2013 NYIAS in Review

Easter Sunday may have been a day of quiet reverence or respectful celebration for many millions of people.  With perhaps a tinge of guilt, I spent the day at an altar of an altogether different sort.  The 2013 New York International Auto Show opened to the public last weekend at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.  It runs through today.  Like many here in the Northeast, I made the trip to Midtown Manhattan on Sunday to see all that the auto industry has to offer.

Personal Favorites
Every year I pick a favorite car.  Last year it was the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion that looks like a family sedan designed by Jaguar or Aston Martin.  The year before it was the 2012 Range Rover Evoque Coupe.  This year it’s a little more complicated.  No one car sold me instantly or wholeheartedly.  There was no love at first sight.  So I’ll share my thoughts on a few, and then include a slideshow near the end.

Favorite Interior
My favorite vehicle interior is that of the all-new, full-sized Range Rover in Autobiography trim level with the Rear Executive Class seating option.  Now I typically try to avoid paying too much attention to vehicles costing in the neighborhood of $130,995.  I’m fairly sure that I’d never buy one even if I could.  But I’m also a sucker for a fixed, rear-seat center console, the likes of which only occasionally appear in the most expensive sedans on earth.  I don’t know why a fixed rear console appeals to me, but it does.  Big time.  And this Range Rover has one.  I love it despite the fact that it limits rear seating rear capacity to two, and further reduces curb-side egress to only one of the rear-seat passengers.  Obviously I’m not going to find myself chauffeured around in one of these Range Rovers any time soon, and I’m almost certainly better off for it.

Favorite Relatively Affordable Vehicle
I went to New York expecting to dislike the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.  When I first saw spy photos of it months ago, I wrongly assumed that it was replacing the current, very attractive Jeep Grand Cherokee.  And I wasn’t thrilled with what I was seeing.  I wasn’t very happy with Jeep’s official photos either when they became available, though I was assured that it looked better in person.  And thankfully, it does.

It turns out that the new Cherokee is a just-big-enough, just-capable-enough, all-terrain SUV, provided that you opt for the Trailhawk configuration, 271 horsepower 3.2L V6 engine and Trailer Tow Group.  Otherwise it’s just a Grocery Getter.  The abundance of black plastic on the 2014 Cherokee in all trim levels leaves me thinking that black paint is the only appropriate color choice at this time.  I’d expect body-color trim to arrive at some point in the future, making the Cherokee more attractive in other colors.  Somehow I could see myself driving one of these in the snowy but densely-packed Northeast.

Favorite Technology Item
Audi builds great looking cars, though I worry that their long-term upkeep may bankrupt anyone not comfortably ensconced in the Top One Percent™.  They also brought my favorite thing to New York that was not a car.  Audi teamed up with Tagboard to feed their electronic signage with social media updates throughout the week.  Those who Tweeted or similarly mentioned hashtags #Audi and #NYIAS might see their post on the 30-foot screen in Audi’s booth.  I’d love to see some metrics behind Audi’s social media outreach during the show as a result of their partnership with Tagboard.

The 2014 Silverado / Sierra
I happen to drive one of the best-selling vehicles sold in the United States, the current-generation, full-sized Chevy Silverado pickup.  Think of my choice as a throwback to my rural Indiana childhood.  My Silverado, in 4×4 Z71 trim, is capable, confidence-inspiring, and good looking too.  The new 2014 Silverado and its GMC Sierra stablemate are at least two of those three adjectives, with the looks being somewhat subjective.

To my eye, the all-new 2014 Silverado looks ever so slightly more squared off, masculine and purpose-built.  And that’s great.  For a truck.  But sooner or later, GM will have to release a new Tahoe, Avalanche, Suburban, Yukon and Escalade on this chassis too.  The current Tahoe and siblings look absolutely gorgeous in my opinion.  They look at home anywhere from the construction site to the country club, and at a kids’ soccer field in between.  I fear that a Tahoe or Suburban based on the new Silverado design will only look appropriate in black with S.W.A.T. team members riding the foot rails on both sides.  Now there’s a market for that, just as there’s a market for movies featuring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.  It just happens to be a slightly narrower niche than the pool of potential buyers for the current Tahoe, et al.  I hope that GM proves me wrong with a full-size SUV holding broad appeal.

And now for some random pictures taken using an iPad…

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The New York International Auto Show, and similar auto shows in other major cities, are always a little bit overwhelming.  Sensory overload, and all that.  At the same time, it’s a whole lot of fun.  And there’s almost always a technology tie-in too.  For instance, I heard a salesman describing the aforementioned 2014 Silverado as, “like having a Nexus or an iPad on the dash.”  He was speaking figuratively, of course, about GM’s feature-rich touchscreen console with 4G LTE connectivity.

Now my day at the show ends sooner or later, and it’s time to go home.  Which in my case, ironically, doesn’t involve getting behind the wheel at all.  The train took me from Midtown back to my little city in Connecticut, and practically right to my front door.  At least I’d have a reason to drive the next day.

The 2013 New York International Auto Show runs through 7:00 PM this evening at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on a real tech post for next week.

New York Auto Show

I’m a fan of cars.  A car fanatic, if you will.  Not in the mechanic sense, forever tinkering under the hood.  Instead I’m more the Top Gear-watching, Motor Trend-subscribing kind of car fanatic.  Every year I go to the closest major auto show.  For my twenties and early thirties, that meant a yearly drive to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show.  But now I’m in southwest Connecticut.  And the closest major auto show is the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.  So that’s where I went on Saturday.

Getting There
Unlike some other auto shows, the New York International Auto Show is most easily accessible to those outside the city by train rather than by automobile.  My morning began as I climbed aboard the Metro North New Haven Line at 7:35 AM, bound for Grand Central Terminal.  This early on a Saturday, the train car will fill to no more than one quarter full during the length of the run.  I’ve got the seat to myself as I listen to Adele on the white earbuds from my iPhone 4.  And I look out the window.

Soon I’m rolling through Bridgeport, CT, where I see what appear to be several abandoned factories or warehouses, likely having sat idle for decades now as the US continues to deindustrialize.  And while I’m on my way to a rich city to see a convention center full of the latest shiny automobiles, I worry for a moment that those abandoned buildings in Bridgeport may serve as a metaphor for America.  It’s not all doom and gloom, of course.  The official jobless numbers have continued to come down throughout President Obama’s first term, leaving some of his critics to suggest that he hasn’t turned the economy around fast enough.

And soon I’m moving on, taking the time to dash off an e-mail from my iPhone as I’m reminded in Stamford of an old CIO that I used to work for.  She left Chicago to do a stint in Stamford before heading out west.  Having grown up in the generation before ever-present e-mail, I pause for a moment to reflect on the convenience.  This, despite the fact that I now receive several hundred messages a day that are generally the bane of my existence.  Soon that too is behind me.

I arrive at the Javits Center just in time for the auto show to open.  I pass quickly through security and purchase my $15 ticket from an automated kiosk without waiting in line.  And then I walk on in.  About the first thing I see is a white Lamborghini, followed closely by a $1.7 million Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport in white with a black hood.  This is not to be confused, of course, with the $2.7 million Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.

Lamborghini and Bugatti

White Cars
My friends are well aware that I’m a fan of white cars and that my personal vehicle is white.  This aesthetic preference was born out of science, as I observed that darker paints fade faster in the sun and keep cars hotter inside during the summer.  Also – and I have no data to back this up – it’s been my experience that a well-maintained but non-ostentatious white vehicle seems to be largely invisible to the Highway Patrol.  This auto show proved to be a bonanza for people who share my preference.  Infiniti, in particular, had more than half of their cars on display in white, and frankly I could have gone around snapping photos of white cars all day.

Favorite Car
Every year I pick a personal favorite.  More often than not I pick something that I could conceivably afford as my next car, or imagine myself affording without first imagining a Powerball jackpot win.  This year I identified my favorite car fifteen minutes into the show.  No, it wasn’t the Veyron.  In fact, it was the 2013 Ford Fusion!  My iPhone photos definitely don’t do it justice, so I recommend visiting Ford.

2013 Ford Fusion

The previous Fusion (2006-12) was a largely forgettable car from a styling perspective, that frankly never measured up to the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry as far as I’m concerned.  There was nothing wrong with it, as, say, a weekend rental car, but I couldn’t imagine plunking down years of car payments for the privilege of owning one.  All that has changed with the 2013 Fusion.

The new Fusion is longer, wider and taller than the outgoing model, with styling that is a complete departure from its predecessor.  It feels like a large car standing next to it.  Larger than the original Taurus that I remember from the 80s.  And the styling is – to my eye – fantastic.  (Again, don’t judge it from my iPhone photos.)  I saw one Tweet that described it as a smooshed Maserati (in a good way).  Personally, I feel like it’s not hard to imagine it as a smaller sibling to the current Jaguar XJ.  At any rate, I could easily see myself buying the 2013 Fusion were I not so satisfied with my current 2010-model-year vehicle.

Last Year’s Favorite
This year I finally got to sit in my last year’s favorite, the Range Rover Evoque Coupe (in white).  With my 6′ 4”+ size, I wondered whether I’d fit under the Evoque’s sloping roof line.  The good news is that I fit just fine, especially with the extra headroom provided by the panoramic roof.  The bad news is that I’m unlikely to ever buy a vehicle that starts at $43,995 in today’s dollars and can go way up from there.  Range Rover also brought a concept Evoque Convertible out this year that looks pretty great with the roof down.

Range Rover Evoque

Quick Mentions
Always curious about fit, I find that I can sit in the driver’s seat of the diminutive Fiat 500 with no issues.  In fact, I don’t even need to move the seat quite all the way back.  The manual shifter feels smooth when cycling through the gears while parked.  Of course I’d want to go for the Abarth edition.

Believe it or not, the Kia Optima SXL in snow white pearl with white leather interior was my second-favorite car of the show.  The vehicle looked and felt good inside and out.  At $34,900 as configured, however, I’d have a hard time with the Kia nameplate and the pre-conceived notions that come with it.

The cute little Hyundai Veloster that everyone reports as stylish but woefully underpowered has a turbo variant coming out for 2013.  Good for them.  I hope that the paint job on the display model doesn’t make it to production.  It was a silver that seemed to have no clear coat on top, as if it were painted using spray-cans.  Curiously, I saw one other car on display that seemed to suffer from the same malady: a bluish BMW M3.  I hope that this isn’t some dastardly new trend in paint that I’m just seeing for the first time.

Perhaps the coolest part of my day was the Camp Jeep ride-along out in front of the Javits Center.  I was a front-seat passenger in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited as we traversed thirty-degree sideways inclines, drove over significant obstacles, and climbed and descended a hill that felt as steep as a standard staircase.  If the open-topped Wrangler Unlimited doesn’t sell itself on a sunny day like this, certainly it does after powering up a steep summit and then automatically managing the descent on the way down.  If I ever move to a warm climate, I’m seriously considering one of these.

If you’ve never been to a car show, you’ll no doubt be shocked to learn that sometimes attractive young women are used to promote cars to male buyers. Who’d have thought!? Anyway, I felt that it was only polite that I give these ladies introducing various cars my full attention. In light of the fact that most recent Dodge vehicles look like they’ve been bathed in testosterone, perhaps it’s no surprise that Dodge – and the Chrysler booth next door – had the most consistently attractive female spokesmodels at the show on Saturday. It was almost distracting. Seriously. Good job, Dodge.

Robert with the Dodge Model

Souvenir photo provided by Dodge.

As this is a tech blog, we’ve got to focus on technology at least briefly.  Not surprisingly, many of the static information signs next to individual cars have been replaced by computers or iPads this year.  The electronic displays were pervasive enough that Subaru – who just displayed their cars’ window stickers – felt by comparison as if they were a relic of a bygone era.  iPads and similar tablets were in the hands of many of the car representatives working the show as well.  And, for the first time ever, I actually saw a guy using an iPad to snap photos in place of a regular camera or camera-phone.  Yes, he looked awkward.  At the same time, he probably should have sold ad space on the back of that iPad.

Jaguar on iPad

Not Tired
Now in the past I’ve worn myself out when suddenly spending a day on my feet at one of these conventions, as my usual routine involves spending my days in front of the computer.  But having walked farther than Connecticut is long since mid-March, I found myself not tired at all this time around.  It never occurred to me that routine exercise would make a car show more enjoyable, but apparently it does.

Homeward Bound
I arrived back at Grand Central on foot just in time to catch a jam-packed 4:07 train back toward New Haven.  This time around, every seat was full and a few stragglers were left standing.  I cranked up some Lupe Fiasco on my white earbuds for the ride home, thinking about words I never said.  All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable day of seeing the latest that the auto industry has to offer.

The 2012 New York International Auto Show is open to the public through Sunday, April 15th.