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The Auto Channel Recap of the 2011 New York Auto Show - EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

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A Season Ender in The Big Apple

By Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell
Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: Complete PRESS PASS COVERAGE of the 2011 NY Auto Show

The last major American auto show of the season is in New York City. Auto makers had, this year, plenty of new product to fill the Javitz Center after earlier major shows - LA in November, Detroit in January and Chicago in February. Since government has become more a part of the industry in recent years, the March Washington, DC show is rapidly making its way onto this list as well.

No longer is there a predictable season for new car introductions. Product rollouts are a year-around process and increasingly more likely to occur in Shanghai or Geneva. We may expect convertibles to be introduced in spring and early summer, but everything else is entirely unpredictable.

The Auto Channel's intractable Detroit Bureau team made the heroic drive from mid Michigan to Manhattan in the new Chevy Cruze to cover the show - not a bad ride for this long trip (about 11 hours each way) with adequate room, comfortable driver’s seat, plenty of power and good mileage. We’ll write more about the Cruze in a later article.

Here are a few highlights of the show:

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Suzuki Kizashi

Suzuki, the prior evening, displayed two modified Kizashi sedans as prototypes. One, electric, the other turbocharged each deserving production.

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Suzuki Kizashi Apex
The EcoCharge adds a 15 hp liquid-cooled motor-generator and light weight, 65-pound 115-volt lithium-ion battery pack to the standard 2.0-liter four cylinder motor for a 25% fuel efficiency increase. The Kizashi Apex, perhaps a port of entry upgrade, plumbs in a Garrett turbo to up power from 185 horsepower stock, to 275-300.
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2013 Ford Taurus with EcoBoost

Ford made significant news with an unexpected mid-cycle update of the slow-selling, full-size Taurus. It’s infused with more LED lighting and revised styling details:

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2013 Ford Taurus
new hood, front fascia, full LED tail lamps, new interior seat cushions, and important mechanical updates like standard torque vectoring, active park assist, standard electronic power steering, active grille shutter and a new engine. You can now order Ford’s new EcoBoost 2.0-liter, turbocharged, direct-injected engine.
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2013 Ford Taurus SHO
In the Taurus it makes 237 horsepower, about the same power as a 1997 V-8 SHO. Amazing. Not stopping, Ford also showed an upgraded SHO with upgraded brakes and suspension, new steering calibration, and new SHO performance package designed around even better handling at top speeds. It adds heavy duty cooling yet still manages 25 mpg.
Click PLAY to watch the highlight compilation video

Twenty-four new product introductions entertained us through two days of press conferences and events – products as widely diverse as the low-cost Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, ferom the Nissan Versa to the 631 horsepower limited edition Bentley Continental ISR and exotic Lotus Agora. Sandwiched between these extreme bookends were the new VW Beetle, Audi’s A7, and a couple of special edition Chrysler 300s.

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2012 Honda Civic

Sales leader Honda exemplified the cost-means-everything genre, perhaps the most significant category of introductions, by presenting six, all-new Civics – the seventh generation of this great little car.

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2012 Honda Civic
Evolutionary in styling and design, easily recognizable, the popular Civic now comes in everything from mileage specials to hybrids, to the sporty Si and even a CNG version.
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Kia Rio

Civic competes directly with the new Kia Rio and the recently introduced Hyundai Accent that kick 40 mpg, and Nissan’s all new Versa that makes an admirable 37 mpg on the highway. Rio and Accent offer the most content in that subcompact class while certainly leading in style. We particularly like the Rio in its hatchback form.

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Nissan Versa

The new Nissan Versa offers no styling drama, opting for a classic upscale body and plenty of technology and practicality. Designed for both mature and emerging markets, it’s on a new global platform with new 1.6-liter engine, a new CVT and a price in the US of just under eleven grand.

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2012 Volkswagen Beetle

Cute cars made plenty of news. The cutest of all, an all-new VW Beetle, is wider, lower, and 6” longer; instead of bubbly-cute, it is athletically winsome. Engines include the fuel efficient TDI turbodiesel, 2.5-liter 5-cylinder, and 2.0 FSI engines mated to mostly 6-speed transmissions.

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Kia Soul

Kia’s freshened Soul features new fascia and fancy LED running and tail lights and more importantly, a direct injected engine and 6-speed transmission.

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Fiat 500

Fiat, whose 500 is barely on sale, displayed a very tasty cabriolet with historically accurate canvas top at a price only $4000 over the sedan at $19,500. It has a 6-speed automatic, 10.5-gallon fuel tank, and 300% stiffer rear axle, all changes specifically for the US. The top, which can be electrically folded at speeds up to 60, is available in black, red, or saddle tan.

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Mazda 3

Not as small, but as determinedly cute is the revised Mazda 3. Mazda is altering every area of construction - employing more high strength steel, improved automatic and manual transmissions, new engines (including a diesel in 2013), more rigid chassis, better aerodynamics and lower rolling resistance tires - while maintaining focus on driving excellence and fun. They call this SKYACTIVE technology – or “Zoom-Zoom: Green-Green.”

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Mazda Minagi

Mazda also presented a brash concept called Minagi, essentially a peek into future design language and a preview of next year’s revision of the CX5 as Mazda and Ford cease sharing the Tribute/Escape platform.

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Subaru Legacy

Subaru debuted its latest Legacy replete with an all-new boxer engine and new CVT. It’s longer, roomier, uses more high strength steel and offers two different signature all wheel drive systems, one for 5-speed manual-equipped cars, the other for those with CVTs. Subaru says its new 2.0-liter engine has 30% better fuel economy making it the most fuel efficient gas-powered AWD passenger car. 0261

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2012 Audi A7

Luxury cars are hotter than any time in recent history. Audi hosted a pre-show world introduction of the new A-7, which again redefines close tolerance interior design, beautiful materials including natural wood to create understated, bespoke elegance in a production vehicle. The five-door also features an enhanced telematics system with handwriting recognition, enhanced night vision with head-up display, 18-19-20” wheels, and 310 hp / 28 mpg (highway).

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2012 Jaguar XFR

Jaguar freshened three cars, the flagship XJ sedan with a long wheel base executive package including reclining massaging rear seats, new front and rear fascias for the XF which has, outside the US, a 53 mpg turbo-diesel option, and its updated XK sedan with interiors that emphasize comfort or competition, including the frighteningly fast 550 hp, 186 mph “but you may know someone,” XKR-S.

Jaguar also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the storied XK-E, once called by Enzo Ferrari the most beautiful car in the world, at a social event near the artful SOHO district where Jag collectors, Manhattanites media and company execs mingled.

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Lexus LF Gh hybrid concept

Lexus made news with a concept hybrid it says previews future content. The LF-Gh finesses the visual differences between movement and stasis and features a new spindle-shaped grille, promising a new design language for the brand, as do increased LED lighting, and air flows that enter near the fog lamps and exit through tail lamps. Interiors combine traditional materials with digital instruments and signature analog clock centerpiece. 0236

The always opulent, Bentley and Rolls Royce, respectively, brought their Supersports Continental with 621 horses and a top speed of 202 mph, which makes it, according to Bentley, the “fastest four seat convertible in the world.” We’ve mentioned the Bentley ISR Ice Speed Record Continental Convertible ice rocket which set a speed record of 205.48 mph on the ice of the Baltic Sea. 100 will be built. Rolls introduced its Sprit of Ecstasy Phantom to the US showing one of 100 available world wide and the first of 21 destined for the USA. At nearly 6,000 pounds, weight, not sterling, it is powered by a 452 hp V-12 engine.

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At the General Motors exhibit, 2011 NY Auto Show

General Motors reserved the entire North Hall for products, including GM’s new bread-and-butter mid-size Malibu, which was simultaneously introduced in Shanghai. The new Malibu has 2” more shoulder room for front passengers, an additional 4” for those in back. It features LED tail lamps inspired by Camaro, has aerodynamics similar to the wind-cheating Volt, uses an active shutter behind the grille (as does Ford and others), and had much better infotainment including a fold-out touchscreen control panel. The car will launch next year with a 2.5-liter EcoTech direct injected 190 hp engine and six-speed transmission.

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Scion FR-S concept

We agreed that the coolest, affordable concept at the show was the raucous red Scion FR-S, scion of long-anticipated product collaboration between Toyota and Subaru. It features Subaru’s renowned boxer engine and the profile of the iconic Toyota 2000GT. In out eyes it is production ready, but don’t look for FR-S to arrive with a Scion-like modest price.

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Mercedes-Benz A Class

Another surprising and amazing concept was Mercedes A Class high-content sporty car designed to provide a competitive entry point to the brand and counter BMW and Audi. They’ll see availability of this one in Europe long before we see it here. Styling details were impeccable and over the top with a grille that belongs in a museum of modern art. 0242

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Saab Phoenix concept

Saab, amid its financial difficulties, brought the astonishing Phoenix concept from the recent Geneva show. It will provide the platform for all new Saab vehicles. Also the new 9-5 Combi wagon, a very sporty and handsome estate wagon, made it’s American debut with a beautifully modern interior design reflecting the style the innovative 900 of he 1980s. 0362

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Mitsubishi iMIEV

Electric vehicles, a huge focus in Los Angeles and Detroit got only modest mention in New York. Curious - as EVs currently make better city cars.

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Nissan Nismo RS electric race car
Yes, Leaf was acclaimed as World Car of the Year, an internationally juried award, and Ford displayed the production Focus EV. Mitsubishi introduced the long awaited US-spec iMEV, 100-mile-range electric and announced three trim levels, including one with heated seats and premium sound package and Nissan showed an electric race car, the NISMO RS
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Jeep Wrangler Mojave

Chrysler and Jeep aimed new products at diverse market segments. Each brand showed new SRT8 variants, a 465 hp 300 SRT8 that does 0-100-0 in under 16 seconds and similar smokin’ Grand Cherokee with adaptive damping and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

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Chrysler 300S
Jeep also introduced a new Wrangler Mojave edition with functional Rubicon tire and wheel package, and decorative lizard decals, body-color hard top and fender flares. Chrysler also produced the 300S aimed at more contemporary buyers and an Executive Series it says is the most luxurious 300 ever, wrapped in leather in contrast to the S, which arrives on 20” wheels.
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Mercedes-Benz AMG

And, Mercedes-Benz introduced new AMG lust machines in CLS and C-Class iterations along with an updated SLK and the A-Class concept we talked about earlier.

We don’t think of Manhattan as a center of automobile enthusiasm. Owning a car in the city is more of a bother and expense than we in the hinterlands can even imagine. But the New York Auto Show draws more attendees than just about any other show.

© 2011by Shunpiker Productions and Cannell & Associates, All Rights Reserved