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Henny's Wrap-up
2015 New York International Auto Show


By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor

Well I'm back home and have had a chance to digest what I saw in NY. This year, the New York International Auto Show provided a podium for concept cars, mainstream models and sports cars. With respect to the amount of world and North American premiers, the show in the Big Apple may not match the ones in Motown and L.A., but there was some big news, literally.

The Hague April 12, 2015; In 1900, the New York International Automobile Show was the first automotive exhibition in North America. With a dense population, the New York metro area has always been the nation’s largest market, the show has continued through recessions, wars and an oil crisis. It may not be as prestigious as the shows in Motown and Los Angeles, but with more than 1 million visitors annually, the show in New York is one of the most important public shows in the world. This year, there were world premieres of big American cars. Both Ford and General Motors want to grab a piece of market share in a segment where the German luxury manufacturers are lord and master, namely that of the large premium sedans.

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With the very stylish Lincoln Continental Concept, Ford revives a famous name plate. Would it mean that by using the name Continental, Ford’s luxury division is turning away from the confusing letter combinations such as MKS, MKZ..? I hope so! Anyway, Continental was first used in 1940 for Lincoln’s European style luxury sedan. In the fifties, Ford even created the Continental Division, that was positioned above the Lincoln make. It existed a year, when in 1956, Ford merged the division into Lincoln. The last car with the Continental badge was the 1960 Mark V. In New York, the stylish Continental Concept car was well received. But may be not by Bentley, as the design really nods to the current Bentley Continental. Probably, some issues have to be solved here?

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The Cadillac CT6 is the other American sedan that debuted in New York. By using a letters-number combination, GM has stepped away already some time ago from name plates in the true sense of the word. Names like Eldorado or DeVille are long gone. But types like ELR, XTS, DTS or CTS may become extinct, as now the GM luxury division is using a letter-number combination for the upcoming luxury sedan. The nearly 201 inches long CT6 model has the size of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Caddy wants to compete with Audi, BMW and Mercedes, especially in China, where the luxury car market is booming. But GM is still behind the Germans with safety and driver assistant technologies. The use of aluminum, however, guarantees a light weight, but it means the CT6 will be expensive. It is the first of a series of new models, that is under development and that is costing GM more than 12 billion dollar. A hybrid CT6 is expected to be unveiled in Shanghai next week, and the CT8 will be a possible competitor for the long wheel base models of the Germans.

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We stay closer to home when we look at the new Chevrolet Malibu, that also made its world debut in New York. The affordable mid-size sedan looks good and shares some familiar design details with the Impala. The four-door ‘coupe’ has a long hood, sleek nose and short overhangs. The wheel base is 3.6 inches longer than of the outgoing model, but it weighs some 300 pounds less. I expect the new Chevy to be improved in many aspects.

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Nissan kept its news under covers during the first media day to save the official world premiere of the 2016 Nissan Maxima for day number two. Thatt was a pity, as many colleagues who had to leave after the first day, would have loved to see that some of the dramatic lines of the Sport Sedan Concept have been used for the real car. The new Maxima is 2.2 inches longer and 1.3 inches lower than the outgoing model and it is equipped with a 300 hp strong 3.5-liter V6 engine and new Xtronic transmission

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Toyota/Lexus is one of the very few manufacturers hat succeeds to come up with surprises at auto shows. This time, the doors of a designated convention space remained closed until shortly before the world premiere of a car that many did not expect to see, the Lexus NX. To be honest, I did not go inside until an hour after the official unveiling. That way, you have a better look, because most colleagues and photographers have gone.. I cannot say that I like the design, but the finish inside and out and the used materials for the interior are absolutely marvelous.

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As from the fall, one of the new stars on the road will be the new Kia Optima, that also celebrated its world premiere in the Jacob Javits Center. In 2014, more than 150,000 units have been sold of the current model and also in the first quarter of this year, the Optima remains very popular. Hyundai/Kia has developed a new platform to further improve ride and handling and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). The upcoming Optima carries over two current engines, the 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter units. New will be the 1.6 turbo engine that will work together with a 7-speed double clutch transmission. Inside, there are fewer buttons and the design of the dashboard is more horizontal like that of the Cadenza and the K900. The wheelbase increases by 1.4 inches and the overall length by one inch. The new Optima has been designed in the Frankfurt studio under the supervision of Peter Schreyer, the company’s vice-president of design.

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One of the highlights was the debut of the neon green Honda Civic Concept. With the concept car, Honda shows us what to expect of the design of the tenth generation. I loved to see the Civic be presented as an exiting, sporty model again. Like it was in the early nineties, when I joined the German Team Seikel and drove with them in a Civic for three years in a row. And each and every year we won our class in the 24-hours of Spa-Francorchamps. That was a hattrick indeed for the small 1.6 VTEC engine!

The new Civic will get powerful turbo engines and I am sure that the underpinnings will be prepared for very sporty driving.

2016 Porsche
Boxster Spydere (select to view enlarged photo)

From the other side of the Atlantic, there was the 2016 Porsche Boxster Spydere. The two-seat roadster has extra performance, but it will draw customers in particular by the very nice styling, with the double bubble on the rear lid. The cloth top is manually operated to save weight and that is especially what the engineers were focused on when developing the Spyder.

Mercedes-Benz (select to view enlarged photo)

Mercedes-Benz came to New York with the GLE, the replacement of the M-Class that has undergone an extended mid life face lift. I have already reported on the GLE, that will also be available as a plug-in hybrid, as well as the AMG models GLE 63 and 63S.

The little cousin of Mercedes, Smart presented the ForTwo, the new model that will be available in North America again. I reported on both the GLE and ForTwo earlier, as the pair were presented during a special Mercedes's Event on the eve of the show.

McLaren 570S (select to view enlarged photo)

Last but not least, I would like to mention the arrival of the McLaren 570S., which can be considered as a serious competitor to the Porsche 911. With a price of $ 184,900, the baby super car will be the most affordable McLaren so far. Notwithstanding the price, it will be fast and furious. Zero-62 mph would be realizable in 3.2 seconds and the 570S will reach a top speed of 204 mph. Not bad…! I am looking forward to the first test drive. Please stay tuned.