Sam Philip28 March 2013

New York Motor Show: Best of British

Sam Philip reports back on a triumphant New York Motor Show for our soggy island…

The New York Auto Show is inescapably located in America. The Empire State Building looms over the conference centre, yellow cabs honk in the traffic jams outside. Burger joints and bagel vendors line the streets. Which is why, wandering the show's modest floors, it's impossible to avoid one thought: isn't Britain rather bloody marvellous?

For yesterday, in this corner of the Big Apple, a small soggy island far across the Atlantic was generating more buzz and headlines than all America's ‘Big Three' could muster between them.

Star of the show, indisputably, was the Range Rover Sport. It rather had to be, given the cash Land Rover dumped into ensuring its unveil didn't pass unnoticed: calling in virtually every paparazzo in New York (and New York has a lot of paparazzi) and shutting down a significant chunk of Midtown for 007's grand entrance.

But even without Daniel Craig (who senior Land Rover types don't appreciate you mistaking for Craig David, I discover) and the big budget production, the new RRS deserved its star billing. Even if you can't see past its hard-earned Premiership car park connotations, there's no doubting this is a mighty piece of engineering: an all-aluminium seven-seat SUV that'll do 0-60mph in under five seconds (in petrol V8 guise) but also survive just about any bit of hideous off-road you throw at it.

Jaguar didn't have anything quite so revolutionary, but America's a sucker for a muscle car packing dozens of vents and wings, and there are few more muscular, venty or wingy than the deranged XKR-S GT. In terms of real-world relevance, it was approximately as important as the M-branded bobsleigh on BMW's stand, but the locals loved it. Good news, as they're getting 25 of the thirty to be built. The very-slightly-less irrelevant XJ-R went down a storm too. Well, it's massive, rear-drive and has a stonking V8. What else did you expect?

Of course, it's easy to be a big fish in a small pond, and Jaguar and Land Rover clearly set out to dominate what is - against the behemoths of Detroit, Geneva and Frankfurt - still a modest motor show. But it wasn't just JLR drawing the crowds. Clearly in pursuit of the US dollar - New York remains one of the most monied car markets in the world - Rolls, Aston and Bentley put on a shiny show to make America's own attempts at luxury look half-hearted.

A trio of orange McLarens smartly highlighted the absence of Italy's supercar elite, while, despite Lotus's travails, one plucky local luxury car dealership had even got its hands on an Evora, giving TopGear.com an unmissable chance to explain to a bemused group of Eastern European journalists the heady cocktail of mountain roads, sunny beaches and high fashion that makes Norfolk such a hotbed of sports car exotica.

In fact, the UK's only real blot was a gruesome Mansory-tuned Range Rover Sport (the old one) lurking in New York's odds-and-sods basement. Let's blame the Swiss for that one, eh?

Maybe it's a little unfair to berate the US manufacturers for not serving up anything to rival the best of British. There were some nice offerings from the local boys - the none-more-orange Viper Track Pack appeared borderline homicidal, while the new Cadillac CTS looked smart, if enormous - and we shouldn't forget that the Big Three tend to reserve their energies for their biggest home show: Detroit.

But for now, let's cheer the UK's ability to punch way above its weight on the global stage. Let's get Morgan, Caterham and Ariel on board, and next year we can surely annex New York for Britain...

 

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