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Extremes on display at the New York auto show​


Extremes on display at the New York auto show

Honda launched plug-in hybrid and all-electric versions of its Clarity sedan.

From high and mighty to down and dirty, the 2017 show is a study in contradictions, with a clear winner

Car companies are rushing to give drivers more of what they want – and it's not electric or eco-friendly. The 2017 New York International Auto Show is a throwback to the horsepower wars of the 1960s.

Big American metal dominates the stands. The 840-horsepower Dodge Demon – a barely street-legal drag racer that runs the quarter mile in 9.6 seconds – is stealing the spotlight from a gaggle of high-powered new SUVs and concepts. Populism rules the automotive world. As Trump gets ready to cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget for emissions and fuel economy testing, perhaps auto makers smell opportunity.

There is only one new all-electric vehicle and it won't be coming to Canada. Honda launched plug-in hybrid and all-electric versions of its Clarity sedan, but only the plug-in model will be offered here. It will travel roughly 68 kilometres on battery-power alone, before the 1.5-litre gasoline engine kicks in to extend the car's range.

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Only the plug-in model of the Honda Clarity will be offered in Canada.

It's a step toward Honda's goal of having two-thirds of sales come from electrified vehicles by 2030. If it's going to succeed, the company will need to offer more desirable eco-cars than the Clarity; it's an awkward-looking thing.

Other eco-ish cars? Jaguar is offering a new entry-level F-Type coupe and convertible with a four-cylinder engine. Genesis is showing a lovely hydrogen-powered SUV concept, the GV80. But by the time it gets to production, it will likely have a more conventional powertrain. And there's a police car, a pursuit-rated Ford Fusion Hybrid. Slim pickings then, but New York is an SUV market. According to Andy Goss, global sales director at Jaguar Land Rover, New York City is the No. 1 market in the world for Range Rover.

Expect more low-emissions vehicles to debut at this week's Shanghai auto show.

Horsepower wars

Dodge will only bring 300 Challenger SRT Demons to Canada of the 3,000 being built.

It's difficult to get excited about sensible hybrids when, across the show floor, there's a Dodge called the Demon doing a wheelie. It promises performance to rival any million-dollar supercar and one-ups the 707-horsepower Dodge Hellcat.

During the 1960s, the Detroit Three duked it out, vying for muscle-car supremacy with increasingly larger, more powerful engines and extreme lightweight special editions. Gas was cheap then too. The 1963 Ford Galaxy, for example, was available with a 7.0-litre V-8 rated at more than 400 horsepower. Major amendments to the U.S. Clear Air Act in 1970 as well as the creation of the EPA that year and the oil crisis helped put an end to the horsepower war. Dodge was planning the Demon well before Trump got elected of course, but the timing of this new muscle car and the undoing of the EPA feels symbolic.

The Demon's supercharged 6.2-litre Hemi V-8 makes 840 horsepower and 770 lb-ft of torque using race fuel, enough to lift the front wheels off the ground during launch. (On pump gas, it makes 808 horsepower and 717 lb-ft.). The Demon comes with only one seat, although a passenger seat and rear bench can be added for $1 each.

A Jeep Grand Cherokee goes down an incline course at the New York International Auto Show on April 12, 2017.

The Demon was built to live its life a quarter-mile at a time, like Dom Toretto. It covers that distance in 9.65 seconds, making it too fast to run at an NHRA drag race without a roll-cage. Dodge quotes a 0-60 mph time of 2.3 seconds. The Demon debuted just days before the latest Fast and Furious, the eighth, hit theatres. Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but we know Dodge will only bring 300 Challenger SRT Demons to Canada of the 3,000 being built.

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Nobody from Dodge would provide fuel economy figures, or even an estimate, but we can assume it's not good. A laughable " eco mode" limits power to 500 horses.

Jeep unveiled the world's most politically incorrect SUV: the 707-horsepower Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. What Jeep has done here is taken the Hemi V-8 from the Dodge Challenger Hellcat and stuffed it into a big SUV.

Mercedes has also picked up on the demand for high-performance SUVs, showing the AMG GLC 63 in standard and Coupe form. They're powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V-8, producing 467 or 510 horsepower in "S" trim. They may be lacking a few hundred horsepower compared to the Jeep, but the 0-100 km/h time is close, at 3.8 seconds.

Bigger and better

Lincoln’s 2018 Navigator features three rows of seats and a 450-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6.

The average price of gas in America is lower now than it was in 2007, according to data from GasBuddy. It's a big part of the reason demand for hybrids remains low while auto makers launch big SUVs and Demons.

Case in point: Lincoln's all-new 2018 Navigator is a land yacht. It's gunning for Cadillac's Escalade. The Lincoln features three rows of seats and a 450-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6, which is the same motor you'll find in the Ford Raptor pickup. It may not have the huge gull-wing door of the Navigator Concept from last year, but it looks good. Lincoln is losing the American luxury battle to Cadillac and needs a win here.

Range Rover launched the new $62,000 mid-range Velar SUV, but it was a Jaguar that took home the trophies. The F-Pace won the 2017 World Car of the Year and the World Car Design of the Year awards. The F-Pace is the main reason Jaguar sales are up more than 200 per cent in Canada compared with this time last year.

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Concept cars are a window to the future. So, what's coming? More SUVs. Three brands have SUV concepts making global debuts in New York.

The Infiniti QX80 Monograph concept is another giant truck. This one previews the next-generation of the brand's flagship SUV. Based on the Nissan Patrol/Armada, the Monograph concepts shows how the Infiniti model could further distinguish itself from its mainstream cousin. Interesting details abound, including wing-like front lights that extend along the side of the car and 24-inch rims, which extend over the tires to make them look like 26s.

The Genesis GV80 concept will likely go into production soon because Hyundai's new luxury brand won't survive with its sedan-only lineup.

Last but not least, Toyota is surprising everyone with the little FT-4X SUV concept. Designed at Toyota's studio in California, the company says its targeting young buyers who go on " casualcore" outings: brief, unplanned trips. This concept is packed with features for what Toyota apparently thinks is a forgetful generation: removable door-handles that are also water bottles, an interior light that doubles as a flashlight and an armrest that unfolds into a sleeping bag. It looks about the size of Toyota's sub-compact C-HR, which would make it a tad redundant in the lineup, but we hope Toyota greenlights the FT-4X for production anyway, with or without the sleeping bag.

This New York show is a study in extremes: from the geeky-clean Honda Clarity to the down-and-dirty Dodge Demon, it's providing a look at opposite ends of the automotive spectrum. It's clear, however, which side is winning.

Combined, electric-vehicles and hybrid electric-vehicles made up less than two per cent – roughly 6,300 vehicles – of the 2016 retail car market in Canada, according to Robert Karwel, senior manager at J.D. Power. Diesel vehicles, by comparison, account for 3.2 per cent of the market.

With relatively cheap gas, low interest rates and an uncertain future for U.S. vehicle emissions testing, big, brash, powerful vehicles are what people are buying.

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