Faster, and more furious: Performance cars from the New York auto show
With all the emphasis on eco-friendly cars at recent auto shows, we didn't expect to see so many performance cars in New York. But many automakers have souped-up versions of existing models on display, giving driving enthusiasts something to enjoy.
Honda Fit Mugen
Anyone who knows Honda tuning knows the name Mugen. The company, started by the son of Honda founder Soichiro Honda, builds racing cars and aftermarket performance parts for Honda cars. At the New York auto show, Honda had a Fit kitted out with Mugen parts.
Although the 2010 GTI gets some exterior styling changes, VW keeps the powertrain the same as in previous versions. The turbocharged direct injection 2-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque.
As in the previous version, a six-speed manual is standard, with VW's Dual Shift Gearbox optional. The latter gets the car from 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Also, 17-inch wheels are standard, with 18-inch wheels available, and the GTI has an electronic locking differential to improve cornering.
The biggest change to the GTI is in the optional cabin electronics. VW is making its hard drive-based navigation system available, which we first saw in the VW CC, a big improvement over the current electronics.
Nissan's in-house tuner department NISMO (short for Nissan Motorsports), got its hands on the new 370Z and gave it a performance treatment. Engine tuning upped the horsepower from 332 to 350. New alloy wheels were adopted to save weight.
NISMO replaced the suspension springs and stabilizer bars for parts with increased rigidity, further sport-tuning the already impressive 370Z. New body work includes a longer nose, a rear bumper designed to increase air flow, and a rear spoiler for downforce.
Other than NISMO branding, the cabin is little changed from the standard 370Z. But the NISMO trim makes the automatic transmission unavailable. We are OK with that, as the six-speed manual works beautifully.
We already saw it at the Geneva auto show, but had to take a second look at the new Mazdaspeed3. It uses the same direct injection turbocharged 2.3-liter engine as the previous model, but Mazda has restyled the front and included new electronics in the cabin.
Mercedes-Benz follows up on the launch of the new E-class in Geneva with an AMG version in New York. The AMG treatment gives the E-class a new engine and a uniquely designed electronically controlled suspension. While the front uses springs, the rear uses an air suspension that keeps the car at the same height no matter how many passengers it is carrying. The driver can adjust the suspension for sport or comfort.
AMG cars are marked by a hand-crafted 6.2-liter V-8 engine. The one built for the E63 puts out 518 horsepower, 11 more than in the outgoing version, and 465 pound-feet of torque. The engine bears a plaque engraved with the name of its engineer.
AMG also gives the E63 a new transmission, a seven-speed automatic designed to make extremely fast shifts. Mercedes-Benz has swapped the torque converter in previous versions of this transmission for a multidisc wet clutch.
Now that Mitsubishi has updated its Lancer model, it turns its sights on the Outlander small SUV. The GT model shown at New York is considered a prototype, but features the big grille, a similar style to that used on the Lancer. The prototype was introduced with 19-inch OZ racing wheels, but a Mitsubishi representative said those wheels won't appear on the production version.
Mitsubishi already made great strides in its cabin electronics in recent years, offering a hard drive-based navigation system. Capabilities are improved in the Outlander GT with a new media gateway, offering voice control and phonebook downloading for Bluetooth-connected cell phones. iPod integration is also available.
BMW showed up with an M version of its X6, the vehicle that defies classification. In this incarnation, the X6 has been given a twin turbo V-8 engine producing 555 horsepower, enough to get it to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds.