The New York International Auto Show opens to the public this weekend, and on entering the Javits Center, participants are bombarded with new cars, SUVs, trucks, and even a handful of supercars most likely out of their price range. Here is our guide for those who want to cut the noise and see what really matters.
Most Futurama-Ready Car: Genesis Essentia
Those who grew up with the dog-ears of Popular Science presumably assumed that we would drive around in self-driving cars, while looking at the passing landscape through glass or plastic bubble roofs. The self-propelled car part is playing out right now, but the glass or plastic bubble part seems to have remained in the wastebasket. Well, here is the Genesis Essentia, a fully electric performance concept with a transparent bonnet and a completely retro-futuristic bubble roof. Hyundai's own luxury brand certainly makes a statement with its first EV.
Best Curveball: Waymo and Jaguar
The news that Waymo would deliver 20,000 electric Jaguar I-Pace SUVs to its fleet of self-driving taxis, threw away a lot of people for one Loop. I think The Enterprise Editor of Verge Michael Zelenko, summed it up best when he asked me, "Jaguar? … it's weird!" On the surface, yes, somehow funny. Of all the cars Waymo could have chosen to operate alongside its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans, why the I-Pace? Since their debut in Geneva, auto-printers have sprained their wrists to find new and different ways to compare I-Pace with Tesla's Model X (see below). But before it could hit the dealer lots, Jaguar has already entered into a multi-million dollar deal with Waymo. The Alphabet company is clearly drawn to automakers without their own autonomous vehicle program, as we previously saw with Fiat Chrysler. We'll know more in 2020, when these cars are expected to start up to a million rides a day for Waymo to start soon-starting ride-hailing service.
The weirdest tech feature: Subaru Forester DriverFocus
I think it's safe to say the Subaru Forester is probably the last car I expected that it would have something sleeker detection technology. The Japanese automaker is known for its reliability and resale value, but hardly its hug from Buzzworthy Tech. Which made it surprising to hear that the new Forester would have a brand new feature for the DriverFocus brand. Subaru describes it as a "driver monitoring system that uses facial recognition software to identify signs of driver fatigue or driver distraction." The feature that the automaker holds for the first in the segment can recognize and remember up to five drivers -set preferences for seating position, climate and infotainment. No details about which company supplies Subaru with biometric technology, but expect to see more automakers installing these types of devices in their effort to reduce traffic accidents.
Most likely to be included in a selfie with actors to play millennials: VW Tanoak Truck Concept
It's the unfortunate basic set of car shows that car companies feel forced to produce live-action versions of their commercials when they unveil their new models. Take Volkswagen: The German car giant had four actors who ride their new Atlas Tanoak Truck on the stage as outdoor millennials and then take a selfie in front of it. One wore a fishing vest covered with hook and bait. Another had a bicycle helmet but no bicycle. I can not say for sure, but maybe it was the same actors who presented the Toyota FT-4X at the auto show last year. VW did not say if he really wanted to produce the Tanoak, so this piece of kabuki theater could come closest to the Millennials, which is real or fake.
Generous with its semi-autonomous technology: Nissan
The latest redesign of the Nissan Altima includes an unexpected and welcome pleasure: the automaker's semi-autonomous driver assistance system, ProPilot Assist. Nissan has not yet announced pricing for Altima, but it's likely to start in the low $ 20,000 range. Compare that to the Cadillac CT6 with Super Cruise (about $ 71,300) or a Tesla Model S with autopilot (about $ 77,500), and you can see why Nissan deserves your attention. It is a separate question as to whether the ProPilot Assist can compete with Super Cruise or Autopilot. Both raise the bar for driver assistance systems quite high. But Nissan's commitment to make its technology available at a fraction of the price of these luxury automakers is a really big deal.
Avaricious with semi-autonomous technology: Cadillac
The new XT4 SUV from Cadillac has a lot to offer, but its biggest drawback comes from something that's missing: the really outstanding super Cruise driver assistance system of the automaker. Cadillac does not even offer the system on the CT6 V-Sport, which will also be shown at this year's show. While V-Sport has more power and a more aggressive personality, it's probably the most expensive version of the CT6. Should not that mean it gets all the options of this car? A spokesman said it was because of "packaging" issues that Super Cruise was not available in either model, but that's an unsatisfactory answer. For a company that wants to be at the forefront of autonomy, GM's technology is certainly Scrooge-ish.
Most likely to keep Elon Musk awake at night: Jaguar I-Pace
Let's face it, there's no sign that any other car company is watching an EV Build has the same kind of cultural cache as Tesla. But it's the year Tesla faces real, comparable space competition, and it all starts with I-Pace. It's fast, it has reach, and it's cheaper than anything Tesla sells. In Geneva, in the middle of a show full of wild concepts, the I-Pace felt almost intangible. But the North American debut of the electric SUV made the threats all the truer, especially as Jaguar also announced a collaboration with Waymo to compete with companies like Tesla with full autonomy.