2007 New York Auto Show: Winners and Losers

By David Thomas  on April 8, 2007

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Another auto show is now under our belts, and that means it’s time for us to determine the big winners and losers among the new production and concept cars that debuted in New York. Mike Hanley, David Thomas and Joe Wiesenfelder break down this year’s field.

Ford Flex
DT: Loser
I wanted this to be all things and it wasn’t. What it seems to be is a low-riding crossover with some small resemblance to classic woody station wagons, with a little Range Rover mixed in. In the end, it’s actually just a stylized minivan without sliding doors.

MH: Loser
Arguably the most significant debut of the media preview, the three-row Flex crossover was a bit of a letdown. Sure, it's distinctive, but the interior doesn't raise the bar like others in the segment have, and its surf wagon appearance might have trouble gaining broad appeal. Ford needs another smash hit like the Mustang. This just isn't it.

JW:
Loser
Lots of dittos. This is such an important introduction for Ford, in a vehicle class that's growing in both buyer appeal and number of models. I'm enthusiastic about the Edge, and the Flex might prove as engaging to drive, but I don't think its styling is going to be a draw.

2008 Subaru Impeza WRX & Impreza 2.5

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DT: Winners
I think I’m the only person on the internet who actually liked these two. Of course, I had the benefit of seeing them in person. I can understand why some would be offended by the base Impreza wagon. It is a little bubbly, but it also has a profile similar to the BMW 1 Series. The WRX in sedan form looks great to me. Besides a bland back end, I’d take its menacing front any day over the outgoing model. Plus, the interior improvements are quite nice. Now when’s a new engine coming?

MH: Losers

The new Impreza sedan has a bit of BMW 3 Series in its flanks, which isn't a bad thing, but the interior is stark and uninviting. What's more, the high-performance WRX doesn't get a power boost with its redesign; its turbocharged engine still makes 224 hp.

JW: Losers

The interiors are improved but not inspiring. I could do without the exterior styling, including the WRX's clear-lens taillights. I never liked the trend, which is ending and looks dated on a brand-new design. I have no reason to doubt that these models will be as engaging to drive as ever, but Subaru has clearly lost its way in terms of styling, with little consistency across its models — and few of them rising above the level of inoffensive. The best I can say is they tamed the WRX's hood scoop. Hope the STi version will follow suit.

2008 Lexus LS 570

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DT: Loser
How do you spell “snoozer?” L-X-5-7-0. Just what the world didn’t need: another large luxury SUV. Even if it is powered by the surprisingly thrilling engine from the top-of-the-line-Tundra, it won’t be on my list of must-test vehicles. Is that bias?

MH: Loser

I've been impressed with the looks of Lexus' new cars, but this update of its largest SUV lacks the design cohesion present in the sedans. Fuel economy will likely be frightful, too.

JW: Loser

I know there are currently no unibody (car-based) full-size SUVs, but if you're going to go truck-based in the luxury class, it's easier to justify if it's large enough to classify as truly full-size, like an Escalade or Lincoln Navigator. Speaking of Navigator, how could Lexus have ripped off its taillight design so completely for the LX 570?

2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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DT: Winner
Kelsey Mays thought the interior was sub-par compared to the Lexus IS parked in the booth next door. Hearing that, I went and sat in both, and I’ll argue the new C-Class edges out the Lexus IS by a hair. My only real fault with the interior is a plastic shift knob. How on earth does Mercedes do that? Besides that major flub, the car is well proportioned, has a big trunk, a livable backseat and looks a lot more daring than the outgoing C-Class. And there’s no way you don’t opt for the Sport model’s aggressive grille.

MH: Winner
The new C-Class manages to gracefully combine styling cues from the larger CL-Class and S-Class, which means you get an upscale sedan for much less cash. Sounds like a winner to me.

JW: Winner

I didn't claw my way through the mob to sit in it, but this is a welcome update to an aged design. I'm not sure it's grown as much as it needed to, and the stick-shift deletion is a tragedy; they'd finally gotten it right after years of half-hearted executions.


Ford Shelby GT500KR & F-150 Foose Edition

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DT: Winners
The GT500KR wins because it’s a 540-hp Mustang. There’s no way to call that a loser. Is it earth-shattering? Nope. Will I want to test one? Yep.

I also liked the idea that Ford can find a new way to build go-fast vehicles without having to badge them “SVT.” This Foose truck isn’t just lowered with big wheels, it has a pretty potent engine, too. Having the Foose hot rod aura might also make it seem more collectible.

MH: Winners

The 500-hp Shelby GT500 is a hoot to drive, and for all you speed demons out there, the 540-hp GT500KR looks just as promising. The extra body work is a bit over the top, but with that much power in the balance, I can live with it.

Maybe it's just humankind's attraction to freak shows, but there's something appealing about a 450-hp pickup truck with 22-inch rims. I know it doesn't make sense to like the F-150 Foose Edition and trucks like it, but I do.

JW: Winners
My objections are petty: too many Mustang versions and complicated names, and I'm bothered by Ford's habit of slapping people's names on vehicles, even if they were involved in development. (I'd much prefer the return of the Special Vehicle Team designation.) Apart from that, bring it on. I miss the Lightning, and the Foose truck goes fast and looks great — proof that good execution can make the ridiculous sublime.


Hyundai Genesis Concept

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DT: Winner
A rear-wheel-drive near-luxury sedan from Hyundai? A few years ago I would have scoffed, but after the Veracruz and other recent models, I have no doubt Hyundai can pull it off.

MH: Winner
Though not especially daring, the Genesis concept has nice proportions, looks ready to be built and has a promising list of features, including V-8 power, rear-wheel drive and an adjustable suspension. Hyundai wants to be a luxury manufacturer, and this car is a step in the right direction.

JW: Winner

Dave put it well. At one time, the press would have reacted: "How dare they?" Now we're all intrigued to see how much higher Hyundai can raise the bar. Now, if it can just resist moving the entire model lineup "upscale," inflating prices along the way ...


2008 Hummer H3 Alpha & H2

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DT: Winners
The interior of the H2 is definitely a Hummer take on the new large GM SUV, which is a good thing. The H3 really is a neat vehicle for the money, and it makes sense to offer a V-8 engine for folks who have the money for a larger SUV but don’t want the added bulk, just the power and capabilities.

MH: Losers
Even though the H3 gets a welcome V-8 engine option and the H2 sports a redesigned cabin, these offroad-ready SUVs seem increasingly out of place in today's world of rising gas prices and heightened concern for the environment. You can't be trendy forever.

JW: Winners

Mike has a point. Hummer used powertrain improvements to increase the H2's acceleration rather than its mileage (a decades-old, marketwide trend). That said, this is a particular model for a particular buyer. (I'm more concerned about better-selling guzzler models, whose environmental impact is greater.) With the powertrain and interior upgrades, Hummer addressed buyers' major complaints, and that's good.

Infiniti EX Concept

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DT: Winner
This doesn’t get a full-fledged endorsement from me. It looks really small up close, and there isn’t a lot of radical thinking in the design department either. It will probably compete well against the Acura RDX, Land Rover LR2 and BMW X3.

MH: Winner
The EX Concept crossover, which is on the fast track to production, isn't as out-there as the luxury brand's FX SUV, and that should work in its favor. If Infiniti's past is any indication, it'll offer a lot of value for the money in the compact luxury segment.

JW: Winner

This one doesn't set my hair on fire, but I do like it, and I welcome any smaller SUV-like hoopty that keeps buyers out of larger SUVs. For any Infiniti devotee with the sense to know how much car is truly enough, that's what the EX will do.


2008 Infiniti G37

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DT: Winner
File this under our “looks better in person” category, which is getting quite full right about now. You can’t appreciate the sculptured hood and front fenders unless you see this for yourself. If it’s as good on the road as everyone keeps saying, then Infiniti has a sure winner. They’ll sell more of these than the outgoing model, and they sold a lot of them.

MH: Winner

Infiniti has been upping the horsepower of its V-6, and it pushes it higher still in the new G37 coupe, which makes 330 hp. Perhaps more important, Infiniti has overhauled the cabin, which is much improved in terms of material quality and appearance.

JW: Winner

Simply, yum.


2008 Jeep Liberty

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DT: Loser
Let’s forget that the new Jeep Liberty is basically the same as a Dodge Nitro; it still looks like every other Jeep SUV. If you lined up a Commander, Liberty and Patriot next to each other, it would be pretty hard to tell them apart. I will admit that the sky roof is a cool feature.

MH: Winner

The redesigned Liberty's appearance is more imposing than before, and the SUV is still offroad-capable, but it's a winner for having possibly the oddest feature of any of the debuts at the show: The optional Sky Slider retractable roof is made of canvas. Would any other carmaker do this? We doubt it.

JW: Loser

To be clear, I've been against the Liberty since the beginning on practicality grounds, and that remains to an extent. There are those who appreciate or even need what it delivers, but most buyers would be better off with a car-based SUV. (Thankfully, Jeep now offers one in the Patriot.) On the upside, the Liberty looks less cutesy, but I, too, expected more from its restyling. As for the canvas top, its ability to seal out noise and the elements, especially with age, will determine its viability.


Maserati GranTurismo

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DT: Winner
This was one hot exotic. Pictures don’t do this Italian beauty justice. The gaping maw of a grille, the luscious curves of the fenders, the strong look of the back end, and the lush interior hit all the right spots on the enthusiast map.

MH: Winner

This sports car has stunning looks, a powerful V-8 engine and cachet to spare. It's the kind of sports car that'll make you want to cash in all that Google stock you bought when the company went public.

JW: Winner

Pininfarina took Maserati's often-disjointed design elements and melded them into an audacious thing of beauty. I'll take mine in Bordeaux Pontevecchio with a black interior. Dolce!


Chevrolet Minicars

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DT: Losers
Perhaps the Beat, Groove and Trax concepts would’ve earned my nod if the chief of GM product development hadn’t come out and said they weren’t meant for the U.S. market. That deflated any buzz around the three concepts. I didn’t like two of the designs, but thought the Trax might give the American company something different in the segment.

MH: Winners

Chevrolet did a good job defining each member of this tiny trio with unique styling. Like Dave, my enthusiasm for these models was dampened upon learning the U.S. likely won't get one, but they're each interesting enough in their own right to be winners at this show.

JW: Losers
I'm weary of concept cars that are too ... concepty. Granted, real products could be built to look like these; they did it with the Pontiac Solstice, etc. But these had rearview cameras instead of mirrors, two didn't have interiors at all (and as such weren't drivable) and the third's wasn't realistic. The Groove is currently winning the poll, but I think if people could see it from all angles, they'd prefer the Beat. The Trax is just too cute for broad appeal.

2008 Audi S5

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DT: Winner
While the A5 and S5 coupes debuted earlier this year in Geneva, this was our first chance to see the two-door coupe in person. Like almost every vehicle here it looked muuuuuuuch better in the flesh. This is my new Urban DINK dream car. Audi did a remarkable job creating a two-door coupe with a design that outshines the BMW 3 Series or 6 Series two-doors. You really can’t appreciate all the small details from these photos. Man, I want one.

MH: Winner
I'm sure the S5 show car's bright red paint job helped, but the coupe is quite eye-catching regardless. For good measure, the S5 gets a 354-hp V-8 and a six-speed manual transmission.

JW: Winner

To my eye, the BMW 6 Series is better-looking and one of the few truly distinctive, recognizable cars on the market. Regardless, this one's sweet, and it has the new version of Quattro that sends more torque to the rear wheels -- removing one of my few long-standing gripes about Audis.

2008 Cadillac STS

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DT: Winner
I like the new grille treatment a lot but am bummed that GM didn’t update the interior beyond a new steering wheel. So, that would be a half-hearted endorsement in the truest sense.

MH: Ambivalent

I'm a fan of the new CTS, which explains why I like the big, gleaming grille on the updated STS. I'm in agreement with Dave on the cabin update: It's unfortunate the car's interior didn't get the same level of attention that the new CTS did -- it could use it.

JW: Winner

I thought the STS' styling was too scaled-back when it first came out. That's been addressed in the 2008. Whether you like it or not (I do), you have to give Cadillac credit for committing to a styling direction and sticking with it. The guys have a point about the interior; you'd want it to be a solid step above that of the CTS, but it's by no means bad. The previous-generation CTS' was bad, and that's partly why the new one's getting raves.


2008 Buick LaCrosse & Lucerne

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DT: N/A
Ooops, I forgot to check these out? Is that my fault, or thanks to the poor planning of when the vehicles were introduced and placed on the show floor? I don’t even remember where they were.

MH: Losers
The Supers’ more powerful engines and larger grilles are worthwhile updates, but compared to almost any other car at the show, these are downright snoozers.


2007 New York International Auto Show
DT: Loser
The show seemed to cram too many insignificant redesigns down our throats. I do appreciate that this was a show aimed more at consumers, which is what we cover, but the car guy in me wanted something more.
Car of the show: Maserati GranTurismo, followed more realistically by the Audi S5

MH: Winner
(for consumers)
We're always judging auto shows on their ability to create news, and by that measure the New York show wasn't the greatest this year. But if you’re just interested in seeing all the new cars that debuted this year in Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago under one roof, it's probably near perfect.
Car of the show: Infiniti G37

JW: Winner

Mike's right. From a newsmaking perspective, there were too many light restylings, leaving the Ford Flex as the most important mass-market introduction. It didn't have the star power to shoulder the burden — not by a long shot. As stated, though, most of the other domestic introductions from the past few months — and some cars rolled out overseas — are here for the ogling. All told, it's my favorite auto show.
Car of the show: Maserati GranTurismo by default.
Best-kept secret: Dodge Demon concept

 


Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David


2007 New York Auto Show