Whether it's a midsize sedan with greater fuel efficiency or something more unique like a hybrid Porsche, the New York International Auto Show, running from April 2 to 11, features a little something for automobile enthusiasts, techies and those interested in green IT. Companies such as Ford and Nissan are promoting upcoming hybrid and electric vehicles, while top-shelf luxury brands like Aston Martin make their pitch on the basis of hand-built engines and quality construction.
If one word could define this year's New York International Auto Show, officially
running from April 2 to 11, it's "green." Every vehicle rolled under
carefully arranged stage lights in Manhattan's
in preparation for the show seemed to be either hybrid, fuel-efficient or
paired with marketing copy written to make it look fuel efficient. Cockpit
technology also seemed more prevalent than ever, with a number of upcoming
models offering dashboard screens for navigation and entertainment, paired with
features such as Bluetooth systems.
That green IT outlook could be seen in cars targeted at a variety of
markets, from budget to luxury. There was the 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid,
Porsche's first hybrid vehicle, which marries a 3.0-liter V6 supercharged
engine with a 288-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery. Also seen on the show
floor was the Lexus CT 200h, which includes a 1.8-liter engine paired with a nickel-metal-hydride
battery. The CT 200h is due to arrive at an as-yet-unannounced point in 2011.
More middle-of-the-road, in the environmentally conscious category, were
vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, touted as a zero-emissions car fully powered by
electricity. In order to power the Leaf, which starts at a base price of
$32,780, drivers will need to purchase a 240V/20-40amp dedicated circuit
hard-wired to a charging dock, which will retail for $2,200 including
installation. Taking the planet-friendly ethos one step further, Nissan said
the Leaf uses recycled materials for many of its interior fabrics.
Other all-electric cars on display included Mitsubishi's prototype i-Miev,
which the company said can travel for 80 miles on a single charge "under
ideal driving conditions." The show model on display was small and
gleaming white, making it resemble an oversized iPod on wheels; and like an
iPod, the i-Miev can apparently accept a "quick charge" to 80 percent
capacity within 25 minutes. Fully charging its lithium ion battery apparently
takes 12 hours.
During a March 31 presentation, Ford CEO
Alan Mulally said his company was attempting to "electrify our
platforms" with five new hybrid vehicles due on the market by 2012. That
was before he unveiled the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which uses the
Microsoft-designed SmartGauge with EcoGuide to give drivers long-term data on
their fuel efficiency.
Ford's partnership with Microsoft goes deeper. The companies announced an
initiative for 2011 that will see Microsoft's Hohm,
a cloud-based energy management tool, used by drivers of Ford electric cars
to find out how to most efficiently charge their vehicles.
During Mulally's March 31 presentation, Microsoft CEO
Steve Ballmer appeared via video screen to tout the benefits of Hohm, which he said
allows consumers to save "an average of 10 percent" on their utility
bills. Ballmer added that utility companies could use data from Hohm to better
manage their power grids in response to increased demand from electric cars.
But not all car models at the show embraced electricity. The 2011 Ford
Fiesta, with a 1.6-liter DOHC I-4 engine, and the 2010 Chevy Cruze are both
said to achieve 40 miles per gallon on the highway, thanks to purely fuel-efficient
engines. By the end of 2011, Chevy will offer two models of Cruze, the Eco and
Other cars translated small size into greater efficiency, including the
Smart Fortwo Passion Cabriolet, which earns 41 miles per gallon on the highway
with its 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder engine and exceedingly small frame. In that same
mode, the new Mini Countryman-although the largest Mini model-nonetheless turns
its 161-inch length and 102-inch wheelbase to advantage in both fuel economy
and maneuverability. In a tech-savvy nod, the Mini Countryman's interior
features a Central Rail with electrical and USB
connections, for interfacing and charging devices like smartphones.
But cars with an eco-friendly bent may be, for some show attendees, the gas-powered
equivalent of eating spinach: something that seems like a good idea, but not
necessarily as fun as other options out there. To that end, of course, the show
provided a fair amount of eye candy in the form of high-end vehicles such as
the Aston Martin 2010 DBS Carob Black Special Edition, powered by a hand-built
For those gearheads who prefer Steve McQueen to James Bond, the Ford area
included the 3.7-liter Mustang V6 engine for the 2011 Ford Mustang, a vehicle
that the company is pitching as the best of both worlds: fun to drive, and at
least relatively fuel-efficient at 30 miles per gallon on the highway.