In any place where autos tend to wear inconsistent but unsightly coats of road salt & grime all winter, a convention hall full of sparkling brand new cars holds particular appeal in January. This weekend’s New England International Auto Show offers enough car eye candy to refresh anyone’s view on personal transportation, not to mention a chance to learn all about the increasingly sophisticated technology built into new cars. I attended the NEIAS press preview yesterday, at which a number of manufacturers presented new cars they’ll highlight at the show.
Chrysler got the morning off to a hot start with its new 300, introduced by Product Communications Manager Jiyan Cadiz. The most noticeable change to the new 300 appears right up front: It has a 30% larger grille in response to customers who feel recent Chryslers don’t look as bold and distinctive as the company’s older models. Another big change can be found inside, where a new rotary shifter saves space on the center column, which our reviewer liked in the most recent Chrysler 200.
Chevrolet adds a new competitor to the hot small crossover category in the U.S. with its Trax, a vehicle already sold in more than 60 other markets, including Mexico and Canada, where it holds significant market share. Betsy Flegg introduced this entry-level SUV, which offers surprising cargo capacity (48.1 cubic feet with seats down) and a fold-down passenger seat to accommodate long items, as well as 4G LTE WiFi and the ability to connect to up to 7 devices. Chevrolet aims the Trax at a new and growing market segment it calls “urban explorers” and hopes young, successful city dwellers who want cargo-carrying versatility, the latest technology, and all-wheel drive will find the Trax a great option.
Basking in the glow of the reception earned by recent debuts of his company’s new GT, Shelby GT350/350 R, and 2017 F150 Raptor, Ford New England Regional Manager Philip Podgorny told us Ford has recently launched 15 new products worldwide, including 7 for the U.S. market. Ford’s EcoBoost engines, of which the company has built 5 million, have been incredibly well received, and the 3-cylinder 1-liter version will be offered in the next Focus, while the 2.3-liter 4-cylinder available in the Mustang will be offered in the 2016 Explorer.
Head of FIAT Product Marketing, Matt Davis, introduced the 500X, the first FIAT aimed at and built for the North American market in addition to Europe. Sitting on a larger platform and looking a lot less European than the 2008 model year 500 that marked FIAT’s return to the American market, the 500X will offer AWD, a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated or 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine, and a more athletic Trekking version. Midlevel trims and higher will include a three-way Drive Mode Selector that will adjust engine, brake, steering, and transmission response for Auto, Sport, and All Weather driving.
Mazda New England Regional Sales Manager Charlie Teale didn’t have a brand new model to introduce, but he reminded us that “Zoom Zoom” Mazda has focused on performance for decades, noting that one of its Wankel engines scored a win at Le Mans in ’91, then got banned from the event, and that the MX-5 Miata is the world’s most raced car brand. He also told us Mazda is moving away from the Miata name and sticking with MX-5 alone. Teale proudly noted the success of Mazda’s Drive for Good campaign, which donates employee time and company money to charities worldwide, including the Flutie Foundation here in Boston.
Beyond these introductions, the show floor was loaded with hot new cars and trucks, and while I had to leave as the press preview ended, a couple of coworkers who stayed tell me the crowds that arrived for the public opening were huge and enthusiastic. They say that first rush seemed most interested in Ford’s new Mustang and F150 as well as the Mercedes-Benz booth, where a particularly approachable product specialist showcased and solicited feedback on the amazing new AMG GT.
No matter what kind of cars and driving you prefer, an auto show can teach anyone quite a bit. And now that automakers are aiming new products at “urban adventurers,” even Millennial hipsters can find things to look at and learn.
Want more info? Visit the New England International Auto Show website.