2011 New York Auto Show Winners and Losers: Production Cars

By David Thomas  on April 25, 2011

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The New York International Auto Show was squarely focused on fuel-efficient small cars and rightly so, with gas prices steadily on the rise. Automakers didn't completely forget about horsepower, though, as the show saw a few new high-powered models. Here Cars.com editors Mike Hanley, Kelsey Mays, David Thomas and Joe Wiesenfelder pick their favorites from the show — and the flops.

Also check out our picks for concept cars.

2012 Subaru Impreza
Mike Hanley: Winner
The all-wheel-drive Impreza's significantly improved gas mileage is a compelling storyline — it's now rated at 27/36 mpg city/highway — but I was just as impressed with the completely revised interior, which brings some needed refinement. Subaru's already on a roll in the U.S., and the Impreza looks like another hit.

Kelsey Mays: Winner
The Impreza’s face looks better than the larger Legacy’s overblown one. As Mike alluded, cabin materials are good and this sort of mileage for an all-wheel-drive car is impressive. Although Subaru hasn’t announced pricing yet, the list of standard features is generous given the Impreza’s class.

Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner
Subaru is really onto something here, styling-wise: It is less quirky than other Subarus and more mature than the previous gen yet not bland. The interior doesn't rival the best out there, but it's a significant improvement. I'm still surprised by the backseat, which isn't huge by the numbers, but I found it accommodating nonetheless.

David Thomas: Winner
You have to see the Impreza to appreciate it. In early images I was worried it was too stubby and plain. In person, it looks sharp, and I would even classify the maroon sedan on the show floor as elegant. It now has terrific mileage to match Subaru’s vaunted all-wheel drive and well-known reliability.


2012 Volkswagen Beetle

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MH: Winner
There's probably not a harder assignment in the car business than being tasked with redesigning the Beetle, but VW's designers pulled it off. The 2012 Beetle manages to respect the car's larger-than-life past while seamlessly incorporating all of the modern conveniences you'd expect.

KM: Winner
A Volkswagen official told me the automaker hopes to see the Beetle generate a 50/50 distribution between male and female buyers. While the original Beetle sold aplenty to males, the second-gen (New) Beetle skewed more than 60% female, he said. With its low stance and longer hood, this car looks sharp — just the sort of thing that could make the guys return.

JW: Loser
Zzzzzzzzz. Maybe this is just an issue of personal preference, but my interest in the resurrected Beetle tracks with the overall market's: initial enthusiasm followed by a gradual decline. The redesign isn't enough to make this model relevant to me.

DT: Loser
I’m in Joe’s camp, but have more issues with the purpose of this vehicle. If you have a GTI in the lineup, why do you need another two-door hatchback just for styling purposes? If VW was adding performance I’d prefer the slick Scirocco that Europe gets. Instead, we get a Beetle. I also found the controls for the air conditioning on par with the lesser Hyundai Accent at the booth next door.


2013 Chevrolet Malibu

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MH: Winner
The redesigned 2013 Malibu has clear muscle-car influences — specifically Chevy Camaro influences — like square taillights and meaty haunches that distinguish it from all of its competitors and give the car an appealing aggressiveness. The cabin is distinctive and roomy enough, and a high-mileage Eco version looks especially attractive these days.

JW: Winner
I was actually on the fence about this one, but after seeing it in person, I appreciate the front-end styling more than I had. Photos just don't show it well. Having said that, the rear end does nothing for me; of course, I say the same of the Camaro, so it figures. A quality interior will help, but what's with all the different colors in there? I didn't mind it, but some observers did.

DT: Loser
To me, the tail looked completely flat and the lights didn’t have the distinct Camaro shape the press images depicted. While the exterior left me dejected, the interior of the LTZ model seemed very nice for the class and near the top competitors out today. But will another car leapfrog it by the time it goes on sale in a year? That was the problem with the last-gen Malibu. It was good, but not better than everything else.


2012 Hyundai Accent

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MH: Winner
The redesigned Accent shows you don't have to sacrifice style in your quest for an affordable, efficient car. Hyundai has an impressive streak of winners to its credit lately with the Sonata and Elantra, and it looks like the 2012 Accent will join the club.

KM: Winner
It’s becoming hard to differentiate Hyundai’s windswept cars, but I count that as a good thing: As the puzzle pieces come together, it becomes apparent the automaker has escaped the styling wilderness. The Accent looks like its siblings, which lends it a more expensive veneer both inside and out than its starting price would suggest.

JW: Winner
I keep waiting for Hyundai to do something wrong. It just hasn't happened. I think bringing the Equus to market was a questionable move, but the Equus itself isn't wrong. Neither is anything else the automaker has brought out in a few years, including the Accent.

DT: Winner
The Accent looks too much like the Elantra for my taste; it’s almost how you’d be hard-pressed to tell some Audis apart. The Accent’s interior quality is amazing for a car in this price range, and I even had extra knee room in the backseat. It gets 40 mpg and can fit four adults comfortably; that’s a winner.


2012 Nissan Versa

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MH: Loser
The new Versa is one of the most affordable new cars available, and I was impressed with its roomy interior. However, the Versa's exterior blandness is overpowering; it makes the Toyota Corolla look like a design masterpiece. Coupled with a cheap-looking interior that's worse than the current Versa's — and not much better than some of the stuff I've seen in Chinese cars — the result is disappointing.

KM: Loser
I’m impressed by how spacious the Versa is, but Mike’s right. Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Honda prove cheap cars need not look dull. Nissan has plenty of inventive designs, but this one’s dishwater. That the Versa’s highway mileage rating falls a few mpg short of the vaunted 40-mpg mark will hurt its consideration more than the actual shortfall, too.

JW: Winner
Tough crowd. I'm not ready to dismiss the car for the interior of one sample at an auto show. Let's not forget this thing will cost $11,000. The current Versa is no beauty, and it's done very well — in part because of its generous interior space. This one continues the tradition.

DT: Loser
I don’t care about the bland looks outside, but there’s no excuse for how downmarket the inside feels, especially next to the Hyundai and Kia competition. It also doesn’t wow in the fuel-economy department, which might be its biggest issue of all.


2012 BMW 650i

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MH: Winner
BMW seems to have found its styling groove again with the recent release of the redesigned 5 Series sedan and now the 6 Series coupe and convertible. The big 6 might be the perfect car for a cross-country drive what with its graceful lines, V-8 power and luxurious interior. It's about the best getaway car you could ask for.

KM: Winner
The 6 Series never encountered the ugly-duckling generation that maligned several BMW nameplates. It looks better than ever, and the interior exudes quality. BMW’s twin-turbo V-8 should move the car authoritatively.

JW: Winner
Beautiful. It pays homage to the previous generation's hood and front-end treatment and fixes its challenging trunkline. I'll admit some of the "four-door coupes" come off pretty well, but you can't beat a well-styled two-door. Unlike the 3 Series, that's what this is.

DT: Winner
I don’t know why this car is so alluring, but it is. The sheer size of it, the funky bulges that protrude here and there, and the little kidney grilles shouldn’t add up to anything good, but there I was in the driver’s seat making sure I closed the door so I could steal some alone time with it during a busy auto show just the same.


2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

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MH: Winner
With a zero-to-60-mph time of just 4.8 seconds, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 can make some performance cars look bad. That's what a 465-horsepower, 6.4-liter V-8 will do for an SUV, and since most people don't take their SUVs off-road, why not have some fun on the tarmac like the sports cars do? If it's wrong to like the SRT8 despite its 12/18 mpg fuel-economy rating, so be it.

KM: Winner
Twelve miles per gallon in the city will make for a lot of cash at the pump, especially at today’s prices, and unless the current generation shows vastly improved reliability, fuel costs may represent just the beginning of this car’s cash drain. But — irresponsibly, unashamedly — I dug the hell out of driving the last SRT8. Who would have thought a near-5,000 pound SUV could be so fun? This one should be just as quick with even better handling. Tomorrow may cost you, but today will be glorious.

JW: Winner
This thing is preposterous. Apparently so am I, because I always liked the previous generation and its ability to beat the snot out of the lower-level Porsche Cayennes for much less money. This one looks great. The only objection I have is to the shift paddles, which are too small (to accommodate the audio controls), but I'm not a fan of paddles anyway. Like I said, it's preposterous. That's America. Let freedom ring.

DT: Winner
This rounds out the three SRT8 models along with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. Who would guess the SUV would be the best-looking, meanest and most desirable of the three? The hood scoops look amazingly natural — a difficult feat — while the wheels are just insanely awesome. Who wouldn’t want one?


2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8

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MH: Winner
I like subtle performance, which is probably why I like the 300 SRT8. Even painted white with black accents like the model at the auto show, the 300 SRT8 didn't seem gaudy in the least. Mash the gas pedal and all that can change, as the 465-hp V-8 is capable of launching this car to 60 mph in fewer than five seconds.

KM: Winner
The 300 ranks among Chrysler’s best executions yet, and the SRT8 should be able to muscle its way easily to extralegal speeds. Short of the luxury field, big sedans with big engines are a dying breed; here’s to Chrysler for keeping the concept alive.

JW: Loser
I'm sure I'll enjoy driving it, but in the interest of consistency, I'm calling it a loser. I don't like the 2011 restyle of a car I liked quite a bit, and this version does nothing to sway me — especially in white. Bad call for an auto show.

DT: Loser
I like the regular 300 just fine, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with the SRT8 version … but I wouldn’t buy one. If I wanted a bad-boy American muscle car with four doors I’d get the Charger. The 300 seems the wrong wrapping for such an application.


2013 Ford Taurus

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MH: Loser
The Taurus SHO is more distinct for 2013, thanks to a new grille, but the styling changes for the regular sedan are overly subtle. Solidifying my thumbs-down is the addition of MyFord Touch, a touch-sensitive technology that's not ready for primetime.

KM: Loser
The Taurus’ interior remains tighter than its massive exterior suggests, and it also remains too difficult to see out of. The onus is on Ford to prove its touch-panel technology works; readers have written in complaining of it, and we agree.

JW: Loser
What they said. I can't abide the touch-pad controls. Yes, that's enough to disqualify the whole car, which otherwise looks good. The current SHO leaves me cold, too.

DT: Loser
One step forward, two steps back is how I’d describe the changes to the Taurus. I like the new grille and interior enhancements, but if you’re putting that multimedia system in the cramped confines of this behemoth sedan I don’t want to be inside for the ride.


2012 Fiat 500c

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MH: Loser
I like the hardtop 500, but the 500c's retractable fabric roof will leave some sun lovers wanting more — especially because the 500 would look great as a traditional convertible. If it hasn't happened yet, someone's bound to chop the roof off this car.

KM: Loser
The 500c’s overhead framework could return a stiffer body that doesn’t noodle about like some convertibles, but the $4,000 price difference — for what’s basically a panoramic sunroof that retracts to the trunk — seems a bit much.

JW: Loser
Yeah, I understand the compulsion to bring back an iconic design, but once the small segment of nostalgic buyers is exhausted, Fiat will be left with the car described by my colleagues above: one with considerably less appeal than a conventional convertible.

DT: Winner
Do I have to remind you guys that this is one of the cheapest convertibles on the market? And the other one is a Smart car? I like the funky top; I also like the Porsche 911 Targa. I really like saving money, which a lot of people also like these days, and they can have some fun doing it and look good.


2012 Kia Rio

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MH: Winner
Kia has come a long way in the past few years, and its transformation has been design-led. Even the automaker's smallest model benefits, as the Rio's shape is relatively athletic. Upscale options mean you don't necessarily have to give up the features you like to get the gas mileage — a projected 30/40 mpg — you want.

KM: Winner
Mike should run for political office; I haven’t disagreed with him yet. The Rio’s kooky nose looks closer to the Soul than the Honda Civic-like Forte, but I’m a fan of the interior – from the cool-looking toggle switches for the air conditioning to the exceptional front-seat travel.

JW: Winner
I concur. Wow, we'd make the world's worst cable-news show. Isn't someone supposed to dissent? Call someone names or something? Dave?

DT: Winner
Sorry, it wins again. The styling is cool, but I’m more impressed with the high-quality interior. It’s a step beyond the Accent in that regard and almost at the same level as the more expensive Kia Optima and Sorento. Even folks buying $15,000 cars want a nice interior.


2012 Jaguar XF

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MH: Winner
The XF sport sedan is a pretty car, but I never liked its headlights, which didn't stay true to the concept-car version of the XF. For 2012, Jaguar has fitted the car with headlights that approximate those of the concept, and the results are spectacular. This was already an easy car to like, and now it's even easier to look at.

KM: Winner
This is what the XF should have looked like when Jaguar first introduced it. The interior changes — black instead of silver buttons below the navigation system — should make the climate controls easier to see, if a bit less stylish than before. We haven’t been too impressed with the XF’s Bowers & Wilkins stereo; I hope this year’s revisions help it, too.

JW: Winner
Once again, I concur. There's one exception, though. Every time Jaguar redesigns or updates a car, it’s an opportunity to make the grille look less cheap. I'm still waiting ...

DT: Loser
It looks better, but that’s not going to save the XF from being an also-ran in this segment. The BMW 5 Series drives better. The Infiniti M is a better value and the Mercedes E-Class is more elegant. None are really reliable, but the XF has been one of the most problematic models in recent history. It still screams “stay away” to me.

Packard 2011 2011 New York Auto Show Auto Show New York Winners and Losers


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