This spring’sNew York International Auto Show was akin to a fashion show, with a bevy ofEuropean designers offering glimpses of curves and lines that will be the talkof the town this fall.
New introductionsby imports dominated this festival of all things automotive as domestic makersshowed their new models in Detroit in January. Nevertheless, Chevrolet madenews with the announcement that its popular Malibu sedan will be sold in morethan 100 countries, making it a true world car. The Malibu sports afour-cylinder engine, and with fuel prices soaring, cars with smaller,gas-sipping power plants will likely be in greater demand. The new Honda Civicand Hyundai Accent both post at least 40-mpg numbers in highway driving. In theluxury-car segment, Mercedes-Benz’s smaller A-class Concept indicates thatmakers of finer vehicles will be looking for similar performance figures in thenear future, with its power supplanted by nifty design and electroniccapabilities that make the car a rolling hot spot.
Hybrid,electric and diesel models also may help offset the effect of rising fuelprices, especially in larger vehicles. Porsche, for example, is adding a hybridversion of its Panamera S sedan to join its existing Cayenne. And BMW continuesits slow but inexorable march toward an electric vehicle fleet with the debutof its ActiveE this fall.
None of thismeans cars with big, powerful engines are disappearing, even if they are morefuel-efficient. Jaguar’s new XKR-S, for instance, uses a V-8 with 550 hp to gofrom 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. But unlike the big steel behemoths of yearspast, the XKR-S is a speeding blur of lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber.Likewise, Aston Martin’s new Virage uses a V-12 engine to power the sports carlike a rocket.
Nor is the fungone. The Volkswagen Beetle is being reborn in a more muscular, sportier21st-century incarnation available in gas and diesel versions. And Fiat isbringing retro Italian whimsy back with a roll-down, cloth-top convertibleversion of the Fiat 500 that reimagines the iconic Cinquecento of the late1950s, albeit with modern conveniences like Bluetooth connectivity and GPSnavigation.
Driving may bemore of a fuel-conscious endeavor, but that doesn’t mean cars have to becomesoulless, Soviet-style conveyors of a drab humanity. Here’s a closer look atsome of the new cars coming down the road.