After the relatively low-key debuts at Detroit and Chicago, New York was thought by many to be the show we’ve all been waiting for – full of exciting debuts and important announcements. Instead, we got more of the same – a number of interesting debuts that will be important to the broader car market, but nothing overly exciting for enthusiasts.
But this is TTAC, a site where the introduction of a facelifted Camry was the most popular topic of discussion during the show. And that means that New York was a great show for the B&B.
Miss – Acura TLX: Is this RLX 2.0? It sure looks that way. In a segment that has never been more competitive, Acura drops a dud. The TLX looks like a slightly bigger ILX and offers not one but two underwhelming drivetrains, utterly bland styling and no real reason for buying one, aside. Ok, there are some people who will make the case that this will make a good, solid, reliable luxury car once can buy with confidence – try telling that to the hordes of $299/month 320i leasees who want the Roundel and nothing else. The general public may not care that there’s no manual option, but they aren’t going to be sold on the novelty of a DCT or a 9-speed automatic either. Every time Acura introduces a car like this, it strengthens the case that they should become a premium SUV brand only.
Hit – Alfa Romeo 4C: It’s one thing to look at this car. Sitting inside it – with the deep bucket seats, thick steering wheel and impossibly low driving position – is what makes it feel really special.
Hit – Audi A3 Sportback TDI: A hit for no other reason than it demonstrates that in an era where everyone is paying strict attention to the spreadsheet, enthusiasts can have their voices heard. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves – Audi obviously sees a business case (if nothing else, it’s another diesel offering and it adds credibility to their TDI campaign), and the homologation costs were probably not terribly high. No, we don’t get a manual, and the VW Golf GTD probably will be sacrificed as a result, but it’s nice to know that somebody is listening.
Hit – BMW 228i Handling Pack: Another insignificant introduction for everyone but enthusiasts. BMW has graciously decided to put all the heavy-duty performance goodies (big brakes, upgraded shocks) on the lighter 228i. On behalf of the internet, thank you, BMW.
Dud – BMW M4 Convertible: I just don’t care at all for this car. It’s probably fast and nicely made, but I can’t help but think of the inevitability of these being driven quickly through residential areas with bad techno music blaring from them.
Miss- BMW X4: To quote one industry professional “So…it’s an X3, that looks like an X6 and is the size of a 3-Series Gran Turismo, but has the same shape as a 4-Series Gran Coupe. I think I get it?” In their insatiable quest for volume, BMW has found the Gospel of Niche – and truly lost it.
Hit- Chevrolet Trax: 2014 is the year of the small crossover. Along with the Nissan Juke and BMW, Honda, Mercedes, Audi and Jeep are all getting ready to enter the segment, and you can bet that everyone else is hurriedly readying their entries. The Trax should start at under $20,000, and that will provide healthy margins for a Sonic-based vehicle. If Buick can move 30,000 Encores annually, Chevrolet ought to do much bigger volumes.
Miss – Chevrolet Z06 Convertible: The poseur’s Z06. No thanks.
Hit – Dodge Challenger: It’s a little too retro for me, with the neon hues, Scat Pack badging and blacked out mag wheels, but the only thing keeping the Challenger from greatness was the lack of a proper UConnect system and an 8-speed automatic. Now that those two items have been added, it will be a great pony car alternative.
Hit – Dodge Charger: The retro thing had to come to an end, and this is a nice transition out of it. The upgraded interior is just icing on the cake. Expect the next-generation Charger, based on a Fiat/Alfa RWD platform, to look a lot like this as well.
Neutral – Ford Focus: Thumbs up for the 1.0L Ecoboost. Thumbs down for the re-design.
Miss – Honda HR-V: Honda had the chance to steal the Trax’s and Renegade’s thunder with their new small crossover. Instead, we just got a press release. Also, the name sounds like venereal disease.
Neutral – Hyundai Sonata: The B&B are very positive on this car, and it looked nice on the floor, but I have two reservations: it’s a bit more restrained that I was expecting, given how radical the prior car was. Also, can anyone really beat the Camry in sales, the Accord in quality/dynamics and the Altima in sheer momentum, to say nothing of the Fusion and equally strong Chrysler 200? Hyundai is capable of delivering a good car – they are going to need to pull out all the stops to stay competitive in this segment.
Miss – Infiniti Lineup: Stale designs, confusing nomenclature and a largely ignored booth. Infiniti is right in going for slow, steady growth ala Audi. Right now, it’s looking rather unexciting, and people are losing interest, Q50 aside. Hurry up with the Eau Rouge.
Neutral – Kia Sedona: Like the Sonata, it looks perfectly good, but are they really going to bring the fight to Honda, Toyota and the Chrysler vans?
Hit – Land Rover Discovery: I don’t care for this SUV or its gimmicky suicide doors, but if the next Disco is like the rest of JLR’s recent lineup, the execution will be excellent, it will be hugely desirable and good enough to help them continue to gain solid footing in the cutthroat luxury market.
Miss – Mazda MX-5 Chassis: Mazda’s exhibit of historically significant Miatas was a great move. The 25th Anniversary MX-5, with its blueprinted engine and chassis tweaks, should be a riot. The bare Skyactiv chassis on display? Well, unless you have a tape measure and can compare the dimensions of the NC’s RX-8 derived platform to this, you don’t really learn a whole lot. Unlike the NA and NB, Mazda is sticking with the multilink at the rear. Boo.
Neutral – Nissan Murano: As gorgeous as it is, I can’t figure out the positioning. The Rogue and Pathfinder both offer seating for seven. The Murano makes do with just two rows. I suppose this is a premium SUV with snazzy styling and an upscale interior, compared to the no-frills Rogue and family-oriented Pathfinder. But I am not quite sure where it fits.
Hit – Subaru Outback: As Subaru cars get more boring, they also improve in terms of quality and driving dynamics. Case in point: the new Forester. If the Outback follows this trend, it should be a very appealing SUV alternative. And for those who want something smaller, the XV Crosstrek exists.
Hit- Toyota Camry: Our most talked about article was about this car, constantly derided as America’s most boring appliance. For such a poorly regarded vehicle, you all have a lot to say about it. My take? The new redesign looks great. It wouldn’t be my choice in this segment, but over 400,000 buyers disagree with me every single year. A home run for Toyota.
Miss – Volkswagen Jetta: Sales of VW’s American-sized compact are sputtering and the new upgrades do little to make it any more attractive. An MQB-ified replacement would be welcome, and soon.
Hit – Volkswagen GolfSportwagen TDI Concept: In Toronto, gas prices just breached the critical $5.30/gallon level (about $1.40/liter) with diesel as much as 30 cents cheaper per gallon. Up north, wagons and manuals are more popular, and the Haldex all-wheel drive on this car would be welcome. But its chances of success in America, where gas is cheap and the weather is milder, are slim. And that means that this is likely a PR stunt by Volkswagen. But we can dream.