New York 2018: Saving The Best For Last

Lincoln Aviator Concept – Photo courtesy of the Ford Motor Company/Lincoln Motor Company

Remember Vanessa L. Williams?

The vibrant New Yorker's rise to the top came at the expense of a photo shoot that cost her the Miss America crown. Williams did rise above the controversy with a resume of music, film, and television credits. One of those credits came with the title of this remote report of the 2018 New York International Auto Show. You probably guess which song…

It is true about NYIAS. The OEMs found that if they saved their "best for last" – meaning the last major auto show in North America – that people might pay attention to upcoming products arriving as soon as the doors close at the Javits Center in Manhattan.

It appears that this year's New York International Auto Show is living up to its reputation. How so? Here are my picks from the show…

2019 Toyota RAV4 – Photo Courtesy of Toyota Motor North America

2019 TOYOTA RAV4: When the RAV4 first arrived here, it looked rugged enough to go off-road, because of its presence and perception. After generations of going “soft,” Toyota created an all-wheel-drive system designed for multiple terrain and traction conditions. Instead of looking like it would go off-road, the new RAV4 can with this new system using Dynamic Torque Vectoring instead of an electronic two-speed transfer box. Also, they came up with an overall design that combines the best of the Tacoma and 4Runner into a compact SUV designed to rule the segment for the length of this new generation’s run. In other news, both drivelines get an update with more performance and fuel economy, it appears you can plug in Apple CarPlay into the new Entune 3 tablet-like screen, and the Toyota Safety Sense suite adds more features for better driver assistance. Can anyone top the 2019 RAV4? Um…nah.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatch – Photo Courtesy of Toyota Motor North America

2019 TOYOTA COROLLA HATCHBACK: I always loved the Scion iM/Corolla iM/Toyota Auris. Naturally, my eyes popped out when I saw that Toyota is starting its latest generation of the venerable Corolla as a hatchback first this time around. It has a sharper design, with the absence of a C-pillar glass. Up front is even sharper, giving the Corolla more personality. The interior is changed, with the tablet-like Entune 3 screen. There is new power underneath the hood – a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. No power ratings were released, but I do hope that it scales 160 horsepower. It looks it can! Most importantly, you can get multiple trim levels for the hatchback for the first time in generations! The most important news is that Toyota in North America felt compelled to kick off the twelfth-generation Corolla with something unexpected and probably game-changing for this market. This should also change the minds of Corolla sedan owners looking to trade for one of these beauties. Then again, we could see a sedan in our future…maybe

2019 Nissan Altima – Photo Courtesy of Nissan North America

2019 NISSAN ALTIMA: The Toyota Camry is "sexy" and the Honda Accord is "different." What Nissan did was to not only slot the 2019 Altima in-between these two big competitors. They did so by moving their own bar into the stratosphere. Nissan knocked this out of the park with a design that holds true to a new language forthcoming on all mainstream models, raising the upmarket factor by adding a Platinum trim for the first time, and reinventing Nissan’s cabin design for good. While they updated their venerable 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, Nissan added the 2.0-liter variable compression VQ-Turbo engine seen on the 2019 Infiniti QX50 to replace the old VQ35 V6. That might sit well with enthusiasts, but I hope they’ll see the benefits of the new turbo engine. Plus, the new Altima will be offered with all-wheel drive as an option – a major win for us in the Northern Climes. Nissan added new driver assistance features and updated their connectivity suite – a much-needed boost for this popular product. This is going to be a major win in the segment for Nissan when it arrives at showrooms later this year.

2019 Subaru Forester – Photo Courtesy of Subaru of America

2019 SUBARU FORESTER: The 2019 Ascent is really impressive. While the Ascent will attract families looking for a three-row SUV, there will be a new 2019 Forester made for smaller families and active lifestyle enthusiasts. Granted, a new Forester might not be huge news, since it is one of the top-selling vehicles at Subaru. There is a more powerful 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine. They made the EyeSight active safety system standard across the board. However, it is augmented by an all-new DriverFocus system that uses facial recognition technology to monitor human fatigue behind the wheel. Therefore, it helps to adjust any driving habits towards the reduction of distractive driving incidents on the road. Beyond that, the Forester follows some Ascent cues onto this compact SUV. This will continue Subaru's winning ways into the next half-century in this country.

Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Concept – Photo Courtesy of Volkswagen of America

VOLKSWAGEN ATLAS SPORT CROSS AND TANOAK CONCEPTS: I absolutely like the Atlas SUV. It does a lot of things better than its competition. The Atlas also serves as a symbol that Volkswagen understand the North American market enough to create a product for a major demographic that is well-executed and delivers in many promises. To build on this point, Volkswagen has taken the Atlas and presented two concepts off it. First, there is the short wheelbase Sport Cross – a two-row SUV that could be positioned against the Ford Edge and the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. It looks like fun and hope it will bring on customers who wished the new Touareg was imported here. The second is a SUV-based pickup. One would look at it and think that the Honda Ridgeline just got some company. Considering the experience Volkswagen has in making pickup trucks, Honda might not want any company or competition in a similarly-developed pickup. Then again, the concept could be a major letdown for those hoping that the Amarok would show up here instead of an Atlas-based pickup.

OTHER DEBUTS: Let me be frank, not everything that debuted at the 2018 New York International Auto Show gave me a good feeling inside. For example, the Lincoln Aviator concept would be a superb vehicle if it replaced the MKX/Nautilus instead of slowing in-between it and the Navigator. Don't get me wrong, it is a good addition to the Lincoln lineup, but it could possibly cannibalize Nautilus sales.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 seems a bit too late to play in a growing field that is getting a bit crowded. My concern is that with customers already enticed by new entries, such as the Jaguar E-Pace, the 2019 Acura RDX, the 2019 Infiniti QX50, and others that it may have a long climb towards sales success than everyone else have spoken about. Again, I'm sure it is a fine SUV. It could be the hit Cadillac needs right now.

2019 Kia K900 – Photo Courtesy of Kia Motors America

Then, there's the case of the 2019 Kia K900. Since Hyundai created Genesis to sit at the top of the Korean automotive food chain, I often wondered why Kia bothered to play in the flagship sedan sandbox at all. It looks great and perhaps will be a different kind of proposition (again) for Kia customers. It could also be a surprise and it might be a great value for a luxury sedan. But, I am concerned that the 2019 K900 might not sell at the numbers Genesis are delivering the G90 at…which is a small volume, to begin with.

There were some vehicles that had their big debuts in Geneva earlier this month that made their North American debut in New York. Worth noting was the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe, which will replace the two-row Sport model with high style and a superb grounding. Hyundai has been growing its SUV portfolio, and the Santa Fe, along with the updated 2019 Tucson and the 2018 Kona, will form the basis of the second wave of product that will leverage a needed sales bump for this brand.

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