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Posted at 12:03 PM ET, 04/06/2012

2012 New York Auto Show: Winners and Losers


(Cars.com)

Many of the press conferences at this year's New York auto show were packed with multiple debuts, as if the automakers knew this was their last opportunity to make a splash before the summer lull between international showcases. The jam-packed schedule brought a number of significant debuts, and Cars.com's editors Mike Hanley, Kelsey Mays, Joe Wiesenfelder and Joe Bruzek trekked the show floor in search of the show's winners and losers.

2013 Nissan Altima

Mike Hanley: Winner
The redesigned Altima's all-new sheet metal keeps the sedan's appearance current in the quickly evolving family-car segment, but its efficient four-cylinder engine — with a projected gas mileage of 38 mpg on the highway — will strongly resonate with buyers focused on gas prices. The competition isn't letting up, but the new Altima looks like it has what it takes to maintain its impressive sales momentum.

Kelsey Mays: Winner
Nissan is the latest to expose the absurdity of automakers building an optimized fuel-economy version that's hard to find on dealer lots but marketed ad nauseam. The Altima should get a game-changing 27/38 mpg city/highway with no optional equipment, leading some other four-cylinder family cars by double-digit percentages. Interesting styling and comfortable seats help its case, too. Cabin materials don't leapfrog the class, but they're competitive with the Camry, Accord and Fusion.

Joe Wiesenfelder: Winner
It wasn't long ago that the Altima was one of few relatively stylish sedans in this class. Now there are several, and the 2013 doesn't leapfrog the competition in this regard, either. But I agree with the guys overall, and I like the interior materials. They didn't screw it up.

Joe Bruzek: Winner
The midsize Altima's $21,500 starting price includes an automatic transmission, 38 mpg highway rating and more standard features than last year, which may be enough to seal the deal for value shoppers and raise eyebrows at the auto show.

2013 SRT Viper

MH: Loser
It pains me to call a high-performance beast like the 2013 SRT Viper a loser, but I wasn't impressed with the design direction SRT took with it. The headlights and crosshair lower grille are new and unique, providing a glimpse of what the car could have been, but from the front fenders back, the 2013 Viper is a dead-ringer for the first-generation car. I'll take the 640-horsepower V-10, SRT team, but this snake needs to shed this skin.

KM: Winner
I'm on the other side of this. Chrysler needed to revive its supercar like Universal Pictures needed another "American Pie" sequel. But Chrysler pulled it off — and yes, Stifler's mom would drive this. The styling looks like the Vipers of yore, but the interior balances the old Viper's ground-hugging austerity with some luxury touches. In an age of rising gas prices and ever-high mileage regulations, I love the thought of an 8.4-liter V-10. Kudos to Chrysler, too, for shunning an automatic transmission.

JW: Loser
I feel Mike's pain. In a sense, the Viper is a celebration of Chrysler's resurrection, and I'm all for it, as I am for V-10s and stick shifts. But that hood ... I'd say it looks like the love child of a modded Pontiac Grand Am and a Lotus Elise, but that offspring might actually be easier on the eyes. Calling it the SRT Viper is another loser move. What should we take the Dodge name away from next? The Challenger? Sure, that's a good idea.

JB: Winner
I must have made three trips to the Dodge/SRT booth on day one of the two media days to check out the Viper GTS and snap pics with my phone. The throwback shape of the Viper profile is spot on, but there's freshness with the front and rear that isn't just recycled ideas from the good old days. The 2013 Viper is undeniably a supercar from any angle, up close or from across the show floor.

2014 Chevrolet Impala

MH: Winner
Some might lament the Impala's continued reliance on a front-wheel-drive platform, but the redesigned 2014 model is stylish and promises to be fuel efficient, too. I like the Camaro design cues that are part of the front end, and the rear is much sleeker than the related Cadillac XTS. The backseat isn't as spacious as the car's exterior bulk suggests, but this car will go a long way toward ridding the Impala of its rental-fleet image.

JW: Winner
I'd rather see a larger backseat and smaller trunk, such as in the Volkswagen Passat, but I think the Impala will do fine. GM has proved it can build a high-quality interior, but the first version of the new Malibu (the Eco) is iffy. This one's better, and it's free of those maddening touch-sensitive controls.

JB: Winner
To the Impala faithful and rear-wheel-drive hopeful: Accept the Impala will be front-wheel drive and be happy with what is the most competitive and unique-looking Impala since the last 1996 Impala SS rolled off the assembly line. I'm not saying it's as cool as the '96 SS, just that everything in between isn't even close.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, Santa Fe Sport

MH: Winner
The five-seat Santa Fe Sport and larger three-row Santa Fe (don't get me started on that naming scheme) both look like winners for Hyundai, a brand that hasn't had many losers lately. The creased design has an athletic shape and integrates Hyundai's hexagon-shaped grille seamlessly while the interior is rich-looking for the segment.

JW: Winner
The Santa Fe is largely responsible for Hyundai's resurrection in the U.S. market, yet it's been the forgotten model as other Hyundai intros and redesigns have racked up awards and accolades. The company hasn't missed a beat with this one, either. All the extras are there, including a backseat that slides forward and back. If the ride is more comfortable than the Tucson's, it will win big indeed.

JB: Winner
Hyundai has been winning big, but it hasn't given much love to car shoppers with two or more kids. Introductions have almost entirely been sedans, coupes and hatchbacks. The Santa Fe addresses that hole in the lineup perfectly with style, roominess, five- or seven-passenger configuration and promises of high fuel economy.

2013 Lincoln MKZ

MH: Loser
The MKZ has its share of cool features, like a huge retractable glass roof and a push-button gear selector, but I'm not convinced the new face of Lincoln will bring luxury buyers back to the brand — especially with a great-looking Fusion sedan in neighboring Ford showrooms. Lincoln is trying valiantly to make the split-wing grille work, but it might be time for the brand to go in a different direction.

KM: Winner
I sat in the MKZ and the new Lexus ES back-to-back. With heavy caveats — cabin materials often change between the auto show and the dealership — the MKZ's cabin impressed. The backseat could be larger, and MyLincoln Touch concerns me as much as ever, but cabin materials otherwise show outstanding consistency. Premium finishes define the front-wheel-drive entry-luxury segment, but you don't have to look far in the Lexus to see some cut-rate plastics. The sharp-looking MKZ sweats the details.

JW: Winner
I have a hard time calling any car with this extensive an application of MyLincoln Touch a winner, but I found the front end more artfully finished than the overly blinged concept car at the Detroit show. I don't know if I like the pinched fastback design, but it's distinctive, and I respect it. Maybe I'm just in a generous mood.

JB: Winner
I applaud Lincoln for the MKZ's styling. Well, on three-quarters of the car anyway. They could have pulled a Lexus and given us exactly what we expected in a redesign, but the MKZ has surprises around every corner with cool features and slick styling like the fastback rear. I'm not sold on the front's split-wing grille that still screams old Lincoln.

2013 Toyota Avalon

MH: Loser
If the idea was to put a huge lower grille on the Avalon to make it more aggressive-looking, the effort failed. Oh, the grille is huge all right, but it just doesn't work with the rest of the car's design. Compared to the polished looks of the Impala, the Avalon seems almost unfinished by comparison.

KM: Loser
Is there still a reason to be in this segment? Shoppers are drifting away from large sedans. Sales for full-size cars slid 5.9% in 2011 as shoppers chose nearly four family sedans — a segment that improved 7.9% — for every large car. The Avalon delivers on the big-car goods with a comfortable backseat and decent cabin materials, but similar money will likely buy a midsize luxury car.

JW: Loser
Agreed. Frankly, this car is probably a few pen strokes away from being a cohesive, classy unit. Something just isn't right about that nose.

JB: Loser
Does the Avalon run on plankton? Because that's what the massive whale's mouth of a grille looks like it's trying to inhale. I'm on board with the rest of the car's styling like the rear and inside. I just can't get past that cartoonish grille.

2013 Lexus ES

MH: Winner
The ES wears Lexus' new hourglass grille well, and the rear takes inspiration from the flagship LS. What really impressed, though, was the all-new interior and its premium appearance. The addition of a hybrid version — the ES 300h — comes at just the right time.

KM: Loser
The ES looks sharp, but the proof is on Lexus to clean up the cheaper plastics below arm level, particularly along the center console, between now and when the ES hits dealerships. If entry-level luxury cars from Lincoln to Infiniti can dress their interiors with consistent quality, Lexus needs to step up its game.

JW: Winner
As I said in the Up Close, both versions are classy, tidy designs in ways Lexus vehicles haven't historically been. I didn't object to the interior quality, but I'm only a regional-class fussbudget. Mays is world-class.

JB: Loser
I couldn't get past how similar the ES' inside and outside looks compared to the GS. I guess that's good for ES buyers since the ES will likely be considerably less expensive than the GS, but if I were a GS owner, I'd be miffed since someone gets all the same style points for less money.

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek

MH: Winner
A Subaru Impreza on its tiptoes, the XV Crosstrek retains the Impreza hatchback's versatility and styling. We've seen how successful Subaru has been with its off-road-themed Outback, and the brand is following the same playbook with this model. Sales should follow.

KM: Loser
The Impreza is an impressive little car, but I question why another few inches of ground clearance costs 2 to 3 mpg in EPA ratings. No doubt some extra weight plays into the blame (full specs on the car are forthcoming), which will blunt the Impreza's already-modest power. I wanted to like the Crosstrek, but the numbers left me concerned.

JW: Winner
As science officer Mr. Spock, you should know that ground clearance and tire choice are as important as weight. You should also channel your maternal DNA and recognize that this is a cool little car, and that's more than enough for humans.

JB: Winner
The XV Crosstrek looks to be an awesome little off-roader with a cool lifted stance and look-at-me flashy orange paint. I'd throw on some meatier tires to fill the extra wheel gap, but otherwise this thing is ready for some EXTREME camping. No, I don't know what that means.

2013 BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe

MH: Winner
The 6 Series Gran Coupe is ridiculously expensive compared with the similarly sized 5 Series sedan, but gorgeous looks and a reasonable amount of interior space for front and rear occupants make this the new must-have car in the world of coupe-like luxury sedans.

JW: Winner
I'm not sure I would have recognized this as a winner were it not for the Audi A7, a car that's similar on paper and has unexpectedly lit more fires among non-car people than any other model I've seen in years. The Gran Coupe is a deft adaptation of the newly reworked 6 Series. And I'm a sucker for semigloss paint.

JB: Winner
This car oozes cool. The 6 Series Gran Coupe on display in New York featured an Alcantara suede headliner that wrapped around the inside roof and down the pillars, and is complemented by color-matched floor carpeting.

2013 Porsche Boxster

MH: Winner
Look closely, and you'll see a number of styling changes to the 2013 Boxster's exterior, including a rear spoiler that's elegantly integrated with the taillights. The interior is more upscale, too. The current Boxster is a great-handling roadster, and the new one will be measured against it as well as its competitors, but the 2013 model on the show floor looks good — aside from the gold paint.

KM: Winner
Sharp styling, particularly in back, distinguish the new Boxster. The interior has Porsche's latest fittings, and the car stays true to its mid-engine balance. Summer couldn't come sooner.

JW: Winner
I've loved this model since day one, and I'm pleased to see it get a redesign that looks like a redesign — not exactly Porsche's usual M.O. Even better, it's a good-looking redesign, especially around back. That taillight/spoiler ridge could have gone either way, and the designers made it work.

JB: Winner
Mike is right — I had to look closely to appreciate the changes to the Boxster. I'm most taken back by how slick the rear lip spoiler is integrated into the rest of the body design. It's a sleek design that anyone can appreciate and is not Porsche's typical "Well, folks, it's all new underneath but looks the same outside."

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

MH: Loser
The updated GL-Class was nearly lost in the avalanche of new models that debuted at the show, and the effort to find this big SUV seemed wasted as the updates to the exterior and interior are minor.

KM: Winner
I agree with Mike, but Mercedes still deserves credit for packaging excellent second- and third-row room into a car that's far shorter than a Cadillac Escalade or Infiniti QX56. Mileage should improve some 20%, Mercedes says, which could give the diesel-powered GL some decent numbers.

JW: Winner
The GL-Class TKO'd the R-Class right out of the American market, so in that regard alone, it's a winner. The power folding seats are as well executed here as they were in the E-Class wagon that impressed us a couple of years ago. There's a lot to like in the GL if you're not anti-SUV or anti-luxury.

JB: Winner
The GL's power tumbling second row won me over. I played around with the seating configurations for at least 10 minutes in awe of all the mechanical latches, motors and springs engaging and whirring to quickly pull the row forward for third-row access. Plus, the GL now looks more chiseled and has a more stylish interior to replace the previous dull insides.

Acura RLX Concept

MH: Loser
The advanced drivetrain technology and emphasis on interior room are highlights of this concept, which is a nearly finished version of Acura's new flagship sedan, but the design left me underwhelmed. Even though Acura's shield grille has been toned down on other models as well as on the RLX concept, there remains a lot of ill will toward the design. It's time for Acura to develop a new face for the brand.

KM: Loser
Like Mike said, the RLX brings proper flagship levels of technology. But the styling does nothing for me, and Acura's decision to market a lower-mileage, front-drive version could hurt the car's cachet once it goes on sale.

JW: Loser
I didn't get inside the RLX, but I can't imagine it could be compelling enough to make this a winner. This is a dÇjÖ vu: yet another opportunity for Acura to do something that will change its course and fortunes. And another opportunity missed.

JB: Loser
Cool sedan, Acura.

Not.

Sorry, I just watched "Wayne's World," and the RLX looks like it came from that era. I agree with the other guys: Acura's tech and gadgetry is great, but the RLX is completely passable on the auto show floor.

Infiniti LE Concept

MH: Winner
The lack of intakes at the front of this concept makes the car look a little strange, and Infiniti's corporate grille seems out of place between the thin headlights, but it's a distinctive sedan overall with enough futuristic interior controls to go with the electric powertrain.

KM: Winner
An electric luxury car intrigues me, and until Cadillac finally brings out the plug-in ELR, Infiniti could own the space below a handful of electric (or extended-range electric) exotics.

JW: Winner
Sure, bring it on. The more EVs the better if you ask me, and I think the technology is more attractive to luxury-car buyers. However, someone needs to point out that wireless charging will seem less attractive when people find out it's slower or uses more energy than the oh-so-inconvenient conductive method.

JB: Winner
The current electric cars on sale command a lot of money. By packing more features, style and a luxury driving experience into an all-electric small sedan, the LE Concept could appeal to shoppers with the right budget and mind-set but who are put off by the awkwardness of cars like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i.

BMW X1

MH: Winner
BMW's smallest crossover looks a little like a hatchback from some angles, but it features easy entry and exit thanks to that low-slung stance and more passenger room than its small size suggests. If tiny crossovers become a hit in the luxury segment, BMW will have an early lead with the X1.

KM: Loser
A smallish backseat and ho-hum cabin materials mar an otherwise tidy package. Buick and BMW are the first of several to enter the baby-crossover luxury foray. Is it just me, or are there getting to be too many micro-segments?

JW: Winner
I'm with Mike on the interior-space issue — better than expected. I love wagons, and if a wagon has to look like this to attract American buyers, so be it.

JB: Winner
What won me over is the X1's greenhouse-like visibility with tons of glass giving a great view over my shoulder, something many hatchbacks and small SUVs do poorly. Combined with the potent and efficient turbo four from the BMW 328, the entry-level X1 could start a whole new luxury segment in the U.S., and own it. I'll take mine in Le Mans Blue Metallic with the M sport appearance package.

Mazda Takeri Concept

MH: Winner
I've always liked the athletic shape of the Mazda6 sedan, but the market never really warmed to it. Not surprisingly, I also like the look of the Takeri, which builds on the design ideas put forth in the Mazda6. This will be what Mazda's next midsize sedan looks like if Mazda can work through its financial challenges, and I'd be glad to see it hit the road.

KM: Winner
The current Mazda6 never sold that well. If its successor looks like the Takeri, Mazda could make some inroads — and SkyActiv power could pay gratifying EPA dividends.

JW: Winner
I like where Mazda is going with this new design direction. The only thing that gives me pause is that Mazda has always produced bold — sometimes breathtaking — concept cars that seldom do more than "influence" real products. Sometimes those influences are unrecognizable unless someone from Mazda points them out to you.

JB: Winner
I think this is one of the best-looking concepts at the auto show and is definitely one of those cars I recommend people go see for its wow factor. But for all the reasons Wiesenfelder mentioned, I doubt this is what the next Mazda6 will look like. The long hood and short rear trunk don't seem they would work on a mass-produced front-wheel-drive family sedan successor to the Mazda6. Prove me wrong, Mazda.

By Cars.com  |  12:03 PM ET, 04/06/2012

 
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