The Most Important Cars and SUVs at the New York Auto Show – The Drive

Posted: Friday, April 14, 2017

Nissan showed its new Rogue Sport, a downsized version of the Rogue crossover that will take on subcompacts like the Honda HR-V. Normally, I’d devote two sentences to a seeming niche model like Rogue Sport, but suddenly attention and respect must be paid: The Rogue Sport’s entire class didn’t even exist five years ago. Now it seems no crossover is too small to become a viable option for Americans who seem utterly bored by traditional sedans, hatchbacks or wagons. The larger, low-key Rogue itself is defying all predictions, shooting past even the mighty Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 to find a remarkable 329,904 buyers last year. That’s more than any car or SUV sold in America. It’s also the fourth-best selling model of any type, trailing only a proudly “Murican trio of pickup perennials.

That bears repeating: Set aside the Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram pickups, and America’s favorite car is… the Nissan Rogue. 

How crazy is the exodus from cars to SUVs? Dan Passe, Nissan spokesman, said that 60 percent of the brand’s sales were cars in 2014, 40 percent pickups and SUV’s. In barely two years, sales of car models have plummeted to 53 percent of the total, with light trucks well on pace to deliver the majority of Nissan sales. 

“It used to be that Altima was the perennial sales leader, but now it’s Rogue—and by a lot,” Passe says. 

Weirdly shaped or unusually scaled crossovers were once the oddballs of every auto show—think the original Scion xB, Nissan Juke or BMW X6—they’re now the popular kids, firmly in the mainstream. Mercedes, which has used an explosion of SUV models to dominate American luxury sales, pulled three more from its bottomless hat in New York: The Mercedes-AMG GLC63, GLC63 Coupe and GLC63 S Coupe. We’re talking Toyota RAV4 sized SUVs, only stuffed with hand-built biturbo V8’s with up to 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. 

Like some other journalists, I used to get upset when I saw too many SUV’s at auto shows, clogging up my views of Ferraris and Aston Martins. I’d bemoan the jejune tastes of consumers, shake my fist at the cynical, pandering automakers. But there seems no use in getting as bent out of shape as the aforementioned GLC coupe. At this point, it’s like shouting that there are too many pawns on the chessboard, and hoping they’ll all turn into queens. It’s just not how the game works.   

Sports cars are even more niche

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