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2018 New York Auto Show Roundup

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author photo by Eric Brandt April 2018

The 2018 New York Auto Show is just finishing up -- and it was packed with unveilings of new models, a few concepts and some special editions that hadn't been seen in person before. Here are some of the cars that made this year's show worth attending.

Lincoln Aviator

Oh, another luxury SUV? Yes, but this one is different. It's the return of the short-lived Lincoln Aviator, which was based on the third-gen Ford Explorer in its first life. Unfortunately for Lincoln, the original Aviator was around before the luxury SUV segment really took off -- and it was a flop. But now that luxury SUVs are all anybody wants, the Aviator is back.

The new Aviator is more than just a smaller Navigator, which is nice because Lincoln easily could have gotten away with doing exactly that and selling a jillion of them. Sure, there are some styling similarities, especially on the inside, but there are a few key differences.

For starters, it's on an all-new platform. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that this is the same platform the next-gen Explorer will use. It's rear-wheel drive with an all-wheel-drive option, and it'll be powered by a "twin-turbo engine" -- though Lincoln didn't specify beyond that. It's probably a V6. But the exciting part is it will also be available as a plug-in hybrid, kicking off a new commitment to electrification for Ford's luxury brand.

Nissan Altima

The current Nissan Altima is not an unusually exciting car, but the next one sure seems to be. Nissan is already taking the new variable-compression engine from Infiniti, called the VC-Turbo -- which is a marvel of engineering -- and putting it in the Altima mid-size sedan. Without getting too deep into the technical details, variable compression is basically magic that increases both performance and fuel economy based on the driver's demands. Its benefits are similar to those of variable valve timing, but variable compression is more extreme and more complicated. It's exclusive to Nissan/Infiniti and it's a serious selling point for the Altima over its tough competitors like the recently refreshed Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Another big win for the Altima that its competitors can't touch is available all-wheel drive on all trims. Frankly, this is something I can't believe every manufacturer hasn't been offering for years. One of the reasons people are flocking to crossovers is because they think they need all-wheel drive. If you want to keep selling sedans, you need to offer them with AWD, and Nissan is making it more widely available in the Altima than any of its competitors.

Other perks in the new Altima include a handsome new exterior, a very premium-looking interior and the ProPilot system of semi-autonomous tech -- which assists in keeping you in your lane at a safe speed during single-lane highway driving.

Genesis Essentia Concept

The striking Genesis Essentia Concept is Genesis' idea of the "grand tourer for the 21st century" according to its website. It's an electric GT car with butterfly doors, a high-tech interior, a bunch of carbon fiber and a futuristic look that has us eagerly imagining what Hyundai's young luxury brand has in store for the future.

Genesis is making it sound like some form of the Essentia will eventually make it to production. It might be a 1-door GT car, kind of like the Aston Martin Vantage, but it could also be a more futuristic roadster like the BMW i8. It's claiming a 0-to-60 time of under three seconds, so whatever the end result is, it should be pretty exciting.

What I like about the Genesis Essentia is that it is aggressively futuristic in its design without any hint of retro styling that's been so common in the last couple decades. Genesis is a new brand and it's acting like one.

Cadillac CT6 V-Sport

Cadillac also just unveiled the all-new XT4, the brand's first compact crossover -- but we're more excited about the new CT6 V-Sport. Few car companies can do sport sedans better than Cadillac, which builds the astounding CTS-V and ATS-V -- and now the American luxury brand is turning up the heat on its biggest sedan. The CT6 now has a serious performance variant in the V-Sport. It's not a full-blown "V" model, but it does have an all-new hand-built 4.2-liter twin-turbo DOHC V8 engine that's exclusive to Cadillac.

It's always nice when Cadillac doesn't have to share its toys with its little brothers at GM, as it adds exclusivity to the brand and makes it more competitive against European rivals. The 10-speed automatic transmission (found in the Camaro ZL1) is standard, as is all-wheel drive. While the CT6 V-Sport won't be the hottest full-size luxury sedan you can get, it will demand respect with 550 horsepower and its menacing, yet classy, appearance.

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept

Volkswagen is continuing its commitment to names that are hard to pronounce with the VW Atlas Tanoak Concept. This is significant, because it's been decades since we've seen a production VW pickup in the U.S. This concept is in the vein of the Honda Ridgeline in the sense that it's a midsize, unibody pickup that's based on an existing SUV -- in this case, the Atlas.

The Atlas Tanoak Concept has a pretty quirky look that is decidedly concepty, but it doesn't look too far off from a production model. It has unique lighting that goes all the way across the grille in the front and another light bar that completely encircles the rear tailgate. On the inside, it has digital readouts rather than traditional gauges. As of now, there are no plans to bring the Atlas Tanoak to production, but it would be easy enough, since it uses an existing platform and drivetrain.

Auto shows these days are pretty hit or miss -- and New York this year was definitely a hit. The big takeaways from the show are that SUVs will continue moving further upmarket, sedans aren't dead quite yet and we might soon be seeing brands take new risks that we haven't seen from them before.

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2018 New York Auto Show Roundup - Autotrader