2014 New York Auto Show Winners and Losers

Winners_Losers3

This year's New York auto show is packed with redesigns and updates to some of the best-selling cars on the market. However, it was hard not to notice the lack of flash that normally accompanies an auto show. Despite a slew of introductions, there was just one new concept car on display and only a handful of sports cars.

More 2014 New York Auto Show Coverage

Editors Aaron Bragman, Joe Bruzek, Mike Hanley and Joe Wiesenfelder covered the show and took-in every introduction. They weigh in on the 15 most significant ones here.

TLXWL

2015 Acura TLX

Aaron Bragman: Loser
I can't think of a single compelling reason to buy this car. The styling is boring and the interior breaks no new ground. Even as Infiniti is stepping up its game, Acura continues to slide into irrelevancy with each new model.

Joe Wiesenfelder: Loser
I keep waiting for the all-new Acura I can call a winner, and this still isn't it. If it's meant to replace the TL, I'd hope for a larger backseat. I found myself sitting too close to the floor, knees raised. That's a strike against it; marks in its favor don't jump out at me.

Mike Hanley: Winner
Acura's shield-style grille is still too prominent, but otherwise this is the best-looking Acura sedan in years. I'm not wild about the touch-screen interface in the middle of the dashboard, and the push-button gear selector for V-6 models is superfluous, but the new TLX is an elegant entry in the mid-luxury class.

Joe Bruzek: Loser
I kept hoping the Acura TLX Prototype's deep paint, low stance and unique wheels would somehow make it to a production version; they were big in making the TLX stand out at the 2014 Detroit auto show. They did not, however, and the production version is a bit tame.

 

4CWL

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

AB: Winner
Much will depend on how the 4C is priced and whether it can overcome Alfa Romeo's historically difficult quality image issues, but there's a lot to like here. It's a dinky little thing — no bigger it seems than a Lotus Elise — so most American-sized buyers may find it a bit of a tight fit, but it's really good looking and should be a riot to drive.

JW: Winner
We need more mid-engine cars, more lightweight cars and more distinctive designs. Check, check and check. Most people will never get behind the wheel ... because they can't. Seriously, the car should come with an Alfa-branded hoist to help with ingress and egress. But we should welcome it anyway for what it brings.

MH: Winner
So cool. From its striking exterior styling to all of the unique cabin interfaces, everything about the 4C screams exotic — including the large swaths of carbon fiber in the cabin. It is a bear to get out of the driver's seat, but when you consider everything else it offers, that's a small price to pay.

JB: Winner
Fits like a glove is an understatement in the tiny 4C. But after slithering into the driver's seat and being surrounded by carbon fiber, its performance promise is even more tantalizing with a feather-light carbon-fiber structure and aluminum chassis, plus a turbocharged four-cylinder and zero to 60 mph claim of mid-4 seconds.

 

4GranCoupeWL

2015 BMW 4 Series GranCoupe

AB: Loser
So odd-numbered BMWs are sedans, even-numbered are coupes, yet this 4 Series "coupe" has four doors, but it's an even-numbered coupe because ... it's a hatchback? Maybe? Someone needs to explain to me why this thing exists and why anyone would pick it over the visually nearly identical 3 Series, because I have no idea what BMW is doing anymore.

JW: Winner
Aaron's on track in many ways. BMW needs to chill out. So why is it a winner? I've never cared for "four-door coupes" because they trade interior room for styling that seldom justifies the exercise (the Audi A7 is an exception). The 4GC improves slightly on the coupe's backseat headroom and adds a liftgate, which helps offset the shortcomings when compared with the 3 Series sedan's utility.

MH: Winner
Low-slung and notably sleeker than the 3 Series sedan, the 4 Series Gran Coupe is a great-looking car. Interestingly, it's actually more versatile than the 3 Series thanks to its rear hatch layout. Say what you will about BMW's proliferating model lineup and naming conventions, but this is a worthy addition that's not that much more expensive than the 3 Series.

JB: Winner
Do we need another 3 or 4 Series variant? Probably not, but the Gran Coupe looks so good and has hatchback usability without looking like a hatchback.

 

X4WL

2015 BMW X4

AB: Loser
"I hope BMW offers a perfectly good X3 SUV with all of its decent space, headroom, cargo capacity and good visibility but eliminates all of those things and charges more money for it!" said absolutely no car buyer, ever.

JW: Loser
See my comments about most "four-door coupes." Same idea here. I never had much use for the X6, but at least that one deviates more from the X5 than the X4 does from the X3 on which it's based. The X4 would have to be much more ... something to be justified.

MH: Loser
What Aaron said. The new X4 crossover coupe has a lot of the same disadvantages as its larger sibling, the X6. It's bulky and awkward-looking, and that unappealing styling takes a big bite out of usable cargo room, reducing the X4's utility. The backseat isn't that comfortable, either, because of a low seat cushion. The appeal of these vehicles for BMW — higher prices and greater profit — is clear, but it's less so for shoppers.

JB: Winner
The X4 on display wears the available M Sport Package that makes the tiny SUV look like the excessively powerful BMW X6 M. Of all the small luxury SUVs popping up, this X4 is an eye-catcher in bright red. I found the backseat surprisingly accommodating despite its sloping roofline.

 

TraxWL

2015 Chevrolet Trax

AB: Winner
I'm a fan of the Buick Encore and its tidy packaging, sprightly performance and excellent technology. But offer all of that in a less expensive Chevy-badged non-luxury package and I like it even more.

JW: Loser
An Encore, which I don't care for, with harder plastic. Pass.

MH: Loser
Chevy is smart to enter the fast-growing subcompact crossover segment, but I question if the Trax is the right way to do it. The front-end styling is bland, and I don't understand the pronounced wheel arches. It seems like a step down from Chevrolet's other designs.

JB: Loser
The tiny SUV segment will soon be booming with the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade announced at the New York auto show that will compete with the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul. The Trax isn't as interesting as some of the others, lacking personality that the Renegade, Juke and Soul have in spades.

 

ChallengerWL

2015 Dodge Challenger

AB: Winner
How can you not love this thing? It's a brand-new classic muscle car, combining true American style with modern powertrains and finally an updated interior worth spending time in. Rear-wheel drive, monster V-8 engines and onboard WiFi? If it was any more patriotic, it would be armed.

JW: Winner
I'm glad Dodge didn't mess with this one. It gets the better interior the Charger gained a couple of years ago and remains retro. I was always a sucker for a shaker hood scoop, too. I know, I'm immature. I'm comfortable with that.

MH: Winner
I like the way Dodge has incorporated modern lighting technology with the Challenger's retro look. The interior is a huge upgrade, and I dig the slanted stick shift, too. It's still not the easiest car to see out of, especially when looking over your shoulder, but the changes keep the Challenger current without losing its old-school vibe.

JB: Winner
Unlike the Dodge Charger's redesign, at least it looks like the Challenger is safe, for now. The new interior is a much-needed improvement and brings one of the most nostalgic exteriors out there into a truly modern era of interior design.

 

ChargerWL

2015 Dodge Charger

AB: Winner
I think this is a great counterpoint to the retro Challenger. It's big yet sporty, offering almost 300 horsepower, rear-wheel drive and 31 mpg at the same time and for about as much money as a well-equipped Honda Accord. Don't immediately reject it based on pictures — it looks more dramatic in person, keeping a menacing visage that you'd better get used to, as it will be gracing your rearview mirror before too long on police cars around the country.

JW: Winner
I was ready to be disappointed for the reason Aaron states. It just doesn't look right in photos — like that girl in high school who possibly needed a nose job but went too far. In person the Charger's nose goes better with the rest. The Charger has matured into a good sedan, and though it looked pretty good already, I understand Dodge's desire to establish a family look.

MH: Loser
The Charger's new face looks good in person, and the new taillights are a nice addition, too. Much of the car's profile styling carries over, however, and it doesn't look quite right with the new front and rear styling. I was also disappointed that the interior sees only modest updates. I expected more.

JB: Loser
What happened here? The Charger name is synonymous with muscle car, and it worked perfectly with four doors, the old menacing looks and throwback design cues. If Dodge is going to soften the Charger and make it look more like the Dart, the automaker might as well rename the car Seabreeze or something.

 

SOnataWL

2015 Hyundai Sonata

AB: Loser
I was afraid of this — Hyundai went too far with the last Sonata and made the bosses back in South Korea nervous. The result is the much more conservative Sonata we see here. After the last Sonata wowed everyone and made us think Hyundai could really do some daring things with style to differentiate itself from the midsize-sedan masses, it goes and introduces a new Subaru Legacy. Bummer.

JW: Winner
The current gen made a big splash, but many, including Hyundai, think it aged poorly. The Elantra sedan showed how it should be done. The 2015 Sonata has legs. Though I find many Apple products (and its adherents) irritating, I think the new Apple CarPlay is a good approach: The car's screen mirrors more smartphone functions than just music, such as navigation. It eliminates in-dash features that are soon out of date.

MH: Winner
The new Sonata doesn't break the styling ground that its predecessor did, but it's a handsome sedan. The cabin is roomy and the all-new interior has an upscale feel. Competition for family sedan shoppers is fierce, but the new Sonata looks more than capable of handling it.

JB: Winner
The 2015 Hyundai Sonata may not get the same "wow" reaction as when the previous generation was introduced, but it's still an attractive sedan with more aggressive styling than before. Sport models gain a few touches that set off the new body style perfectly.

 

RenegadeWL

2015 Jeep Renegade

AB: Winner
This is my best-in-show, hands down. A tidy off-roader that looks like a proper Jeep, with all the style of a Wrangler but none of its shortcomings, in a more affordable package that's safer and more fuel efficient? You're going to see these in every sorority house driveway and beach community parking lot across the country by the end of next year.

JW: Winner
I can't say I'm knocked out, but I'm not betting against a small SUV, much less a small Jeep. Some will appreciate its more traditional Jeep looks. I reserve the right to revoke my judgment if it's priced too high, though. The cabin materials call for a substantial discount versus the Cherokee.

MH: Winner
I really disliked the mishmash of controls and trim in the cabin, but that all faded away when I stepped outside and gazed awhile at this small SUV. It's a great application of Jeep style on a small canvas.

JB: Winner
For the reasons the Trax didn't make the cut, the Renegade is a winner, exuding fresh ideas and style on the inside and out. I dig the textured interior panels that look like pickup truck bedliner instead of cheap aluminum, plus the inside has an airy feeling with the dual removable roof panels.

 

SedonaWL

2015 Kia Sedona

AB: Winner
If you absolutely have to have a minivan, you can certainly do worse than this. The Sedona is actually pretty stylish. Its new platform hopefully means that Kia has been able to cut the Sedona's piggish weight problem, which should improve everything from handling to braking to fuel economy.

JW: Winner
Another well-thought-out van from Kia. (The 2002 Sedona was Kia's "holy crap" model — the one that led people to say, "Holy crap; Kia is a real car company now!") The sliding door doesn't open as far as I'd like, but everything else seems fine, including Kia's approach to controls and multimedia. Respect the minivan, including this one!

MH: Winner
It's rare when a minivan gets people talking at an auto show, but this one did. Nicely appointed and with interesting features such as a full center console and second-row seats that can have integrated leg rests, the Sedona is a departure from the minivan norm that seems poised to bring new shoppers to the segment.

JB: Winner
Minivans are so massive that there's plenty of space for automakers to be innovative with collapsible tables, two rows of multimedia screens and more. Kia's new Sedona offers reclining captain's chairs with retractable leg rests. Gimmicky? A little, but unlike luxury sedans with a similar layout, the Sedona actually has enough room for my 6-foot-tall frame to lie as flat as the seats would allow. The Sedona also looks great for a minivan and brings Kia's modern look to its modern SUV.

 

DiscoveryWL

Land Rover Discovery Concept

AB: Loser
A peek into the future of Land Rover reveals — the next-generation Ford Explorer? It may be clean and attractive, but as concept vehicles go, this trends to the "under" end of the whelming scale.

JW: Loser
Yes, it looks good enough, but I'm not seeing enough differentiation from the Range Rover line of Land Rover products. I thought turning Range Rover into a line was a weird decision and having a whole line of Discoveries, too, doesn't seem any smarter. As an auto-show concept, well, I'm pretty far under the whelm too.

MH: Loser
This concept car wasn't very exciting to look at, but maybe that's because it looks like any number of Land Rovers. I get the need for family resemblance, but you can take it too far. See Audi.

JB: Winner
Land Rover's Discovery concept gives us a glimpse at the crazy workings Land Rover is toying with, including a terrain monitoring system that shows the path under the car through the head-up display as a transparent hood, a remote control system to drive the SUV like a toy at low speeds and customizable seating configurations.

 

MuranoWL

2015 Nissan Murano

AB: Winner
It's not easy to make something look different yet avoid it being ugly (witness Nissan's own Juke, for instance), but the company's done just that with the new Murano. Its impact is strong just sitting on a turntable surrounded by shiny new cars. I can't imagine the attention it's going to command when it's finally out on the street.

JW: Winner
Very nice looking. It is the first Murano that looks distinctive in a positive way. The impressive new Rogue took a page from the old Murano, and I'm glad to see the new Murano doesn't take a page from the old Rogue. (I'm saying it's still good ...) As in the Rogue, Nissan needs to improve the faux-metal trim, but otherwise it remains in near-lux territory.

MH: Winner
Wow, this is amazing. From the original exterior styling, which actually doesn't look bizarre like the current Murano, to the luxurious interior, this car is setting a high bar for other midsize crossovers. It was my favorite new vehicle at the show.

JB: Winner
The new Murano is one of the must-see introductions of the show. The previous generations' funky space-pod look is gone, and I'm glad Nissan is taking a little risk and pumping attractive excitement in the new Murano's shape.

 

OutbackWL

2015 Subaru Outback

AB: Winner
I'll call this mild update a winner simply because it does exactly what it needs to do: keep Outback owners coming back for more. If the Outback isn't already on your radar, this new one will do nothing to put it there, but with solid sales and a rabidly loyal fan base, making the new one just a little bit nicer is really all Subaru needed to do to keep its momentum going.

JW: Winner
I think it will prove to do more than just keep loyal owners coming. I think it's a better-looking design, and it features a needed cabin-quality upgrade. Frankly, Subaru is far enough behind in this realm that the company probably should have gone further with it to fend off the next few years of competitors' redesigns.

MH: Winner
Subaru addressed the prior Outback's awkward styling, gave it a richer interior, improved the wagon's utility and made it more fuel-efficient. Those changes and others add up to a highly appealing all-wheel-drive wagon for crossover-averse shoppers.

JB: Winner
Hooray, the Outback finally looks normal again! The rugged, utilitarian design is now more cohesive, and there's more interior room. I question the use of the touch-sensitive multimedia controls given our negative experience with digital touch-screen controls in the Subaru BRZ and other Subarus, but I will need more seat time on the road to sign off.

 

CamryWL

2015 Toyota Camry

AB: Winner
Many people are decrying the fake black plastic panel on the car's C-pillar as cheap and phony, but it serves the purpose of significantly changing the look of the Camry's greenhouse without having to resort to an expensive change to the car's structure. The overall changes are definitely a step in the right direction, but the interior design still looks as if two different committees were responsible for the dash and the doors.

JW: Winner
For what it is, I'll call it a winner. The grille might be a bit too much, but the Toyota Avalon also was perceived as an abomination when it made its auto-show debut, yet it flies pretty much under the radar out on the road. Again, for what it is, the Camry wasn't exactly broken, and Toyota doesn't appear to have broken it. Even the buttons around the touch-screen are still mechanical buttons.

MH: Winner
The Camry was the best-selling car in the country last year, but the family sedan is under pressure from a number of redesigned competitors. Toyota looks to hold off the charge with a sleeker, more aggressive Camry. I wish the interior had received more attention, but this update takes the car in a good direction.

JB: Loser
The Camry's new front and rear styling is surprisingly strong and aggressive for a Camry; I like it a lot. In between, though, the styling doesn't tie the car together. The profile's body lines start and then disappear into nowhere particular. It's hard to call the Camry a winner when just a few booths over is the new Hyundai Sonata.

 

GolfWL

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen

AB: Winner
VW says this is a concept and that the production version may not have the 4Motion all-wheel drive when it finally arrives to replace the Jetta SportWagen. Actually, what I want is a SportWagen the way this "concept" car is made up to look like: a Golf R Wagon. That's the one I'd buy, in a heartbeat. But I guess even a TDI diesel version would be pretty slick.

JW: Winner
There's a long-running joke/truth that car reviewers have disproportionate love for three things: manual transmissions, wagons and diesel engines. Win!

MH: Winner
The interior is richer than some of Volkswagen's recent efforts, most notably the Jetta sedan, so maybe that signals VW is getting back in the business of high-grade cabins, an area where it crushed the competition for a long time. Otherwise, I like the level of utility this small wagon offers.

JB: Winner
This was an easy one: wagon, diesel engine, all-wheel drive, manual transmission and sport package? This "concept" needs a production version confirmation as soon as possible. Take away all-wheel drive and the sport package and you still have a winner with the production-ready SportWagen, which is now better proportioned on the outside and more functional on the inside.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

Comments 

J

The TLX got criticized because of its styling and how it looks inside yet the 4 series looks just like any BMW to the point where no one can tell them apart anymore was praised...
hm...

#LikeABoss

Concept? The Golf SportWagen looks a production vehicle to me...

Also, the Chevy Trax is just an uglier, cheaper Buick Encore. I agree with Mr. Wiesenfelder on this one, it's deprived of personality and character to seriously compete in its segment.

On the other hand, the 2015 Camry is rocking the spindle grille. It looks likes a Lexus cross with a Mazda and a Corolla, which is a good feature for it - especially so that it fits in with the rest of Toyota's lineup.

And, finally, the Land Rover Discovery Vision looks too much like a Range Rover Sport. Bad call in the design department right there.

Tony

Loser here is Joe Bruzek. To call this Camry worse than Sonata... You must be having too much frozen dinners. The current Sonata is ugly and this one is boring. Plus, it looks like hatchback. Let me see how well hatchbacks do in America... ah.
And I don't even want to go to BMW X4.

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