Gas prices are coming back down and Americans seem to be breathing a sigh of relief as activity in Iraq slows. Here in the States, show season is also winding down with the New York International Auto Show standing as the last big engagement of the circuit.

True to form, automakers are launching a last productive offensive, with concepts and production models to be rolled out. Believe it or not, manufacturers still have some surprises hidden up their sleeves, with dozens of new vehicles to be mobilized in the Big Apple.

Motor Trend's digital editors maneuvered through the crowds of journalists like E-2C Hawkeye pilots to get the inside stories, photos, and video for posting here before the event opened to the public. Keep an eye out as coverage continues, and be sure to vote for your favorites in the polls linked from the home page.

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Click to read our 2004 New York International Auto Show coverage.

True to form, Acura unveiled the thinly disguised "concept" version of its all-new flagship TL sedan, though history has shown that the luxo division's concepts are quite close to reality. A more striking design than the current, conservative TL, the show car features deep character lines along the doors and rear quarters that will help distinguish this model from the TSX sedan. This TL measure several inches shorter than the 2003 model, giving the car a tighter, tauter appearance. The TL concept features 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, and high-pressure air nozzles in place of windshield wipers. Few production details were released, though officials proudly revealed that the high-tech 2004 TL will have the first automotive application of DVD Audio 5.1, along with Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and XM Satellite Radio.

Celebrating 50 years of "letter cars," the Chrysler 300C concept sedan reveals the heir to the 300M and shows an imminent-production four-door application of the new rear-drive platform shared with the Dodge Magnum wagon. The bold design draws heavily from 1950s and early 1960s influences, adapting them to Chrysler's new styling philosophy. Like the early Letter cars, the 300C features a Hemi V-8 engine, though the 300-plus horsepower engine is backed by a five-speed AutoStick automatic for this 2005 model. Dynamics and safety are aided by stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes. The interior is as clean and monolithic as the exterior, embellished by chrome and brushed-metal trim, analog clock, and navigation system. Step aside Marauder, this is the true successor to the rear-drive Impala SS's muscle sedan throne. Without a doubt, the 300C is destined to be a car enthusiasts crave 10, even 20 years down the road.

Lexus explored the space between the RX 300 and GX 470 in its lineup with the HPX, a concept vehicle aimed squarely at the Infiniti FX45. Based on the lauded GS sedan rear-drive platform, the High Performance Crossover (HPX) put the 4.3-liter/300-horsepower V-8 and five-speed automatic transmission in an all-wheel-drive application. The chassis touts a height-adjustable suspension to address diverse highway speed and light-duty off-roading chores, though the emphasis is clearly on pavement dynamics. The simple-appearing interior allows the driver to customize displays, configuring size, position, and color. Seating is offered in three rows, with the rear child-sized bench folding flush to the cargo floor when not needed. Although a true concept, the HPX so effectively targets an emerging segment that we expect to see the HPX again...

As the 911 GT3 demonstrates, Porsche is committed to offering its special, limited-edition performance models in the United States. Based on the previous GT3 not offered in America, the 2004 model features a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter/380-horsepower flat six. The significantly fortified powerplant can race the bi-winged 911 from 0-60 mph in a claimed 4.3 seconds, reaching 100 mph in 9.4 seconds, and peaking at 190 mph. Key to the high-speed limits is its improved aerodynamics, with exclusive wing and body work, and low 0.30 coefficient of drag. The GT3 is fitted with 13.8-inch, six-piston front brakes and 13-inch rear discs, providing more stopping power than the mighty 911 Turbo. Track-minded construction can be seen through the mechanical systems, with more durable engine components, concessions to heat management throughout, lightweight wheels, and only two leather buckets, all contributing to a stronger, lighter performance machine. The most powerful non-turbo Porsche ever offered in the States goes on sale in May priced at $99,900.

With a decidedly Japanese stage performance, Toyota unveiled the second-generation Toyota Prius. The original pioneering sedan was more successful at putting hybrid-powered cars in driveways than expected, making Toyota optimistic at the acceptance for the much improved replacement. Everything is bigger and better, with numbers galore to back up the claims. The car has grown, bumping the Prius from a compact to a full-fledged midsize sedan at 110 cubic feet interior volume. Horsepower climbs to 106, with 0-60 mph times dropping to the mid 10 second range, while fuel economy soars. Toyota boasts that the Prius will double the combined (city and highway) fuel economy ratings for any midsize car, and best that of any compact car. Emissions are 30 percent less than the SULEV (super ultra low) 2003 Prius, making it the cleanest car on the planet. Need more numbers? How about, coefficient of drag is 0.26 versus 0.29, it stretches 5.4 inches longer than the current model, cargo capacity is 16 cubic feet, and the new Prius carries 370 patents. The bottom line number wasn't announced, but we're told the price will be just above the 2003 model. It adds up to hybrids becoming the mainstream, with the latest Hybrid Synergy Drive system leading the way.

If you covet an estate car built to your very own specifications, consider the Bufori MK III. Known in some parts of the world as the La Joya, this vehicle features hand-sewn Connolly leather upholstery, matching Mah carpeting, 13-way Recaro seats, and instrument bezels of 24-karat gold. Under the hood lies a powerful fuel-injected V-6 capable of propelling the car 0-60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, and an optional supercharger promises to boost horsepower above 300 for even more acceleration. Bufori's sequential shift transmission allows the driver to enjoy automatic or clutchless manual shifting. The Bufori MK III will be built entirely by hand in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and approximately 100 units will be available to United States buyers with delivery dates beginning later this summer. The expected base price begins at $110,000, with additional options limited only by the buyer's imagination and checkbook.

Mitsubishi will transplant the practical Lancer wagon variant to the U.S. market for 2004, fleshing out the wide Lancer line. Benefiting from the platform enhancements for the new model year, the wagon will be offered in LS and Ralliart trim, each distinguished in dynamics and personality. Both Sportbacks are motivated by a 2.4-liter/160-horsepower SOHC MIVEC engine -- Mitsu's counter to the VTEC. The LS features air conditioning, 140-watt AM/FM/CD audio system, white-faced gauges, a height-adjustable driver's seat, tilt steering wheel, power windows/locks/mirrors, and remote keyless entry. The Sportback Ralliart packs a sport-tuned suspension, faster-ratio steering rack, more aggressive V-rated tires, anti-lock brakes, and tougher-sounding exhaust. The models are differentiated visually by the Ralliart's exterior treatment, with front spoiler, grille, tinted headlamp lenses, fog lights, side trim, and rear air dam. The only variant left to complete the family would be a Sportback Evolution...

The Australian-built Diamante sedan is freshened for 2004 with an interior and exterior makeover, and the introduction of a sporty variant. A revised front end updates the Diamante with a new fascia, triangulated headlamps, split grille, hood, and fenders. Lines at the rear are integrated into the deck lid and bumper, and the tail lamps are treated to new lenses. Inside, a new instrument panel and center console dress up the interior with a fresh appearance and updated controls. Traditional ES and LS trims are joined by VR-X, the sporty model with a performance edge. The VR-X enhances the near-lux sedan with a sport-tuned suspension, low-restriction exhaust for a 5 horsepower gain, unique grille, fog lamps, rear spoiler, five-spoke wheels, white-face gauges, 270-watt audio system, and essential badging.

Mitsubishi has completely revised the midsize Galant sedan to give it more power, more room, and more attitude. Twenty more horsepower are available from the 2.4-liter/160-hp SULEV engine found in the DE and ES models, or buyers may step up to 3.8-liter/230-hp V-6 in the LS and GTS models for even more performance. Dimensions have been stretched inside and out to make the new Galant one of the largest in its class, boasting more than 101 cubic feet of passenger room. And more attitude can be found in its dramatically redesigned appearance that features angular lines contrasted by a sweeping roof outside, and soft-touch materials with ice-blue illumination inside. The all-new Galant is available in a choice of models ranging from the base $19,000 DE, the high-volume $20,000 ES, the sporty V-6-powered $22,000 LS, or the top-level V-6 GTS (pricing not yet available).

Sharing their all-aluminum body and chassis, the Challenge Stradale joins the 360 Modena and the 360 Spider in the Ferrari eight-cylinder range of road cars. First seen in Geneva, the Challenge Stradale follows the Ferrari tradition of making road cars directly derived from the race cars, drawing upon the racing expertise earned in the Ferrari Challenge International Championships and the FIA GT races. The strong links of the Challenge Stradale road car to racing are underlined by a significant weight reduction, obtained also through additional aerodynamic contents, enhanced braking performance, and F1-style gearbox. The engine is the same 3586cc V-8, with five valves per cylinder and titanium conrods. The color this Stradale is the new "Rosso Scuderia," the same red of the Formula 1 cars, with decorations recalling Ferraris used in customer races of the past.

Mini masterminds John Cooper Works have cooked up an exciting performance package that will push the supercharged model past the 200 horsepower mark. Available through Mini dealers, the package can be retrofitted to current Minis, and will include a reconfigured cylinder head with improved port flow, uprated Eaton supercharger with a new pulley design for more spin and higher horsepower, and special engine electronics that optimize power output. A stainless steel sport exhaust system with parallel flow and low back-pressure system gives the exhaust throaty note as it exits twin chrome exhaust tips. The John Cooper Works package promises a 6.7-second 0-60 mph time and 140-mph top speed, and carries a factory warranty, regardless of whether it is installed when the car is purchased or added later.

Land Rover showed a special-edition SUV based on the rugged Freelander in the Land Rover G4 Challenge. Building up from the Freelander SE, the G4 Edition adds full-length roof rails and rack, brush bar, siderails, rear lamp guards, and 17-inch HSE wheels outside, and waterproof G4 logo seat covers and sunroof inside. Standard engine is 2.5-liter/174-hp V-6 mated to a five-speed CommandShift tranny that allows "manual" or fully automatic shifting. Four-wheel electronic traction control, a sophisticated viscous coupling unit, and Hill Descent Control work to transmit power to all four wheels, even when traveling down steep slopes. If the Tangiers Orange paint job doesn't announce it clearly enough, special G4 Challenge badging can also be found on the front fenders and rear tailgate. A limited number of these G4 Edition Freelanders will be available this summer with a target price under $30,000.

Again, building on the vehicles performing in the Land Rover G4 Challenge, Land Rover is offering a package of G4 Edition Discovery upgrades. Focusing on off-road ability, Land Rover combines a 4.6-liter/217-hp V-8 engine, five-speed automatic tranny, two-speed transfer case with locking center differential, four-wheel electronic traction ctontrol, and self-leveling suspension to give the Discovery G4 Edition its best possible off-road prowess. Outside, the vehicle boasts a Tangier Orange paintjob and roof rail system, A-frame brush bar, and rear lamp guards. Inside are an indash CD player, electric driver and passenger seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and exclusive G4 upholstery. Only 200 G4 Edition Discoverys will be available at dealerships this fall, with pricing expected to be under $39,000.

Saturn is taking a step to generate new interest in the brand by developing a series of performance-tuned vehicles called the Red Line. The series -- which will also include a Red Line Ion quad coupe -- is due to arrive in early 2004 and features a variety of interior and exterior refinements as well as a new 3.5-liter/250-horse V-6 engine that promises to propel the Vue 0-60 mph in about 7 seconds. The Vue Red Line will be available in both front- and all-wheel drive, and boasts a lower ride height and stiffer springs and sport steering calibration as well as aggressive 18-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in P245/50R18 Bridgestone Turanza performance touring tires for improved ride and handling. Appearance add-ons include new rockers, front and rear fascia, chrome exhaust tips, and exclusive badging. Saturn has also announced that it is developing a hybrid-powertrain Vue to debut in 2005.

Its seems ironic for an automaker whose homeland is considered ice cold with endless nights that one in five Saabs sold in the United States is a convertible model. Saab has released the latest generation of its iconic convertible touting an improved chassis dynamics, refined performance, and greater comfort. Based on the new Epsilon platform, it shares much of its engineering with other GM products, and boasts a rigid body structure nearly three times stiffer than its predecessor, as well as an all-new suspension. Underhood is an all-aluminum 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine capable of making 155 or 210 horsepower (depending on configuration) linked to either five- or six-speed manual or optional "smart" automatic tranny with Saab Sentronic sequential shifting. The one-touch softtop fully deploys in 20 seconds, and for rollover safety its DynaCage system features pop-up rear roll bars and front seatbelt pre-tensioning. Expect it to arrive at dealerships in the fall.

First seen in Geneva, Mazda's front-drive MX Sportif five-door hatchback concept is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that includes a revised intake-exhaust layout, a variable intake system, a tumble swirl control valve, and a high-flow port head. The result is substantial low-end torque and outstanding driving dynamics as well as partial zero level emissions. The interior is sporty and comfortable, with high-gloss piano-black instrument panel, and metallic interior accents; the exterior styling features dynamic proportions with strong lines to give a sense of movement, solidity, and dynamic stability. Overall, the design indicates the direction of Mazda's global sports compact design, and will probably appear in the next generation Mazda Protege, due in 2005.

Nissan wasted little time following the Titan King Cab reveal with a look at the Crew Cab model scheduled to go on sale late 2003. Available in five- and six-passenger configurations, the 127-cubic-foot interior boasts more space than its competitors, including 2004 models. The rear seat is split 60/40 and has a 24-degree rake for comfort. Passengers can experience mobile theater with an optional 7-inch DVD system complimented by a 350-watt, 10-speaker Rockford-Fosgate sound system. The 5-foot 7-inch cargo bed has its own distinct features, such as an industry-first factory spray-in bedliner, movable tie-down cleats, bedside storage compartment, tailgate work light, and a bed-mounted 12-volt power point. Like the King Cab, this four-door packs a 5.6-liter DOHC V-8 with over 300 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.

Word that Cadillac was cramming a V-12 engine in its Escalade luxo 'ute could not go unanswered for long... The Ford Performance Group fit the 385-horsepower supercharged Lightning engine into a special Navigator for the New York auto show to gauge reaction and prepare the market for a potential thunderous SUV flagship. The name draws from a performance car, Model K, introduced in 1931 that rejuvenated Lincoln. The Navigator K has a sinister appearance, thanks to a two-tone black finish, 20-inch chrome wheels, and painted grille. The interior is dressed in a rich, luxurious red seen on some dash surfaces, steering wheel, and leather seats accented with black piping. Satin nickel and wood grain trim further contribute to the upscale interior that appears ready-made for a limited edition model.

A superb driver's car, the Nissan 350Z has wooed the enthusiast public, garnering enough buyers to claim the title from the Chevrolet Corvette as the best-selling sports car. And that's before the coupe drops its top in summer 2003. Eager for open roads and sunshine, the Z Roadster has the same responsiveness and athleticism that has made the coupe so successful, yet adding more sensory input. The cloth top is released from or secured to the windshield header with a three-lock, single latch located directly above the middle windshield area. The one-touch power top raises or lowers in a modest 20 seconds. The Z Roadster will be offered in two trims, Enthusiast Model and Touring Model. The base Enthusiast version features power seats, rear wind deflector, 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, and automatic climate control. The Touring Model adds a Bose audio system with 6-disc CD changer and seven speakers, and leather-appointed seats with heater and heated mirrors.

Nissan is tackling the domestic automakers with a direct assault in both full-size pickup and sport/utility vehicles. No protracted rollout or half measures here. The Armada set sail in New York, with the market attack to begin fall 2003. Supplementing the Pathfinder, the dramatically larger Pathfinder Armada features three seating rows, available in seven- or eight-passenger configurations. The Titan-shared interior feels more like a premium sedan than a truck, with its artful design and relatively lush materials. Every Armada includes four-wheel, ABS-equipped disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system with Traction Control and Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS). A sophisticated, capable SUV, the Pathfinder Armada 4x4 uses all-drive technology derived from the Skyline GT-R for on-road and off-road traction, aided by a two-speed electronic transfer case.

Chevrolet's Malibu Maxx is based on the all-new 2004 Malibu and built on the first North American application of General Motors' popular Epsilon architecture (also shared with the Opel Vectra and {{{Saab 9-3}}}). The five-door extended sedan offers a cavernous interior lit by a standard rear fixed glass skylight, promising first-class comfort at the price of a coach-class ticket. Underhood is a 3.5-liter/200 horsepower V-6 mated to a four-speed electronic-shift transmission; standard equipment includes electric power steering, driver information center, power adjustable pedals and rear HVAC. The Malibu Maxx offers 22.8 cubic feet of cargo storage, nearly double that found in other midsize sedans, as well as a multi-functional cargo panel that allows two-tier loading or can be converted to a table top for tailgating or picnics. Malibu Maxx enters production this winter.

The letters CLK have been synonymous with sheer driving pleasure since Mercedes-Benz introduced the line in 1998. The new CLK Cabriolet range will feature five different engine options throughout the world, offering an unprecedented selection of four-, six- and eight-cylinder engines ranging from 163 to 367 horsepower. The top-of-the-line CLK55 AMG boasts a 0-60 mph time under 5.4 seconds. Eschewing the popular folding hardtop used in the current SLK and SL, the CLK retains the soft folding top that is completely concealed when retracted at the push of a button or remote control. Premium features include Distronic intelligent cruise control, Linguatronic voice-control for phone/audio/navigation systems, and Thermotronic auto climate control with solar sensor.

Ford released three special-edition Mustangs at the New York show to celebrate the 40th birthday of its pony car, as well as the Centennial of the brand. Shown here is the 40th Anniversary Edition, available on Mustangs and Mustang GT coupes and convertibles. The package will be offered in three paint colors (including this Crimson Red), and offers special performance striping, wheels, and interior enhancements. A total of 5700 40th Anniversary Editions will come to market in the fall, with pricing to be released closer to the on sale date. Other 40th Anniversary models will include a limited production SVT Mustang "MystiChrome" Cobra, as well as a 305-horsepower Mach 1.

From the company that sells a track-bred, 300-horsepower compact car, an air-gulping hood scoop added to a model can mean only one thing: turbo! Subaru force-feeds more excitement in the beach-bound Baja with a intercooled, turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer engine, producing 210 horsepower and reaching a 235 lb-ft torque peak. This engine should not only help drivers with their hyper-active lifestyle around town, but make the Baja more eager in the mountains. Other standard features to appeal to weekend warriors include all-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, four-beam halogen headlamps, foldable side mirrors, fog lamps with stone guards, full independent suspension, and 8.4 inches of clearance. Like all Bajas, this new model includes the clever Switchback door that allows large objects to extend into the folded rear seat area.

An all-new Solara joins the recently reborn Camry sedan in the Toyota lineup this summer. Like the four-door model, the new coupe is larger, more powerful, and more refined than the car it replaces. The more sporty exterior suggests a more stimulating driving experience. An assertion supported by an available 3.3-liter/225-horsepower V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic sequential transmission. Interior space has increased 20 percent, and all three trim levels are distinguished visually by wood-grain, brushed aluminum, and graphite-accented trim. The SE model will be dressed with a five-piece body kit, leather trim, special gauge faces, and more aggressive 17-inch wheel/tire fitment. It will also include an enthusiast-oriented suspension. Noteworthy options include XM Satellite radio, DVD-based navigation system with a 6.7-inch monitor, and side airbag curtains.

Mercury is rolling out a product offensive destined to revitalize the FoMoCo division, with the Monterey minivan and Montego sedan this fall, followed by the Mariner sport/utility vehicle. Due in fall 2004, the Mariner is another tastefully executed variation of the compact ute platform that has spawned the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute. The Mercury model is differentiated with brand-character design elements, like the waterfall grille, large headlamps, U-shaped air intake, satin-finished metal work, and monochrome appearance. The interior also boasts more sophistication than the Escape, with a two-tone treatment highlighted by satin aluminum, wood grain, and chrome accents. The pint-sized triumvirate share basic configurations, with the Mariner offers choices among 2.3-liter inline four and 3.0-liter V-6 engines, and two- and four-wheel drive systems.

Marching closer to dealer lots like an Energizer bunny, the Escape Hybrid was unveiled in show trim, alongside the old school special edition Mustangs. Looking sharp with 18-inch wheels, fresh front fascia, integrated skid plate, and dramatic roof rack, the real story lay beneath the Ice Blue exterior. The sport/cute features an application-specific 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and 65-kW electric motor that combined deliver performance to rival the traditional 3.0-liter V-6 yet return 35-40 mpg city fuel economy with nearly a 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions. And despite a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack on board, Ford ensures that both cargo capacity and off-road ability equal the gasoline-powered Escape. The Escape Hybrid is scheduled to begin fleet production late fall and enter mass production late calendar year 2004.

Cadillac proudly displayed the 2004 CTS-V, the first model to be developed by the new GM Performance Division. The CTS-V formula is as simple and brilliant today as it was back in the 1960s; take the corporation's most powerful car engine and fit it in a mid-size sedan. Translation: the LS6 V-8 from the Corvette Z06 transplanted to the CTS near-lux sedan, complete with 400 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. The OHV engine is backed with a six-speed Tremec T56 manual transmission, with the Sigma platform fortified with four-piston Brembo disc brakes, 18-inch wheel, sport-tuned steering, significantly revised suspension, and multi-mode StabiliTrak. The exterior features both cosmetic and practical enhancements, with a new fascia featuring an air splitter and brake ducts. The interior boasts numerous exclusive enhancements, including unique instrument panel, three-spoke steering wheel, and satin-finish metal trim. CTS-V production is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2003. Consider the German sport sedan makers warned...