What better way to say hello to Spring, after a brutal New York winter, by attending one of the world’s major auto shows. I decided to attend opening day of the New York International Auto Show at Javits Convention Center to see the latest from the Auto industry. Given our audience, my notes from the show only focus on the near-luxury to hypercar segments.
The Coventry, UK marque was the first I encountered on the show floor. The big cat, XJ R Long Wheelbase immediately got my attention. A base XJ kit has the presence to make anyone who knows cars take notice. For the insatiably power hungry, Jaguar have added new fascias, ‘R’ emblems, and massive 20-inch wheels. If looks aren’t enough, try the earth-shaking 550 bhp and 502 lb. ft. torque, Supercharged 5.0 liter V8.
Then there is Jag’s XKR-S GT, a track tuned version of the XKR-S. At $175K we get it, Jaguar. A car like this simply needs to be defined by its most distinguishing features. Jaguar would have been well served to simply call the car ‘R-S GT’. The big GT shares the same 550 horsepower supercharged V8 as its flagship sibling, XJ. Disappointing.
While I appreciate Jaguar’s efforts to make people take notice of the brand, I can’t help but feel that the crew from Coventry has run out of good ideas. I’ve seen the XK-R on the track, and it’s not a pretty sight. It’s size and weight make it look out of place on the track, and more fundamentally, slow. It was thrashed by the Nissan GT-R on the Top Gear test track. Jaguar, it’s time to start focusing your efforts toward building a new GT.
The R-S GT’s one redeeming trait is its paint treatment. I liked its white and black paint scheme, and thought it was a thoughtful homage to some of the great GTs of the ’50s and ’60s.
Acura NSX Concept
On January 9, 2012, Acura unveiled the 2012 Acura NSX Concept. On March 29th, 2013 the Acura NSX Concept still remains a concept. Oh how far Acura have fallen. This car will be dead on arrival. The styling has already become stale, and frankly, who is talking about Acura anymore?
Fine job Acura, by debuting a concept car three years ahead of its official launch (if you’re lucky.)
Land Rover Ranger Rover
I disagree with the styling direction of the 2014 Range Rover, and believe that Land Rover have traded the Range’s familiar truckiness for something that resembles a nice home appliance. I stepped inside the Range and the first thought that came to mind was ‘Business Class.’ The interior appointments reflect careful attention to detail.
After sitting in Range Rover for a few moments, I couldn’t envision it as a family hauler or recreational vehicle, not even in the slightest. Range Rover is where work gets done outside of the office. Haul around your team to strategize before arriving at your client, and negotiate deals from the front seat. Range Rover is a 4-wheel boardroom.
Bentley Flying Spur
The last generation Bentley Flying Spur lacked the square jaw and shoulders to be a convincing ultra-luxury big dog. The crew from Crewe is back with a redesigned Flying Spur. This one also lacks the jaw and shoulders. Way to strike out twice, Bentley.
The Lexus IS was born as a BMW 3-series fighter, but was never quite good enough to prove itself a worthy rival. Lexus are back with the new IS. It still has the 3-series directly in its sights, but is now more focused on carving at its out own identity. The articulation of an identity is an extension of Lexus’ initiative to make its cars more visually distinct.
The new Lexus IS is largely derived from the well received LF-CC concept vehicle, which debuted at the 2012 Paris Motor Show. Upon my encounter with IS, my reaction was ‘What the hell is that? The design is all over the place!” It appears that the Japanese are too busy fending off the onslaught from Korean manufacturers, and are willing to try anything to carve out an identity. The IS is a design disaster, which can best be described as a gimmick. If there is an audience for this car, it will be children. Lexus missed an opportunity with the new IS, and will likely never get another.
Mercedes released its new front-drive CLA with great fanfare. Merc is targeting CLA to young, affluent buyers, in hopes of attracting this demographic to the brand. Perhaps my familiarity with Merc, and my fondness toward many of their models, leaves me biased against CLA. I just don’t see the appeal. Why not position C-Class as the gateway vehicle? CLA’s introduction leaves me worried about the direction for C-Class.
For those who debate who is better, BMW or Mercedes, the debate is over. After spending some time in the 6-series Gran Coupe and 3-series, I can without hesitation award the FG ‘Chrysler Cheap Plastics’ award to BMW.
It caught my attention after stepping out of a 6-series Gran Coupe. Sidebar, if you ever buy this car, don’t ever take any of your friends out in it, unless they are smaller than the average adult. They will be angry with you for putting them in the back seat of this car; so much so, that you will probably end up losing a friend. Upon exit, where I was all too happy to no longer be a contortionist, I noticed the cheap door sills on the 6. The first thought that came to mind was ‘afterthought’ by the BMW interior team.
It is absolutely criminal that well-regarded BMW can get away with such shoddy materials in their cars. Yes, we know that BMW makes well engineered and great driving cars, but there is no excuse for such poor materials. Shame on you BMW. I’m no longer a fan, save for the M5.
On a positive note, I do like the BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo and Active Tourer Concept. I would be happy to see such vehicles become more prominent across the US, hopefully becoming popular substitutes for minivans and mommy-spec SUVs.
I love Aston Martin. They can do no wrong, as far as I’m concerned. Vanquish looks as great as advertised. I was surprised to see that Vanquish’s proportions are not as large as I imagined. That’s a good thing.
Next to Vanquish is the redesigned Rapide. I love the prominent single grille treatment. This treatment still makes me curious as to why Aston Martin opted for a dual grille treatment for Vanquish.
Lincoln grabbed my attention last year with their 2013 MK Z Concept. The concept was so compelling I deemed it worthy of a write-up.
For a brand like Lincoln, that’s trying to make a comeback, it needs to continually reinforce its message. This year, they had the exact same pavilion as last year. That’s not going to get it done. I still like MK Z very much, and think Lincoln is on to something. Unfortunately, they’ve got some work to do in the interior department. The center console treatment needs to be rethought. It’s too high, there’s too much plastic, and not a single analog control; a dead giveaway that it’s not a driver’s car.
Then, there’s the sub-console. The last thing a driver needs in a car of this class, is to be dealing with a sub-console.
Lincoln would be wise to avoid innovating in some aspects of this car, and simply imitate, cleverly. Lincoln also need another car to get people talking besides MK Z. They had a concept SUV, which was of no interest to me. Lincoln, focus on getting your cars right, then focus on SUVs.
I saw the gorgeous Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead coupe in white on white, and couldn’t resist asking the lovely Rolls Royce Pavilion host to open the door on it. The Roller itself is gorgeous, but had to grab a shot of the host for effect.
I was excited to hear Rolls Royce announce Wraith, effectively a two-door Ghost fastback. Up close, Wraith also appears to be the byproduct of an automaker without great new ideas. Given that Rolls Royce operates in the Hyperluxury automotive segment, there is a very limited market for new products.
I haven’t completely written off Wraith, however. It could be the car 50 years from now that we reflect fondly on.
Mclaren came to the party with three MP4-12Cs, one of them being a race spec. There is a purity about the McLarens and Paganis of the world. They’re the true sports cars. Ferrari and Lamborghini will always be iconic, but they’re no longer who they were, and what made them great. This reality makes McLaren all the more pleasing to see.
Audi ties Lexus and Acura as the most boring luxury and near-luxury marque. The Audi ’7′, in all of its variants, is the car I would most like to deface. It’s just a lazy and grotesque automotive execution.
That’s all I’ll say about Audi.
I’m still waiting on Cadillac to end their awful show of making cars.
We’ve saved the best and worst for last. Below are my picks for best and worst of show.
Worst of Show
Ford Atlas Concept
The Ford Atlas is a thinly veiled preview of what Ford have in mind for the production 2015 F-150. Atlas is an exploration of fuel-efficiency improvements, technology and capacity enhancements.
It is also a confirmation of Ford’s shoddy build quality, where I noticed that the driver’s door on Atlas was drooping. A word to Ford, if you’re going to showcase concepts, and want people to pay serious attention, focus on attention to detail in assembling your concepts.
I gave Corvette press when it was announced during the Detroit Auto Show. I felt that Chevrolet had gotten it mostly right with the new Corvette design.
Up close, it’s a different story. Cheap interior materials still plague Corvette. The design of the rear is nothing short of ugly, heavily detracting from the passable looks of the car.
Best of Show
Something has gotten into Porsche, and I don’t know that there is one contributor. Porsche are arguably making the most special cars of any automaker at the moment. It’s a bold statement, but true.
Revealed at the 2012 Los Angeles auto show, Porsche Cayman is worthy of all the press she has garnered. She is unquestionably beautiful. As if beauty weren’t fundamental enough, Cayman is a drivers car in every way imaginable. In Cayman, Porsche celebrates its heritage, and pays homage to the classic GT racers of the ’50s and ’60s. It’s a Porsche 356 Speedster reborn. What’s not to love?
Specs (Cayman S):
- 3.4 Litre flat-six engine, 325 bhp
- 0-60 – 5.0 seconds
- Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) optional
- MSRP: $52 – $65K
I have never been a big Porsche fan, but I have been converted. If there is one car I would have, it would be Porsche Cayman.
Porsche 911 GT3
Then there is Porsche 911 (991) GT3, an automotive marvel that speaks for itself:
- 3.8 Litre flat six engine, 475 bhp at 8250 RPM
- 0-60 – 3.3 seconds
- Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK), 7-speed double clutch transmission
- $131,400 US MSRP
This car is engineering down to the finest detail. It is also art. The car is simply beyond words. I will bet that the 991 will earn its place in the pantheon of great racers.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Land Rover took New York by surprise with the Range Rover Sport. It wedges itself in nicely between the smaller Evoque and larger Range Rover siblings. It also carves its identity in the family with its distinct truck-like appearance, a claim that neither Evoque and Range Rover can make convincingly.
The Range Rover sport comes standard with a 340 bhp supercharged 3.0 litre V6 engine. For those looking for more power from the Range sport, a 510 bhp supercharged 5.0 litre V8 option is available.
In assessing all the noteworthy vehicles at this year’s show, nothing has changed about our pick of the Porsche Cayman for FG 2013 Most Desirable Car. It may seem coincidence that I give the nod to the all new Range Rover Sport, but in assessing all of the vehicles at this year’s show, the Sport is the clear standout. It’s a blend of looks, performance, luxury and utility. It’s a vehicle that doesn’t require us to make many sacrifices, if at all. Not many vehicles on the market offer such a balance.
The Porsche Cayman and the Range Rover Sport are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of what they represent. If I owned both, I’d strongly consider a Mercedes-Benz E63 to balance it out.