New York International Auto Show (NYIAS 2019) goes fast, green, lean, and stylish with these four important cars you’ll not want to miss in the coming year.
New York International Auto Show just wrapped up, and we’re exploring the quickly-shifting world of cars. It’s an industry undergoing substantial changes as electric and alternative-fuel vehicles are breaking through to the mainstream and luxury brands are working to preserve their own. We consider four cars that are transforming the landscape of the automotive future, appearing at the New York International Auto Show.
2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC Edition 1886
Here is a strangely consistent observation: through history, cars with unusual or experimental powertrains (early hybrids, electric, fuel-cell, and so on) have tended to have outlandishly futuristic designs- designs that are exceedingly polarizing in the public eye and likely stifled sales. From the adventurously original Honda Insight (the spilt rear window, the wheel covers…) to the bulbous Toyota Mirai (with an interior so frighteningly, uh, rare, that Toyota returned to a conservative black for the 2020 model year) and beyond.
For a while, these cars were expensive R&D projects that never intended for broad sell (hell, the Mirai is still available in only a few states) But now, with the advent of the conservatively-styled but hyper-efficient Teslas and plug-in Land Rovers, automakers are making serious efforts to normalize the electric powertrain- it’s no longer a game, but a financial and ecological necessity.
Some brands are going far in: enter Mercedes-Benz with its new EQ line. Introduced in 2016 at the Paris Motor Show, the first EQ vehicle- the EQC- will hit the roads this later year. Mercedes presented the Edition 1886 at the NYIAS. As a celebration of Mercedes-Benz’s innovation on the combustible engine, they’re now revisiting this legacy. The EQ is a distinct effort to make a luxury brand for the extra-electric vehicle line under Mercedes-Benz. It still serves as an attempt to separate full-electric lines from Mercedes’ legacy models, sending into question how all of this might manifest down the line.
Going back to the point of design, the EQC has a gentle, relaxing design. It is genuinely luxurious, with a horizontal LED line running both the front and back of the four-door SUV. Mercedes-Benz considers this to be “avant-garde”, but in the world of electric vehicles, it’s exceedingly conservative. A monstrous Mercedes-Benz logo centers on the front- there is not Metris-esque burial of its brand. It is smooth, with a high belt-line. The interior is smooth and elegant, using innovative fabrics and textures to differentiate, but not cheapen (BMW has gotten some criticism for the i3 being too recycled and machine-processed. The EQC feels luxurious. Mercedes-Benz is calling it “progressive luxury”. So, how far can it go on a charge?
2020 Hyundai Venue
Debuting at the New York International Auto Show, the Hyundai Venue serves as a validation point that the demand for small SUVs in the US is growing. This segment was pioneered by vehicles like the Chevy Tracker and Honda CR-V, but as these vehicles grew in size, a gap was formed. But with the recent successes of the Chevy Trax and Kia Soul, this market has exploded. Now it’s crowded, with the entertaining Nissan Kicks, serious Ford EcoSport (which we reviewed here), freaky Toyota H-CR and the practical Honda HR-V joining the ranks. At the top end, even Lexus has it’s new UX, Volvo with its XC40, and Audi has had runaway success with the Q3. We’d expect a Volkswagen take sooner than later (the once-cute Tiguan has now replaced the Toureg), but we’re getting the Hyundai Venue first.
It’s affirming and edgy in design – a car that seems more suited to European roads than US. It’s a confident body form and 1.4L 4-cylinder is well suited for its purpose. CAN IT TOW? It’s a new design language and a game of proportion experimentation for some brands but has been an abandoned building block for others. Globally, Hyundai has a specialty in smaller cars. The US is now a territory that those vehicles can realistically compete.
Some of these compact SUVs have not been beautiful- but the Hyundai Venue strikes a tasteful balance of fit and finish. It has a two-tone roof design, a sophisticated day-time running light set, a rear end that is conservatively styled (and mildly reminiscent of the Volvo XC40) is a tidy package. The interior is straight forward and easy to interact with, and seating arrangements can be modified to fit more.
We’re expecting this segment to continue to grow, and will be interesting to see other legacy brands enter this area, where practicality and personality are paramount.
2020 Lincoln Corsair
Competing in a brutally dense segment, the Lincoln Corsair continues Lincoln’s foray into strictly SUV territory. Lincoln is striking an unbelievable balance between design perfection and market placement. After a series of design missteps (the bizarrely-proportioned MKZ and MKX), Lincoln is completely reengaging with two completely new models – the Aviator, which was revealed at the LA Auto Show late last year and now the Corsair, which made its global debut at the New York International Auto Show. It is replacing the MKC for the 2020 model year and joins the gorgeous new Aviator, coming in Summer 2019 and the Nautilus, on sale now, as the final piece in the SUV lineup upgrade. Part of the innovations coming with the Corsair include Rear Integral Bush Suspension for refined and smooth ride, which is part of Lincoln’s new-found obsession with ride comfort. For example, the new Aviator features Air Glide Suspension, which adjusts the ride height automatically based on condition of the road.
The standard features aren’t a joke: Lincoln Drive Mode include performance-oriented Excite, and the weather-demanded Deep Conditions, and the ecologically-considerate Conserve. This also includes Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 as standard- a suite of driver-assist features, including some luxury brand essentials like auto high-beam, reverse camera, AEB (Automatic Emergency Braking) with pedestrian protection, blindspot information systems, as well as lane-keeping systems. You can take it further with Lincoln Co-Pilot 360 Plus which adds adaptive cruise control, evasive steer assist, and reverse brake assist (which aids in avoiding collisions going both forward and backward). 14-speaker Revel premium audio system is available as well as 24-way Perfect Position seats.
Lincoln is even taking some features normally reserved for flagship models and bringing them to a segment that sometimes loses out. This includes things like a class-leading universal Head-Up Display which even functions with polarized glasses, along with technological features like phone-as-a-key, and active park assist plus, which will do all parking with just a touch of a button.
The key takeaway here is that Lincoln is assembling the best of the brand into a compact luxury SUV.
2019 BMW X7
Is it any surprise that this list has included nothing but SUVs? Indeed, it’s undeniable that SUVs are staking a strong claim on the interests of consumers globally with their increased efficiency, undeniable practicality, and general availability- the range of SUVs on the market has never been broader. But as the Great Recession and rising fuel costs seemed to throw the body-on-frame SUV into the category of “risk of extinction” (and some didn’t make it- RIP Hummer), engineering improvements and a fair economy has brought the big truck is back, and the giant luxury SUV market is fire. The Lincoln Navigator got beefed up for the model year, Mercedes-Benz just released its new GLS and refreshed it’s iconic G Wagon, and VW’s Atlas is sure to inform a giant Audi SUV sooner than later. The Infiniti QX80 is an artifact of sculptural excess. But the entrance of the BMW X7 feels particularly ceremonious and validating- like a worthy opponent finally entering the ring. After all, BMW basically invented the luxury SUV with the X5 and it took twelve years to come up with this one; despite a steady ready client.
The X7 is BMW’s flagship SUV, coming in with three full rows of seating, but a guarantee that it performs as a BMW should- tight in corners, quick off the line, and able to go off-road. Generally, a joy to drive. At this scale and shape, there isn’t much BMW can do to design it up. Other than an inflated kidney grille, a key Hoffmeister Kink at the back pillar, and a ride height that calls for a ladder, the giant SUV is fairly pared down- a statement incivility. But on the road, the proportions balance out, and its a sleek monster.
The BMW will be built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, clearing the way for high production numbers bound for BMW-obsessed US shores. Though long and relatively wide, it’s authoritative and graceful in the right of way. With four-zone climate control and a strong list of customization options, the interior is one of BMW’s best. We’re interested in seeing how more brands work to enter this rarified segment now that the BMW has entered the competition. Can BMW rest on the laurels of its X5 and secure a runaway on legacy alone?