Payne: 10 must-see vehicles at NY auto show

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

New York – The Big Apple’s Auto Show is a different animal than its Detroit counterpart. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere – and a lot of people have. Almost a quarter of Gotham vehicle registrations are for luxury models. That’s nearly double the national average. As a result, luxury-automakers target New York for product reveals.

The Genesis Essentia concept

Yet, this year New York showed surprising bandwidth with introductions of volume mainstream vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 compact SUV and the Nissan Altima midsize sedan. Detroit will always host Big Three truck intros, but Motown’s lux-makers are eager to make it here (so much so that Cadillac has made the Empire City its home), so Cadillac and Lincoln brought their A games. The variety extended to robot cars and battery-powered rocket ships.

Herewith, in no particular order, the 10 must-see vehicles in New York:

The Genesis Essentia concept

Genesis Essentia

A throwback to fanciful show concepts of old, the Essentia imagines an electric 2+2 coupe for the semi-autonomous future. A Formula One-style keel nose sits under a transparent hood, revealing inboard springs and aerodynamic tunnels for increased down-force. The digital cockpit straddles a center-line battery pack so that passengers sit low to the ground. Naturally, the concept gets butterfly doors, but my favorite details are the thin LED front running lights. There are no projector lamps to be found, because self-driving cars won’t need headlamps to see.

The Rimac C Two

Rimac C_Two

Displayed in the show’s exotica bullpen next to $2 million Lamborghinis and Bugattis, the Croation start-up’s second model manages to stand out. Determined to be the fastest EV ever, the hypercar with four electric motors generates jaw-dropping numbers from its 120-kWh powerpack: 1,914 horsepower, 1,696 pound-feet of torque, 230 mph top speed and a zero-60 spirit in just 1.85 seconds. That’s faster than the new Tesla Roadster. Determined to be the EV benchmark, the C_Two will soon take a shot at the Nurburgring lap record.

The Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester

Across the aisle from Rimac’s expensive nest is the $25,000 Forester, Subaru’s second-best selling vehicle and marvel of affordability. Based on Subaru’s all-new global platform, the all-wheel drive Forester has more room and more standard features. My highlight is the rear tailgate opening which grows 5 inches wider – enough to swallow a golf bag sideways. All this goodness is wrapped is a more handsome wardrobe than the last-gen cardboard box.

The Lincoln Aviator

Lincoln Aviator

Think of it as the baby Navigator. The three-row Aviator concept replaces the unloved MKT with dramatic looks, sumptuous interior and signature 30-way Lincoln seats. But the big ute is more than a pretty face. It’s is built on a rear-drive platform which Lincoln says allows a longer hood design as well as better grip for towing.

The Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar I-Pace

Forget your growly V-8 Jags of old with hoods longer than your driveway. The I-Pace SUV takes aim at the Tesla Model X with a meaty 90 kWh battery that boasts 240 miles of range and lots of torque. With batteries in the basement, the Brit EV features nimble handling and room for five adults. But will customers want a Jaguar without the growl?

The Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak pickup concept

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak pickup

You read that right – a Volkswagen pickup. The German automaker is determined to connect with us Yanks and what better way than an all-American truck? The Tanoak concept would be built off the same unibody bones as the three-row Atlas SUV, making it the third ute-based midsize pickup after the Honda Ridgeline and coming Hyundai Santa Cruz. The Tanoak’s rugged design looks nearly production-ready and its large dimensions are competitive with the GMC Canyon. The bed should be big enough to fit your old VW Rabbit, too.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4

Cadillac XT4

This subcompact ute begins Cadillac’s comeback in the SUV segment. Aimed at the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, XT4 follows sister XT5’s strategy of offering large dimensions for the segment. Like big brother Escalade, the XT4 sports dramatic, vertical tail-lamps taller than the Fox Theater marquee. Unlike its siblings, the new ute adds buttons to the CUE infotainment system’s unloved touchscreen.

The Nissan Altima

Nissan Altima

The next-generation Altima is the latest Japanese sedan to try to keep cars relevant in ute nation. The Altima follows the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry with dramatic styling that SUVs like – well, the Nissan Rogue – can’t touch. Roomy Altima also offers all-wheel drive for the first time for better ute-like utility as well as a pioneering variable-compression turbo-4.

The Maserati Levante

Maserati Levante

The SUV performance arms race continues. Maserati’s family SUV gets a 590-horsepower Ferrari-assembled twin-turbo V-8 to best the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s (say that 10 times fast) 505 horsepower and the Jaguar F-Pace SVR’s 550. So you can go zero-60 in just 3.7 seconds while coddled by red leather seats with Wagner playing over the 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Be warned, though. The 707-horse Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is quicker.

The Toyota Rav4

Toyota RAV4

It’s hard to ignore a remake of the best-selling non-pickup in America. The RAV4 gains capability on the Toyota’s new TNGA platform, but that doesn’t make it any prettier. The ute is homelier than ever. Happily, an interior decorator was hired for upgrades inside, bringing the RAV4 into the 21st century. Determined to give its loyal customers more model differentiation, a new Adventure trim brings the rugged (better) looks of the Tacoma pickup.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.