Coffee is three dollars here. Three dollars. It’s morning, about 10 am. People are milling about the lobby of the Javits Center, loosely organizing themselves into lines. Ticket collectors stare at their phones, already bored, waiting for the nod from their superiors to start letting people in. There’s an Alfa Romeo advertisement above me, for the new Giulia. The ad copy reads: “0-60 in just 3.8 seconds of a New York minute.” If that isn’t pandering, I don’t know what is. Behind me, two men debate the merits of Ted Cruz’s campaign. Definitely in the right place, then. The line begins to move. I enter.
This is a car show. A simple enough concept, right? But it isn’t. This is nothing at all like the car show we visited back in Pennsylvania, where a couple of old guys gathered on a street corner to drink Yuengling and sit in those beach chairs that have the built-in shade. This is New York, which means it’s much, much bigger. Like, over 2 million square feet bigger (with plans for expansion). Plus, the cars are new: shipped here directly from local dealerships or, in some cases, from the manufacturers themselves. See, while shows like the New York International Auto Show, or NYIAS, as insiders like to call it, are incredibly complex operations to put together, they’re really more trade shows then anything else. A place for automakers to show off their latest wares, and a place for the general public to get suckered into buying three dollar coffee and to form some opinions about new cars without actually driving any of them. Well, I have my coffee, let’s get to those opinions.
Ford, without fail, always seems to wrangle the first booth you see when you walk through the doors. I’ve seen it in Philadelphia, I’ve seen it in New York a couple of times, I even saw it in Washington DC once. It’s almost like how airports force you to walk through the duty free store before you get to your departure gate. Anyway, at least they had some good stuff this year with which to distract passersby. The red car in the foreground of the above shot is the new Mustang GT350. It has a bigger engine than the standard GT (5.2 liters instead of 5.0), but the really big news with the GT350 is that it has a flat-plane crank. This is a Mustang- the original American pony car– that has a fully independent suspension, 526 horsepower and the ability to rev all the way out to 8250rpm. How far things have come since that one day on top of the Empire State Building at the 1964 World’s Fair. American cars have been competitive for a couple years now- but right now, in part because of some really poorly timed missteps by BMW- we’re witnessing an age in which some of the best performance on the market is coming out of Detroit. When was the last time you could say that with a straight face? Another part of the American offensive is that little blue number next to the GT350- that’s the new Focus RS. There have been two generations of this car so far (plus an awesome lineage), but this one is the first time it’s being offered to American customers, and boy did we buy in at the right time. 350 horsepower and an all wheel drive system that has the capability of sending up to 70% of the power to the back wheels means that we can all finally give those Subaru nerds a taste of their own medicine. And it looks great in that Smurf blue color. It also, and I swear I’m not making this up, has a setting called Drift Mode. Yes, really. A huge multinational corporation that is primarily run by accountants in grey suits has installed a button in their latest hatchback that, when pressed, turns you into a sideways-hat wearing, tire-smoke creating and infectiously fun hooligan. Drift Mode: the Cake By The Ocean of the car world. And another thing- both the Mustang GT350 and the Focus RS only have one transmission option: manual. As it should be. Let’s drift our way over to some other cars shall we? DRIFT MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODE!!!
There’s a woman crying not far away. Her significant other has his arms around her, comforting her. I understand her, too. The new Ford GT is a tear-jerkingly beautiful car. This is a rather bad picture, but it does demonstrate a very cool new trend in car design: the flying buttress. Look- you can actually see through the car. The reason is not, as I originally assumed, one designer’s all-consuming enthusiasm for Gothic architecture, but rather aerodynamics. Engineers have recently been moving away from pushing air around cars and instead funneling it though the car in various ways, which can be seen in things like the Ferrari F12 and the Acura NSX, the latter of which we’ll look at later. Depending on how you count, this is either the second or third generation of the GT. The original GT, known then as the GT40, was a Ferrari-dethroning racecar in the 60s which was revived in 2005. The 2017 GT is the only time the car hasn’t used a naturally aspirated V8, instead making all of its 600 horsepower from a twin-turbo V6. Ford hasn’t given any GTs out to journalists to test yet (still putting the finishing touches on their 13th century French cathedral, I suppose), so we don’t know how it drives, but they certainly have a great recipe from the looks of it. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew goin! Oh, one more thing before we leave Ford. The Escape on display has a sticker in the window that says “locked for your protection.” As if Ford’s midsize SUV bites or something. Weird.
This is the new Nissan GT-R. Nissan brought out this current generation of the GT-R in 2007, much to the chagrin of Jeremy Clarkson’s neck muscles, and every year since then they’ve made some sort of incremental change to it, much like Apple with the iPhone. Remember the Dodge Polara from awhile back? This 565 horsepower, $100,000 Japanese monster is pretty much exactly the same as that. Practically identical, really. So what’s new this year? Well, in addition to 20 more horsepower than last year, you get different seats, a new exhaust system, a different front grille and a slightly bigger infotainment screen, which features graphs and charts designed by the same people who work on the Gran Turismo video game. You know, for the youths! Also at Nissan, the Maxima I sat in had quilted… something. Swede? Leatherette? Pleather? Do they still have pleather? I don’t know. It was quilted though. It felt opulent.
Here are some pics of the new Chrysler Pacifica. Some Pacifipics, if you will. I could talk about how this is going to replace both the Town and Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan, or how Chrysler is betting big on the minivan making a comeback, or how nice the interior is, or how there’s going to be a plug-in hybrid version, but I’m not. Instead, I’m going to talk about how Chrysler’s new minivan is a stupid meany-face. In the back, as is the norm now, are a number of screens filled with apps and games to save you from actually interacting with your sugar-high kids. The thing is, the Pacifica is really, really good at tic-tac-toe. Like, freakishly good. It didn’t even let me win once, the jerk. Other thoughts: the radio was tuned to Lite FM, which I suppose is par for the course. The third row is very roomy- roomier, I suspect (though I have no factual backing for this whatsoever), than the equivalent Highlander/Pilot/Explorer/crossover things out there. So that’s good. I’m not sure Chrysler’s plan to bet the farm on the minivan is going to work though, sadly. A woman confronted her husband who was sitting in the front seat of the Pacifica while it was busy decimating me in a heated match of Checkers. “What are you doing?” she demanded, “I don’t care how many kids we have. We’re not getting a minivan.” Another victory to the Axis Powers of the crossover.
The jury’s still out on the exterior for me. I’m not sure if grafting the 200’s face onto a minivan, Face/Off style, was the right move. Still, I like the Pacifica on the whole. I’m glad someone is sticking to the minivan way of life, and who better than the company that came up with it in the first place? Plus, one of the backseat apps is the license plate game! Who doesn’t love the license plate game? I am about to move on when a Chrysler employee apparates behind me. “Did you sign up?” I’ve been ambushed. The woman shuffles me over to an iPad that will send me live updates about Chrysler events and offers. I sign my friend Larry up. He should be receiving a quote on the new Pacifica soon.
This is the Hyundai Ioniq, a car which I’ve been pronouncing like the word “iconic” for the longest time because I guess I can’t read. Anyway, you can get one as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, or an all-electric. This is a brand new platform for Hyundai, which I didn’t know, and the interior is made partially out of volcanic rock, which is pretty neat. The all electric version can go 110 miles on a charge, which is good, if not Tesla-levels of great. Another thing I noticed at Hyundai was that all of their air-conditioning systems were labeled “Clean Air,” which I can only assume is a jab at VW, whose air conditioning will give you lung cancer, for all we know. They also had a Veloster Turbo on display in matte grey. I rode from Philadelphia to the suburbs, about 40 minutes away, in one just like it, only the one I was in was stuffed with five large suitcases and four other people. My verdict: the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, while talented, is not built to accommodate five tall people and all their luggage. A disembodied voice implores those gathered at the Hyundai booth to start “gearing up for the Hyundai swag trivia contest.” I beat a hasty retreat.
There are many people here now. In an effort to get away, these next couple of notes were jotted down in the backseat of a Dodge Journey. The Journey gets a reaction out of everybody, too. Mainly: “They still make the Dodge Journey?” The two cars above are the Challenger and Charger Hellcat, the current darlings of the automotive magazines. But don’t let that fool you. Like Tom Hardy’s Mad Max, the Hellcats live up to all the hype. For around $60,000, you get 707 horsepower out of what are, ostensibly, family cars. They even put a baby seat in the back of the Charger, just for a laugh. The Challenger’s trunk is very big, which is to be expected. Both of these cars share underpinnings with the Chrysler 300, which is draws some of its architecture from the third-generation Mercedes E-Class. And that car was introduced in 2002. Also, someone said that the Viper on display “sounds like a truck,” which is funny because the first Viper, back in the 90s, used a V10 out of the Dodge Ram.
743 people bought the the Citroen DS in 1955 within a the first fifteen minutes of it being unveiled to the public. Tesla reportedly received 180,000 orders for their Model 3 within the first 24 hours of it being available. And nobody is looking at the poor Chevy Bolt. The thing is, Chevy is making good cars right now- and the Bolt could be very good-but they’re just not uniquely good cars. Chevy is Microsoft. That said, the sixth generation Camaro, particularly the ZL1 version in the picture below, is a very competent exception to that rule. You sit a good deal lower in that car that car than expected, but that seems to just be the law of the land with modern muscle cars. There’s also blue lights in the doors, and a little pad in between the back seats where you can charge your phone. Nifty.
I’m at Volkswagen now. It’s still awkward, given the whole “we lied to the American public” thing. Needless to say, there are no diesels on display this year. People lose sight of this in the face of the scandal, but VW has been wandering away from the plot for awhile now. So in order to win us back, they’re leaning on heritage. But they can’t actually spend any money because of the billions in reparations they face. So we get things like the Beetle Dune, which is just dumb. There’s a video on the back wall that asks me if I have “victory in my blood.” I ponder this.
I’m at Honda now. I have no recollection of how I got here. In fact, the whole time I was at Honda felt like a prolonged dream sequence. I like the new Civic coupe’s lack of proportion. And that it comes in bright green. Its navigation system thinks we’re in Toronto. There’s a strange device- kind of like a cross between a telescope and one of the guns you use in laser tag, only bigger- mounted on a stand not far away. As I approach- warily, as early humans approached fire for the first time- a screen becomes visible. It displays the phrase “your dreams are our dreams” briefly, before being replaced by the words “complete the journey.” Queen’s “Somebody to Love” plays on the overhead speakers. I touch the screen. “I’m sorry sir, you need a bracelet.” Again, a product specialist has appeared from absolutely nowhere. How do these people do that? “You need a bracelet,” he says again, fixing me with lifeless eyes (black eyes, like a doll’s eye). I opted not to pick up a bracelet, mostly for fear of having a Honda employee convince me to move to South America and take up a diet of purely Cool-Aid and other cult members.
My time at Honda got weird, so I think this is a good a place to end. As I mentioned in the beginning, NYIAS is a huge affair, so huge it couldn’t be fit into one post. So this episode of Forgotten Places is a two-parter. More cars, more bizarre marketing, more rambling! Look for it soon! That is, whenever I get around to it. Until next time.