International autos on display

Last week we reviewed the Big Three at the Pittsburgh International Auto Show, and this week we’re hopping across the pond to take a look at the European and Asian auto offerings.

The Toyota booth displayed an updated model lineup, but the only exciting feature in Toyota’s booth was the 2007 Camry, which was completely redesigned to reflect the changing pace of consumer markets. It features a hybrid technology option to conserve fuel and reduce emissions. The sportier exterior charges Camry’s image into something that appeals to a wide audience, and the company’s signature reliability will keep this the best-selling passenger car in the United States. Missing from Toyota’s booth was the new Yaris, a subcompact car that will replace the Echo in 2007, boasting compact efficiency and a starting price just over $10,000.

Lexus, the luxury subdivision of Toyota, featured its redesigned IS. Many criticized the previous IS, as it was a relabelled Japanese Toyota Altezza. The new IS was built from the ground up as pure Lexus. It comes as in 250 and 350 variants: the 250 with a 2.5-liter V6 and the 350 with a 3.5-liter V6. The IS350 the more powerful of the two, pumps out 300 horsepower and comes only in rear-wheel drive. Both feature the same luxury options that make Lexus a leader among luxury brands, and all models come with automatic transmission standard.

Scion, another subdivision of Toyota, targets the Generation Y market. Scion isn’t offering any new models for 2006 (still the xA, xB, and tC) and isn’t planning a major update until 2008 at the earliest. However, with today’s iPod-flooded market, Scion decided to incorporate iPod capability, and its cars’ steering wheels now feature audio controls. The most-anticipated performance add-on also arrived this year: the tC supercharger. It is a factory option, meaning it won’t void the warranty, and produces 40 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque. Scion featured two corporate-sponsored vehicles, the Injen tC and the Blitz xB, both which underwent extensive modification. Scions start at around $14,000.

Nissan had some updated vehicles, though like Toyota, they didn’t have the subcompact Versa, which is set to compete in 2007. Nissan featured a range of Nismo-tuned vehicles, including the Sentra and 350Z. Nismo is short for Nissan Motorsports, Nissan’s in-house tuner division. The new Altima SE-R also made an appearance, targeting those who want the practicality of a basic sedan but like the looks and specs of a performance car.

Honda featured its redesigned Civic platform; the new design looks more upscale and futuristic than previous generations, and includes a modern-looking dash with digital gauges that run across the driver’s side of the dashboard. Honda also introduced the Fit, another subcompact car, for 2007.
Mitsubishi’s booth was dominated by its sport cars, for which the brand is best known in the United States. The new Eclipse convertible sat side-by-side with the Eclipse coupe and attracted many potential clients with its space-pod looks, performance features, and quality build. Mitsubishi also showcased the next generation of its legendary sport sedan, the Lancer Evolution MR. The ninth-generation “Evo” features a 286 horse power turbo inline-four, souped up with numerous performance parts. The Evo is the road version of Mitsubishi’s infamous rally car and offers extreme performance for its price, starting at just under $30,000.

Korean automakers Kia and Hyundai made their mark with redesigned flagship sedans Amanti and Sonata, both of which attracted attention with impressive safety, options, build quality, warranty, and budget pricing. Both companies have grown substantially within the recent years as their quality and reputation improves in the U.S. market.

European brands also had a lot to offer. Audi’s Q7 crossover SUV launches the company into new territory with their first true sport-utility. The new A3 hatchback drew much attention from younger showgoers, as its good looks, packed features, and reasonable pricing are attractive to those looking for Audi quality and comfort.

Land Rover showed off an impressive line of SUVs, and many showgoers demonstrated interest in the new LR3 model. The LR3 replaces the Discovery series, and will take the reins as Land Rover’s introductory-level vehicle, thus making it affordable for many to own a luxury SUV. LR3 pricing starts at just under $40,000.

BMW pulled out all the stops with its whole lineup, including the new 3-series and 5-series. The popular brand also brought in its high-performance models, the M3 and new M5. M, the in-house performance brand, takes the already high-performance machines and turns them into supercars. The new M5 is the brand’s latest manifestation, where a V-10 produces 500 horsepower and extensive luxury options include voice command and a heads-up display. The price for this critically-acclaimed vehicle starts at just over $80,000.

Mercedes-Benz came with a large range of vehicles, though AMG models — the German carmaker’s performance brand — were lacking. The redesigned S-Class and new R-Class demonstrated Benz’s dedication to luxury, performance, and timeless styling. The Benz roadsters were popular vehicles as well, attracting both young and old.

Aston Martin, the British sports car maker, had its range of vehicles on display. The Vanquish S, featured in the most recent James Bond movie, is AM’s top model, produces 520 horse power, and is able to reach 60 mph in under 4.5 seconds. The DB9 Volante was introduced in 2004 and is the only convertible model. The Vantage was introduced this year as the most affordable AM and is estimated to represent 50 percent of sales. The Vantage starts at $120,000; the DB9 starts at $170,000; the Vanquish starts at $230,000.

Jaguar demoed its line of luxury cars but did not have the new XK sports coupe model on hand.
Lotus had their tiny supercar, the Elise, on display. They plan to release their top-end Exige model early next year.

Other exotics made an appearance but weren’t accessible. The automakers who showed up included Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Porsche.

This year’s auto show gave insight into the ever-changing industry, and next year’s show is sure to be even bigger.