The Top 10 Debuts of the 2014 New York Auto Show
New York City may be far less car-centric than other global megalopolises, but that doesn’t mean its annual auto show is an also-ran on the international calendar. It still sees a substantial share of U.S. and world debuts when it rolls around every April, and this year’s New York Auto Show served up what seems to be a bigger crop than usual. And while other sites will be happy to tell you all about the new midsize sedans, minivans and crossovers on the convention center floor, we’re focusing on the fast, fun, powerful and luxurious rides celebrating their off-Broadway openings.
Just as it was back in the golden age of pony cars, the Dodge Challenger has kind of been stuck in the large-looming shadows of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. This is not to say the Challenger is an inferior car: Aesthetically speaking, it’s a fantastic tribute to the 1970 original, and its engine lineup is perfectly competent. However, the time is ripe for an update, and that’s exactly what Dodge has done for the 2015 model year.
Changes at the front and rear aren’t radical, but they are easy to spot, particularly the grille and taillights. The interior has received a thorough makeover, with a modern-looking dash featuring a TFT digital display between the analog tach and speedometer and a mammoth optional 8.4” touchscreen in the center stack. And last (but far from least), the drivetrain menu has seen some noteworthy updates. All automatic Challengers now use 8-speed gearboxes (Chrysler’s own Torque-Flite on V6s, the wildly-popular ZF 8HP70 on V8s), and the new range-topper (The SRT model appears to be on sabbatical.) is the Challenger 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker, with the former SRT’s 6.4L Hemi V8 tuned to make an estimated 485 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft of torque. We’ll take ours in Plum Crazy with the 6-speed manual, please.
Audi A3 TDI Sportback
When the U.S. lineup for the new Audi A3 was announced last year, many observers (ourselves among them) were disappointed that the only way to get the new version of the 5-door hatchback (“Sportback” in Audi speak) would be as the plug-in hybrid A3 Sportback e-tron. Well, apparently Audi North America listened to the fans and has decided to offer the two-box A3 with the new-generation 150 horsepower 2.0L turbodiesel inline-four and 6-speed dual-clutch transmission that will soon be available in the A3 Sedan. That’s the good news; the bad news is the A3 TDI Sportback won’t reach these shores until next summer as a 2016 model.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible
When Chevrolet revealed the new C7-based Corvette Z06 – with a removable roof panel, downsized supercharged engine and *gasp* optional automatic transmission – at Detroit in January, there were at least a few purists who were upset at the prospect of the most vicious of Vettes going soft on them. Now, however, we reckon many of those same Z06 disciples are planning on bathing with their toasters, for Chevrolet is using the New York Auto Show to debut the very first Corvette Z06 Convertible of the modern era (Apparently one of the 199 1963 Corvettes ordered with the Z06 option package was a droptop.).
But before anyone does something desperate, it’s worth pointing out that because the new Z06 coupe’s aluminum chassis is so stiff to begin with, there wasn’t really a need to add any reinforcement for the roadster, meaning the weight penalty relative to the coupe should be negligible. Of course, it would take quite a lot of extra mass to dilute the effects of the supercharged 6.2L LT4 V8 (making “at least” 625 horsepower) on the posteriors of driver and passenger. And like the coupe, the Z07 package and its attendant stickier tires and aerodynamic enhancements will be available, as will a choice of 7-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission.
Mecedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe
The newest big coupe from Mercedes-Benz marks a return to an old name, with S-Class Coupe being revived in favor of the CL-Class label used on the previous two-and-a-half generations. But the practice of producing AMG-enhanced versions of these tremendous two-door hardtops continues unabated with the 2015 S63 AMG Coupe. As is customary with modern AMG models, the exterior has been buffed up in a fairly subdued manner and the interior has been treated to even fancier appointments but, most importantly of all, there’s much more sportiness to be had beneath the skin. There you’ll find AMG’s latest 5.5L twin-turbo V8 divvying up 577 horsepower and 664 lb.-ft of torque to a 7-speed automatic transmission and a performance-tuned, fixed-torque-split (33% front/67% rear) 4Matic AWD system. Mercedes-Benz says 0-60 mph will take just 3.9 seconds and top out at an electronically-limited 186 mph. Those figures are pretty good for a junior supercar, never mind a luxury coupe that tips the scales north of two tons.
BMW Alpina B6 xDrive Gran Coupe
If you love the BMW M6 Gran Coupe but live in a place where the winters are exceptionally fierce, you’ll only be able to enjoy its neck-snapping performance part of the year. The new Alpina B6 xDrive Gran Coupe, on the other hand, gives you most of the more-door M6’s muscle (540 horsepower and 540 lb.-ft of torque from its 4.4L twin-turbo V8, versus 560 horsepower and 500 lb.-ft from the same-size, same-number-of-turbos M6 lump) and style with the added snow-squelching abilities of all-wheel-drive. It also trades the M6’s 7-speed dual-clutch transmission for a conventional 8-speed automatic. But here’s the kicker: The Alpina B6 xDrive Gran Coupe is actually quicker to 60 mph (3.7 seconds) and has a higher top speed (198 mph) than the M6 Gran Coupe. Almost makes the $118,225 MSRP bearable. Almost…
Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept
With the last few years seeing the releases of the Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, it’s easy to forget that Land Rover still builds SUVs that aren’t part of the Range Rover, uh, range. That changes with the striking Discovery Vision Concept you see here. It blends styling themes from the current Range Rover family on a profile that’s patterned after the venerable Land Rover Discovery (which is presently known as the LR4 here in the U.S.).
The interior serves up seating for seven, and features a plethora of bleeding-edge technology like gesture-based controls and something called Transparent Bonnet (hood to us Yanks) which uses a camera mounted on the front bumper to superimpose video of what it sees onto the windshield (as well as the steering angle of the front wheels) to give the illusion of a see-through hood, engine and chassis. It can even be driven remotely at low speeds via smartphone or tablet! Look for most of the Discovery Vision’s styling (but we’re guessing very little of its tech) to show up on the all new Discovery Sport, which is set to go on sale next year.
Scion FR-S Release Series 1.0
Fans of simple, lightweight (relatively speaking) and affordable (ditto) rear-drive sport coupes shouldn’t need extra motivation to go out and buy a Scion FR-S (or, for that matter, its Subaru BRZ fraternal twin). But for those stubborn S.O.B.s that do require added incentive to pull the trigger on a Toyobaru, Scion has an answer in the form of the FR-S Release Series 1.0. No, there’s no extra power from the 2.0L flat-four, but it does now exhale through a mean looking – and sounding, one would assume – twin-dual-tip exhaust system from Toyota Racing Development. The snazzy body kit, steering wheel, shift knob, trunk floor mat and the foursome of lowering springs are also cribbed from the TRD catalog. Other exclusive goodies include HID headlights, dual zone climate control, and push-button start. Only 1,500 FR-S Release Series 1.0s will be made, each with a sequentially-numbered plaque by the shift lever (As with the regular FR-S, you have your choice of a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.) and each one painted in the scorching shade of yellow known as Yuzu. Prices will be less than $30,000 (not counting destination and delivery) and deliveries to dealers are set to begin in August.
In China, long-wheelbase versions of sedans that we Westerners would almost never consider worthy of a factory stretching are all the rage. Locally-built versions of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class with extra metal and glass between the B- and C-pillars are red-hot among moneyed Middle Kingdom buyers who prefer to be chauffeured. Infiniti has also been playing in this arena lately with a stretched version of the M35 Hybrid, itself a rebadged, left-hand drive version of the current JDM Nissan Cima. Now Infiniti is bringing the latest lengthened version of its flagship – now called the Q70 – Stateside as the Q70L.
Two of the regular Q70’s three engine choices (the hybrid is SWB-only) will be offered: The 3.7L V6 rated at 330 horsepower and the 5.6L V8 rated at 416 horsepower (which, for some reason, is four less than it is in the short model), both teamed with a 7-speed automatic. However, stepping up to the L model adds 5.9” to the wheelbase, 5.6” of rear legroom and 7.3” of overall length. Still not quite a proper S-Class/7 Series/A8/LS/etc. competitor, no, but quite a bit more room to stretch out.
BMW M4 Convertible
Even though we’re still getting accustomed to calling BMW M’s not-quite-midsize super coupe the M4, the Roundel’s resident hot rodders haven’t wasted any time in removing its lid to create the M4 Convertible. As with the coupe (and the sedan, which retains the M3 name), power comes from a 3.0L twin-turbo inline-six that routes the better part of 425 horsepower and 406 lb.-ft of torque rearward through your choice of a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The key difference compared to the coupe, is of course, the folding hardtop that truly allows this ride to be the best of both worlds. And although it tips the scale at a shade over two tons(!), that’s still 90 lbs. lighter than the E93 M3 droptop. Look for U.S. sales to begin this summer.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT
Aston Martin has never put much emphasis on things like affordability or value-for-money, but it appears the iconic British label wants to change that (to a certain extent) by introducing a cheap(-ish) version of the V8 Vantage. Dubbed the V8 Vantage GT, this $99,900 (for a no-options coupe) beauty offers up all of the regular V8 Vantage’s mechanicals – including the 4.7L V8 that actually makes 10 more horsepower than usual (430hp in all) and a choice of 6-speed manual or 7-speed paddle-shift transmission – for a comparatively modest price point. And if you don’t consider six-figures on the window sticker to be a bad thing, you can also get the GT as a Roadster, and the available GT Graphics Pack serves up one of five special two-tone color schemes that pay homage to the brand’s endurance racing success over the decades.