Originally published March 26, 2016 on autoTRADER.ca
Best in Show
Peter Bleakney: 2016 Porsche 911 R
For me, the best car in show is not the most exotic, most powerful, best looking or rarest. But it surely is sensational to drive, and unlike just about anything else you can buy, this sled will appreciate in value. I’m speaking of the 2016 Porsche 911 R, the limited edition rear-drive, six-speed manual only dream-Porker that weighs a paltry 3,020 lb (1,369 kg) and is shot down the road by the naturally-aspirated 500 hp 4.0L screamer from the GT3 RS. And it’s almost attainable… oh wait. Just heard all 991 examples are spoken for. Damn.
Evan Williams: Buick Avista Concept
Yes, I know it’s not new (but they did show it in a new colour in New York). Yes, I know that Buick said they won’t build the Avista Concept. But I’ve heard that line before. It’s the concept at the show that’s not being built that I would most like to see built. I figure if we keep talking about it, it keeps improving the odds that maybe they’ll build something like it. Because I would love to see them on the road, and I think it would really help Buick’s rebranding.
Nissan GT-R Heritage Display
Dan Heyman: Yes, there was a new Nissan GT-R revealed – which will be a fine automobile, I’m sure – but it was what surrounded the Nissan booth and its bright orange GT-R that really did it for me. Instead of just a fancy video displaying the timeline of the Nissan Skyline/GT-R, Nissan – and some very generous owners – went all out and actually had the lineage there, in the metal. Every generation except the original Skyline was represented, ranging from 1969 all the way up to a 2013 example of the latest car. The 1969 is the star though; for someone who has only ever seen this car on screen, the plastic fender flares, Minilite wheels and fender-mounted wing mirrors look so much more spectacular in person.
Simon Hill: To give context to the debut of its refreshed 2017 GT-R, Nissan brought in a bevy of Classic Skyline GT-Rs. The silver 1969 and 1973 models were arguably the most beautiful cars at the show. Classics for the win!
Lesley Wimbush: Volvo P1800
Soaring high over the Volvo booth at the New York Auto Show, the classic P1800 outshone many of the cars below it. Introduced in 1961, the P1800 was a breath of fresh air for Volvo. Sophisticated, stylish design on tried & true Swedish running gear added up to a winning combination that attracted many new customers to the fold. Cast as the hero’s distinctive yet offbeat wheels in television’s “The Saint”, that role gave the P1800 cachet as a status symbol. More boulevard cruiser than sports car, the P1800’s “2+2” designation (two seats up front, two behind) and large trunk gave it an air of practicality and its live rear axle and drum brakes were that of a sedan. The 1.8L, 100-hp four-cylinder was meagre by today’s standards but enough to hold its own in its day.
EW: Has to be the Lincoln Navigator. The whole side of the truck opens up. It’s so over the top ridiculous that I love it. Continental doors for the 21st century. The styling was great, but I just love that giant gull-wing door. Think of all the side benefits from it too. Too much trash on the floor? Don’t want to clean it up? Park sideways on a hill, open the door and give it a shake. Instant clean interior. Come to think of it, you might have to park on a hill, because there’s no way you’re getting that door open in a parking lot.
DH: I know some of my colleagues will roast me for this, but of all the sports car and luxury concepts that made their way to various manufacturers’ stands, the Lincoln Navigator Concept stands out. Not because of how big it is (and it is HUGE), not because it has a blue interior and not because Matthew McConaughey was on-hand to introduce it. It stands out because it’s such a departure for a brand that’s really struggled as of late, and there are some fantastic design flourishes that really draw the eye. The 24-inch turbine wheels, for example, or the deep, proud chrome grille, or the interior’s floating console and widescreen displays. So the gullwing doors probably won’t make production. Big deal; they look awesomely futuristic and more than I would ever have expected from Lincoln. It is a spectacular, grandiose thing and the fact it fits the NYC vibe so well is just icing on the cake.
Genesis New York Concept
PB: I’m giving this to the Genesis New York Concept. Peter Schreyer and Luc Donckerwolfe (whose combined CVs are as lengthy as the day is long) have created a bad-ass full-size luxury sedan that, if not a production car, signals the design direction of this new standalone brand. These guys are serious, and the Germans should be more than a bit jittery.
SH: Photos don’t do this thing justice. We can only hope that Genesis really does build an undiluted production version this rear-drive, 3.3L V6 powered beauty.
Best Production Car
Mazda MX-5 RF
EW: Oh wow. Mazda MX-5 RF. I love the new retractable hard top because it’s a little crazy. The rear window goes down, the top goes into the trunk, but the buttresses stay there. Sort of. They have to move up and out of the way, let the small roof section stow, then come back to where they were. It seems so unnecessary, and the hard-core Miata guys hate it because it isn’t a fixed top coupe, but I bet they move a ton of them.
PB: Mazda broadsided the show with the surprise reveal of its 2017 MX-5 Miata Retractable Fastback. Mazda proved long ago they can’t draw an ugly car, but here took an all ready pretty roadster and knocked it out of the park with an extremely clever retractable hardtop that works in 12 seconds, stowing a two-piece targa panel and rear window while retaining the fastback flying buttresses. A true siren, especially in Mazda’s new Machine Grey finish that uses a thin layer of aluminum flakes to great effect.
LW: Many Zoom-zoom faithful live in hope that they’ll one day see the return of the RX-7, or at the very least a Miata Coupe. But as far as Miata purists are concerned, there’s no more egregious sin than unnecessary weight – violating the sacred “just add lightness” formula that’s the very essence of any proper two-seater.
Therefore, previous power retractable hardtop versions of the MX-5 were dismissed by the hard-core fan base for needlessly messing with its perfect simplicity. To me, a cloth top looks unfinished, like sneakers with a tux, while a PRHT offers the clean aesthetic of a coupe, and the opportunity for al-fresco touring.
So count me among those who fell –hard – for Mazda’s MX-5 RF, a cheeky little fastback, with a power sliding targa top that tucks away neatly behind its pert little rear end.
DH: Porsche 911R and Jaguar F-Type SVR
For me, this is a close tie between the Porsche 911R and Jaguar F-Type SVR, both of which made their North American debuts at the New York show. Both get naturally aspirated engines, both get all manner of functional and active aero, and both look very good. In the end, though, I give the edge to the 911R, only because I’m a purist and with its six-speed manual transmission, classic houndstooth seat fabric and rear-wheel drive is as pure as it gets. It also does a good job to recall the 911 Classic of 2010, one of the best 911 variants we’ve ever seen.
PB: Alfa Romeo Guilia
The Alfa Romeo Guilia is a stunner, and it looks good on paper too. This BMW 3 Series fighter gets a new rear-wheel-drive based chassis that promises 50:50 weight distribution, helped along by aluminum fenders and doors, and a carbon fibre roof and hood. Go for the Quadrifoglio and we get a 503-hp twin-turbo V6 co-developed with Ferrari. Certainly good news for sport sedan enthusiasts.
SH: Trans Am Reboot
This, right here, is why GM should never have killed Pontiac. And while the modern-day Trans Ams from Trans Am Worldwide might visually be merely Camaros in different clothing, they’re some mighty fine looking clothes, and the beauty is more than skin deep: These bad boys (there were three on display) boast features such as T-top roofs, reverse-opening hoods, Hurst shifters, and an available supercharged Stage V LSX 454 that makes 840 hp and 790 lb-ft of torque. Just let that little factoid sink in while you drool over the screaming chicken hood graphics.
PB: Jaguar F-Type SVR
Does the Jaguar F-Type R need any more power and does it need to be any more insanely loud? Sure, why the hell not! Bring on the 2017 F-Type SVR – 575 horsepower, 200 mph, titanium exhaust, carbon fibre rear wing, cool hood vents and an exhaust blare that will have straight-pipe Harley dudes covering their ears.
LW: Koenigsegg Regera
With a candy apple shine so slick it appeared wet, the Koneigsegg Regera made its North American debut in New York on Thursday. The two million dollar hyper car boasts the sort of overt sexiness that you pretend doesn’t interest you, while secretly harbouring unclean thoughts. Boasting a ludicrous 1,822 combined horsepower the Koenigsegg Regera uses three electric motors in conjunction with a 5.0L V8 to jet from 0 to 100 km/hr in just 2.8 seconds. Since the engine is connected directly to the rear axle, this Swedish super car has no transmission.
Toyota 4Runner Tonka Edition
DH: One cannot simply walk by Toyota 4Runner Tonka Edition. You had to make your way to the bowels of the Javits Center in order to find it, but it’s so huge that you can’t miss it once you eventually make it to its environs, as its 10-inch lift, bright yellow colouring and knobby off-road tires have it towering above all the Jeeps, pickups and SUVs that surround it.
SH: What do you get when Toyota and Funrise Toy Company (maker of Tonka Toys for Hasbro) get together to build “the ultimate off-road adventure” machine. A whole plate full of awesome-sauce, that’s what. The Tonka 4Runner features a 10-inch lift kit from Bulletproof, welded bumpers, 20-inch Ultra Motorsports wheels with Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ Tires, a pop-top roof tent … need we go on?
SH: Camp Jeep
Okay, it’s a shame that you only get to ride shotgun as Jeep’s drivers take you up and down stairs, across wildly angled ramps, and over an enormous steep artificial hill. But it’s still pretty cool, and I’d always wanted to take a Jeep up a set of stairs somewhere. Jeep gets points for showy inventiveness here, and the public is sure to love it.
SH: Chitty Chiity Bang Bang
Retired New York City detective sergeant and lifelong musician Tony Garofalo built this replica of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from the rescued remains of an 1914 Overland Model 79, which he fitted with a 1928 Model A Ford engine (to match the engine sound used in the 1968 movie). It’s painstakingly perfect, and basically just awesome. Because Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
LW: 1968 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale
The last time I ran into a testosterone force field this strong was when Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony and I encountered a pack of Team Sky road racers in Austria while driving the Audi A3 e-tron through the Alps last year. Dozens of bulging calves, coiling and releasing in unison generated the same feeling of faint intoxication as did the voluptuous curves of this sexy, vintage Italian sports car. Considered one of the most beautiful cars ever made, the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale is one of the rarest too – only 18 of these road-legal versions of the Tipo 33 race car were built, and only ten are believed still in existence.
Pity. Gazing on this car in slack-jawed wonder, I had an irresistible urge to run my tongue along its length, tip to tail.
LW: C10 Skyline 2000 GT-R
I have a confession to make: I never made it past the first instalment in the Fast and Furious franchise. And Gran Turismo? About as interesting to me as the Super Bowl, network television, or brick and mortar retail therapy. That probably speaks volumes about my knowledge – or lack thereof – of tuner culture. Even so, the lineup of classic Skyline GT-Rs at the Nissan booth stopped me dead in my tracks. You don’t need to have JDM coursing through your veins to appreciate iconic designs, and the burnished pewter sheet metal of this vintage C10 GT-R had me sighing with wistful longing.
DH: NYPD, Yo.
Well, this one was a slam dunk. Walk past that real-life Tonka truck, and you’ll come across the police. Only, the actual police you see are mannequins, standing among a timeline of NYPD cruisers. They run the gamut from a classic Ford Fairlane to a brand new Smart Fortwo decked out in the classic white and blue of New York’s finest.
SH: Cool Cars in High Places
Greeting showgoers at the New York International Auto Show is a Ford Shelby GT-H hanging vertically over the entrance doors, which is really pretty awesome in a “Hey, if you get a chance to hang a car from its nose, why not?” kind of way. It wasn’t the only cool car in a high place, either: Volvo had a pair of classic P-1800s watching over the show from lofty, inaccessible perches.
EW: Dodge Viper Simulator
“Can I stop working and just do this for the rest of the day?”
Dodge. They had a snake-skin vinyl wrapped Viper hooked up to a video game simulator. It let you turn laps on the Nurburgring in a car hooked up to a four-post rig. So when you brake, the whole car dives forward. When you hit a bump, the car bounces and shakes. It was a ton of fun, and I’m sorry for the virtual scrapes I put on their wrap. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. They told me what simulator it was running, but that was before I got in, started driving, and immediately forgot.
SH: Toyota LCD Glass Display
It doesn’t look like much in the photos, but Toyota’s Prius display is an impressive real-world application of switchable LCD glass, stopping showgoers in their tracks with its ability to instantly change from frosted to clear and back again, displaying images on the display panels in one moment and then revealing the skeleton Prius inside the next second. Score this display at future cool factor 10.
EW: Mitsubishi “Hey, we’re still here!”
Mitsubishi. I had trouble finding a couple of the smaller manufacturers, then a helpful show staffer told me they were way off in the North Hall. Walk past all of the big car makers, past the truck floor, past even the handful of random local tuners who had displays, walk past a replica of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and you get to the North Hall. Then walk past Subaru, past Fiat, past even not-long-for-this-world Scion, and at the very farthest point from the front door possible, you’ll find Mitsubishi. They didn’t get the best space, but they put on a show. And the play they put on was something to see.