With the media days at the New York International Auto Show behind us, the cars team has had time to reflect on the approximately 1,000 vehicles on display. Many new models made impressions, and some were utterly forgettable. To share our perspective, we've named standouts in 10 categories.
Best looking: Chevrolet Corvette and Jaguar F-Type
Neither car was introduced at this New York show, but both still stir our passions. The next-generation Corvette was on display in both coupe and convertible forms, appealing to our staff in different ways. With its crisp lines, abundant vents, and sheer attitude, the brazen Corvette Stingray looks like rolling escapism. The long-promised Jaguar F-Type is the gorgeous embodiment of modern and classic Jaguar styling. The F-Type is one pretty kitty with sensuous lines that stopped several of us dead in our tracks to ogle the roadster. Even in a massive show, surrounded by hundreds of cars, this is a head turner. On the street, it could halt traffic.
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Luxury: Cadillac CTS
Sure, Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo had products to brag about, but none were as beautiful as the Cadillac CTS. It may have been the setting, with the CTS displayed like fine art in a studio, rather than mixed among a dozen other cars in a parking-lot-type arrangement, as favored by the German automakers. More likely, the CTS made an impression as the finest example of the evolving Art & Science design, dressed with complex sheetmetal creases and accented with LED lighting. Looking beyond appearance, the CTS is poised to carry forward the enthusiast spirit captured by the ATS, in a larger, more luxurious package that promises to be the lightest sedan in its class. Indeed, this is the luxury car we most look forward to buying and testing.
Hybrid/Green: Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
While fuel economy is an ever-present concern for car buyers, this show was short on breakthroughs. We were tempted to spotlight the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, but its claims are quite modest. Instead, we give the green-car nod to the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, a decidedly "me too" product that targets the third-generation Toyota Highlander Hybrid. However, it does give buyers in the extremely popular midsized SUV category another appealing choice. It uses a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a 15kW electric motor to provide an EPA-estimated 26 mpg overall—on par with small SUVs. Best of all, the hybrid system is expected to command just a $3,000 premium over a comparable non-hybrid Pathfinder.
SUV: Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Despite its long and weighty name, the new Range Rover Sport drops a stunning 800 lbs. with its redesign, while growing 2.5 inches longer. The lighter-weight, aluminum-intensive unibody should aid fuel economy and performance. Power comes from a choice of two engines: a new 340-hp, 3.0-liter supercharged six-cylinder or a 510-hp, 5.0-liter supercharged V8, each mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Throw in the typical Range Rover amenities; a cabin dressed in leather, wood, and wool; and heap on the latest suite of electronic safety measures, and this promises to be an enticing, indulgent machine. It even has a third-row seat.
Small car: Volkswagen Golf
The seventh-generation of Volkswagen's iconic hatchback is slightly larger, yet lower and lighter than the outgoing model. More importantly, the Golf looks refined, mature, and more appealing than the recent Jetta and Passat. Both of those models seemed to concede the upscale character that once distinguished VW models for budget-driven corner cutting. The Golf, however, looks like it proudly continues the VW traditions, appearing finer than its peers and positioned as a premium compact car, although priced below luxury brands. Throw in a sharp-looking GTI and frugal diesel into the line up, and you have a car to watch.
Sporty: Subaru WRX Concept
One of just two concept cars shown in New York, the Subaru WRX concept previews the next WRX and STi based on a sleek coupe-like four-door body that is a few inches shorter, narrower, and lower than the current Impreza. Part of what makes this concept stand out is that Subaru is looking to commit to a unique body for its high-performance models for the first time, distinguishing them from their mainstream counterparts. The car looks stunning in person. If it retains the rally-bred character of its predecessor, it ought to have far more power than the entertaining, rear-drive BRZ coupe.
Budget: Kia Soul
Kia has redesigned the popular Soul, choosing to focus on refinements and up-level equipment over dramatic exterior changes. Perhaps only current owners will be able to identify the 2014 over a 2013 model in a parking lot, but most affordable hatchback shoppers will be impressed with the better-finished interior. Plus, the new model is offered with a generous roster of available equipment, including front and rear heated seats, ventilated front seats, panoramic moonroof, mirror turn signal indicators, and heated steering wheel. Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and heated mirrors are standard. Kia promises to have made improvements in noise and ride—areas we were critical of in our last road test. Top power remains a 164-hp, 2.0-liter four cylinder. More power and efficiency would have been welcomed.
What we'd most like to own: Chevrolet SS
The Chevrolet end of the General Motors hall was filled with new product, such as the Corvette, Impala, Silverado, and SS. Even the Malibu, Sonic, and Spark are relatively fresh. While all eyes were on the Corvette and the Camaro Z/28, the car that we'd most like to own is the SS. The SS is a rear-drive, full-sized sedan borrowed from General Motors' Australian brand, Holden. This foundation promises a character of a well-honed, Euro-influenced sport sedan with a generous dose of American muscle thrown in. Sharing its core underpinnings with the Camaro, the SS promises to be fun, quick, capable, and roomy. The underhood magic comes from a 6.2-liter LS3 V8--the same basic powerplant used in the current Corvette. Here it produces 415 horsepower, routed through a six-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet claims 0-60 mph times in about five seconds, putting it deep in modern muscle car territory. Serving as a Chevrolet flagship, the SS is lavishly equipped with leather upholstery, Chevrolet MyLink infotainment, navigation system, Bose audio, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitors, backup camera with cross-traffic alert, and the brand's first automatic parking system. This is an American-branded sedan for flag-waving performance enthusiasts. Sounds great!
Disappointment: Acura MDX
This model almost seemed to be phoned in. "New" doesn't translate to "noteworthy" for the Acura MDX. The current model is quite good. And the next one will likely be good as well, but so far, we're not seeing anything that pushes boundaries or improves dramatically over the outgoing model. The MDX is based on an all-new platform with a slightly longer wheelbase, potentially benefiting second- and third-row passengers. It does offer front-wheel drive for the first time, so the entry price might be lower. Of course, as is becoming the norm, it has LED headlights and offers several safety systems, like lane assist and active cruise control. But so do all its competitors. The MDX will probably prove to be a smart choice, but we can't help but feel Honda could have pushed the envelope further.
Silliest feature: Honda Odyssey Touring Elite with vacuum
Putting a vacuum cleaner in a minivan seems like pure genius. The typical family probably has endless needs for a quick clean up, from Cheerios to clay from a Little League diamond. The hype around this feature, ourselves included, has been over the top. But we need to step back and realize that this is just a neatly packaged concept. Partner Shop Vac itself sells a portable vacuum for just $35, or about $44,000 less than the 2013 Odyssey Touring Elite. No doubt this would be a handy feature, but we say, buy an Odyssey for less than $30,000 and spring for a portable vac of your own.
To take measure of how the public perceives the new cars, we're monitoring social channels to analyze show-related posts to see which cars people are talking about. The results are on display at our Buzz Hub booth at the show, and you can view the current results online.
If you attend the show, be sure to share your favorite snapshots by Tweeting us @CRCars. Or tag your images with #CRAutoShow in Twitter and Instagram, and we'll find them. The best submitted pictures will be posted online at consumerreports.org/NYautoshow.