New York International Auto Show was akin to a fashion show, with a bevy of
European designers offering glimpses of curves and lines that will be the talk
of the town this fall.
by imports dominated this festival of all things automotive as domestic makers
showed their new models in Detroit in January. Nevertheless, Chevrolet made
news with the announcement that its popular Malibu sedan will be sold in more
than 100 countries, making it a true world car. The Malibu sports a
four-cylinder engine, and with fuel prices soaring, cars with smaller,
gas-sipping power plants will likely be in greater demand. The new Honda Civic
and Hyundai Accent both post at least 40-mpg numbers in highway driving. In the
luxury-car segment, Mercedes-Benz’s smaller A-class Concept indicates that
makers of finer vehicles will be looking for similar performance figures in the
near future, with its power supplanted by nifty design and electronic
capabilities that make the car a rolling hot spot.
electric and diesel models also may help offset the effect of rising fuel
prices, especially in larger vehicles. Porsche, for example, is adding a hybrid
version of its Panamera S sedan to join its existing Cayenne. And BMW continues
its slow but inexorable march toward an electric vehicle fleet with the debut
of its ActiveE this fall.
None of this
means cars with big, powerful engines are disappearing, even if they are more
fuel-efficient. Jaguar’s new XKR-S, for instance, uses a V-8 with 550 hp to go
from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. But unlike the big steel behemoths of years
past, 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 car
like a rocket.
Nor is the fun
gone. The Volkswagen Beetle is being reborn in a more muscular, sportier
21st-century incarnation available in gas and diesel versions. And Fiat is
bringing retro Italian whimsy back with a roll-down, cloth-top convertible
version of the Fiat 500 that reimagines the iconic Cinquecento of the late
1950s, albeit with modern conveniences like Bluetooth connectivity and GPS
Driving may be
more of a fuel-conscious endeavor, but that doesn’t mean cars have to become
soulless, Soviet-style conveyors of a drab humanity. Here’s a closer look at
some of the new cars coming down the road.