By on April 24, 2019

This year’s New York Auto Show left me feeling a bit baffled. The 2018 edition was fairly eventful, both in terms of what was shown at the Javits Center and what I experienced during my off hours (no one randomly approached me on 8th avenue attempting to sell me cocaine this year), but this year seemed, as a fellow employee of our corporate mothership said, “chill.”

Not too chill – the morning was busy. And there was at least one important reveal after lunch.

Still, compared to 2018, the 2019 edition of the New York International Auto Show felt a tad more relaxed.

Here, then, are my random and scattered thoughts to what we saw last week in that big, crowded, noisy city scrunched between New Jersey and Connecticut.

Hyundai Venue: Perhaps the most consequential debut from New York, the Venue was also one of the most divisive. At least when it comes to looks. I like it – even if it borrows heavily from the Nissan Kicks it’s sure to compete with (that floating roof looks like a direct ripoff). Also like the Kicks, it’s only available in front-wheel drive.

It’s small, poised to compete not just with the Nissan but also Kia’s Soul (and perhaps Hyundai’s own Kona), and while it seems like OEMs are trying to fill every possible niche, I imagine that as long as crossovers remain hot, a bargain boxy subcompact/compact will sell just fine.

Hyundai Sonata: A few generations ago, the Sonata set the styling bar for midsize sedans. Then it faded into boring obscurity after a misfire of a redesign. Now, the next Sonata has all sorts of eye-catching details, becoming one of the most attractive cars in its class again. While I don’t like all the styling details – the steering wheel looks dismal – the overall package is good. I especially dig the streaks that slink over the hood, emanating out of the headlights. Oh, and the news that an N-Line version is on the way is heartening.

Lincoln Corsair: I’m on record as one of the few people who liked the outgoing Lincoln MKC, confusing nomenclature aside. So, on paper, I should like the Corsair. And I do. The gas engines are familiar, and a product rep told me that the chassis isn’t all that different from the MKC. The looks are very different, however, both inside and out, with the Corsair borrowing from the attractive big-sibling Aviator. It’s a departure from the MKC, but I still dig it. And while the MKC sold well enough, I think the Corsair is a much stronger entry from Lincoln. The brand’s recovery continues.

2020 Toyota Highlander

Toyota Highlander: Count this as the biggest “loser” for me. Toyota tried to dial up the aggression here, but failed. While it’s not weird for the brand to stay a bit conservative with the looks of a popular family hauler, we know Toyota can make an SUV look cool while still giving off the image of relaxed comfort. See the new RAV4 for details. If the RAV4 can turn my head, why can’t a Highlander? Why does suburban conformity have to reign in this class? Regardless, Toyota will sell approximately a bajillion of these things. Perhaps I’ve answered my own question.

Acura TLX PMC: This is the part where I disclose that Acura hosted my travel to NYC. But even factoring that in, I wouldn’t normally mention a special-edition sedan that’s limited to 360 units. Yes, the Valencia Red paint – which takes five days to apply – looks great, along with the blacked-out wheels. But that’s not the point. It’s not about this particular car, but rather what it represents – which, I hope, is a new direction for Acura. While I am not a fan of the ethical murkiness that involves an automaker hosting us for an auto show, one perk is the chance to pick the brains of key OEM employees. And Acura reps insisted that they’re well aware of the brand’s recent stumbles and what it will take to make things “right” in the eyes of enthusiasts. Assuming they follow through on their promises, it’s possible that Acura is on finally on the right track. I need to see more than a cool-looking TLX to be convinced, but perhaps this is a baby step in the right direction.

Mazda CX-5 Diesel: Tim Cain already said what needs to be said about this vehicle, and Steph has made the same points in our Slack channel, so I’ll defer to them. Moving on.

Kia Habanero: I don’t have much to say about a Stinger with Drift Mode, beyond that it sounds cool. But the Habanero concept seems to be a preview of yet another small CUV for urban buyers. Perhaps a Kia version of the Venue, if they’re not satisfied with a Soul?

Image: Subaru

Subaru Outback: I’m not covering every launch here, if you hadn’t already noticed, so I’ll close this piece with my take on the next Outback. Dropping the available six-cylinder engine in favor of the four-cylinder turbo found in the Ascent, the Outback gets minor cosmetic changes while keeping the distinctive Outback look. The interior gets a major upgrade, but overall, the Outback remains identifiable. Almost certainly the way Subaru wants it.

With that, the domestic auto-show season rests until November. Now come the first drives.

[Images: © 2019 Tim Healey and Matt Posky/TTAC, Subaru]

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23 Comments on “2019 New York Auto Show Recap – Thrill Meets Chill...”

  • avatar

    Seems like a very depressing auto show, contest of who’s the worst. All FWD, all grandpa cars, nothing revolutionary, nothing to get excited about or look forward to. Bleh.

    The scary part is how much they’ll charge consumers to buy these conformity pods.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I don’t understand your position. We have had as diverse (style and capability) of selection than we do now. What are you looking for?

      • 0 avatar

        What diverse style and selection?

        We have 8 vehicles before us,

        6 have 4 cylinder engines, 2 have V6s
        6 are car based minivans
        8 are front wheel drive biased.

        Never has vehicle selection and availability been so confined to so few choices for those that don’t want a) a minivan, b) Front wheel drive bias drivetrain, c) 4 cylinder engine.

        • 0 avatar


          I see where you are coming from with this, but I don’t actually think it’s a bad thing. Look, we have effectively lost the passenger car V8 and the rear wheel drive mainstream brand family car, that’s true. OTOH, there is a much larger range of competent vehicle layouts available now, considering that transverse engine AWD systems have massively improved. The RWD chassis’ are still there, just in luxury brand form for practical options and otherwise in sport and muscle cars. FWD cars have improved to a staggering degree, in every sense possible. Price hasn’t kept up with inflation by any reasonable measure either, so the numbers we’re annoyed by are actually quite reasonable.

          Power, now that is through the roof. It’s true that in the switch to turbocharging most brands suffer a bit when it comes to drivetrain refinement (cough, Ford), but that seems to iron out over time and engine redesigns (VW is a fantastic ex of this which I’m sure others will follow given time).

          Now we’re seeing companies besides Subaru (of lackluster engines, neutered AWD’s and chintzy interiors) offering AWD in passenger cars. That’s a gamechanger in my opinion, and I think we can thank the CUV explosion for bringing those components the volume and popularity needed to make that transition.

  • avatar

    I’ll add the auto shows have lost their luster for me. Used to go to Detroit and usually Chicago every year.

    Now I can’t be bothered.

    Something has changed. Cars are appliances and nobody cares? The internet? YouTube? Automakers doing reveals all over the place at any time instead of saving them for the auto shows?

    Was there truly anything interesting in New York? Highlander? Outback? Sonata? Zzzzzzzzzzz.

  • avatar

    Are the hot dogs better at the NY show or the Chicago show?

    • 0 avatar

      The real debate will be about the pizza.

      • 0 avatar

        St. Louis style pizza beats all!

      • 0 avatar

        There is no debate

        They still make pizza in Italy. What is closer to that… NY pizza, or Chicago’s tomato & cheese soaked bread cakes?

        • 0 avatar

          There’s NY pizza and more authentic brick-oven pizza in NY.

          Chicago deep dish and/or stuffed is good as well, just diff.

          Never quite liked Chicago thin (sliced square) pizza, tho.

      • 0 avatar
        Tim Healey

        Chicago thin crust rules them all, but a good NYC slice is just fine with me. I had at least two during my time in the city.

        • 0 avatar

          There’s thin crust in Chicago?

          • 0 avatar

            It’s funny people don’t know that. I grew up in the area, and that’s all we ate. I’m not sure how old I was when I had my first piece of deep dish (Uno’s, Gino’s, etc were in the city and we didn’t get downtown very often). This guy gets it:


          • 0 avatar

            UNO/DUE is my favorite. Gino’s East has too sweet a crust. (Almost like a cornbread crust, versus a little cornmeal.) Though I suppose I wouldn’t turn a “meat-lover”-style from Gino’s down if one were presented to me!

            Trying to remember from “Man vs. Food” which restaurant was the first to offer those monsters: Lou Malnatti’s, maybe?

  • avatar

    Toyota had the best display. It was upfront, they layered it from futuristic cars to race cars to sports cars to Corolla to Avalon. And they had friendly staff standing around ready to chat. Simple things but other manuf didn’t do it as well.

    Like Audi had all cars accessible – the A8L, the Q7/Q8 whatever that SUV is called. But Mercedes had anything bigger than C class locked up. Why show up then at all? Or are they finally embarrassed with how gaudy their interiors are compared side by side with Audi? Jaguars were tucked in a corner so that nobody could find them, rightfully so. I could not find the BMW stand at all – did they come?

    Mazada went for volume – took space on both floors, but very impersonal. Just dropped the cars there. But the cars are gorgeous inside, and sitting right next to Hondas the choice is patently clear – not the mouse-gray square and flat Honda interiors.

    Caddies did a good display and the cars all looked really good on the outside but they all are cramped inside.

    Lincoln had most vehicles locked up. Why show up then?

    Italian Dodges had a display too. Whatevs.

    Interesting fact – second row seats in H Ascend are less comfortable than in H Forester. Something about the seat-to-floor placement and also the front seat brackets were more in the way. You won’t learn this in a car review, I guess.

  • avatar

    “A few generations ago, the Sonata set the styling bar for midsize sedans.” It didn’t do that at all. Where does this idea come from?

  • avatar

    Manhattan is a stupid place to have a car show. There I said it – lol.

  • avatar

    The existence of the Hyundai Venue probably has more to do with the SSangyang Tivoli, which is pretty popular in the Korean domestic market and looks very similar. Hyundai made it for Korea, the fact that tiny crossovers are a hit in the US is just a bonus for them.

    • 0 avatar

      Made it more for India.

      And yeah, while they could use a Tivoli competitor, larger CUVs (like sedans) sell better in Korea.

      Both the Santa Fe and Palisade are among the top 5 sellers in Korea.

      The Kia Carnival (aka Sedona) and Sorento are among the top 10, as is the Hyundai Grand Starex (a large minivan) – making half of the top 10 “people movers.”

      The Kona outsold the Tivoli by a good margin last month.

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