Shrinking unemployment, healthy sales, shoppers flexing their tire-kicking legs: carmakers selling in the revived North American market have much to celebrate at the New York International Auto Show, which opened on Friday.
Since sales in the United States bottomed at 10.4 million in 2009, shoppers have returned with enthusiasm. Joachim Schmidt, sales and marketing chief of Mercedes-Benz, said the company expects American vehicle sales to hit 15.5 million this year. That would be a six-year high -- within sight of the 16.1 million sales in a pre-recession 2007.
Those shoppers, dreamers and coming generations of car buyers will converge at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for the public show that runs through April 7. And while they will see the usual Lotto-winner fantasies -- including the alluring Rolls-Royce Wraith, a $300,000 fastback coupe -- the show's most important debuts ran to entry-priced luxury cars and mainstream models.
Those include the reborn Jeep Cherokee, a brazenly reimagined crossover that invokes the name if not the hardy attitude of the original. Toyota offered a redesign of its family-friendly Highlander; Dodge, Acura and Infiniti fired back with their own three-row people movers, the Durango, MDX and QX60 Hybrid.
Even luxury models set a tone of relative attainability, along with modest sizes and improved fuel efficiency. Audi previewed its entry-level A3 at a press-only event; the stylish sedan will not be displayed at the Javits center.
Here are some of the other models newly introduced in New York:
AUDI Trust-fund offspring and striving young professionals will hail the A3, which gathers sleek design, an architectural interior and the latest technology in a downsized sedan package. On sale early next year at a base price below $30,000, the A3 will offer a 1.8-liter gasoline engine in base form, along with turbocharged 2-liter gasoline and diesel engines. The high-performance S3 version will be powered by a nearly 300-horsepower gasoline engine.
BENTLEY Drawing styling inspiration from the company's Mulsanne flagship, the all-new Flying Spur drops the Continental name. The familiar twin-turbo W-12 engine supplies an ample 616 horsepower, spurring the Spur to a 200 m.p.h. top speed. Expect a starting price of roughly $200,000.
BMW The 5 Series GT has been excoriated for its humpback styling and largely shunned by buyers, but BMW intends to test the stretched-hatchback formula again in the 3 Series. Eight inches longer than a 3 sedan, the GT version offers decisively more rear-seat legroom and cargo space. The $42,345 328i version gets 240 horsepower from a 2-liter turbo 4-cylinder, with the 335i model, at $47,745, pushing 300 horses from a 3-liter in-line 6.
CADILLAC The midsize CTS is smartly redesigned to take on the lavishly reworked Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. Engine choices for the 2014 CTS include a 272-horsepower 2-liter turbo 4, a 321-horse 3.6-liter V-6 and, for the V-Sport version, a twin-turbo V-6 with 420 ponies. The CTS arrives in dealerships this fall, starting around $40,000.
CHEVROLET Chevrolet pulled a fast one, unexpectedly revealing the Z/28, which revives a name first used for a special high-performance Camaro option in 1967. About 300 pounds lighter than standard Camaros, the Z/28 charges from the gate next year with a 7-liter V-8 of some 500 horsepower.
DODGE The appealingly brawny seven-passenger Durango S.U.V. gets a slightly restyled face and the striking full-width style of taillamps found on the Dodge Dart and Charger. Changes for the better include a fuel-saving 8-speed automatic transmission and a reworked interior with digital gauges. It arrives in the fall at a base price of about $30,000.
HONDA They were unable to resist the frat-boy jokes about the Honda Odyssey's new built-in vacuum cleaner, but journalists extolled the HondaVac built into the rear cargo walls of the 2014 Touring Elite version. Capable of tidying up after toddlers, teenagers and slobs of all stripes, the refreshed Odysseys go on sale in summer.
INFINITI Infiniti's seven-passenger QX60 crossover is now greener by way of a Hybrid version that squeezes 250 horsepower from a supercharged 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor. Expect a base price of roughly $44,500 when the QX60 Hybrid goes on sale this summer.
JAGUAR The hissing-cat version of the flagship XJ sedan, the $116,000 XJR, arrives later this year with a 550-horsepower supercharged V-8 and a new 8-speed automatic.
JEEP A radical departure from the boxy models of the past, the new streamlined Cherokee, based on a Fiat platform, adopts Chrysler's 9-speed automatic. Powertrain choices include a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter 4 (that Chrysler estimates will return 31 m.p.g. on the highway), a 271-horse, 3.2-liter V-6 and three 4-wheel-drive systems. Pricing was not announced.
KIA Unlike the Cherokee, the Soul remains proudly boxy, but now wears a resculptured body, a stiffer structure and a smartly upgraded interior. Two 4-cylinder engines will be available when the Soul hits showrooms this fall at a base price of roughly $16,000.
LAND ROVER The New York area accounts for more Range Rover Sport sales than any other market. City buyers are likely to favor this new $63,495 version as well, with its tailored, minimalist styling. Engine choices include a 340-horse supercharged V-6 and a stirring 510-horse supercharged V-8.
MERCEDES-BENZ The most affordable Mercedes sedan, the $30,000 CLA, spawns the most affordable model from the company's power-mad tuner division: the CLA45 AMG, which wrings 355 horsepower from a 2-liter turbo 4-cylinder. The explosive all-wheel-drive fun begins in November, starting at $48,325. At the other end of the carbon-emitting scale is the first all-electric model from the Mercedes-Benz brand, the B-Class Electric Drive, with Mercedes suggesting a price below $40,000. The electric hatchback claims a 110-mile range and recharging in less than four hours.
MITSUBISHI The micro-scale Mirage hatch, Mitsubishi says, will be the most fuel-sipping nonhybrid car in America, at an estimated 37/44 m.p.g. The downside may be power, with just 74 horses from a 1-liter 3-cylinder engine.
NISSAN Nissan claims a 24 percent mileage bump from the supercharged Pathfinder Hybrid, to roughly 25 m.p.g. in combined city and highway rating. On sale this summer, the seven-passenger Pathfinder gets a reasonable 250 horsepower from a supercharged 4-cylinder engine and 15-kilowatt electric motor.
PORSCHE The track-day dream of affluent 911 fans, the $130,000 GT3 arrives in November, cranking 475 horses from a 3.8-liter boxer 6. Porsche cites a 0-to-60 blast in 3.3 seconds and a 195 m.p.h. top speed.
ROLLS-ROYCE The name harkens to a 1938 Rolls-Royce, yet the Wraith seems the most excitingly modern Rolls in years. The impossibly luxurious fastback coupe -- with rear-hinged, wood-veneered doors -- is meant to give chauffeurs the weekend off, with owners pleasurably controlling its 624-horsepower turbo V-12.
SCION On sale in June, Scion's affordable tC coupe -- the mainstay of its youth-centric lineup -- gets mild upgrades including a reworked body, 18-inch wheels and a faster-shifting 6-speed automatic.
SUBARU One of the stars of the New York show is the WRX Concept, which previews the styling of a production version that arrives early next year. Its rippling body and arched roofline are a stark departure for a compact that has long emphasized performance over style. Also on hand is the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, Subaru's first gas-electric model. Alas, its indifferent mileage rating of 28/34 m.p.g. barely tops the nonhybrid version.
TOYOTA Arriving for soccer-mom duty early next year, the 2014 Highlander adds new shape to its formerly anonymous exterior. Buyers can choose among 4- or 6-cylinder engines or a hybrid version.
VOLKSWAGEN Lighter, faster, roomier and more fuel-efficient -- and primed to take on the formidable Ford Focus ST -- the new Golf GTI zips into dealers in summer 2014. A 2-liter turbo 4 supplies 210 horses, while a stylish new interior revives the plaid seat upholstery familiar to VW fans.
VOLVO Station wagons barely make a blip on America's radar or its sales charts, but the Volvo V60 R-Design bravely challenges the odds. The sleek Swedish offshoot of the S60 sedan goes on sale next year, probably with an optional all-wheel-drive system. It will be powered by the S60's 2.5-liter 5 and 3-liter 6.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.