2012 New York International Auto Show: Studs and Duds
The 2012 edition of the New York Auto Show has come and gone, and all that's left are the memories. Well, that and the sore feet, inches-thick stack of business cards, still-baggy eyes and swirled together debuts that make us think that there was only one unveiling for the 2013 Lincoln ES Viper Mercedes-Benz Impala Sedan Sports Car Crossover Diesel Concept. So it's a good thing we wrote some of this stuff down early, so we could present to you our picks of the stars of the show. Our Studs are simply that: Vehicles that simply surpassed our expectations, blew us away, or are poised to dominate their respective segments. Then there are the duds, those that left promises unfulfilled, left something on the table, or simply didn't hit us the right way. Stud: 2014 Chevrolet Impala Yeah, we know—we were surprised to see this on here too. But just when we were starting to fear that Chevrolet was taking their archaic Impala nameplate to Hindustan-Ambassador-levels of production longevity, it blows us all out of the water with an Impala that doesn’t only look good, but competitive. Think about it. The last and the newly introduced Impala were so different, it would be like comparing a slide rule to the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101. Three new engines, a beautifully-trimmed interior with a touchscreen, and aggressive sheetmetal bring it out of the Reagan Administration—when the former Impala’s W platform was first conceived—and into some semblance of modernity. The Huffington Post calls it the “greatest single-generation improvement in anything since Rocky III.” We’re hard-pressed to argue against that. Stud: 2013 Lincoln MKZ We had our doubts that the production version of the Lincoln MKZ would be as dull as the concept unveiled in Detroit earlier this year, and it’d be as watered-down as, well, the MKZ badge. (Bring back Zephyr!) But turns out, the production model has a lot of similarities with the concept—the exterior is almost as unchanged as the show car, and the interior somehow features even less buttons: a push-button transmission, an idea that deserves a comeback from its 50s heyday, frees up the center console for voluminous space. It is, in short, what a concept-derived production car should be, and miles ahead of its dorky, lame-duck predecessor. Dud: 2013 Lexus ES It’s probably not the world Toyota imagined when the Chevy Impala and a Lincoln—a rebadged Ford!—have better interiors than their flagship luxury brand. But the Lexus ES represents a step back in the world of pseudo-near-luxury that it has ruled for the past two decades. OK, in fairness the exterior is pretty sharp, and we're growing more fond of Lexus’s new hourglass “spindle” grille, despite giving the car a striking resemblance to the alien from the Predator movies. But the interior is chintzy, dour and foreboding, and somehow manages to combine Lexus’s (very cool) computer mouse, a touchscreen, and more buttons than one or two Space Shuttles. The rest of the car had better be comfortable, because at this rate ES owners will need a master’s degree in civil engineering to figure out how to turn up their Bob Seger CDs. Stud: 2013 SRT Viper Horsepower, like greed, is always good. And if the SRT Viper didn’t have 640 horsepower from its 8.4-liter naturally-aspirated V-10, we’d still be inclined to drool over its slinky, looooong-hooded looks. But the Viper does have 640 horsepower. And the race car version that SRT unveiled was icing on a dazzling-sounding cake—and it promises to mop up Le Mans just like the Viper did in 1998, and 1999, and 2000; and it’s faster than the ACR edition that set the production record at the Nurburgring 3 years ago; and it’s got the side pipes and steamroller tires but also a full-leather interior that finally lives up to the car's stratospheric price tag; and America is the best damn country in the world. Dud: Shelby 1000 Jason Davis put it best: “in what world do automotive journalists pick on a 1000-horsepower car?” And, yeah, we get that we're contradicting ourselves from the previous "horsepower makes everything better" praise heaped upon the Viper. But the thing is, the Shelby 1000 is a 200-mph Mustang that costs $200,000, including the price of the Shelby GT500 that it's based on. But here's the rub: That Shelby GT500 has 650-hp and already goes 200 mph. That reduces the Shelby 1000 to all sound and little fury, a four-figured horsepower codpiece that only exists so its owners—undoubtedly Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Barrett-Jackson speculators—can tell their dinner party guests, “hey, I have a thousand-horsepower car!” If we add $150,000 on top of the GT500’s $54,200 base price, we expect more. If you have the means, then go for it. Otherwise, we’ll simply ask for our horsepower in smaller serving sizes. Stud: Terrafugia Transition There are few phrases, other than “bacon-wrapped,” that are as tantalizing as the “flying car.” Why haven’t these been invented yet? Weren’t we supposed to whisk away in hovercars to our summer homes on the Sea of Tranquility by 1980, after Rocky singlehandedly defeated the Soviets by punching Brezhnev in his big, stupid face? Well, Terrafugia is taking us into the Jetsons age we’ve always deserved but never achieved with the Transition, a car that—yes—flies. It’s a light sport aircraft that you can drive to the airport, it seats two people side-by-side with real doors, its wings fold up to avoid carpool-spearing carnage, it gets 35 mpg on land, and it can even fit two golf clubs in the back. Sybaritic convenience and cutting-edge technology never came together so well. Or looked so goofy, which brings us to... Dud: Terrafugia Transition There’s a reason why flying cars work better in our fevered imaginations and the realm of Blade Runner. The real world has way too many compromises, too many foldable wings and not enough antigrav machines. If you buy a Terrafugia, you will need to drive it to the nearest airport, and not quickly, either—top speed of the Terrafugia is 65 miles per hour. Then you’ll have to unfold its wings, which we'll admit is a cool party trick. And then? You’re stuck in the air in a goofy, egg-shaped thing that looks like a Logitech mouse from the mid-90s. It's a plane that's too heavy, doesn’t get much range—490 miles, while a Cessna 162 Skycatcher gets 540—and costs $279,000. That's enough for at least a pair of flying Pintos. Too many compromises make this a dud. But look on the bright side: we only have 3 more years until we can invent Mr. Fusion.
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