Article by Bruce Richter; photographs by Robert Didal.
The 2010 New York Auto Show had several themes this year. One was the prevalance and prominence of the greenest solutions, with literally dozens of hybrid and electric vehicles, which I covered on AllCarsElectric.com.
The show's second sub-theme? Who ever thought you'd hear 'less is more' coming from New York City?
And this isn't just about less gas consumption. We're talking less conspicuous consumption, aka less bling, less 'mine's bigger than yours'.
Don't get me wrong, it's still there if you're on the prowl. Look no farther than the 2011 Infinity QX56's towering height, bulging hood, and glistening dental work.
Or the 2010 Chrysler 300's chrome wheels and Bentley-like grill, which actually managed to out-glitz one actual Bentley, the GTC Supersports, with its purposeful, powerful body in a buttery yellow, plus wheels, grille, and trim details in solid black.
Even over at Cadillac, the Escalade sport-utility stayed relegated to the wings, while the new, crisp 2010 CTS Sport Wagon and sister CTS-V coupe took center stage.
And Cadillac wasn't alone with their latest slant on utility.
Acura had its 2011 TSX SportWagon, Mercedes-Benz its new 2011 E350 4Matic Wagon, and Kia rolled out its funky 2011 Forte five-door to complement its sedan and coupe. (From someone who favors the feel of a tight, nimble, low center of gravity car vs. a tall-in-the-saddle SUV, I say it's about time.).
The other SUV replacement seems to be what I call the oddly shaped Sport Utility Coupe.
Although they're not totally new at this point, they still deserve another look if only for their fun-house, coupe-stretched-skyward-in-Photoshop proportions.
Examples included BMW's Mark McGuire-on-steroids X6 M, their de-juice 550i Gran Turisimo, and the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour and the beaked-out 2010 Acura ZDX.
The third and final message coming through from the 2010 New York Auto Show also followed the overall downsizing trend.
Enter those belles of the sales-chart ball, Hyundai and Kia. No, the news here wasn't the reduced size of their cars.
On the contrary, last week the covers were yanked off several roomy family-sized and executive-sized Korean sedans.
But what they have downsized are the cost expectations for nicely-equipped Accord, Camry, even Lexus-class automobiles.
This applies whether you're looking at the all-new swoopy-creased 2011 Hyundai Sonata (just $27,500 in 274 hp! 2.0T form), their luxuriously equipped limited production full-size 2011 Hyundai Equus, or the striking 2011 Kia Optima, which at a glance could be mistaken for a refreshed BMW 535 - or even M5.
In fact, the Optima may be one of those rare examples of a car in the flesh that looks better than the car in the designer's drawings. Thus, the buzz-term that kept wafting through the crowd, 'Value Brands'.
Put it all together and what's the overall take-away from New York this year?
Not 'dark cloud hanging over the IM Pei building' reality, or even 'deal with it' reality. It's more a story of 'Reality: Embrace it'.
Which is a bigger, fresher concept than any single concept car.