New York Auto Show, Part 1: Flashiness, fanfare and 60 new vehicles

 NEW YORK — With flashy, high-tech presentations and upbeat sales pitches,  32 automobile manufacturers introduced some 60 vehicles to automotive journalists at Press Days previewing the 2014 New York International Automobile Show.

The vehicles — some world debuts, some just new to the United State public — range from new megabuck cruisers by Rolls-Royce and Bentley to family sedans from Toyota, Volkswagen and Subaru to compact SUVs from the likes of Chevrolet and Jeep.

Here is a sampling of new vehicles tantalizing show-goers in the Jacob Javits Center.

2015 Toyota Camry

2015 Toyota Camry

2015 Toyota Camry: When you think of the word sporty, the mid-size Toyota Camry sedan probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But, Toyota has found some magic in the word. Younger buyers and a full 45 percent of sales have come from the SE model that was launched as a (mildly) sportier version of the standard sedan back in 2011. So, just three years into the current product cycle, Toyota will launch a new sedan this fall that it hopes will appeal to new and younger buyers and extend the Camry’s streak as the best-selling car for 12 years.  Featured will be more aggressive styling on all models; an upscale XSE model with 18-inch wheels and a tighter suspension and a Hybrid SE sedan with sharpened driving dynamics. As to the styling, I’m not a big fan of oversized grilles, but I will say that the  new Camry is  definitely more attractive than the one it replaces. Did I see a little bit of Avalon in this new design? Toyota also says all models will have more upscale interiors, upgraded safety features and a cockpit with improved electronics. Engine and transmission choices are expected to remain the same. That would mean a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 motor teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Also available will be a gas/electric hybrid featuring an Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission and a combined 200 horsepower.  Conclusion: the engines are not likely to bring any additional sportiness to the Camry, so the responsibility for making it more interesting to drivers will fall to the stiffened body, suspension and more communicative steering. Prices were not disclosed, but it’s hard to see a big increase considering the stiff competition from Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Passat, etc.

2015 Jeep Renegade

2015 Jeep Renegade

2015 Jeep Renegade: Compact utility vehicles are among the hottest sellers in the automotive market these days, so it should come as no surprise that Jeep would jump into the fray with its own small SUV. With its iconic seven-slot grille and a host of other trademark Jeep  features, the four-passenger Renegade fits right in as the tiniest member of this American-as-apple-pie family.  Except that it’s not. Built to dimensions that are designed to sell in 100 countries, the Renegade actually is based on the platform of the Fiat 500L and will be built in Italy. It has been described as cute and adorable, but to my eye it looks boxy and a bit overly compressed. In what is likely to be its most popular form it will, as the Jeep spokesman said, be suited for the “urban adventure.” Of course, true to Jeep’s heritage as a rugged off-roader, there will be a Trailhawk model that will allow the Renegade to follow in the tire prints of the rock-climbing, stream-fording  Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. The Renegade will be available with front- or four-wheel drive and a choice of two four-cylinder engines — a turbocharged, 160 horsepower 1.4-liter, and a naturally aspirated, 184-horsepower 2.4 liter. The smaller engine will be teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission and the larger one with a 9-speed automatic. The Renegade is due to go on sale around the end of the year. Prices and fuel-efficiency figures were not disclosed.

2015 BMW X4 Sports Activity Vehicle

2015 BMW X4 Sports Activity Coupe

2015 BMW X4 Sports Activity Coupe: Sometimes it seems as if BMW is simply having fun trying to confuse us with nomenclature. Consider this: X4 XDrive 28i Sports Activity Coupe, or this: X4 XDrive 35i Sports Activity Coupe. Both vehicles were introduced to the world  at the Jacob Javits Center and, to put it as simply as possible, they combine the all-around capability of the platform-sharing X3 sports-activity vehicle (SUV, in other words) with the sporty driving dynamics of a coupe. BMW calls these distinctive looking; I would say the styling — like the names — is a bit awkward. It’s as if these BMWs are trying to blend too many goals into a single vehicle. The base XDrive28i is powered by a turbocharged 2-liter, 240-horsepower 4-cylinder and the XDrive35i gets a turbocharged, 3-liter, 300-horsepower in-line 6-cylinder engine. Prices start at $45,625 for the base model and $48,925 for the more powerful vehicle. Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift paddles. All X4s will offer the premium features one would expect of a BMW, from leather-clad interiors with aluminum and wood accents, to a full complement of electronic and safety features. Production is scheduled for late spring 2014 at BMW’s Spartanburg, SC, plant.

2015 BMW M4 Convertible

2015 BMW M4 Convertible

 2015 BMW M4 Convertible: Following on the heels of the BMW M4 Coupe and the M3 Sedan, the German automobile manufacturer has unveiled the flip-top version of  these sporty models from its M performance division. While the M4 is quite handsome when its hardtop is stowed, the convertible’s lines do not flow quite as smoothly when the roof is in place. However, that’s unlikely to be a concern for anyone seeking to combine gobs of power and superb handling  with the wind-in your-hair  pleasure that only a convertible can supply.  The 3-liter, in-line 6-cylinder engine with twin-power turbo technology produces 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, enough to catapult the M4 from a stop to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds with the optional 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.  With a standard 6-speed manual transmission, the 0-60 mph romp can be made in 4.4 seconds. Emphasizing the M4’s performance credentials are a variety of styling cues, including a power dome on the hood, distinctive front air dam and rear apron, four round tailpipes and flared front and rear wheel arches. With a base price of $73,425, BMW’s signature brand of thrills will not be available to everyone, Production is scheduled for late summer 2014.

2015 Chevrolet Trax

2015 Chevrolet Trax

Chevrolet Trax: If the Chevrolet Trax looks familiar to you, it could be for one of two reasons: You’ve spotted it in Mexico or Canada, where it has been on sale for a couple of years, or it has a family resemblance to the Buick Encore. When the Trax was first put into production, Chevrolet apparently had no intentions of selling it in the United States. But, the compact crossover market is hot, and Buick has had success selling its platform mate, the Encore, in the United States. So you can expect the Trax to appear in Chevy dealerships later this year or early next year. It will have the same turbocharged 1.4-liter, 138 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine as the Encore and other small Chevy vehicles, and it will be teamed with a 6-speed automatic. In addition, it will be available with front- or all-wheel drive. Prices and fuel efficiency figures were not disclosed. However, based on the engine’s frugality in other vehicles, a buyer can expect fuel mileage ranging from the mid-20s to high 30s.