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2015 New York Auto Show Winners and Losers

This year’s New York International Auto Show was a strong end to an action-packed season that started last November in Los Angeles with stops in Detroit in January and Chicago a month later.

Related: More 2015 New York Auto Show News

Those shows all had significant introductions, but in New York it seemed like we had a little bit of everything. Traditionally, New York is big on luxury and it didn’t disappoint with new SUVs from Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, but the masses got cars from Chevrolet and Kia, too. There was even a concept or two we weren’t expecting.

Cars.com editors Aaron Bragman, Joe Bruzek, Mike Hanley and David Thomas once again hit the floor to see how the big debuts really measured up to scrutiny, not just the bluster of a big reveal in the Big Apple.

Cadillac CT6

2016 Cadillac CT6;

Aaron Bragman: Loser
This is one of those times I wish we had a “neutral” vote. I’m still trying to figure out if I like it or not. The styling, while disappointing because it doesn’t look like the Elmiraj or Ciel concept cars, is attractive, and the interior is a step up from Cadillac’s current lineup, but I expected to be blown away by the latest effort to generate a “standard of the world” model. That just hasn’t been achieved. The wood trim in the Platinum model, for instance, is atrocious. The new CT6 is nice, but it’s not niiiiiiiiiiiice.

Joe Bruzek: Winner
The CT6 has all the bits and pieces of a high-end flagship sedan with innovative technology, a massive multimedia screen and appropriate materials, and it does that without the weight gain typically associated with this class of vehicles. Less than 3,700 pounds?! That’s mighty impressive given the CT6’s spaciousness.

Mike Hanley: Loser
I like the CT6’s elegant, understated exterior, and the show car’s power-adjustable backseat was comfortable, but I was surprised that the cabin didn’t have a richer feel. It’s in the luxury realm, for sure, but it’s not Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Audi A8 nice. I thought this was supposed to be the Cadillac that was going to compete with established full-size luxury sedans … what happened?

David Thomas: Loser
From the outside, the huge CT6 is a stunner with its massive proportions styled expertly all around. The inside is comfortable and spacious, but there are some glaring problems with materials that will turn off shoppers preparing to drop BMW money on a Cadillac. This brand is so close; it just needs to focus on the small things to break through at this point.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

2016 Chevrolet Malibu;

AB: Winner
It’s excellent all around. Styling that looks like the knockout Chevrolet Impala, an interior that’s finally as big as it needs to be (especially in back), some proper powertrain options and a faster Chevy MyLink multimedia system add up to what should be a highly competitive offering. It finally looks like a no-excuses midsize car from Chevy. I can’t wait to drive it.

JB: Winner
The Malibu ain’t exciting to look at despite influence from the attractive Impala and 2016 Chevrolet Volt, but the automaker finally looks to have a handle on the Malibu with significantly increased roominess and big fuel efficiency from a proper hybrid system.

MH: Loser
The new Malibu looked like a promising redesign in press photos, but I was less impressed after checking it out on the show floor. Chevrolet seems to have skimped on cabin materials at a time when the competition is putting out richly appointed interiors. The backseat is larger, addressing one of the prior car’s main issues, but it’s not the most comfortable in the segment. This was an opportunity for the Malibu to jump to the head of the class, but it didn’t.

DT: Loser
Chevy often gets called a rental car company and the white Malibu it rolled out in New York sure didn’t help the cause. The red Malibu Hybrid was much more of a looker, and the new multimedia layout looks interesting to me. But like Mike said, Chevy needed to land ahead of a few of the competitors, and right now I’m not sure where it’ll stack up in a competitive field.

Honda Civic Concept

AB: Winner
I’m not big on that green paint, but the styling direction for this next Civic is fantastic. It finally looks like the European influence (they’ve always had cooler Hondas than we have) is making its way into the U.S. market, as evidenced by the announced arrival of a four-door hatchback and the Type-R. I see a lot of the Nissan 370Z in this Civic coupe’s lines, and Honda execs told me that “there isn’t a lot of candy” in this supposed concept – meaning what we’re seeing is largely what we’re going to get for production.

JB: Winner
It’s great to see Honda get confidence back in its performance-car program. The current Civic Si has gone soft, and this looks to inject performance look and chops back in the Si lineup with turbocharged engine offerings and a range-topping Type-R.

MH: Winner
The Honda Civic has never been the prettiest of coupes, but the Civic Concept is a looker. Its fastback roofline is a study in sleekness while the aggressive front end would look perfect on a performance-oriented Si version. The upcoming production version, which arrives first in sedan form later this year, should hew closely to this car’s design theme, and that’s a very good thing.

DT: Winner
The Civic Concept sure isn’t my cup of tea in terms of something I’d be seen driving, but it is the dramatic evolution Honda needs to make for its next mass-market compact. The automaker has always built an excellent car; Honda just needs to build an excellent car that gets people’s attention.

2016 Hyundai Tucson

AB: Winner
This is a fantastic update to a little SUV that was already a great driving vehicle. Fresh styling that looks more entertaining than most of its competition, an interior that’s surprisingly spacious, and lots of content and comfort should all add up to a great seller for Hyundai.

JB: Winner
Hyundai has another winner up its sleeve with the redesigned Tucson. The Tucson is so nice on the inside that it’s actually blurring the distinction between what’s a compact and midsize SUV in terms of interior quality. The Tucson has big usability for a small SUV with more cargo space and a great center storage console for cellphones and accessories.   

MH: Winner
I like how Hyundai has adapted the design theme of its larger Santa Fe lineup to the Tucson. It looks great, with a toughness the prior generation never possessed. It’s also quite accommodating for a compact crossover, with good front- and rear-seat space. Hyundai’s crossover lineup is now strong across the board.

DT: Winner
This is actually a win/lose situation. On its own the Tucson has everything it needs to jump to the top of the compact SUV market. I can see many consumers putting this right next to the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 on their car-shopping list, but it is so spacious and well appointed that it might take away sales from the Santa Fe Sport. I guess that’s a good problem to have for Hyundai, though.

2016 Jaguar XF

2016 Jaguar XF S;

AB: Loser
From the brand that brought us the drop-dead sexy F-Type coupe, we get a refresh that turns the beautiful XF into a milquetoast sedan. What a letdown. This is the brand that has more license than just about any other to do expressive, daring designs, and instead it has made a BMW 3 Series/Hyundai Genesis/Chevrolet SS clone. Lame.

JB: Winner
I agree that the XF’s exterior isn’t a significant reworking or very daring, but there’s still a lot of the design character that made the XF stand out at its introduction. Plus, I’m more enamored with what’s inside it such as increased interior room and the killer 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro multimedia system that pairs wonderfully with the 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster.   

MH: Winner
Jaguar is starting to take after Audi with a lineup of different-sized cars that all sort of look the same, but as long as they look like this, I’m fine with that. The widescreen multimedia system looks impressive, too.

DT: Winner
Sometimes you like what you like: This was one of my favorite cars at the show. To me, the styling is actually distinct versus the German and Japanese competition, and I would definitely call it sexy. Inside, Jaguar has made a leap with the XF in terms of both the impressive digital tech and the materials. This is going to be one I can’t wait to drive.

2016 Kia Optima

2016 Kia Optima;

AB: Winner
As refreshed models go, this one is minor, but it was already an attractive, distinctive car so it didn’t need much. You’ll be hard-pressed to spot the new one in a dealer lot full of previous-generation Optimas, but at least Kia didn’t screw anything up.

JB: Loser
Kia sold us on this wild Optima concept only to unveil a slightly changed version. It’s good for the automaker that the Optima is such a strong seller and didn’t require much attention, but I was hoping for another game-changer like the 2011 Optima.   

MH: Winner
The redesigned Optima looks quite a bit like its predecessor but sees bigger changes inside. I saw the Optima right after visiting the 2016 Malibu at the Chevrolet stand and the Kia sedan’s nicer interior and more comfortable cabin were immediately clear.

DT: Loser
Kia might want to blame the setting because the lighting and layout of its auto show booth sure didn’t help to show off what is a rather handsome sedan. It also displayed the redesigned Optima in some boring colors that blended in with the scenery … of other Kias nearby. The Optima may be an improvement over the current one in terms of everything under the skin, but it might not matter if no one can tell its truly new.

2016 Lexus RX

AB: Winner
I’m surprised I like this as much as I do. Maybe I’m just getting numb to the gaping Lexus predator maw, but it seems the new RX wears it better than any of the cars Lexus has slapped it on to this point. No more LED Nike swooshes! And the interior can be had in some excellent colors, which is also refreshing.

JB: Winner
I’m in the same boat as Aaron. I think the RX’s styling is the best execution yet of Lexus’ current design direction. The NX is a little too “out there,” but the RX is just right, blending the aggressive shape over a proportionate body.   

MH: Winner
What they said. Lexus’ sharp-edged styling doesn’t work so well on the compact NX crossover, but I was surprised how good it looks on the larger midsize RX. The new floating-style rear roofline is a great design cue, and upscale interior elements heighten the sense of luxury in the cabin. Lexus will sell a ton of these.

DT: Winner
The grille is definitely big, but it doesn’t take away from what is a cohesive design overall. I’m still trying to get over the giant multimedia screen dropped on top of the dashboard, but everything else inside the cabin is elegant and sophisticated. It also feels more spacious in the back, which I always thought it needed. This is Lexus’ best-seller, and the competition should be worried that the automaker nailed it again.

Lincoln Continental Concept

AB: Loser
There isn’t a single original bit of styling anywhere on this car. I heard over and over again: “It looks like a Bentley”; “It looks like an Audi A8”; and “It looks like a Jaguar.” What did I not hear? “It looks like a Lincoln.” If Lincoln took off the badges, would anyone know what this was? I expected more from a brand touting its own design studio employing 90 dedicated designers who work on nothing but Lincoln.

JB: Loser
Who knew boring was spelled C-o-n-t-i-n-e-n-t-a-l. Maybe that’s a bit harsh. The car looked great in photos and less proportionate/interesting in person with massive doors and short overhangs. The idea is a good one and something Lincoln could use, so I’ll stay tuned to see what a production version looks like. Credit is due for giving the concept a real name instead of MK-something.

MH: Winner
I couldn’t make up my mind about this car for the longest time. I like large cars that have presence, and this one does, and the return of the Continental name is long overdue. However, the new Lincoln grille — and the whole front end, for that matter — doesn’t make me think luxury. Fortunately, other aspects such as the interior do, and I think the production version will help chart a course for Ford’s adrift luxury brand.

DT: Loser
Just when Lincoln delivered a near-perfect execution of its design language in an all-around class-leading vehicle in the MKC SUV — with high-profile commercials — the automaker scraps the whole thing and goes in another direction with the Continental. Besides the generic design, the idea of another big luxury sedan from a brand few consider to begin with doesn’t sound like the right strategy to me. Lincoln did do a great job with its booth and lighting, though.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE350

AB: Winner
The changes are subtle, but they bring the GLE in line with the rest of Mercedes-Benz lineup, and successfully so. The interior is still far more opulent than any BMW X5, and the GLE63 AMG just looks like crazy fun.

JB: Winner
This Benz teetered on the winner/loser line, but it ultimately gets the thumbs-up because the GLE is extremely opulent when optioned correctly and the powertrains across the board are new and interesting: four-cylinder turbo-diesel; turbo V-6; turbo V-6 with plug-in hybrid; and 500-plus-horsepower, turbo V-8 AMG versions. Plus the GLE gets Benz’s new multimedia system; I just wish the rest of the control surfaces received as much attention and updating as the multimedia system. 

MH: Loser
You’ll need to have a detailed understanding of Mercedes’ former M-Class to notice the exterior and interior styling changes on the GLE. They’re just so subtle. There’s no question that this is still a capable luxury SUV, but I’m surprised Mercedes didn’t do more with the switch to the new name.

DT: Winner
Sure, it may look like a boring luxury SUV, but the GLE-Class is so nice inside it will make shoppers gladly sign up for a big lease payment. This has everything one could ask for in this class, and the traditional styling is actually a benefit for the Mercedes-Benz brand. This is what its shoppers want.

2016 Nissan Maxima

2016 Nissan Maxima;

AB: Winner
I totally dig the styling direction Nissan is taking. Whether it looks good five to 10 years from now remains to be seen, but right now it looks fresh, distinctive and aggressive – everything a Maxima should be. The interior is dynamite too, with high-quality materials throughout and updated electronics. Nissan claims that it’s the return of the four-door sports car, which is the automaker’s old tag line for the Maxima, and if it drives as good as it looks, there’s hope for this old nameplate yet.

JB: Winner
The 2016 Maxima is a stunner. Maybe not in the classic sense, but it will get your attention and that’s not something many full-size sedans can do. It’s exciting to see Nissan take a risk with this radical styling direction, and it’s as equally interesting on the inside. I have trouble believing anything with a continuously variable automatic transmission can be a four-door sports car. Time will tell if Nissan can pull that off.

MH: Winner
From the daring exterior styling to the luxury-grade cabin, the redesigned Maxima looks the part of a modern sport sedan. It still doesn’t fit neatly into one of the established segments, but it should serve well the enthusiast buyer who needs sedan practicality.

DT: Winner
I thought the new Nissan Murano SUV had taken a step toward the luxury realm; the Maxima goes a step further. It looks radical outside — kudos to Nissan for bringing four different colors and varying trims — and nicer than anything else in this class inside. I don’t know if the driving experience can live up to the styling and interior, but I can’t wait to find out.

2016 Scion iA

AB: Loser
It’s hard to do an attractive subcompact sedan. Witness the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio – all awkward proportions, tallness and weirdness. The Scion iA (which is really a new Mazda2 sedan) doesn’t do any better and may actually be worse given that horribly oversized, fish-faced grille. Save your money and wait for the Mazda2 hatchback, which looks far, far more attractive.

JB: Loser
Scion debuted its first sedan, the iA, at the New York auto show, and its awkwardness overshadowed the cool factor of the also-introduced Scion iM hatchback. The iA’s interior is fairly unique and interesting, but that pucker face is tough to swallow even if the thing drives fantastically.

MH: Loser
Using the redesigned Mazda2 as a starting point for an entry-level Scion sedan seems like a reasonable idea, but the resulting iA is disappointing. Sure, the cabin is quite nice for an entry-level car, but the grille looks like the mouth of a carp and clashes with the rest of the design.

DT: Loser
The iA loses at the auto show, but it might win over car shoppers who don’t understand or care about the Toyota/Mazda mashup going on in terms of styling. The interior quality is best-in-class the second it goes on sale, and the affordable safety features might be another selling point for shoppers wary of driving such a small car.

2016 Toyota RAV4

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid;

AB: Winner
A nice update to a decent SUV, and the new hybrid version should be something when we finally see some official mileage numbers. The interior update is less impressive, with materials that still feel a little cheap, but I’m glad to see an update to the multimedia options, at least.

JB: Winner
The RAV4 may get updates across the line, but the new RAV4 Hybrid is the winner here with a tightly packaged hybrid system hiding under the car and not intruding too much into the usable interior space. It’s all fairly seamless, so here’s to hoping for good fuel-economy numbers to seal the deal.

MH: Loser
The styling updates are fine, but the big news is the new hybrid version. Regarding that model, Toyota had … no details. Without knowing drivetrain specifics, especially estimated gas mileage, it’s hard to call the RAV4 Hybrid a winner yet.

DT: Winner
I never understood why the RAV4 didn’t have a hybrid version previously since it had one of the largest cargo areas in the class with plenty of room to sacrifice for a big hybrid battery. Now we see the results and so far it looks like a success. But like Joe says, you can’t really rate a hybrid with no idea of the mileage it will get.