I’m currently riding an Amtrak train home after an awesome day at the NY Auto Show. A few thoughts after spending about four hours checking out an insane number of automobiles:
I’m glad Acura is finally making it possible to equip a four-cylinder TLX with ventilated seats, and I still think the TLX is a lovely ride (I’ve driven nearly every configuration of it as a loaner car over my past few years as an Acura owner), but it has never had the “special sauce” (or excellent manual transmission) that my 2012 TL (its predecessor) has in spades.
The new Acura RDX is hot shit and I can see it OWNING the small luxury crossover segment when it hits the market mid-year. Too bad it was locked and I couldn’t sit in it!
The Acura MDX has AMAZING front seats, but its second row isn’t as spacious or comfortable as it should be. It drives far better than anything its size has a right to drive, especially in sport-hybrid form (I had one as a loaner car a few weeks ago and was blown away by the driving experience, not to mention the exceptional 25+ MPG I averaged after a day of spirited driving).
Audi had a MANUAL TRANSMISSION A4 on the show floor. It was awesome! It had the B&O premium stereo too (700-plus watts and I think 16 speakers) but I couldn’t plug my phone in and sample it because it was disconnected. I would ABSOLUTELY consider buying a fully-loaded version of this car if I could afford it. And PROPS to them for offering the stick shift even in the fully loaded Prestige version.
BMW had about five M products on display, and NONE had a manual transmission. That’s downright blasphemous.
That said, another car I would absolutely consider buying if I could afford it is the BMW M2 convertible.
The wood trim on the dashboard of the BMW M550i is beyond stunning. So are its front seats and their thigh-supporting cushion extensions (best I’ve experienced).
Buick’s Regal TourX is a legitimate near-luxury station wagon, and has some serious cargo space. The interior also looks pretty decent. If it was offered with a manual transmission, I’d give it a look. Props to Buick for offering an actual wagon and not just some high-riding crossover junk.
Cadillac’s interiors are nothing special, but I’d love to drive an ATS-V someday. Everything I’ve heard seems to indicate that their “driving-fun” factor is as good as, if not better than, BMWs from 20 years ago (which in some people’s eyes qualify as the gold standard).
Why the Chevy Cruze (a subcompact sedan) has a foot-pedal parking brake (when equipped with the automatic transmission) is beyond me! And to boot, it’s obnoxiously stiff and hard to operate. No car smaller than a Honda Accord should have its emergency brake anywhere other than between the front seats.
I’d love to drive a Camaro ZL1 or any version of the current Corvette. They’re just awesome.
I saw a new Chevy Silverado HD crew cab with a manually-shifted 4WD system, using the same insanely cheap selector lever they’ve been using for nearly two decades. Unbelievable.
Chrysler’s Pacifica is a way better van than the Town and Country it replaced. However, I’d take my parents’ 2014 Honda Odyssey over it any day. I just can’t get justify losing so much second-row seating comfort in the name of being able to fold said seats into the floor.
Dodge had four Challengers on the show floor, and NOT ONE had a manual transmission. It’s a muscle-car. Unacceptable.
The Ford F150 has one of the only front-row bench seats in which I’d consider occupying the middle position. They actually did their homework, gave it a decent backrest replete with adjustable headrest and three-point belt, and didn’t treat it like an afterthought. Actually, as far as full-size pickups go, as nice as the new Ram 1500 is, the F150 is the one to beat IMHO.
The Ford Transit van is surprisingly comfortable, and I love that it has a proper handbrake, console shifter, and wiper controls on the RIGHT hand side of the wheel (where God intended all of those controls to be). Actually, kudos to Ford for (with the exception of the Econoline van) equipping every one of its vans (Aerostar, Windstar, Freestar, and now Transit) with a proper handbrake.
Honda’s got their shit together. Not only is the Ridgeline one of the most useful vehicles out there (the bed has a freakin’ TRUNK, replete with drain plugs so it can function as a beer cooler), but it has an IN-BED STEREO, kickass front seats, and one of the best, most comfortable back seats I’ve experienced in ANY vehicle!
Also, the 2018 Accord is fantastic. A true home run. And they allow adaptive cruise control and their other safety aids to be ordered in combination with a manual transmission, AND with the upgraded engine. I NEED to test drive one of these. It nearly puts Acura to shame, and according to Motor Trend, beat a comparably priced Audi A4 at its own game.
The Civic Si and Civic Type-R have INCREDIBLE front seats and amazingly precise manual transmissions. I need to drive both. Asap.
The 2018 Odyssey is the van to beat.
Hyundai’s Genesis G70 is on my short list for my next car. Kickass interior, amazing stereo, awesome front seats, shitload of features, rear drive, and an available stick shift. I’d have to drive it, of course, but I was EXTREMELY impressed after sitting in one.
Nothing in the rest of Hyundai’s line-up truly lit my fire.
I’d love to own a Jaguar F-Type convertible sometime.
I did the Jeep off-road experience. Riding in a 2018 Wrangler as it climbed and descended a 35 degree slope, negotiated a nearly 45 degree sideways tilt, and otherwise wrangled its way around (er, over) other obstacles scared the living shit out of me. And it was so damn awesome. I’d do it again. And I was extremely impressed with the 2018 Wrangler in general. Well-designed, comfortable, loaded, and still unabashedly true to its roots and to itself.
The new Lexus LS’s interior, and particularly the back seat, blew me away. SO opulent. And the RC and LC sport coupes are downright sexy, inside and out.
I will never own a Lincoln Navigator, but the newest version’s interior and sheer presence made me not hate it as much as I previously did. It deserves to have its target clientele shell out absurd sums, because it is absurdly opulent and excessive. And no longer JUST a re-badged Ford Expedition.
There’s nothing quite as shit-eating-grin-inducing as sitting in a Mazda Miata with the top down, rowing through the gears, and imagining driving it on a summer day.
The Mazda3 hatch is quite awesome. It can be equipped like a luxury car (adaptive cruise, swiveling headlights, heated steering wheel, etc.) and drives very sportily (based on my experience driving my cousin’s 2014 version of that car).
Mazda’s interiors have improved. They still don’t nail small details (turn-signal stalk action, for example) as well as Honda/Acura, but other things (dashboard stitching, wood trim) have come a long way and are quite nice.
I would’ve liked to spend more time in the Mercedes-Benz area, and sit in a few more cars, but it was mobbed. Everything there looked suitably opulent, though the rear-facing seat in the E400 wagon was laughably small and bolt-upright.
I would LOVE to drive a Porsche 911, especially after experiencing similar straight-line acceleration in Disney’s Rock n Roller Coaster two days ago. But alas, they were locked.
The Subaru Ascent was quite comfortable and nicely designed, and I fit (semi-decently) in the third row. That’s more than I can say about most midsize crossovers. The rest of the lineup on display felt, well, like Subarus. In other words, incredibly functional, slightly quirky, very space-efficient, generally in search of more opulence, and unabashedly unique.
Nothing at the Toyota booth genuinely moved me.
Volkswagen was a mixed bag. I miss the early 2000s, when they genuinely felt like baby Audis (my 2002 Passat wagon feels and looks like a baby Audi A6 from the inside). The newly-redesigned Jetta’s interior was an enormous disappointment, even in the top-of-the-line version I sampled. It had a decent feature set with some luxury features, and the virtual cockpit gauge set was undeniably cool, but saying the materials looked like garbage would be unnecessarily kind. Especially in the back seat, it looked like complete shit. I can’t remember a bigger interior disappointment in recent memory.
That said, the Golf R was cool, and is something I’d consider buying. Ditto for the GTI. Ditto for the Alltrack wagon. These actually feel somewhat special from the interior, unlike the new Jetta.
All said and done, here are the NEW cars I’d consider buying:
Acura MDX Sport-Hybrid Advance.
Audi A4 Prestige 6MT.
BMW M2 convertible (or M240i) 6MT.
Chevy Corvette convertible 7MT.
Dodge Challenger SRT8 or Hellcat 6MT.
Genesis G70 6MT.
Honda Accord Sport 2.0T 6MT.
Honda Ridgeline Black Edition with accessory tent over the bed (it’s super cool).
Honda Civic Si or Type-R.
Honda Odyssey Elite.
Jaguar F-Type convertible 6MT.
Mazda Miata Grand Touring 6MT.
Mazda3 Grand Touring Hatch 6MT.
Porsche Boxster 6MT.
Porsche 911 Cabriolet 7MT.
Volkswagen Golf R or GTI 6MT.
Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SE 6MT.
However, there are a handful of used cars from the past two decades that I’d consider buying just as strongly as anything on the aformentioned list. But that's a post for another day.