Auto show luxe cars: Alfa, Genesis shine with mainstays
The U.S. may be the world’s biggest luxury market, but many luxury makers thumbed their noses at this year’s show. Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, McLaren and Ferrari will all skip the party. Their customers don’t shop for vehicles in convention centers. But there will be no dearth of luxury on the floor because — along with trucks — it is a primary source of company profits. Alfa and Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand will be showing for the first time along with Teutonic mainstays like Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Cadillac and Lincoln are on the luxury comeback trail with Caddy boasting German-fighting performance and Lincoln touting rolling divans.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
What it is: Alfa jumps into the luxury sedan market with a cannonball splash. The Giulia debuts with its top-spec, all-wheel-drive Quadrifoglio model, making 505 horsepower from a 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V-6. Wearing Alfa’s trademark, triangle grille, the Quadrifolglio comes with lots of carbon bits to shed weight and offer an athletic, 50/50 weight balance. A base, 276-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four will come later this year.
Payne’s take: The Quadrifoglio oozes sex appeal. Introduced by a harem of racing-suit clad models at the Los Angeles Show in November, the Alfa wants to win you over with fast curves on and off the track. Unlike the hot Alfa 4C sportscar, however, the Giulia comes with a roomy trunk.
Audi A4 Allroad
What it is: The BMW 3-series, fighting A4 sedan gets remade with edgier styling, Audi’s nifty “virtual cockpit” display — and a station wagon version called the “Allroad.” Not shy about taking its passengers off-road (or at least through northern Michigan snow drifts), the Allroad is an inch higher than the sedan. Only a 2.0-liter, blown four will be available at launch with a diesel option arriving (maybe) later in the year.
Payne’s take: By ditching the Avant name for Allroad, Audi says its wagon sales jumped five-fold in outdoorsy America. The name also fits Audi’s plans to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize by landing an AWD rover on the moon by 2020.
What it is: No BMW model is complete without the performance-defining M series, and the M2 is the long-awaited variation on the 2014 2-series. As big brother M3/4 has grown, the ferocious-looking M2 is actually the size of the M3 a decade ago. But with more guts. A turbocharged inline-6 spits out 365 horsepower at a howling 7000 RPM. Available in manual and dual-clutch auto, the latter sporting something called “smoky burnout function.” Ooooooh.
Payne’s take: Boy toy with back seats. Forget your two-seater sports cars, the M2 will hang with a Porsche Cayman S — and your kids can share the thrill from the backseat. For those who want a less conspicuous athlete, BMW’s M235i comes with the same engine and 330 ponies.
Hyundai Genesis G90
What it is: Hyundai’s luxury brand debuts its large sedan competitor to the Mercedes S-class and Caddy CT-6. Bearing the signature, crest-shaped grille (just don’t say it looks like an Audi) and athletic lines first seen on the Hyundai Genesis (soon to be called the G80), the G90 aims for First Class comfort, Barcalounger luxury with a 22-way driver’s seat (14-way for passengers). The G90 also gains engine options over the retired, V8-only Equus: A base 3.8-liter V6, 3.3-liter turbo V6, and a 5.0-liter V8 thumper good for 419 ponies.
Payne’s take: After flirting with a luxury brand with the well-received, that’s-a-Hyundai?! Genesis, the Korean automaker goes all in with the flagship G90. Starting at less than $40K, the midsizer is one of planet’s best bargains — a formula the big, tech-drenched G90 is likely to follow. The G90 should show S-class room at an E-class price.
What it is: Beauty is more than skin deep. The Q gets refreshed with all-new drivetrain options including a 400-horsepower, twin-turbo V-6. The biggest volume seller in Nissan’s luxury stable, the Q50 also replaces its base V-6 engine with a new 2.0-liter turbo that promises a 20 percent mpg gain.
Payne’s take: At a Lexus price but with BMW good looks, the Infiniti offers value and style. And this Q should be PDQ. Its top-of-the-line mill is the only twin-turbo in segment outside of much pricier offering from BMW, Caddy and Merc.
What it is: Lincoln continues its brand resurgence with a flagship, midsize sedan to compete against the Audi A6 and Lexus ES. Sporting the “new face of Lincoln,” the Conti ditches the winged grille for a pouty mouth and headlights bejeweled with 10 LEDs — each shaped like the brand’s logo. But the real revelation is inside where the lush sedan sports simple, push-button controls and tops-in-class, 30-way seats.
Payne’s take: Resurrecting a badge retired in 2002, the Continental emphasizes elegance rather than competing with its German competition on raw performance. To that end, the Continental takes its exterior cues from Jaguar and its interior inspiration from Barcalounger. Go on, sit in it. You won’t want to get out.
What it is: The midsizer gets bigger and prettier with exterior looks Merc calls “sensual purity.” The design innovations continue inside where a segment-first instrument cluster and infotainment console are integrated into one horizontal piece. The driver-centric display is enhanced by steering wheel-mounted buttons so the driver can swipe and select features as on a smartphone. Heated seats and steering wheel are complemented by heated door and console armrests.
Payne’s take: The E-class is on the cutting edge of autonomous (automatic lane change with turn-signal) and safety systems like, well ... I’ll let Mercedes explain: “Standard on the new E-Class is PRE-SAFE Sound. This system is based on a protective human reflex in the inner ear, called the stapedius reflex. PRE-SAFE Sound emits a short interference signal through the vehicle’s sound system if the risk of a collision is detected. This signal can trigger the natural reflex and thus prepare the occupants’ ears for the expected sound of the accident.”
What it is: Volvo’s all-new, all-wheel-drive large sedan replaces the S80 with the brand’s signature commitment to safety and tree-hugging. Front, low-speed, forward-collision warning and automatic braking comes standard. Volvo engine choices are limited to efficient, turbocharged 2.0-liter fours with a top-shelf, supercharged version pumping out 316 ponies. Most notably, the granola brand has turned stylish with an elegant exterior and a Scandinavian-inspired, wood-accented interior framing an iPad-like touchscreen.
Payne’s take: Volvo debuted its flagship XC90 SUV before its flagship S90 sedan given America’s insatiable thirst for utes. Based on the same platform as the X, the S shares many of the same, simple Scandinavian design features. You’ll know it by its “Thor’s hammer” LED front running lights.