Welcome to the Big Apple
The final major auto show of the season is here, bringing an end to what kicked off in Los Angeles, continued in Detroit, Chicago, traversed the Atlantic to Geneva and ending in New York. There's a variety of debuts this week from both ends of the cost spectrum, like the very affordable Mitsubishi Mirage G4 to the latest makeover for Godzilla – the Nissan GT-R.
Here are the new cars debuting at the New York Auto Show (NYAS), which is open to the public March 25 through April 3, 2016.
Acura freshened up the 2017 MDX for NYAS with a new schnoz. Gone is the beak-shaped grille of Acura's of the last few years. In its place is a diamond pentagon grille from the Precision Concept. The excellent Acura Jewel Eye LED headlights receive a modest tweak to complement the new grille, too.
I'm still conflicted on how I feel about the new look, because Acura toned down the beak grille greatly with the 2014 MDX. The new diamond pentagon grille looks good, but the extremely large Acura badge doesn't flow well with the conservative styling of the rest of the crossover utility vehicle (CUV).
Looks aside, AcuraWatch, its driver assist technology suite, comes standard on all 2017 model year MDX's. AcuraWatch includes automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), forward collision warning (FCW), lane keeping assist (LKAS) and full-speed range adaptive cruise control (ACC). I've tested out AcuraWatch in the lower-rung ILX and found LKAS to work, but ACC is aggressive on the throttle and downright scary at times.
It's not just looks and new standard equipment on the 2017 MDX, there's a new transmission and hybrid option -- the MDX Sport Hybrid. Taking technology from the RLX Sport Hybrid, the hybrid family-hauler gains 35 horsepower (hp) over the standard 3.5-liter V6. The MDX Sport Hybrid packs a smaller 3.0-liter V6 engine mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) with an electric motor to power the front wheels and two electric motors for the rear wheels.
Total power from the hybrid powertrain is 325 hp. Acura predicts a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy rating of 25/26/26 for city/highway/combined, which is 7-mpg higher in the city than the standard V6.
The electric all-wheel drive (eAWD) system gives the MDX the confidence of Super Handling AWD (SH-AWD) without the drive shaft going down the center of the car for that extra bit of middle seat legroom. Or there's the option to forgo the middle seat for a pair of second-row captain chairs with center console so you can charge two USB-powered devices while storing diapers, baby wipes and juice boxes.
Expect the 2017 Acura MDX to arrive later this year to take your kids to soccer practice and PTA meetings.
Audi R8 Spyder
Audi chops the top off its halo sports car to make the R8 Spyder V10. I don't have much to say about the car, it's drop-dead gorgeous cruiser with a eargasmic V10 and Quattro AWD. It could be the perfect car for Washington State, too, since you have AWD for rain and snow, plus the top goes down at the press of a button for those brief moments of sunshine.
Stunning looks aside, the R8 Spyder V10 shares the interior of its hardtop brethren, including the excellent Audi Virtual Cockpit. I've tested out the Audi Virtual Cockpit in the smaller TT and found it absolutely perfect, except for the lack of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Audi must've been listening because the R8 Spyder V10 is the first car to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support within the Audi Virtual Cockpit as an option.
The 5.2-liter V10 carries over from the coupe and produces 540 hp. The 398 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque propels the R8 Spyder V10 to 62 mph in 3.6-seconds, which is plenty fast for me. Unfortunately, my wife won't let me sell off some organs to buy one, because you know, child seats won't fit in it.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Chevrolet jumped the gun to announce the biggest and baddest Camaro of the new generation -- the ZL1 -- a week before NYAS started. However, it saved the drop-top version for an NYAS debut, at least.
There's 640 reasons under the hood why the Camaro ZL1 is awesome. Gone is the plebeian turbocharged 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 of the plain-jane Camaro to make room for the grand daddy supercharged 6.2-liter V8 matched with a six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission.
Yes, you read that right, the new Camaro ZL1 has an optional 10-speed automatic, because 8 and 9 gears weren't enough. My first car, a 1992 Saturn SL2, had a 4-speed automatic and the new Camaro's automatic has 2.5-times the amount of gears. The amount of gears in new gearboxes is getting slightly out of hand, but I will admit I'm curious to see how long until manufactures reach the limit of gear ratios.
Regardless of the amount of gears, the Camaro ZL1 receives an upgraded Magnetic RIde suspension to keep up with the 640 horses under the hood bulge and accompanying aerodynamic mods. Inside, the Camaro ZL1 retains the four seat configuration of the regular cars but throws in a pair of Recaro performance seats for the driver and front passenger.
The seats in the back aren't really meant for adults, but I bet I can get child seats back there for my kids, which instantly makes it a family car, right?
Additionally, the Chevrolet Performance Data Recorder is available as an option, which is essentially a built-in GoPro camera that also records the car's performance data simultaneously. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported with the Chevy IntelliLink infotainment system, too.
For those of us that can't justify a Camaro ZL1, GM revealed a freshened 2017 Sonic hatchback and sedan subcompacts. The refreshed design is tamer and not as in-your-face as the outgoing model, but it flows well. I actually prefer the new subdued look and it looks subtly aggressive in RS trim.
The new front-end brings standard projector-beam headlights too, which should provide sharper and more-focused lights than the previous reflector housings. The ever-so-popular LED daytime running lights (DRL) are optional.
On the tech side of things, the 2017 Sonic push-button start and 7-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A integrated 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and driver assists, like forward collision alert and lane departure warning, are available as options.
The updates are mostly visual and the powertrains remain the same. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder packing 138 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque is the standard motor. Those that want a little more pickup can opt for the 1.4-liter turbocharged with same amount of ponies but bumps the torque up to 148 lb-ft. Both motors are available with a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission.
Hyundai used NYAS to debut a new family of eco-friendly vehicles -- the Ioniq. Available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric drivetrains, the Ioniq was engineered from the ground up as Hyundai's competitor for the Toyota Prius family. The Kia Niro unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show shares the same underpinnings as the Ioniq.
The Ioniq reminds me of the Hyundai Elantra from the front with a previous generation Prius-like back end, which isn't a bad thing. I like how the new Elantra looks and the back-end of the previous generation Prius was one of the better looking angles.
A trio of powertrains are available. The Ioniq Hybrid combines a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a 32 kW electric motor and 1.56 kWh lithium-ion battery for a combined 139 hp. Opting for the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid bumps the electric motor to 45kW and battery to 8.9 kWh for 25-miles of all-electric range.
Hyundai hasn't disclosed fuel economy figures of the Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid, but Kia's similar Niro is targeting 50 mpg combined, so expect similar, if not better fuel economy.
Those ready to ditch gasoline and hop on the EV train now have the Ioniq Electric as an option. The Ioniq Electric tosses the 1.6-liter four-cylinder motor out to make room for a 28 kWh battery pack and 88 kW electric motor capable of 120 hp with 215 lb-ft of torque.
The Ioniq Electric has a slightly smaller battery than the updated 2016 Nissan Leaf's 30 kWh pack, but Hyundai is targeting a higher 125 MPGe rating, or about 110 miles of range, versus the Leaf's 112 MPGe and 107 miles of range.
Inside, the interior makes use of recycled and eco-friendly materials. Hyundai doesn't skimp on tech either. The Ioniq packs a 7-inch 720P LCD gauge cluster and Hyundai's Display Audio infotainment system, similar to the Tucson, Elantra and Kia Sportage. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported and Qi wireless charging will be available as an option.
Available driver assists for the Ioniq trio include blind-spot monitor (BSM), lane departure warning (LDW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control (ACC). The Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid ACC systems only works at speeds above 5 mph while the Electric gets a full-speed range system that can stop the car completely.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is an interesting car, as a Leaf owner. However, with the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 promising 200 miles of electric range, it's hard to get excited over the Ioniq Electric's 110 miles.
Kia unveiled an all-new 2017 Cadenza full-size sedan at NYAS, which is its luxury front-wheel drive sedan. The new Cadenza sports sharper styling with plenty of chrome to take on the AARP favorites, like the Toyota Avalon, Acura RLX and Buick Lacrosse. Aside from the gratuitous use of chrome, I find the car attractive with hints of the Maserati Ghibli.
The last-generation Cadenza and new Optima compete in different segments but only have a little over an inch of difference in rear legroom. Kia claims the new Cadenza adds nearly another half-inch of legroom from the outgoing model, which sounds about 1.5-inches more than the smaller Optima.
But, rear legroom isn't where the Cadenza tries to entice you. It has a more luxurious interior with greater use of leather, soft-touch materials and loaded with technology. Kia's UVO infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support is standard.
New to the Cadenza is a head-up display (HUD) that displays the speedometer, turn-by-turn navigation directions and driver assist warnings. An upgraded 360-degree camera with higher-resolution is available, too.
The Cadenza is the first Kia to get its DriveWise suite of driver assist technologies. Drive Wise includes full-speed ACC, FCW, AEB, LDW and smart BSM. Most of the driver assists are available on the Optima SX-L, but the smart BSM is new.
The smart BSM system detects if the car unintentionally drifts towards other vehicles and applies the brake on the opposite front wheel to prevent you from side-swiping another car.
Powering the Cadenza is a retuned version of the 3.3-liter V6 found in the outgoing model. However, Kia bolts the V6 to a new 8-speed automatic transmission developed in-house. I'm curious to how well the new 8-speed shifts, because the 6-speed automatic in the Optima and previous generation Cadenza are very smooth, but the 8-speed in the rear-wheel drive (RWD) K900 would hunt for gears a lot.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV & Mirage G4
I waited a year for the MItsubishi Outlander PHEV to cross the Pacific Ocean before buying my Nissan Leaf. On paper, everything sounded good -- it was a plug-in hybrid with electric range on par with the Chevy Volt but in an AWD CUV package and I didn't mind the styling.
That was in 2013 when the Outlander PHEV was supposed to arrive in the US in the fall of 2014. Europe received the car before the US, but Mitsubishi finally announced its coming to the US this fall, at NYAS.
What makes the Outlander PHEV unique is the plug-in electric powertrain that consists of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor and two electric motors with a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery. Mitsubishi doesn't disclose the electric range for the US market, but its UK website claims up to 32-miles of electric range.
The AWD system in the Outlander PHEV is where it stands out from the Chevy Volt and other plug-in hybrids. Mitsubishi calls it Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) and claims it's derived from the Lancer Evolution rally car.
I've driven a regular gasoline Outlander through mud and found the S-AWC system very competent at delivering power seamlessly to maintain my course, so I'm confident in the AWD capabilities of the PHEV.
A full suite of driver assists are available, including: 360-degree camera, AEB and BSM, but there's no mention of ACC. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support are optional, unfortunately.
Also unveiled by Mitsubishi at NYAS is the Mirage G4, a sedan version of the affordable hatchback. I don't have much to say about the Mirage G4, it's the definition of basic transportation, but at least Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support is available.
Mazda MX-5 RF
Mazda used New York to reveal the gorgeous MX-5 RF, also known to Americans as the Miata. The Miata is one of my favorite cars to drive with its direct-shifting 6-speed manual and nimble handling.
The MX-5 RF takes the beloved roadster and ups the sexiness with a retractable targa top that gives it the sloping roofline of a fastback coupe. The roofline reminds me of an Alfa Romeo 4C, but at half the price.
It's not a completely top-less affair, however. The roof and rear glass window tuck away for open-air action, but the C-pillars and will always remain. As a Washington State resident, I'm ok with the targa top design as it allows me to have the quietness of a hardtop convertible without sacrificing the open-air experience.
Aside from the targa roof, the MX-5 RF is unchanged from the regular Miata and MX-5. The US gets a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine while other markets have a smaller 1.5-liter on base models.
The only driver assist available is BSM, which is the way it should be, because the Miata is a pure sports car that needs to be driven attentively and enjoyed.
Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe
Mercedes took to the stage to unveil the production GLC Coupe, for car buyers that want the ride height of a CUV but the less-practical roofline of a coupe. As a wagon fan, I don't understand the desire for coupe-esque CUVs, but BMW manages to find buyers for the X4 and X6, so there's a business case for it.
It's based off the regular GLC but forgos the square back for a sloped roofline that gives it a side profile of a coupe. Aside from the roofline, the GLC Coupe is longer and lower than the GLC, but the interior and powertrain options are similar.
Engine options include the standard turbocharged four-cylinder making 241 hp in the GLC300 and a biturbo V6 with 362 hp in the GLC43 AMG. A 9-speed automatic transmissions is the only gearbox available.
AEB, crosswind assist and attention assist are standard on the GLC Coupe. Since it is a Mercedes, expect the excellent Distronic Plus ACC and steering assist system as available options.
Nissan gave the 2017 GT-R, also known as Godzilla, the most dramatic makeover since its debut in 2007. The makeover includes a new schnoz with Nissan's signature V-motion grille that's on the rest of its vehicle lineup. Nissan changes the hood to match the new front end, too.
The refreshed face is subtly different but inside is where things change for the better. Nissan finally gives the GT-R an interior worthy of the six-figure price tag. The all-new dashboard is wrapped in Nappa leather for that luxurious touch.
Nissan bumps the infotainment system display from a 7-inch resistive touch to a 8-inch capacitive touch. The amount of buttons to operate the infotainment system is reduced from 27 to 11, for a much simpler and cleaner layout.
NissanConnect powers the infotainment system for navigation, mobile app connectivity and telematics services so you can lock or unlock the car from your smartphone.
The twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6, which is a handcrafted work of art, receives a 20 hp bump in power from last year, bringing it to 565 hp and 467 lb-ft of torque.
Subaru debuted an all-new 2017 Impreza sedan and hatchback at NYAS. The new look is an evolution of the outgoing model and doesn't look too different, but Subaru's were never known for dramatic styling.
It's beneath the sheetmetal that matters with the Impreza. AWD is standard and the 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine is upgraded with direct injection for 4 more horses than before. Gone is the manual gearbox -- a CVT is the only transmission available.
But, a 6.5-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard on all Imprezas. The Limited trim gets an 8-inch screen with navigation powered by TomTom.
Subaru's EyeSight driver assist technologies is available and enhanced for the 2017 Impreza. ACC, AEB, LDW and LKAS are part of the EyeSight suite, and BSM is also available. Reverse automatic braking (RAB) is the latest driver assist addition to the Impreza. RAB works as the name implies, if the car detects an object while you're backing up, it can apply the brakes to keep you from hitting a pole or small children.
While I don't find much excitement in the new Impreza, I look forward to what Subaru has in store for the next-generation WRX.
Toyota Prius Prime
Toyota threw in the kitchen sink to make the most extravagant Prius ever offered - the 2017 Prius Prime. Unlike Optimus Prime, it doesn't transform into something cool. Styling is completely unique for the Prius Prime.
I'll admit I find the front end aggressively stylish, but I'm not a fan of the back end. It reminds me of a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, which is cool as an evil robot, but the Prius Prime doesn't wear it well.
The Prime's extravagance starts inside. Gone is the 5th passenger seat for a 2 + 2 seating configuration that attempts to mimic a sport coupe. Dual 4.2-inch LCD displays form the center-mounted gauge cluster for a futuristic look.
An optional infotainment system featuring a large 11.6-inch HD multi-touch display installed in portrait mode is available. Toyota's Entune app suite provides connectivity to your iOS or Android smartphone for Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Destination Search, OpenTable, Yelp, Facebook places and other subscription-free apps. A full color head-up display is optional.
Toyota Safety Sense is optional and includes AEB, LDW, steering assist and full-speed range ACC. BSM is available separately, too.
Powering the Prius Prime is the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and 53 kWh electric motor for a combined 121 hp. But, Toyota bumps the battery pack to 8.8 kWh so the Prius Prime can drive up to 22-miles on pure electric power, which is great if you have a short commute to work, but not ideal for those that live in rural areas and commute into the city.
Charging the battery should take about 5.5 hours on a standard 120V outlet. Toyota claims using a 240V charger takes "less than half the time." A 120V charger is included with the car.
Expect the Prius Prime to arrive at dealerships in the fall.
Toyota Highlander & Scion Models
Toyota gave the Highlander a mid-cycle refresh last week, before the show started. The updated Highlander includes a revised styling, standard driver assists, more USB ports, available 8-speed automatic transmission for V6 engines, sportier SE trim.
The visual updates are minor but include new grilles with silver, chrome or black finish to differentiate the trim levels. But, the biggest upgrade is Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) driver assists is standard on all 2017 Highlanders.
TSS includes AEB, LDW and ACC. The ACC system in the previous Highlander cancels out at speeds below 19 mph and it doesn't look like there's any change for the 2017 model, unfortunately. However, since it's standard on all models, I won't hold it against Toyota, this time at least.
New for the mid-cycle refresh is an SE model that's sportier. Toyota's definition of sporty includes 19-inch wheels, sport-suspension, black trim and leather. My experience with the Camry XSE left me with lower back pains, so I truly hope Toyota does a better job tuning the suspension of the Highlander SE.
The demise of the Scion brand was announced last month and the plans for rebadging the models as Toyota's was announced last week. There were no surprises - the Scion iM and iA will become the Toyota Corolla iM and Yaris iA.
Toyota took an expected renaming approach for the Scion FR-S, which re-debuted as the 86, a homage to its predecessor, the mid-80's AE86 Corolla, and its name in the rest of the world. The 86 receives a slight refresh with new LED headlamps and more aggressive front fascia. The back end gets LED taillights, too.
Manual transmission 2017 Toyota 86's gain 5 horsepower from a new gear ratio. It also gains hill start assist, which makes the car quite appealing to me for driving in hilly areas.
Toyota adds steering wheel controls to the refreshed 86, too. While I'd normally complain about the lack of steering wheel controls on a modern car, the Scion FR-S was so small that the steering wheel controls wouldn't add much more convenience, but I welcome the addition.
So many cars were unveiled at the 2017 New York Auto Show, which makes it hard for me to pick a favorite. However, there's only one car that made my jaw-drop and put forth a plan for a future purchase -- the MX-5 RF.
I once owned a 1990 Mazda Miata and loved it for the few months that I owned it, before my second child was conceived. It was love at first shift and the 2016 Miata evoked the same feeling when I drove it, in the rain, with the top down (if you go 40 mph or faster, the rain just goes right over you).
I always had a thing for the Miata hardtop and considered purchasing a last generation hardtop. But the new Miata is the best one yet, with the perfect balance of power, handling and technology that I'd want in a sports car.
While the new soft top design is a major upgrade from the first generation I owned, I'm a hard top kind of guy. Its nice being able to put the soft top up while cruising down the freeway and a torrential downpour starts, but a soft top is still noisy inside.
The MX-5 RF solves that and gives it a gorgeous fastback roofline in the process. I want one bad, but my wife says I have to pay off the Nissan Leaf and replace the roof on our house before I can buy one. So I guess I'll have to wait until 2021.