Although this will come as no surprise to industry insiders, after dozens of debuts at this year’s New York Auto Show, small luxury sport utility vehicles (SUVs), especially hybrid ones, are the darlings of the bunch.
Cadillac showed an all-new XT4; Maserati debuted a Trofeo version of its solid Levante; Lincoln flaunted an Aviator hybrid; Lexus introduced the UX; and Volvo showed a handsome XC40.
All of them will compete against each other, in some form or another, in that increasingly important segment.
That’s not to say there wasn’t pure flash as well. Genesis’s all-electric concept coupe, the Essentia, came complete with butterfly doors, while Porsche’s 911 GT3 RS showed off in speedy green. And Mercedes-Benz showed its heavy hitter, an AMG version of its iconic G-Class wagon.
Here’s what’s worth seeking out.
AUDI TT RS
The Audi TT RS and RS3 both received heavy updates and cosmetic refreshers for the 2019 model year. But as consumers continue to switch to SUVs, Audi’s brand-new Q8 and Q6 will be more important from an earnings-growth perspective.
Audi also showed the RS5 Sportback “coupe”, which is meant to help it capture even more of the sport-sedan pie in the United States.
The Cadillac CT6 V is the latest car in the New York-based brand’s run to attract younger buyers and stay competitive with German rivals Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.
It has a new “hot V” twin-turbo, V8 engine that gets 550hp on a 10-speed automatic transmission. (The regular CT6 has a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 engine with 404hp horsepower, so this is a real step up).
Even better, it comes with new 20-inch wheels, 19-inch Brembo brakes, and a re-tuned exhaust, all of which will make a strong impression when it hits the road later this year.
The Lincoln Aviator SUV is the latest in a series of new or updated SUVs from Ford’s premium vehicle line. With a design inspired by the downward slope of an airplane wing it’s styled to woo moneyed millennials turned off by aggressively sculpted alternatives. (One attribute to attract said millennials is a function that can unlock the car from an iPhone).
The Aviator has three rows of seating and massive rims on a square frame that makes it look rather like a Range Rover. Lincoln showed this Aviator concept as a plug-in hybrid.
PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS
Klaus Zellmer, president and chief executive officer of Porsche Cars North America, introduced the 2019 911 GT3 RS with special “Weissach Package”.
This has a 4.0-litre, flat-six engine that gets 520hp horsepower, improvements of 20 over the regular GT3. It’s 0.1-second quicker to reach 100kph, too, with a sprint time of three seconds flat. The improvements cost more, as you might expect.
MERCEDES-BENZ AMG C63
The updated version of Mercedes-Benz’s excellent AMG C63 sedan has a 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 engine that gets up to 503hp.
Inside, it has all the progressive technology options Mercedes makes, including a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with smartphone integration, or an optional 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and high-tech, multi-function steering wheel.
Of the three available body styles in the C63 line, the coupe (not shown) is fastest. It can get to 100kph in 3.8 seconds.
JAGUAR F-PACE SVR
The new SUV from Jaguar is faster and more powerful than the regular F-Pace SUV. It’s a crucial play for consumers of small luxury SUVs as the hyper-competitive segment is expected to grow by double digits in the US alone from next year.
A supercharged 5.0-litre, V8 engine on the new SVR F-Pace gets 550hp with a top speed of 283kph and a 4.1 second sprint time.
MERCEDES-BENZ AMG GT 63S
The Mercedes-Benz AMG GT 63S is among the Stuttgart, Germany-based carmaker’s finest. It has a top speed of 315kph and operational dynamics that make driving even the most challenging roads almost effortless.
The AMG GT 63S’s power comes from a six-cylinder (or optional V8) engine with outputs ranging from 435hp to 639hp.
They rest under a long, arched nose followed by frameless side windows and a flat windshield that inclines far to the rear, all of which give the car an extremely sensual look. All-wheel drive and multiple drive modes come standard.
The Cadillac XT4 was unveiled during an event on Tuesday. The XT4 has a lot resting on its pretty shoulders as General Motors tries to bring Cadillac back into the upper echelon of luxury.
Targeted directly at valuable affluent and young consumers, the XT4 must prove to be just as good as Germany’s best small SUVs, such as the Audi Q3, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, and best-selling Porsche Macan.
It sits in the Cadillac line under the XT5, with a brand-new platform, unique grille and front fascia, and seating for five.
AUDI RS5 SPORTBACK
The Audi AG RS5 Sportback is a five-door “coupe” with a 444hp V6 engine and seating for five. It’s the seventh introduction in the Audi sport line that includes the RS 5 Coupe and the RS 7 Sedan.
This is the higher-tuned version of Audi’s US$54,400 (RM210,388) S5 Sportback.
You’ll be able to tell them apart by the RS 5’s uniquely wide and flat grille, large honeycomb air intakes, specific diffuser, oval exhaust pipes, and matte detailing on the exterior - or by the distinct “RS” sound of its engine. It can hit 100kph in fewer than four seconds and has a top speed of 280kph.
MASERATI LEVANTE TROFEO
The 590hp V8 joins the luxury SUV fray with a new hood that has dual vent, a carbon fibre splitter, full matrix LED headlights, and 22-inch wheels on all-wheel drive.
On the inside, it has seats of natural dyed leather lined with three-dimensional matte carbon-fiber weaving. It will be available later this year. --BLOOMBERG