By on April 3, 2018

2019 Toyota RAV4

Outside of my hometown of Chicago, New York City remains one of my favorite metropolises. I don’t know why – Manhattan is overstuffed with cars and people, garbage is put out on the sidewalks, hotel rooms are no oasis from street noise, and most goods and services are way too expensive.

Perhaps New York has a unique sort of charm that compensates for all its flaws, some sort of charisma that continues to exist despite the continuing transformation of Manhattan into a living Disney city for the wealthy.

I mean, in what other city would I be brazenly approached by a young man trying to sell me cocaine as I walked back to my hotel after some late-night pizza (partake, I did not. Drugs aren’t my thing. Pizza was good, though) while almost within sight of the most famous urban intersection in the world – one that was undoubtedly crowded to the gills even at that hour? In what other city would I have a surreal on-street argument with a fellow pedestrian over an innocent, touristy picture I took of a street sign? There’s this “only in New York” feeling, a sense that certain things happen to you that just wouldn’t elsewhere.

It’s the kind of place where you can swear bloody murder because the F train didn’t show, but find value in the 40-minute walk across lower Manhattan you undertake instead, all because you don’t feel like doing the logical thing and hailing a cab. SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown all look much better from on foot.

I took that walk to go see the new AT4 trim level of the 2019 GMC Sierra, one that likely won’t be seen much on NYC streets. That was two days, give or take, before the first press day of the 2018 New York Auto Show. Three days almost to the minute after I saw that new truck, I looked out the window of my plane as it took off from LaGuardia, hoping for one last glimpse at the skyline and a few more seconds of reflection on the show – but gray skies clouded my vision and my eyes involuntarily shut as the post-show fatigue hit.

When I awoke over Lake Michigan, I started mulling over a show that was busy but not insanely so. There was a little something for everyone, from mainstream sedans to compact crossovers to concepts to a rear-drive Lincoln SUV. Sure, some things were missing, as Bark notes, but unlike this year’s Detroit show, which was truck-centric, New York sort of touched all bases. Fitting, since the Mets were wrapping their first game of the season as my cab dropped me off at the airport, within sight of Citi Field.

I walked away from the show with a strange sense of optimism – I found myself liking the products on the floor, at least at first glance, more than I typically do.

2019 Nissan Altima

Let’s start with Nissan. The current-gen Altima has been the forgotten one in the midsize sedan class almost since it launched. I’ve always found it perfectly pleasant to drive, but also extremely easy to forget. It’s not fun to drive like a Mazda 6, nor is it a jack of all trades like the Camry. The last time I drove one, I remembered it more for the fuel economy and trunk space (ample room for four adults’ luggage) than for any other reason. Large, comfortable, fuel efficient, and bland as hell – that was my take.

Nissan learned its lesson. Not only in the styling department – the new Altima borrows so much from the larger Maxima that I kept calling it by the other’s name – but in other ways, too. For one, the brand is bringing the variable-compression turbo tech from the Infiniti QX50 into the Altima. For another, the Altima is now the first Nissan sedan to ever offer AWD in the U.S. ProPilot Assist, which allows for limited autonomous driving, is also available. All of this shows me Nissan is making an effort to get buyers that aren’t fleet managers to pay attention to the Altima again.

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept

Next up on my list is Volkswagen. The Atlas Cross Sport Concept made me roll my eyes – yay, a five-seat Atlas! You can sort of achieve the same thing by buying a Tiguan and folding down the useless third row. The Tanoak truck concept, though – funny name aside, I do want. I’m a sucker for car-like midsize pickups like the Ridgeline, probably because I live in a city and the big cowboy Cadillacs don’t work for me. I really hope it gets built.

Moving on, I dig the new Toyota RAV4 and its more-rugged styling. But let’s face it, it could look like the automotive equivalent of a platypus and Toyota would move as many as it can build.

I also have cautious optimism for the Acura RDX, but recent brand history is going to be a bit hard to overcome.

Now to the disappointments. I have little to say about the Subaru Forester because I didn’t get much time near it, but I am bummed there’s one less manual transmission option out there, and sad to see the XT trim go.

I find the Aviator perfectly fine but I worry about using a smartphone as a key – the TTAC staff is even more verklempt about the possibly of not having a fob.

2019 Cadillac XT4

Then there’s the Cadillac XT4. I wrote the post on it, and as I went through the specs my initial take was that it was just par for the course for the class. I thought it looked OK in photos. But seeing it up close – well, I don’t feel as good about it. The front-end styling is attractive enough, but Matt Posky and I took note of the plastic cladding, with Matt being especially repulsed. The whole package felt underdone, like a steak taken off the grill too soon.

That’s unacceptable for a $35K vehicle that moves into the $40K range with popular options and will compete in the luxury class. It’s almost as if Cadillac thought that slapping its name on a compact crossover will be enough. And maybe, given the popularity of crossovers, that’s the correct thinking, at least from a sales perspective. But it feels like a disservice to a proud brand that still offers up good product and just dropped a honkin’ V8 into the CT6 V-Sport.

Maybe the XT4 will drive well enough to assuage my concerns. We shall see. Right now, though, I am not optimistic.

Mazda Kai Concept

Not optimistic regarding the XT4, sure, but overall feeling better about the slate of unveils at an auto show than I’ve felt in a while. And I didn’t even mention all of them – I only had so much time and wasn’t able to spend much of it at Kia or Hyundai. I’ve also glossed over the Mazda Kai Concept which, despite what Mazda PR won’t say, is almost certainly the next 3 (I dig it), the next Corolla (thumbs up), and the Honda Insight (intriguing), as well as the Genesis concept I never got near.

New York’s auto show has always struck me as contradictory – an auto show in a place where I’d rather do anything but drive? New York may not be the most natural city for an auto show, but so what? Somewhere between the $16 sandwiches (not a typo) and $8 beers, the city that never stops lightening your wallet still manages to serve as a good host.

Now, about that VW kastenwagen…

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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18 Comments on “2018 New York Auto Show Recap – Optimism in the City...”

  • avatar

    Stupid question… Has Toyota said when a new Tundra and Sequoia will be debut? I know the current ones aren’t best sellers but every truck announcement makes them look further behind.

  • avatar
    Ultraviolet Thunder

    That XT4 by Cadihack looks like a strippo company product. A supposedly premium brand is offering something that looks like a 2010 Kia with a tacky Cadihack front end tacked on. This is as rancid as that new Ford Ecosport – and I’m a Ford guy, and I wouldn’t be caught dead driving that worthless product.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      The interior of the preproduction XT4s were pretty good overall with rear legroom being somewhat impressive. Headlamps were nice and it has a good stance. But the plastic cladding makes the whole thing look about ten grand cheaper than it actually is. The material was on par with the plastic tables that were in the press room… roughly as good as the Nissan Kicks (which starts around $19,000). Unless it offers driving refinement that totally blows away the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, I don’t see the point of anyone buying one.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not a fan of of it either but in all fairness that is a Sport version shown with more exterior black plastic cladding than normal. Base and Luxury versions will also be offered with a bit more brightwork and less gaudy black. Will reserve final judgement until those are seen

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I don’t feel particularly good about what was unveiled at the show at all. Too much emphasis on connectivity and driver assistance – even on base models. Too many turbo fours and CVTs.

    Sure, there were some exceptions but I just don’t like where the market is headed. The auto show, which I’ve been covering for decades, didn’t ease any of my concerns.

    Certainly I can’t see myself paying what new vehicles cost these days for something that fundamentally displeases me. If nothing else, perhaps the auto show pushed me closer to the conclusion that there are no more new vehicles in my future. I’d love to be proven wrong.

  • avatar

    I haven’t been in New York for about 20 years now, but even back then, it was becoming “Disney-fied,” if you will. And we can all lament that. Then again, you can actually walk in Times Square now without undue fear of bodily harm. When I first visited, back in the mid-’80s, it was still very much a place right out of Travis Bickle’s fever dreams.

  • avatar

    I want to see the Bronco for real. Just get it out there Ford! Enough of this teaser stuff.

    Aviator looks nice. Should really help Lincoln. As a side note, I love the return to car names. Very smart. MKX will sell better as Nautilus.

  • avatar

    Is it time for the Southeast to get its own big auto show?

    • 0 avatar

      I always thought they should debut new trucks at the Houston show. With Toyotas built just down the road and the thousands they must sell every day, it just seemed to be perfect. Not to mention the warmer days.

  • avatar

    Little Italy must be really little by now, is it even two blocks long anymore?

    • 0 avatar

      What used to be Little Italy has either been annexed by Chinatown or is mostly for tourists, with few Italians still living there. 15-20 years ago, Carroll Gardens had great Italian bakeries, butchers and restaurants, with Virgin Mary statues in most front yards… now it is all hipsters and yuppies. Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is probably the closest to what Little Italy used to be, but even that is changing quickly.The old Italian neighborhoods have largely been integrated into the melting pot by now.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      I just skirted the edge of it. I walked from the 4th street station to Pier 36, mostly along Houston, before cutting over. The bulk of my walk was Chinatown.

  • avatar

    The Altima makes me a bit more optimistic. Prior to the show, reports were that it would have the same powertrains as the current car and might have AWD on top trim level. However, it came out with Nissan’s most advanced engine (arguably the most advanced engine available from anyone) and AWD available across trim levels (although currently only with the base engine).

    It has been a while since a new car introduction exceeded expectations. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.

    • 0 avatar

      I think, the most advanced engine would be not the one with some uniquely moving parts but the one in which holes bored and aligned so precise that it lives little room for any hesitation.

  • avatar

    The XT4 looks like a Chevy. That Mazda CX-3 actually looks upscale and classy.

    Both have stupid names.

  • avatar

    I like the cady, the other 2 dont care for. I wouldnt waste my time or money to go to the auto show as it’s got to be the most underwhelming pile of cars ever. The bright spot? The Cadillac Escala hope they bulid it. this is really what Cady needs. if they dont produce it as is…………..they truly are stupid!!

  • avatar

    “Perhaps New York has a unique sort of charm …” what charm? If you said Boston or Munich…

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