so I’ve been meaning to take a trip up to the local convention center when they host their annual auto show. Circumstances forced me to abandon those plans. Just kidding! I’ve simply forgotten the date and missed it several times. But fear not! I attended this year. And the amount of vehicles I shot will enable me to focus more on new vehicle debuts and concept cars when I head to the Javits Center next month.

A bunch of debuts at the 2018 New York show are currently sitting at dealerships nationwide. Chief among them was the new Silverado. The front end is quite a departure from the previous generation and the other trucks in the segment.

General Motors caught a bit of flak over their new trucks. The controversial styling, ho-hum interior, and non-innovative powertrains haven’t done any favors for the Silverado and Sierra.

Is the new Silverado a rolling dumpster fire? No. Sure, the new turbo four is a spectacular flame out, and the exterior is not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean the truck is a dud. Far from it. The Chevy has those nicely integrated tail gate steps. And the bed is substantially larger than the competition. There are compelling reasons to buy this truck.

But what of the interior? Its not at the level of the Ram and its slightly behind the F-150, but not enough to be a deal breaker. Material quality may not match its rivals, but it’s really not a bad place to spend time.

The center console is absolutely gargantuan and can definitely hold a gallon of milk and another half gallon of milk. And in case you were curious, that is in fact a USB-C port. They’re all over the cabin.

The GMC Sierra is a slightly more attractive truck.

The big news with the 1500 is the addition of the MultiPro tailgate. Can it do a bunch of truck stuff? Yes. This configuration is the one you want if you’re a short dude like me who needs a little more of an assist to get into the bed. You can also close the main tailgate while keeping the bottom step unfolded, which then doubles as bed extender. Neat!

Compelling tailgate aside, there is no reason for GMC to exist. This interior is essentially the same as its Chevy counterpart.

Okay, now back to Chevy. GMC doesn’t have a Blazer clone yet. But if they get one, it probably won’t be as compelling as this two row crossover, at least visually. Yes, this is a good looking vehicle. It’s a nice blend of contemporary Chevy and Mazda styling.

That Mazda inspired styling extends to the rear end of the Blazer as well. Also of note is the recessed area around the license plate, which takes up a substantial portion of the tailgate. Ford has used this design trick many times in the past, and it results in vehicles that tend to end up looking pretty good. Chevy was wise to emulate them.

Occupants in the back of the Blazer get their choice of a USB-A port, USB-C, or a regular 120V household outlet. If your laptop or mobile phone can’t charge itself using any of those, you probably aren’t from Earth, and definitely should have logged on to Space Amazon to buy the universal power adapter before visiting.

The general consensus on the Blazer is that it has very good driving dynamics and an underwhelming interior. Again, I don’t think the interior is a deal breaker, at least when it comes to material quality. Although you’ve probably already noticed the most glaring issue inside the Blazer: that completely bonkers HVAC setup. It sits entirely too low for anyone taller than an Ewok. I am baffled as to how they thought those vents were a good idea.

The Blazer has another problem: it can get seriously expensive at the top end of its lineup. Base MSRP for the RS trim is $43,500. A quick visit to Healey Chevrolet’s website shows several white Blazer RS models for about $50,750. Obviously this was one of them. That is a ludicrous price for a two row crossover. For comparison purposes, a base Ford Edge ST starts at $42,355 while a Ford Explorer Sport can be had for $46,625. Incentives and rebates can be used to lower the price, but the Blazer boasts a starting price that will probably scare a lot of customers away before they even sit down to talk numbers with a salesperson.

The current Traverse debuted several years ago and I’ve seen them at the auto show in New York, but never got close to one until now. The Chevy deserved a look due to its membership in the ultra competitive three row crossover segment. It’s an attractive crossover that probably came about when General Motors captured a Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango and forced them to breed.

Like other vehicles under the General Motors umbrella, the Traverse suffers from a positively drab interior. There are options for more expressive interior options but they’ll cost you. Does your family truckster need to be decked out with an upscale interior if it’s just meant to shuttle your kids around? Maybe not. 2018 was the best year ever for the Traverse, with 146,264 examples finding a home.

Because of the poor lighting at the show, my rear end shot of the Traverse came out quite blurry. So here’s one from the 2017 New York show. The Chevy is the longest three row in the segment. At 204 inches, it is six more inches than the 2019 Explorer, and it will be longer than the redesigned 2020 model as well. The Traverse and its Buick Enclave sibling basically occupy their own niche in an expansive segment.

By contrast, the GMC Acadia is right in the thick of things. General Motors decided to go for a two pronged approach with their three rows: the Chevy and Buick are at the larger end while the GMC is available for those seeking something a bit smaller. And by smaller I mean 194 inches in length. That is on the shorter side of the segment, but again, GM thinks a two pronged approach is the best. The upcoming Cadillac XT6 will by slightly larger than the Acadia, coming in at about 198 inches.

Although the Traverse and Acadia differ in size, they are quite similar in terms of interior quality. To reiterate the point I made earlier: there is no reason for GMC to exist. There’s not enough differentiation between it and Chevy.

To make matters worse, the current Acadia has an “All Terrain” package. Does this confuse people into thinking they’re looking at or sitting in a Terrain? If my experience is anything to go by, the answer is yes. I definitely heard a salesman correct a prospective customer who thought he was inside a Terrain.

I’ve been quite skeptical of Cadillac lately. They’re not fielding an exciting lineup right now. And future products seem to be just as underwhelming. Does the XT4 solve any of those problems? Not really.

That being said, I do like the exterior of the XT4. It keeps the Art and Science look fresh without being too busy.

Unfortunately the interior is a huge letdown. Like other vehicles in the GM lineup, its interior cannot compete with the competition.

Nissan hasn’t cancelled any of its sedans yet. Will it happen? I can’t imagine the Versa hanging around for too much longer. The Sentra probably moves enough volume to stay in the game for now. As for the Maxima, I think it has overstayed its welcome even if it is a pretty decent vehicle. With the latest Altima, the Maxima has become even more irrelevant. The new mid size has sexy styling, compelling features, and decent driving dynamics. You’d have to really fall in love with the Maxima in order to pick it over the Altima.

The big news for the Altima is the addition of an all wheel drive variant. Like Subaru, you can get four wheel traction with the entry level trim level and the standard powertrain. At $25,250, a base AWD Altima is a decent value. It’s probably about ten years too late though.

The Altima’s cabin does exactly what it needs to do and nothing more. It’s a bit more spartan than a Camry or Accord, but not enough to be a deal breaker. And I’m sure that the Nissan comes out a bit cheaper when directly compared to its Japanese competitors, making the slightly less premium interior a bit more palatable.

Nissan has touted its Zero Gravity seats for several years now. I must not have been paying attention to these seats in previous cars for some reason or another. Maybe they weren’t as good as they are in the new Altima. Then it happened: as soon as I plopped my butt into these thrones I was impressed. Without any adjustments and a fully deployed lumbar I felt extraordinarily comfortable. And I generally dislike lumbar adjustments. I highly doubt any of the other mid sizers can match those seats. They are definitely worth checking out.

In terms of value, this particular Altima probably makes a good case for itself as long as it comes with some decent incentives. The SR trim doesn’t have all the premium interior enhancements of the higher tier trim levels yet it still pushes 30k. Then again it seems like all the other mid size sedans are priced similarly now.

The Altima may not have as rich of an interior as the Accord or Camry, but it does boast some compelling features that make it worth a look. And if we’re witnessing the last generation of the Altima, it will at least have gone out on a high note.

2018 saw the introduction of several subcompact crossovers that had been available in international markets for at least several years prior to their introduction in America. The Nissan Kicks, along with the Ford EcoSport and Hyundai Kona, entered the market and did pretty well for themselves. Ford moved about 54,000 EcoSports while Hyundai sold just over 47,000 Konas. 23,000 Kicks found homes in 2018. That doesn’t sound terribly good at first, but it’s important to keep in mind its availability was extremely limited until the second half of the year, which means its actually been quite competitive with its fellow freshman.

I was able to sit in a Kicks last year at the Javits Center. My conclusion at the time was that the interior was poorly put together because I was able to move the entire assembly area around the floor shifter with great ease. That now seems like just a fluke, because this specific Kicks didn’t exhibit any glaring fit or finish issues.

This is still a subcompact crossover though, with hard plastics everywhere. Obviously, no one is buying the Kicks for its interior. They’re getting it for its low price and attractive tech options.

It will be interesting to see if other automakers introduce multiple entries into the same segment like Nissan did. The subcompact crossover segment as a whole grew by a staggering 31 percent in 2018, so there is certainly room to do so.

There is also another automaker that currently sells vehicles with a cut rate interior, and it’s not one you’d expect. Yes, you’re reading me correctly: The Acura lineup is full of vehicles with extraordinarily disappointing interiors. The TLX is one such vehicle.

This is actually the interior of an MDX. But my point still stands. Their interiors don’t justify the inflated price tag of a luxury vehicle.

I’m also not sold on the modern Acura look. In the mid 2000’s an Acura had a distinct presence and gave off a very premium vibe. Contemporary models don’t really do that. This RDX looks nice, especially with its blue paint job, but is it worth the extra coin?

And is it worth it to splurge for the A-Spec trim? I don’t think it is.

Sure, the trim gets you some fancy seats and better overall handling, but you’re still paying quite a bit for a product that just doesn’t feel like it’s worth the prices that Acura wants to charge you.

With the ILX, it seems customers have agreed with what I’ve had to say about the brand. Consumer Reports has consistently found that ILX owners quickly become dissatisfied with the sedan soon after their purchase. It’s not hard to see why.

What does this car accomplish that a 2019 Civic EX-L can’t? Sure, the Honda lacks the 8 speed dual clutch auto and the 201 horsepower 2.4 liter four cylinder of the ILX, but the 1.5 turbo isn’t substantially slower. And the CVT will most likely feel far more refined than the DCT. The ILX still rides on the previous generation Civic platform, so chassis dynamics probably come up short of expectations. And last but not least, the Honda sacrifices nothing in interior quality when directly compared to the Acura.

Consider this: For the roughly $31,000 MSRP of this A-Spec ILX, you could instead buy a Civic Touring and save about $4,000. Heck, an Accord EX-L is $1,000 cheaper and more fuel efficient by 4 MPG highway. The ILX sold just over 11,000 units in 2018 and a decent portion of those buyers will come to regret their purchase. It’s simply too expensive. This is a sedan that no one will mourn when it inevitably gets cancelled.

My scorching hot take on Acura is largely due to circumstance. At the Javits Center, all the luxury vehicles are in their own little section, away from the non-luxury brands. In the Mid Hudson Civic Center that was not the case. The local Mazda dealer set up shop right next to Acura, and I suspect that was completely intentional. See this 2019 CX-9? Its interior is noticeably more premium than the MDX, which is roughly the same size as the Mazda. Same goes for the RDX, which is closer to the CX-9 in price.

And the CX-9 wasn’t the only Mazda that boasted a better interior than its more “premium” counterpart. The brand new 2019 Mazda 3 is here and its better looking than ever, inside and out.

And I really mean it. The material quality in the 3 is excellent and a step up from the 2019 Civic. It puts the Acura ILX to shame. Aesthetically the case is less clear. But this is without a doubt a high quality interior that punches above its weight.

Oddly enough, Mazda doesn’t even list the new hatchback as being available currently. Oh well. I highly doubt Route 9 Mazda will have a hard time selling this sexy beast. And now that the 3 can be optioned with all wheel drive, they’ll probably have an easier time selling all the other ones too. My PSA to all you curbivores is to stay tuned for part 2 of my local auto show coverage, and to recommend the Mazda lineup to any friends or family that are leaning towards a new Acura.