1999 New York Auto Show

April 5, 1999

New York leads the nation in many ways — fine dining, good theater, heart attacks had in taxis, probably. Usually, it doesn’t lead in car introductions. But this year’s New York International Auto Show, the 99th promo of new cars in the Big Apple, hosted more than a handful of vehicle debuts that charged the auto-journalist crowd and likely made organizers at Chicago, L.A., and Detroit a touch nervous. Along with the Nissan Z and Ford Taurus we brought you last week, the New York show unveiled the next Olds Aurora, the newest Infiniti I30, and a restyled Chevrolet Suburban, as well as refashioned models from Isuzu, Pontiac, Saab and others. Click on our NY Show Tech Report for a deeper dive into these models’ innards, and read off-road vet Sue Mead’s report on the quartet of New York Show trucks. And if you don’t want to miss a thing from the New York sheetmetal shindig, click on our New York Special Report table of contents for a complete list of all the stories.

NISSAN’S A-TO-Z's. It’s official: the legendary Nissan Z is coming back in 2002, company officials proudly announced during a NY Auto Show news conference. But while it’s likely to maintain some of the styling "cues," it will be a lot less retro-looking than the orange metal two-seater that originally debuted at the Detroit auto show last January. Significant details have yet to be worked out, including whether or not to offer a V-6 engine, but look for a starting price in the mid-$20,000 range. It’s very possible the next Z will have a "French flavor," according to designer Jerry Hirshberg. That would reflect Nissan and Renault’s new partnership. The two companies intend to slash the number of individual product platforms they use from a collective 34 to just 10. Meanwhile, Renault Chairman Louis Schweitzer has ruled out a return to the competitive U.S. market. Relaunching the Renault brand, he acknowledged, would cost at least $2 billion, much of it aimed at overcoming the image that Renault "built cars that rusted." Instead, some Renault models will likely be sold in the States under the Nissan nameplate. — PAE

newtaurus

newtaurus

TAURUS TURNS. It was once the country’s top-selling passenger car, and Ford Motor Co. is hoping to reclaim that mantle with a face-lifted sedan due to debut at dealers next fall. The 2000 Taurus and its sister Mercury Sable (unveiled at the San Diego auto show last week) is less radical in design and roomier inside, with a full cubic foot more of trunk space. But the car’s biggest selling point could prove to be its Advanced Restraint System, which introduces "smart" airbag technology to a mass-market vehicle.

sable

sable

The system is able to determine the severity of a crash and decide whether or not to trigger its airbags. And in a moderate accident, its two-stage inflators will activate the airbags more slowly to reduce the chance of injuring passengers. — PAE

eclipsef

eclipsef

TOTAL ECLIPSE.Mitsubishi's Eclipse has been a perennial favorite among young and first-time new-car buyers. The 2000 Eclipse aims to continue to appeal to that audience with brash styling and sporty dynamics. A new platform shared with the new Galant provides the basis for Mitsubishi's latest coupe. Under the hood, a 2.4-liter 16-valve engine and a 3.0-liter 24-valve V-6 are available. They produce 155 and 205 horsepower, respectively. The V-6 replaces the turbocharged four-cylinder of the previous Eclipse. At this time, no four-wheel drive Eclipse has been announced. The Eclipse will continue to be produced by Mitsubishi in Normal, Illinois. A redesigned Eclipse Spyder should follow the Eclipse coupe into showrooms in about a year; shortly thereafter, an ultraperformance version of the Eclipse is being contemplated for production. Mitsubishi also showed the 2000 Montero Sport (read about it in our special NY Show Trucks report), which has a revised exterior appearance and a revised V-6 engine lineup. The four-cylinder Montero Sport is dropped for 2000. — NT

aurora

aurora

A BRIGHTER AURORA. For the past two-and-a-half years, we've been showing you spy photos of a new Oldsmobile Aurora. It's finally here. The new Aurora will be badged as a 2001 model and should go on sale in the spring of 2000. It will offer a choice of two engines, a 250-horsepower version of the 4.0-liter DOHC V-8 offered in the current model and a 3.5-liter 215-hp V-6 that powers the 1999 Intrigue. The new car is 6 inches shorter than the outgoing model but still manages to have more interior and truck space. Both the new Aurora and the 2000 Intrigue will be available with a skid control system similar to the active handling control system available on the Corvette and Cadillac Seville. The system detects slippage and applies the brakes at each wheel to compensate for the skid, allowing the driver to maintain control of the vehicle. — NT

Saturn%20LS

Saturn%20LS

SATURN GETS BIGGER SHOES. Another vehicle that should be no stranger to TCC readers is the Saturn L-Series. We've shown you numerous spy shots. The new midsize sedan and wagon were shown publicly here in New York for the first time. As previously reported, a 137-horsepower 2.2-liter four-cylinder and a 182-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 power the new car. Automatic and manual transmissions are available in the sedan while the wagons will only be available with an automatic. Naturally, the new car is a Saturn through and through, with dent-resistant polymer body panels and styling that makes it immediately identifiable as a Saturn. The cars go on sale this summer and will be produced in Wilmington, Delaware. — NT

MPV

MPV

MAZDA’S FAMILY HAULER.Yet another new minivan is about to hit the streets. But this one is a little less boring than many others that have recently gone on sale. The 2000 Mazda MPV has a 170-horsepower DOHC V-6 complemented by a sporty look and excellent interior functionality. Inside the new MPV, there are such niceties as a tumble under the third-row seat that folds flat into the load floor, reconfigurable second-row seats and an available in-dash six-disc CD changer. One minus: The new MPV is significantly more compact than most other offerings in the United States today. And yes, the requisite dual sliding doors are there. — NT

Century2000

Century2000

BUICK Y2K. Buick hopes to celebrate the millennium with a new 2000-edition Century sedan. The monochrome design is a bit more Euro-looking, according to Century Brand Manager Tony Derhake. The 2000 logo is emblazoned all over the car, even woven into the front seat headrests. The Century 2000 also boasts an upgraded engine, putting out 175 horsepower, 15 more than the standard Century. Look for a base price of $20,000. The Century 2000 is only part of the plan to expand the Buick lineup, according to the division’s general manager, Roger Adams. It currently has four distinct models, and "we have two more to come." The upcoming Buicks, he hinted, will draw their inspiration from recent concept vehicles, including the Signia car/truck hybrid and the Cielo coupe/convertible. The Cielo featured a unique design in which the hard panels retracted into the trunk while leaving a curvaceous roof frame that doubled as a roll bar. — PAE

Vigen1

Vigen1

VIGOROUS VIGGEN. At 225 horsepower, the Viggen is the most powerful Saab ever built. The sleek vehicle borrows its name from the Saab-designed Viggen fighter jet. And in turn, the fighter’s name translates into "thunderbolt." Like other high-performance Saab’s, the Viggen is turbocharged, with special attention paid to improve both the performance and the life of the underlying 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. Initially, Viggen will be offered in just "Lightning Blue," but two additional colors will be added to the lineup in the fall. The Viggen will be launched with a massive new advertising campaign, the largest in Saab history, according to Joel Manby, head of the automaker’s U.S. arm. In a bold if risky move, Saab intends to take its "Versus" campaign global. That means that other than changing the language of the ad copy text, the same pitch will be used to lure customers everywhere from Sweden to Singapore. — PAE

i30

i30

LOVE AMERICAN STYLE FOR I30. What’s not to like about the latest Infiniti? With 37 more horsepower lurking under the hood, the 2000 I30 trips our hot wires. Refinements to the engine and exhaust system yielded the extra ponies under Infiniti's newest luxury sedan. Like the new Nissan Maxima from which the I30 is based, the I30 has all new sheetmetal and a new, more contemporary look. The new I30 looks more different from the new Maxima than the last duo did because the I30 was styled at Nissan's Japan studio, while the Maxima was done by Jerry Hirshberg's Nissan Design International in California. According to Nissan, refinements to the suspension system have yielded a better ride and more responsive handling. — NT

PORSCHE PREDICTS. Porsche’s groundbreaking new SUV/sports car will make its debut in 2002, revealed Fred Schwab, president of Porsche Cars North America. Designed and developed in cooperation with Volkswagen, the new vehicle is intended to deliver a Porsche-like ride both on- and off-road. It will be sold in slightly different versions by each of the two automakers, and Porsche is planning to sell between 20,000 and 25,000 a year. "But I think we’ll have capacity to build more, should the demand require," Schwab said. — PAE

VOLVO VAGON? Before there were minivans, the Volvo wagon was the ultimate "people carrier" for safety-conscious parents. These days, the Swedish automaker has lost a lot of once-loyal buyers who’re opting for hipper SUVs and more utilitarian minivans. But a Volvo counterattack could be coming, according to Hans-Loav Olsson, president of the automaker’s U.S. subsidiary. "You will not see a Volvo sport-utility vehicle or a Volvo van, but a Volvo ‘family vehicle.’" Precisely what does that mean? Industry insiders believe it will be a "hybrid," blending the best attributes of the traditional Volvo wagon with more modern wagon and SUV designs. Volvo was already working on such a product before the merger, Olsson has hinted, but there are reports that more than one new vehicle could be in the offing. That would require assistance from Ford, which might share with Volvo the underlying platform of such products as its Explorer or Windstar models. The Windstar would certainly fit the Volvo mold, being the first minivan ever to earn the government’s top crash ratings for both front and side impact. — PAE

GRINNING AT GM. "It’s hard to find anything to be pessimistic about," with U.S. car sales running far above expectations, said General Motors President G. Richard Wagoner. And the market should remain "in pretty good shape for the next couple of years." Actually, the strong market is a double-edged sword, for it will make it harder for GM to regain lost market share, especially in the truck segment, where it is short of capacity. Still, the new Suburban and Yukon models should help GM move toward its goal of "regaining truck leadership," Wagoner insisted. The keynote speaker at the annual breakfast kicking off the NY Auto Show, Wagoner hinted that GM has a range of "creative" new vehicles coming that will blend the best attributes of cars and trucks. But he also admitted the automaker might be stymied in its effort to build three new highly efficient assembly plants, code-named Project Yellowstone. UAW union leaders, worried about declining employment, are resisting the project. — PAE

bmwcp

bmwcp

BIMMERS for Y2K. BMW pulled the wraps off its 2000 lineup at the New York International Auto Show. The newest addition to the lineup is the redesigned 3-Series coupe. BMW claims the coupe has a more athletic personality than the 3-Series sedan that hit the streets in the United States earlier this year. While the overall look of the car is similar to the sedan, BMW says almost every body panel is different. The 323Ci starts at $28,990 while the 328Ci begins at $33,990. A sport suspension is standard equipment. The renaissance of the 3-Series lineup for 2000 is complemented by the revised appearance of the Z3 's taillamps. They are now shaped to resemble those of the new 3-Series sedan and coupe. Other noteworthy changes to the Z3 include new wheel designs and revised color offerings. The company also announced that the M5 will retail for $69,400 and will go on sale in October. — NT

DB7Vantage

DB7Vantage

ASTON POWERED BY INDIGO. Remember Ford's Indigo concept that toured the auto show circuit a few years ago? A V-12 engine that basically was the result of mating two Ford Taurus 3.0-liter Duratec V-6 engines powered it. In the concept car, the engine looked suspiciously production-ready. Well, that engine has found a home in the new Aston Martin DB7 Vantage. Beside the new 420-horsepower 6.0-liter V-12, the Vantage is notable for its revised front and rear fascias, new suspension tuning, and revised interior components. The newest Vantage is said to be capable of in excess of 180 mph and accelerating from 0-60 mph in 5.0 seconds. — NT

AudiS4

AudiS4

NEW INITIALS FOR A4.Audi's pavement-scorching S4 will finally reach the United States next year. The car is powered by a 2.7-liter five-valve V-6 equipped with twin turbochargers. For the U.S. market, power output will be 250 horsepower. That number is down about 15 horsepower from the European car due to exhaust modifications necessary for homologation. When it reaches our continent, the hot S4 should be able to sprint to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. The A6 4.2 made its North American debut here also. A 300-horsepower 4.2-liter V-8 is under the redesigned hood of the newest A6 derivative. The car is all-new from the firewall forward, a change necessitated by the larger V-8 engine. Subtle modifications to other areas of the car's exterior differentiate the 4.2 from lesser A6s. — NT

sunfire

sunfire

REHEATED SUNFIRE.Pontiac’s put the Sunfire back in the oven for 2000, with a raft of exterior and interior touch-ups. New fascias front and rear incorporate fog lamps, and side ribs return to the profile, while a newly restyled interior offers second-generation airbags, dual cup holders, a new instrument panel and gauges, and storage space for all your Van Halen CDs. The Getrag five-speed manual tranny, standard on both the coupe and sedan, has been refined for better shift feel. And to quench the heat, the Sunfire gets a "Monsoon" stereo system that pumps 200 watts of sound into the cabin. —NT

REPORTING: TCC Team (PAE), Nick Twork (NT)

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