Mid-cycle refreshes abound, but New York was not a waste – I promise.
New York, the city that is, is a global epicenter, but the auto show that shares its name has always fallen a bit flat in the automotive community. This is because it focuses more on refreshed, volume creating cars rather than the stuff that automotive dreams are made of.
Three cars really stood out to us here at Victory & Reseda. The technologically advanced 2017 Toyota Prius Prime, the stalwart Japanese all-wheel drive 2017 Subaru Impreza and the exciting Mazda 2017 MX-5 RF
2017 TOYOTA PRIUS PRIME: Toyota is on a crusade to take the Prius to the next level. Competition in the hybrid marketplace is beginning to intensify with the Hyundai IONIQ triplets targeting not just the standard Prius, but the plug-in model as well. Prius has been the leader in this segment for a long time, and it seems like Toyota would like to differentiate this model by giving it a unique name that states clearly that it will take on all comers. That name is Prime.
High-strength steel and aluminum have become the industry standard for shedding pounds of mass in the search for greater fuel efficiency. Carbon fiber has been relegated to the world of hypercars in the search for higher top speed and better acceleration. Prime on the other hand has shaped their carbon fiber into the shape of the humble trunk lid.
Toyota might not be the first, the Volkswagen XL1 used carbon fiber in its construction, but this is a mass market vehicle that has much greater implications for introducing car buyers to exotic materials.
Inside the Prime, there is a quiet admission that Tesla Motors has become a driving force in automotive design. The all-consuming 11.6" screen is the centerpiece of the center console, and is very reminiscent of the Tesla Model S. This screen in all its vastness will only run Toyota's Entune suite of apps. Toyota believes that they can withstand the onslaught of Android Auto and Apple Carplay. It will take time to tell if Entune can keep up with the constantly evolving, and easily updated Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems offered in its new competitor the Hyundai IONIQ.
Style and technology are front and center in the new Prius Prime. Toyota is redefining itself and the Prius Prime is the halo car that all other plug-in hybrids will be judged against.
2017 SUBARU IMPREZA: While most companies were launching mid-cycle refreshes Subaru decided that New York was the right time to unveil its all new 2017 Subaru Impreza. This is the first new vehicle to be built on the Subaru Global Platform. This new platform is right in line with the industry-wide trend of developing one platform to underpin every vehicle in an automaker's portfolio. Subaru has had great success with their unassuming design because they resonated so well in a time when consumers need a car to do everything.
Not much has changed for this latest generation of the Impreza. Instead of flat side panels there is now a new character line. Coefficient of drag is defining car design today. The current Impreza is the most efficient all-wheel-drive hatchback and sedan in the U.S. and this new design will likely top its 36 MPG highway figure.
Inside is where Subaru has improved the new Impreza. Soft touch materials abound, and the infotainment system has been greatly improved. The addition of Apple Carplay and Android Auto was sorely needed, and makes the new Impreza more attractive to younger buyers. STARLINK telematics system and the very popular EyeSight system should make this an extremely safe compact car. Subarus, the WRX and STI not included, have always had an underlying sense of no nonsense capability, and the new Impreza personifies that.
Direct Injection has been added to the 2.0 liter boxer 4-cylinder for 2017. Horsepower is now 152 up from 148 in 2017. Subaru did not mention the availability of a manual transmission in this new Impreza. As CVTs are becoming mainstream, Subaru thinks that this is the transmission that can offer fuel efficiency and an engaging driving experience.
Rationally speaking, this should make the Impreza a very popular choice in the compact car marketplace. Direct injection and a reworked CVT keep it competitive, and excellent AWD fuel economy should differentiate it from competitors like the Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic.
2017 MAZDA MX-5 RF: Recently, I had a recurring nightmare that I'm in a soft-top convertible. It is raining outside, and the wind buffets the roof material. It starts as a small leak that dribbles onto my shoulder. The leak begins to grow until it becomes a torrent of water. Soon the cab begins to fill and before I know it the water is at my chin. I take one final breath, and my head dips below the water.
There is an irrational part of my brain that associates a soft-top convertible with a tent, but the rational side of me knows that countless hours of engineering went into making the roof as durable and as waterproof as possible.
Mazda knows that this irrationality exists in some of the car buying population that might want to own a MX-5, but need their roof to be made of real glass and steel.
Mazda has delivered this with the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. Not only is the roof made of glass and steel, but it is a powered targa top roof to boot.
From a purist standpoint, this might sound ruinous to the character of the MX-5, but go on a journey with me to the dark side, and imagine that purism isn't the ideal that drives your decision process. You'd like to own a sports coupe, but a soft-top convertible is a deal breaker. You like to drive, but you aren't looking to autocross instead you like long drives with the wind in your hair. What is out there for you?
Sorry to break it to you, but there isn't much out there for you. On the other hand if you're looking for low price driving enjoyment, but need the added luxury of an on demand hard top then the MX-5 RF might just be the vehicle for you.
New York might not be the most exciting auto show to cover, but it does offer up news on attainable vehicles that are the backbone of the automotive market. It will be exciting to learn more about these three vehicle because in the end these are the cars that are going to truly decide whether a brand is successful or not in 2016.