Gas price angst shows itself at New York Auto Show - Metro US

Gas price angst shows itself at New York Auto Show

Lots of all-new and semi-new vehicles made their debut at this week’s New York Auto Show.

Many addressed the gas price thing head on. And if they didn’t, they stood out like a sore thumb.

Lucky thing for those “sore thumb” types, however, that they look pretty darn cool, and in some cases, break-your-heart cool. So it’s hard to stay mad at them.

Witness the new 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 with a new HEMI V8 rated at 465 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque, and the new 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, with 550 hp and a top speed of 186 mph.

The Scion FR-S Concept is a little more socially responsible, with its flat-four engine, but it’s still more geared toward outright joy than outright fuel economy.

But now on to some random thoughts on “The Other Guys,” the NY debuts that have some new weaponry, to battle the high-gas-price forces.

Balancing power with fuel efficiency
It used to be that every time a car got redesigned it ended up being bigger, heavier and more powerful — which always hurt the fuel efficiency cause. These days, automakers are holding back the power increases to make sure their vehicles hit certain fuel efficiency targets. In the U.S. the magic fuel efficiency number seems to be 40 mpg (about 5.9 L/100 km). At New York, we welcomed three more new models into the elite 40-mpg club — 2012 Honda Civic HF, 2012 Kia Rio Sedan and 2012 Mazda3.

The new 2012 Versa Sedan, also introduced at New York, is not far behind, at 37 mpg.

Auto-start is starting up
The new Rio employs an auto-start system, which shuts the engine down whenever it is at idle, and immediately starts the engine as soon the brake pedal is released. Another show debutant, the newly revised 2012 Chevrolet Malibu, also gets this feature.

While it has been prevalent in Europe for a few years now, North America is just starting to get with the auto-start program. Expect lots of cars to get this gas-saving feature in the coming months and years.

Big vehicle, small motor
Americans have spoken. They will mostly remain in the vehicle size they have now, even if gas prices are scary. Going down a vehicle size is not an option for them, because they have big highways, big stuff to haul around, and generally big bodies. So they’re looking for more efficient powertrain options in those generously sized vehicles.

Ford is right on this case, first introducing a four-cylinder option in the Explorer, and now adding this same 2.0-litre turbo engine option to the newly-revised 2012 Taurus line, which had its coming out party in New York.

Small car chic
We’re continuing to see more small cars that are more than just cheap transportation. They’re also cool to look at and cool to drive.

The new VW Beetle was simultaneously introduced at the New York and Shanghai auto shows, and eschews a bit of cuteness for more sporty pretensions. OK by me.

The Fiat 500C, a convertible-like version of the 500, also broke cover at New York, and, just looking at it, makes me want to down a cappuccino.

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