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Hot cars at the New York International Auto Show

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM
The ultra-sporty Honda Civic Concept car is presented at the New York International Auto Show, Wednesday, April 1.
The 2016 Chevrolet Spark is presented at the New York International Auto Show, Thursday, April 2.

The New York International Auto Show opened last week with a mix of mainstream sedans and glitzier models from automakers across the globe.

There a handful of new mid-size cars and compact cars, including the Malibu from Chevrolet, the Optima from Kia, Scion's first-ever sedan and a sporty new concept Civic from Honda that may be the highlight of the show for everyday car buyers.

Lovers of luxury and performance won't be disappointed. Among the introductions are an updated Lexus RX SUV, a big Cadillac, the return of the Lincoln Continental, and the 570S, a high-performance sports car from Formula One racing company McLaren priced under US$200,000.

Media days are on Wednesday and Thursday. The public starts Friday and runs through April 12. Here are highlights of some of the models:

CADILLAC CT6: GM's latest entry in the big rear-drive luxury sedan category competes with the BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes S-Class. Caddy's previous full-size model, the DTS, embodied old Detroit luxury - a spongy boat built for straight-line freeway driving. The CT6 has an aluminium-intensive body with 11 different materials for strength, performance and efficiency. GM says the car is lighter than the smaller BMW 5-Series. Consumers can choose from a new 3-litre twin-turbo V6 with 400 horsepower, plus two less-powerful engines from the previous generation. Night vision that helps identify people and large animals with heat signatures on a dashboard display. Pricing and gas mileage weren't announced.

LINCOLN CONTINENTAL: The return of the Continental name after a 13-year hiatus signals Lincoln's renewed confidence in the United States (US) and a fondness in China for big cars with well-known names. The concept car being shown in New York is painted a deep Prussian blue, an homage to Continentals of the 1950s and 1960s. But there are few other references to its history. Lincoln's split-wing grille, a feature that dates to the 1940s, has been replaced by a tight, rectangular mesh grille. The sides are smooth; even the door handles are hidden within a narrow strip of chrome at the beltline.

HONDA CIVIC: For the first time, Honda let its American design team take the lead on the popular compact Civic, and the result is a new low-riding coupe that should appeal to buyers both in the US and elsewhere. The top-to-bottom redesign includes dramatic creases, a short hood and LED tail and headlights. The sedan version will be in showrooms this fall, with a coupe, hatchback and a high-performance R-Type coming later. Honda last rolled out an all-new Civic in 2011, and it was widely panned for its bland styling, cabin noise and pedestrian handling. It was quickly updated in 2012.

SCION iM, iA: Toyota is looking to a new sporty hatchback and a low-cost sedan to revive flagging sales of its youth-oriented Scion brand. The brand was started in 2003 to lure people 18 to 34 to the ageing Toyota family. The hatchback iM, priced under US$20,000, is aimed at those who want a sporty car that can haul things. The iA sedan, to cost around US$16,000, looks more like a coupe but has enough room to tote people. The sedan can get up to 42 miles per gallon on the highway, while the sportier hatchback gets up to 37 mpg. Both cars hit showrooms in September.

CHEVROLET MALIBU: If the sculpted new Malibu with a wide stance lives up to its looks, it could be another formidable entry in the mid-size segment, the most competitive part of the US auto market. A longer wheelbase creates more room inside the redesigned model, including 1.3 inches of additional rear-seat legroom, a big improvement. GM engineers say new mid-size car underpinnings will enable the Malibu to handle better than the more expensive Buick Regal, which recently bested the BMW 3 Series to win top sports sedan honours from Consumer Reports.

KIA OPTIMA: Kia is being cautious with the 2016 Optima mid-size sedan, not wanting to mess with the car's success. The new Optima is longer and wider, giving it more interior space and more cargo room in the trunk. It's also stiffer, for better ride and handling. The big changes are on the dashboard. AndroidTM Auto and Apple CarPlay allow drivers to access core functions from their phones on the car's display screens. There is a new 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 178 horsepower, and Kia's first-ever seven-speed transmission. The car goes on sale at the end of this year. The current Optima starts at US$21,690.

LEXUS RX: Toyota's luxury brand revamps the top-selling luxury SUV in the US for 2016. The RX gets a new aerodynamic look, an updated engine and a more spacious and luxurious interior. The sleeker outside makes the SUV quieter and more sure-footed at highway speeds, according to Lexus. The company says it upgraded the 3.5-Litre V6, pushing horsepower from 270 to 300. A new eight-speed automatic transmission boosts gas mileage. Lexus sold more than 107,000 RXs last year, up 3.4 per cent from a year ago. The new RX goes on sale late this year. Pricing and fuel economy were not announced, but the RX 350 now starts around US$41,000.

JAGUAR XF: The sexy Jaguar XF sedan gets a makeover to look more like a coupe. Additional aluminium lightens the car by up to 265 pounds. The second generation of the car also gets a new supercharged V6 engine with 340 horsepower and 380 horsepower ratings. An updated suspension is designed to give the XF a more comfy ride, yet better handling than the current model. With an eight-speed automatic transmission, it can go from 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. The current model starts around US$50,000. The XF goes on sale in the winter of 2015.

PORSCHE BOXSTER SPYDER: With the roar of 3.8-litre, 375 horsepower flat six engine, Porsche introduced an open-top version of its latest Boxster model. Porsche says the Spyder is the fastest and most powerful Boxster ever. The car, with wide use of aluminium to make it lighter, can go from zero-to-60 in 3.8 seconds. Top speed for the two-seat Spyder is 180 miles per hour. The Boxster Spyder starts at US$82,100. Orders are being taken now in the US. Expect delivery in four to five months.

MCLAREN 570S: British supercar maker McLaren Automotive, best known for Formula One race cars, believes it's ready to tackle the US market with a decked-out luxury sports cars priced under US$200,000. The 570S, a car that McLaren says will merge racing technology with day-to-day driving at a price around US$190,000, goes on sale in November. The mid-engine, rear-drive 570S has a carbon fibre chassis and a 562 horsepower, 3.8-litre turbocharged V8. It can go from zero to 62 mph in 3.2 seconds and has a top speed of 204 mph. Just what you need for the daily commute.