Words & Photos Ezekiel Wheeler
The New York International Auto Show is underway as we speak. We had a chance to check out what the manufactures have been working on behind closed doors. Well, semi-closed for that matter. Plenty of cars were previously unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this past month. Including the much anticipated Porsche 911 GT3, Rolls Royce Wraith and Bentley Flying Spur.
Keeping with the trend of leaking previews across the Internet, many of the world’s media in attendance knew what to expect when walking through the door. Luckily there were a few surprises and some more information we were able to coax out of a few manufactures.
First up is Land Rover, revealing the all-new Range Rover Sport by literally closing down one of the busiest roads in New York City, giving Daniel Craig the opportunity to drive the car into a private party debut. Never mind it took $1M to contract the infamous James Bond actor for his short wave on the stage. The fans didn’t care; it was James Freaking Bond right before their very eyes. Not to mention Land Rover’s fastest, most agile and response Range Rover in the companies history. Fitting combo if you ask us, never mind that we here at EC are all fans of the Bond series. Inside, the Sport you’ll find room for 7 thanks to a pair of “secret seats” hidden under the rear cargo floor.
We sat with Land Rover brand manager, John Edwards, to discuss what Land Rover has planned for the future. John told us that while the Range Rover Sport is center stage today, in development is the successor to the long cherished Defender is not too far off in the distance.
Jaguar also took the opportunity to expand their R lineup shedding the covers of their new XJR and ultra-exclusive XKR-S GT. The new XJR pushes the boundaries of conventional luxury sedans to new levels. Lighter, larger wheels and tires, better brakes (pulled from the F-Type V8 S) a boost in horsepower, exclusive interior trim combinations and finally a stunning, performance oriented exterior aerodynamic package. Making this the ultimate sedan in the Jaguar lineup.
The XKR-S GT stole center stage, as the rare skunk works car shed its covers to reveal a motorsports inspired aerodynamic package, which was gloriously constructed from carbon fiber. The hood is an all aluminum piece complete with louvers, something we haven’t seen on a production performance car in recent memory. Inside you’ll find the track tested eight-speed automatic transmission with aluminum paddle shifter and extreme bucket seats clad in leather and Alcantara. Considering only 30 examples of the leaping cat will be produced for North America, we can only hope to catch a glimpse of the car tearing up our local canyon roads.
Yes the XKR-S GT is motorsports inspired but after a quick chat with Jaguar Brand Manager, Adrian Hallmark, the company does not have any immediate plans to enter the racing arena. While its disappointing to hear we would suggest taking notes as to what Jag has in its line up already. Not to mention rumors of a returning manual six-speed transmission in the future F-Type Coupe.
Mercedes-Benz had the world’s attention as they finally let loose their newest high-performance entry-level car, the CLA45 AMG. The best part, or worst depending on your perspective, is the CLA hasn’t even hit showrooms. Making this Mercedes one of the most anticipated models in recent history. Not to mention the most powerful turbo charged four-cylinder all-wheel drive production sedan on the market. Utilizing a twin-scroll turbocharger the baby Benz, churns out 355hp, 320 lb-ft and rockets from 0-60 in 4.5s. Inside you will find an interior clad in performance. Suede, leather, carbon fiber, aluminum and brilliant piano black accents put the driver in the right frame of mind when taking the wheel. The CLA45 AMG was certainly a crowd favorite and earned our vote for one of the best cars unveiled in New York.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric-drive is coming to the US and boasts a 100kWh battery system with a 115-mile range on a single two-hour charge (when hooked up to a 240V charging port). Hidden under the floorboards (which are now flush and do not require the “step-up” design from the outgoing model. As it turns out Tesla was the key partner in designing the powertrain and battery storage / delivery system. The new B Class is expected to hit dealer showrooms in early 2014. No word on pricing just yet so stay tuned.
BMW is expanding their 3-Series line-up with the introduction of their 328d and 3 Series Gran Tourismo. While diesels are becoming more popular in the United States we can see why a hyper-efficient turbo-diesel four-cylinder makes sense in the crowd pleasing 3 Series. The engine produces 180hp and 280 lb-ft and is translated to the ground via an eight-speed automatic transmission. With an EPA estimated 32mpg city and 42mpg highway. Expected to follow closely behind is a wagon and xDrive version of the 328d sometime in 2014. The 328d sedan will go on sale this fall.
On the other side of the coin is where we have some concern. We were never fans of the overall look, or reasoning behind the 5 Series GT. So the introduction of a “smaller” version has us tilting our heads like a curious dog. The 3 Series GT showcases design cues from its future big brother the 4 Series including wider kidney grills, sweeping lights and athletic design treatment we’ve come to expect from the Bavarian manufacturer. Coming in eight-inches longer than the wagon 3 Series, the GT offers 18.3 cubic feet of cargo space along with a 40/20/40 split folding rear seat configuration. The room is welcome but if you’re not into the soccer mom looks of a station wagon this might be the car for you.
VW also took the time to introduce the newest generation of their beloved Golf. While the car was honored as the 2013 World Car of the Year, you won’t see any running on U.S. roads until late 2014 as 2015 models. Making everybody in attendance tilt their heads like Scooby-doo as to why it was being debuted so early to US consumers. Even though the car made its official world-debut at the 2012 Paris Auto Show, American’s will have to wait patiently for the latest 220hp GTI. The car’s striking good looks, subtle and strong design features and overall increase in size and comfort will allow VW to hang onto the title of “Benchmark Hot Hatch”.