► New York Auto Show review
► Ben Oliver is your guide
► A walkaround the 2017 NYIAS
A privately owned car is about as useful to a New Yorker as a submarine or a tank. Manhattan is the perfect example of what scares the car industry: a growing urban population able to get around by public transport or ride-sharing and with no interest in owning a car they might use one day a week.
Yet for 117 years there’s been a motor show in this city. The gleaming new models safely displayed in an exhibition centre, away from the cratered city streets and murderous Uber drivers that would quickly reduce them to scrap.
But New York is within day-trip distance for huge number of Americans who do buy cars. Around a million people will visit the show. And they are buying cars in greater numbers than ever.
An auto show that sells cars
Encouraged by high employment, low interest rates and low gas prices, US car sales hit an all-time high of 17.5m in 2016, an unprecedented seventh straight year of growth.
Our full A-Z guide to the 2017 NYIAS
So while we might have seen most of the cars on display here before, what matters is that many of them – like the Range Rover Velar (above) – are making their debut in front of a lot of people who might buy them.
New York auto show: the European angle
There are some new cars here of relevance to European buyers. Mercedes revealed the GLC 63 (below), AMG’s take on its mid-size crossover, with the new ‘Panamericana’ grille which will feature on all new AMG models from now on. It’ll cost from £65k-75k in the UK when sales start in October 2017, depending on your preference for Coupe or SUV silhouette.
It also gave us a sneak preview of the revised S-class, which will be officially revealed at the Shanghai show next week. No matter how well the US market does, China will now always be bigger. It’s comfortably the biggest market for big luxury saloons, so that’s where the S-class will take a bow.
Toyota showed the FT-4X concept, which previews a possible Tonka-styled derivative of the C-HR crossover, and Jaguar showed the new Ingenium-powered four-cylinder entry-point F-type with 296bhp.
There is more here for US buyers. The standout car was of course the insane 840bhp Challenger SRT Demon, displayed on the Dodge stand pulling a wheelie (which it will do) and wearing drag-strip bicycle wheels on the front: a not-very-subtle analogy for the current glee of the US car industry.
The 697bhp Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk (below) is equally unsubtle. Easily the quickest and most powerful SUV an American can buy, it uses the engine from the Hellcat, now displaced as the quickest Challenger by the Demon. Maybe we’ll come back next year to find the Demon’s 840bhp motor in the Jeep: let’s see how the US car industry fares under Trump.
Elsewhere, there were cars of the kind Americans actually drive. The new Ford Navigator and Infiniti QX80 concept are vast, monolithic SUVs, like Trump Tower on wheels. The new Acura TLX will sell in huge numbers, and is deadly dull. We won’t miss any of them in Europe.
But even if the debuts at the New York show were a little limited, and of limited interest, the talk behind the scenes was exciting and of relevance to all of us. Mercedes’ autonomy guru Christoph von Hugo told me how Mercedes cars equipped with assisted steering have now covered more than 10 billion kilometres, and about his company’s close cooperation with US software firms and chip makers.
We might not get the chance to drive a Demon. You might not want to be seen in a Lincoln Navigator. But US tech might soon be driving you.
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