Innovation and desperation have historically brought about some of the quickest changes in the automotive history. The electric starter introduced in the early 1910s meant the question of steam or electric power was no more, and the gasoline engine would rule supreme. The muscle car era of the 1960s came to an end due, in part, to an impending oil embargo. Recently, fuel-efficient technology has become a very hot issue as the cost of fuel continues to skyrocket. A new trend in the US has also been developing - an attraction towards cars, mainly smaller cars. This was very evident at this year's New York Auto Show. These fuel-sipping automobiles are growing in appeal and popularity over the larger cars, suvs and trucks. The show floor was full of automakers' attempts at the subcompact market, with most new introductions being either small cars or fuel-efficient technology. Probably the most important subcompact introduction at the show was from Honda, who introduced an updated version of its 'Fit'.
Sadly for the automakers, there is little profit to be had in the small car market; thus a well diversified portfolio strengthens a companies longevity. Dodge, for one, is hoping this is true, with the introduction of three new trim levels on their Challenger with prices starting in the Low $20s. At the base is a version intended to meet customers' demands for styling, cost, and reasonable fuel-efficiency. On the other end of the spectrum is the SRT8 model that packs a potent 5.7-liter HEMI V8 promising 370 horsepower and nearly 400 foot-pounds of torque. Another very important rear-wheel drive debut was the Hyundai Genesis Coupe powered by either a four- or six-cylinder engine with top horsepower reaching 306. The exciting news is the manual gearbox and the relatively low sticker-price, making this performance machine available to the masses. Pontiac unveiled a coupe of their own - the Pontiac Solstic Coupe. The GXP two-seater sports version delivers an astonishing 260 horsepower from its four-cylinder engine with the price starting in the $28s. The base version retails in the $22s, and comes equipped with a 173 horsepower engine.
With a nod to the El Camino of the past, Pontiac introduced their G8 Sport Truck. The vehicle is based on GM's Holden subsidiary with aesthetic updates giving it an all-American appeal. Its wheelbase is larger than the G8 making it better suited to handle a big cargo bed and additional storage behind the front seats. Under the long and graceful bonnet is a 6-liter V8 engine capable of producing 361 horsepower. The Holden version sold in Australia is popular - and during the 70s and 80s GM, Ford, Dodge, Volkswagen and others had some success with a car/pickup vehicle. It will be interesting to watch if the US is ready for another awakening of this design.
Then, there are the cars that make one smile from ear-to-ear. At the top of the list was the Saleen S5S Raptor Concept. 'We are extremely proud of the Raptor. It is the car that enthusiasts are waiting for America to produce and Saleen is just the company to answer that call,' said Paul Wilbur, Saleen President and CEO. It is a new car, built from the ground up, with a supercharged 5-liter engine, mounted mid-ship, and delivering 650 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque. With an eye on the evolving marketplace, the engine can be fed E85 ethanol and yet still deliver a 3.2 second zero-to-sixty run. Sharing the stage was the S5S Raptor Concept was the legendary racer, Dan Gurney and his new limited-edition, Saleen Gurney Signature Edition Mustang. Only 300 examples will be produced: offered in three colors, fitted with many special extras, graphics, and designs, and signed by Dan Gurney himself. Also in the category of exclusive, but with much less publicity and hype, was the Neiman Marcus Hennessey Viper Venom. Only 7 of these Special Editions are to be produced, and will be featured in the spring Neiman Marcus Men's Catalog and will retail for $179,500. Zero-to-sixty will take a mere 3.3 seconds, thanks to the 700 horsepower engine.
Lamborghini showed-off their LP560, recently introduced at the Geneva Show. It is the successor of the most successful Lamborghini model of all time, the Gallardo. It is fitted with a new engine, permanent four-wheel drive, new suspension, and promises improved performance and dynamics. Sitting in very close proximity to the LP560 was the Porsche Boxster RS60 and a 1960 Type 718 RS 60 Spyder. The new Boxster RS 60 is a mid-engine two-seater car that rides on 19-inch wheels, has attractive dual tailpipes, and is propelled by a 303 hp boxer engine. It has special paint and features that help distinguish it from other Boxsters on the road. Production is limited to just 1,960 units befitting the '1960' versions that enjoyed a very successful racing career.
Scion continues to chase the hip, youthful market with the unveiling of their Hako Coupe Concpet. Loved by some, hated by others, this bold new design was inspired by the iconic xB and the emergence of American vintage style among young Tokyo trendsetters.
Suzuki introduced their third iteration in the Kizashi Concept series. In comparison to the other two, this one was much more tame and probably the most likely to make it into production with the fewest changes. 'Kizashi means ‘prelude' in Japanese, and that's exactly what this design represents for Suzuki from both a business and a product standpoint,' said Mark Harano, president, American Suzuki Automotive Operations. 'Concept Kizashi 3 illustrates our brand character and personifies our heritage, design strength and engineering prowess. With customers in 192 countries and regions, Suzuki is truly a global brand, and the coming model carries on our mission to build the image of our automotive products in North America and eventually match our bikes' reputation.'
Kia showed a face-lifted version of their Optima and a new concept called the Kia KOUP Concept. The KOUP Concept is a drivable dynamic vehicle that offers styling, advanced technology, and a glimpse at the direction of the Kia marque. It is a realistic vehicle that could one day find its way into the showrooms.
The 2008 NY Auto Show delivered many important introductions aimed at tackling an industry that is constantly criticized and critiqued. From the fuel-efficient vehicles to the tire-burning muscle cars, to the dramatic concepts and the realistic prototypes, the NY Auto Show offers the final major US glimpse into the direction of the auto industry and the strides being made by automakers.
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