America may be known for doing things on a grand scale and, Las Vegas aside, New York is its most larger-than-life city – but its diminutive motor show has always stood in fairly stark contrast to such themes.
I’m sure its size is not one of choice but circumstances forced upon it by its long-time second-string status next to that longtime staple of the global show circuit held in Detroit each year.
But you didn’t need to be in the Jacob K Javits Convention Center for more than a few minutes of this year’s New York motor show to feel the balance of power tilting away from Motown and toward the Big Apple.
The list of no shows at Detroit this year is too long to detail here, but almost all the ultra-luxury brands stayed away. In New York the stands may not have been big, but they hosted marques such as Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Maserati, Porsche, as well as all the big German premium players and Jaguar Land Rover.
Nor was this a show where the covers came off cars only for the attendant media scrum to realise we’d not only seen them all before, but as recently as Geneva earlier in the month. Make no mistake, there were some important global launches here, with cars of a breadth of talent and importance to make Detroit seem thinner still by comparison.
Probably the most important, at least on this side of the pond, was the new Toyota RAV4. Such has been the popularity of both the car and the sector it invented 24 years ago that right now the RAV4 is America’s best-selling car (aside from pickup trucks); but did Toyota choose to show its replacement in Motor City? It did not, it came instead to Midtown Manhattan for its most important product launch of the year.
And I guess if there was a theme to this show, the apparently relentless rise of the SUV would be it. Jaguar came here to launch a V8 supercharged SVR-specification version of its superb F-Pace, and it would have been confident enough to call it another of what have been many show-stealing performances over the years, right up until about 2.40pm.
That was the time a large empty space on the Maserati stand was filled by a twin turbo V8, 582bhp, 187mph Levante Trofeo, which rather rudely trumped its rival’s headline stats by 40bhp and 11mph.
Still Jaguar’s deal, announced in New York, to supply up to 20,000 of its I-Pace electric SUVs to Waymo, Google’s autonomous driving division, was probably of greater long-term significance, not least because it increases dramatically the chances of ensuring that when large-scale testing of autonomous cars begins in Europe, the UK will be among the first to sanction it.
Elsewhere on the SUV front Hyundai launched a revised Tuscon with new engines and style ahead of UK sales beginning this summer. Cadillac showed the XT4, which it claims really could come to Europe and the UK, while Acura luxury brand NSK produced its RDX, which certainly will not.
As in Detroit the German premium brand making the most concerted effort in New York was Mercedes-Benz. True, Audi showed the Sportback version of the RS5 coupe, but Benz brought revised C-classes in both cabriolet and coupe configuration as well the AMG C63 version of the latter.
Capable of hitting 62mph in just 3.9sec despite the absence of four-wheel drive, the AMG model now has a nine-speed automatic gearbox, an electronically controlled limited slip differential in both C63 and C63S and, in matt black paint, looks to make you wonder if you really do want that AMG GT so much after all.