Fun Stuff

Highlights of the 2019 New York International Auto Show

The Big Apple boasts the largest population in North America: bankers, trendsetters, and industry leaders – yet relatively few drivers (aside from those behind the wheel of the ubiquitous yellow cab), thanks to perpetual gridlock. Is it any surprise, then, that most of our picks are designed to shine far away from the city lights?

Best of Show

Volkswagen Tarok

Jil McIntosh

Volkswagen teased with the fun and funky little Tarok, a concept pickup that it previously unveiled at an auto show in Brazil. The automaker said it had no plans to sell a production version in the US, but brought it to the show to “gauge interest” in it. I say, shut up and just take my money already.

Porsche 911 Speedster

Stephanie Wallcraft

To be completely honest, there wasn’t much that came out of the New York International Auto Show this year that I found truly pulse-quickening or earth-shaking. Were I forced to choose an overall favourite, I suppose I’d pick the Porsche 911 Speedster … because 911? I mean, if Porsches are your thing, then you can’t really go wrong with this, and a version of the 502 hp 4.0-litre flat-six with GT3 R-like throttle response sounds positively delicious.

But calling any 911 a Best of Show is like saying a diamond is the hardest gemstone: everyone knows they’re special, and the fact that they’re ubiquitously special can make one oddly not-special, and certainly not relevant to people who can only afford cubic zirconia. But that’s reflective of the tone of this year’s NYIAS: lots of special editions, lots of talk of exclusivity, but not so much standout new product for the everyday.

Kia Stinger GTS

Dan Heyman

It’s got a drift mode! It’s orange like a pylon! It’s got two turbos! Did I mention it has a drift mode?

Best Production Vehicle

Toyota Highlander

Jil McIntosh

The Highlander’s always been a practical and well-done family hauler, but this all-new one has chiselled good looks, more interior space, 295 horsepower with the V6, and a hybrid that’s rated at 6.9 L/100 km and, for the first time, has available all-wheel drive. I’ll be very surprised if Toyota doesn’t top the segment with this one.

Dan Heyman

This choice pretty much boils down to one thing: the Hybrid version. Finally, you can have AWD with your Highlander Hybrid, all while using just 6.9 L/100 km of fuel. Those are some heady numbers for a three-row people mover, while the spaciousness inside (which is the same as the non-Hybrid model thanks to the battery sitting underneath the rear seat), existence of Android Auto (finally) and Apple CarPlay round out the package. Styling’s not bad, either – edgy without being over-the-top and, for the first time ever, you can have 20s on your Highlander.

Cadillac CT5

Stephanie Wallcraft

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the CT5, most notably how it will drive and whether Cadillac will be able to price it competitively enough to make it a true contender against the Germans. But on its face, the use of open-pore wood or unique carbon-fibre inserts, quality leather, and design cues that are classy and distinctly American make this a car to watch as its reveal process unfolds. So far, if this is the direction Cadillac is headed, I’m ready to follow along.

Best Concept Car

Kia HabaNiro

Jil McIntosh

It should win just for the clever name alone – a takeoff on Kia’s Niro electric crossover – but I was taken by its wild interior and those four butterfly-style doors. Instead of a dash, you get a full-width windshield head-up display, and because it’s capable of autonomous driving, the steering wheel retracts when you don’t need it. But alas, while Kia says the HabaNiro can analyze your emotional state, and heat or cool the cabin accordingly, “there are no immediate plans” for it to sense when you’re hungry and head for the closest drive-through.

Stephanie Wallcraft

I think I was probably supposed to pick the Genesis Mint – which to me looks nice enough but also has undertones of a Model 3 crossed with a lima bean – but with every new Genesis concept that’s revealed I think to myself, when are you folks going to make with the SUVs already? Anyway, I’m more drawn to the Kia HabaNiro, if for no other reason than its looks live up to its clever name. It’s also, if not meaningful in a production sense, a very interesting design exercise.

Dan Heyman

For one, there’s that name, which is so wacky in a “Did they really?” way, that it kind of works. Then there’s the wild upward swinging reverse-Lamborghini doors, as well as a HUD that can be configured to span the entirety of the windshield. But how do you see out, you ask? You don’t, because you don’t need to, because it’s got level 5 (read: full) autonomous capabilities and 300 km of EV range. So they say.

Best Booth/Display

Nissan Heritage Display

Dan Heyman

The 2019 New York show saw the reveal of two new variations on popular Nissan sports cars: the 50th Anniversary editions of the GT-R and 370Z, complete with liveries inspired by classic Nissan racers. To drive the point home, they brought along a host of cars you only really see in video games, such as the Calsonic Skyline R32 All-Japan Touring car as well as the R34 GT-R LM. Never thought I’d see something quite so legendary in the metal, but there you have it.

Stephanie Wallcraft

The original Godzilla, a Calsonic Skyline GT-R, on display along with several other legacy Skyline models, set alongside the 50th Anniversary Edition – I’m not sure I buy into the latter so much, but seeing those classics out in the open is a cool thing.

Subaru National Parks

Stephanie Wallcraft

Subaru turned its booth into a naturally inspired space to connect the 2020 Subaru Outback with the company’s various investments in American natural parks, complete with rock formations, grass and lichen, and – during the preview event, at least – a simulated dusting of snow.

Dan Heyman

Seems that Subaru really knows its audience, and knows that they sell a lot of these in the Pacific Northwest. How do we know this? Because they essentially brought the Pac Northwest to New York, turning their corner of the Javits Center into a deciduous forest, pine trees and all – including the scent! On top of all that, they started their presentation with a surprisingly heartfelt video that documented what current Outback owners and their families are doing with their Subarus, and have been for years.

Cutest Little Trucklet You Can’t Have Here

Suzuki Jimny

Jil McIntosh

Winners of the World Car Award are named at the New York show, and Urban Car went to the Jimny, sold in several global markets but not in Canada or the US. It’s the latest generation of this long-lived model, which we saw back in the 1980s as the Suzuki Samurai. It looks like a miniaturized cross between a Jeep Wrangler and Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, and it’s apparently tough as nails – plus as cute as a button.

Vehicle Most Likely to Give You the Finger as It Drives over You

Karlmann King

Jil McIntosh

It’s billed as the “world’s most expensive SUV”, and with an expected starting price of US$1.8 million, that’s probably right. Hand-built in Italy on a Ford F-550 chassis, it includes a 45-inch flat-screen TV, coffee maker, and champagne storage. You can’t currently buy one, but the company’s actively seeking a US manufacturer to produce and sell it here. I’m thinking even rap stars might think it’s a bit too much.

Best Unobtanium

Koenigsegg Jesko

Dan Heyman

Named after the father of Koenigsegg founder Christian von Koenigsegg, the latest megacar opus from the Swedish manufacturer gives 1,500 hp (1,600 on E85), 1,110 lb-ft of torque and can muster 1,000 kg of downforce at 270 km/h. Plus, since it only weighs 1,420 kg, it makes more that 1 hp per kilo – even with a sevenclutch – seven clutch! – nine-speed automatic transmission. Unobtanium, indeed: every one is already sold. For US$3 million apiece.

Strongest Affirmation That the Future Has Arrived

Jaguar I-Pace

Stephanie Wallcraft

The Jaguar I-Pace, the brand’s battery electric SUV, is cleaning up in this year’s award programs. It took home three wins at the World Car awards in New York: World Car Design, World Green Car, and 2019 World Car of the Year. This is on top of its accolades from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, which named it the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year and Canadian Green Utility Vehicle of the Year for 2019. Progress, thy name is Jag.