The New York International Auto Show is back and better than ever with a record 60 new cars being debuted. One of them even flies.
The debuts started with a blast from the past. Two classic 1960s Chevrolet Impalas took the stage on the first press day for the show, reminding the audience of the longevity and history of the Impala line.
John Cafaro, Chevrolet’s Director of Exterior Design, referring to the revealing of the 2014 Impala, said: “The overall effect we were striving for is that of an iconic Chevrolet."
Chevy then proudly brought out the 2014 Impala, proclaiming it, “the best Impala ever."
The presentation took a not-so-subtle shot at other carmakers.
“We didn’t need to borrow a design from someone else’s luxury brand," they said in the Chevy presentation.
The comment presumably referred to competitors Hyundai and Chrysler, whose Genesis and 300M designs, respectively, closely resemble the Rolls Royce and Bentley brands.
The Impala boasts new safety technology, which is a common theme thus far in the 2012 auto show.
Features such as full-speed-range adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and side blind zone alert are all options in the new and improved Impala while the car’s standard model is equipped with a 2.4-liter engine and an impressive fuel efficiency of 35 MPG on the highway.
Along with technology, success in the 2011 fiscal year was another common theme for the major automakers. Mercedes-Benz announced that they just wrapped up the best March in MBUSA (Mercedez-Benz USA) history and are expecting to outperform that record pace in the upcoming year.
One of the results of banner years for car makers in 2011 --noted by Nissan, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Mecerdez-Benz and BMW among others-- is a a plethora of new models being introduced in 2013.
Nissan, who is doing seemingly well in 2011 sales, will undergo their biggest makeover ever, unveiling five new cars in the next 15 months, among them the much anticipated 2013 Nissan Altima.
Interestingly enough, the Altima, Pathfinder, and Sentra all had a 20 percent increase in sales in 2011, and yet were still chosen for a remodel for 2013.
Carlos Ghosn, the Brazillian-born CEO of Nissan, speaking about the new Altima, said, “We have taken America’s second best selling car and changed nearly everything."
While the new Sentra and Pathfinder will be unveiled at a later date, the redesigned Altima was turning heads in New York on Wednesday. Nissan, originally slated to debut the car in January, postponed the event because of highly successful sales of the previous model.
Nissan went ahead, however, and presented the vehicle to the media Wednesday, despite selling 40,000 units of the previous model last month. Among the exciting new features of the 2013 Altima is something called “zero gravity," which Nissan explains as technology inspired by research from NASA that reduces muscular and spinal loads, with the ultimate goal of reducing fatigue from extended periods behind the wheel.
The sedan will also feature a great fuel efficiency of 38 MPG, and will be made available to the public in June starting at $21,500 MSRP.
In addition, Nissan had the “taxi of the future” on display, a van-like model that will be the exclusive New York City taxi come October 2013.
Social media and the app world are starting to influence the auto market, being mentioned by Mercedes-Benz and Lexus on Wednesday. The new Mercedes GL, a large, luxury SUV, will feature screens in the back of both the driver’s and passenger’s seats that provide access to numerous apps, including social media.
They plan to perpetuate this throughout all their models, by the name of a system called Embrace 2, which will “incorporate Internet access, social media, and the latest cloud technology.”
Lexus will also link apps into their display screen in the center of the dashboard, but will limit social media to Facebook check-ins, and maintain all hands-free controls to ensure safety. Some of the apps mentioned by Lexus included Pandora, I-Heart-Radio, OpenTable, Bing, and Yelp, in an app system called Enform.
For sports car fans, there were several major unveilings on Wednesday as well.
Mercedes revealed the new SL, featuring 620 HP and 740 pd ft of torque.
BMW, not to be left behind, revealed the M6 coupe and convertible, as well as the 640i Gran Coupe, which the German automaker dubbed this as the “first four-door coupe in the history of the BMW brand.”
BMW said that they are especially excited for sales in the United States, proclaiming that their 6 series sells more here than anywhere else.
Dodge made a big splash as well, reviving the Dodge Viper, which had been discontinued in 2010. The new Viper was introduced in both a regular model, and a racing model, with an engine roar heard throughout the entire showroom.
Among other interesting debuts was the BMW X1, the smallest and presumably most affordable SUV the company has ever introduced.
Lexus unveiled a brand new ES series, claiming the ability to go toe-to-toe with the Mercedes E-Class while selling for thousands less.
Dodge did not stop at the Viper either, displaying an entire STR series, including a $60,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee put on display by the Chrysler Group.
Overall, the 2012 Auto Show is a concoction of new technology and increased power. As always, it also featured outlandish-looking concept cars. The one that generated the most anticipation was a road-driveable airplane, named -- what else -- the flying car. It can be yours someday for a mere $279,000, and, naturally, your own runway.
E.J. Aguado Jr. is a freelance journalist living in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter at: @ejaguado