New York auto show mixes the mild and the wild

This year's New York auto show saw a slew of everyday, practical cars, but also featured a streak of passion.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
3 min read

Watch this: New York auto show 2014: CNET's editors choose their favorites

During the press preview days of the 2014 New York auto show, we saw several new cars that will sell in the triple digit range, and a few more to excite the passions of drivers. Toyota's new Camry was matched by the Hyundai Sonata, while Chevrolet and BMW both released high-performance convertibles.

The most popular car in the US, the Toyota Camry , got an update for the 2015 model year, with styling that brings it in line with the Corolla and Avalon. With its look, Toyota is going for a more stylistically appealing car. However, drivetrain options remain essentially the same.

Hyundai, eager to compete in the midsize segment, updated its Sonata , but went with what the company called a more conservative design. Toning down the dramatic styling of the previous Sonata seems an effort to capture mainstream buyers. The Sonata carries over its advanced direct injection drivetrains and adds both driver-assistance features and Apple CarPlay.

Those two updates go head-to-head in the overheated midsize segment and challenge others such as the Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima.

Nissan's new Murano sets a very style-forward mark in the hot crossover market, adding a touch of the future to this popular car. A sweeping beltline may be too much for some buyers, but it gives the Murano a unique appearance. Boomerang headlights used on the Murano are becoming a Nissan staple. Nissan shaved 130 pounds off its weight to help fuel efficiency, but it holds onto the 3.5-liter V-6 from the previous generation.

Going up against the Murano in the family-friendly crossover segment is the 2015 Subaru Outback , unveiled with a sleeker design than the previous generation. This cult favorite still comes standard with all-wheel-drive and, like many other launches at the show, retains engine choices from the previous model year. Aerodynamic changes, including an active shutter on the grille, improve fuel economy, while the interior looks positively upscale.

Volkswagen's concept Golf SportWagen showed up as an eventual competitor to the Outback and Murano, a wagon that it due for production next year. Volkswagen already says it will offer both a TDI diesel engine and turbo 1.8-liter gasoline engine as choices in this crossover alternative.

In a much more visionary direction, Land Rover showed off its Discovery Vision concept, a vehicle heralding a new Discovery line from the company. Land Rover describes the Discovery Vision concept as the "ultimate leisure SUV," but does not stint on the offroad chops. Concept technologies include forward lasers that map out the ground ahead, and cameras that create an augmented reality view of the front wheels for the driver.

Stolid BMW came to the show with the M4 Convertible , following up its release of the M4 at the Detroit auto show earlier this year. This version of the 4-series takes on all BMW's amazing performance technology, which goes from Eco Pro to Sport Plus mode with multiple stops in between, and adds a retractable hard top. Drivers can put the top up for hot laps, then drive home with the top down to cool off.

Trumping the M4 Convertible in power is the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible. Boasting 625 horsepower from its supercharged V-8, its super-stiff body makes it track-ready. The power rag top may seem a sin to some track drivers, but those who opt for the car will have plenty of room for helmets and an easy time seeing the bends in the asphalt ahead.

The debuts may seem a bit of a hodgepodge this year, but show-goers will be treated to a selection of cars they can consider for a new purchase or high-performance beasts to which they can aspire.

Check out all CNET's coverage of the 2014 New York auto show.