Automakers are showing off a long list of new models at this week's New York International Auto Show. The show is heavy on SUVs and premium models -- but there are some cars sprinkled into the mix, too. Here's a look at three of the show's high points -- and three new entries that seemed to miss the mark.
Hit: Buick Enclave
The 2018 Buick Enclave is all-new -- really all-new, from the ground up. The 7-passenger Buick is one of four new crossover SUVs General Motors (NYSE:GM) will launch this year, and it might be the nicest. Like its all-new Chevy and GMC siblings, the new Enclave is built on an all-new structure that reduces weight while giving it more room inside. Also new with the Enclave: Buick's upscale Avenir sub-brand. GM hopes Avenir will do for Buick what Denali has done for GM.
The verdict: A well-done new entry in a hot segment. GM will sell lots of these.
Hit: Subaru Ascent SUV Concept
Officially, it's just a show vehicle. But unofficially, the Subaru Ascent SUV Concept is a very-close-to-final draft of an all-new big crossover SUV Subaru Corporation (NASDAQOTH:FUJHY) will introduce in the U.S. next year. All-wheel-drive crossover SUVs are Subaru's specialty, and the company sells a lot of them -- but it has never had a 7-passenger model that could really go head-to-head with big sellers like Toyota's (NYSE:TM) Highlander and Ford Motor Company's (NYSE:F) Explorer. The Ascent looks to change that. It's a competitive big crossover that's 100% Subaru, inside and out.
The verdict: Subaru fans who need something bigger than an Outback will love it -- and others will, too. It's just what the brand needs.
Hit: Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
The bonkers 840-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon was certainly the talk of the show. After weeks of hype teasing the features of the street-legal drag racer, Dodge brand chief Tim Kuniskis released the roaring, smoking Demon from a "cage" onstage at an epic event to much applause. Dodge only plans to make 3,300 Demons, and prices (and dealer markups) are likely to be steep. Why does it matter? Because the Demon is exactly the right car to keep Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' (NYSE:FCAU) performance brand on fans' radars while it finishes up the all-new models that will follow in another year or two.
The verdict: A brand-builder that hits exactly the right notes for FCA's punchy Dodge brand.
Miss: Lincoln Navigator
Ford's upscale Lincoln brand has been on a roll, with sales growing nicely in both the U.S. and China. The all-new 2018 Navigator is a high-tech replacement for a model that hasn't had much attention in a decade, built on the structure developed for Ford's well-regarded new F-Series pickups. It has a lot to recommend it, but after seeing it up close, I thought the new Navigator's styling missed the mark. I think Ford aimed for "bling" but ended up at "too busy" instead. It's at odds with the refined image Ford has been crafting so carefully for the brand. I won't be surprised if Ford offers a toned-down version after a year or two.
The verdict: There's a lot to like about the new Navigator on paper, but in person, the big SUV's styling is just too much.
Miss: Honda Clarity Electric
Honda Motor's (NYSE:HMC) new Clarity eco-sedan comes in three flavors: a hydrogen fuel cell model, a plug-in hybrid, and an electric. All share the same quirky exterior styling and (thankfully) sensible Honda interiors. But it's the Clarity Electric that gets our attention, here: It's a battery-electric car with expected range of just 80 miles. That's far less than rivals like GM's Chevrolet Bolt have at the same price point, and it makes us wonder if Honda has already fallen behind in the electric-car race.
The verdict: 80 miles of range won't cut it in 2017, and definitely not at the Clarity Electric's expected $35,000 price point.
Miss: Toyota FT-4X
Toyota's FT-4X is a concept, meaning that officially, it's just for show. Toyota described it as "a modern toolbox for the most intrepid urbanites." Stylistically, the FT-4X is clearly a riff on classic off-road-ready Toyota SUVs like the Land Cruiser -- but scaled down to the size of Toyota's new C-HR, a small crossover. The idea of a stylish, off-road-ready version of the C-HR seems like a good one, as does the idea of basing its styling on Toyota classics. But up close, the FT-4X is just too much, a promising SUV buried under its own styling. It needs a rethink.
The verdict: A good idea that didn't quite work out. Don't be surprised if Toyota tries again.
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