Despite the dark clouds that continue to hang over the automotive industry -- particularly GM and Chrysler -- the 2009 New York Auto Show is shaping up to be a solid event with a nice mix of products set to spin on the Big Apple's turntables.

While the shift to small cars is supposedly on, most of the New York show stars are of the crossover and SUV variety, with concepts from both Hyundai (Nuvis) and Acura (ZDX) set to debut, along with an M-badged SAC (X6 M) from BMW, and SUV updates from Land Rover, Mercedes and Mazda.

Arguably the biggest news on the big vehicle front, however, is coming from the poster children for the automotive apocalypse: GM and Chrysler. While not exactly the type of small, fuel efficient products being demanded of them by the Obama administration, both vehicles should be relatively well received and may eventually help with each automaker's bottom line -- that is if they haven't hit rock bottom by the time they're set to hit the market.

Debuts

2009 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid
2009 GMC Yukon Denali hybrid
2010 BMW X5 M
2010 BMW X6 M
2010 GMC Terrain
2010 Land Rover LR4
2010 Land Rover Range Rover
2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
2010 Mazda CX-7
2010 Mazda CX-9
2010 Mercedes-Benz ML450 Hybrid
2010 Subaru Outback
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Concepts

Acura ZDX crossover
Ford Transit Connect Family One Concept
Dog Friendly Honda_Element Concept
Hyundai Nuvis Concept
Mitsubishi Outlander GT Concept

2010 GMC Terrain

Based on the second-gen Chevrolet Equinox on sale soon, the 2010 GMC Terrain has distinct sheetmetal and a slightly upgraded interior featuring lots of red ambient lighting, including along the center-stack-control outline, the CD player opening, and in the door handle openings. The Terrain will come with slightly more standard equipment than the new Equinox, and we'd expect base prices for the SLE and SLT trim levels, both available in front or all-wheel drive and I-4 or V-6 configurations, to run from the very low to the upper-mid $20s.

Underneath it all, the Terrain will be familiar to those of you who have studied the '10 Equinox's spec sheet: 2.4L Ecotec gas direct-injection four or a new 3.0-liter gas direct-injection V-6, with fuel economy ranging up to 30 mpg highway. The driving range will top 500 miles with either engine and the Ecotec four features an "ECO" mode in which the driver can lower torque lockup speed to 1125 rpm with the touch of a button.



2009 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid

For 2009, Cadillac mates its two-mode hybrid system to the top-line Escalade Platinum SUV. A 6.0-liter V-8 rated at 332 hp and 367 lb.-ft. of torque replaces the 403 horse 6.2-liter. And, with a weight north of 7,000-lbs, the hybrid returns 20 mpg city , thanks to regenerative braking, stop-start, cylinder deactivation, and electronically driven aircon and power steering systems. The latter system, Cadillac says, boosts fuel economy up to 0.5 mpg by reducing parasitic losses.

With a seven mpg city gain, the Platinum retains its high-line features, including a grille styled after the CTS, 22-in. wheels, magnetic suspension, LED headlights, Aniline leather-upholstered interior, and a DVD entertainment system with screens in the front-seat headrests. Two- and four-wheel drive configurations are available.

The hybrid package comes at a $3600 premium over the standard Platinum. Rear-drive starts at $85,885 while four-wheel drive comes in at $88,395.


2009 GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid

Keeping the all-new GMC Terrain company on the GM stand at the New York Auto Show this week will be the 2009 GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid, a dressed-down version of eco-luxury Cadillac Escalade Hybrid.

Specifically, the Yukon Denali Hybrid in 2WD configuration will return 21 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, a considerable improvement over non-hybrid Yukons, which offer as little as 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. With that V-8 remaining under the hood, the Yukon Denali Hybrid's performance isn't diluted. It will still pull 5,800 lbs with its 332 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque, all while getting the gas mileage of a much smaller vehicle.

To distinguish the hybrid from the standard Yukon, GM tapped the innovation well dry and came up with new 22-in., eight-spoke wheels and a few "Hybrid" badges. Inside, the hybrid gets loaded with heated and cooled leather seats in the first two rows. The only options available are a sunroof, a blind-zone alert system in the side mirrors and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.


2010 Mazda CX-7

Mazda's refreshed 2010 Mazda CX-7, which is making its U.S. debut at New York, features new styling and a new 2.5L engine -- the same block that serves duty in the Mazda3 and Mazda6. No doubt designed as a more economical alternative to the usual 244-horsepower turbocharged 2.3L engine that's still an option in the CX-7's engine bay, the slightly larger, normally-aspirated 2.5L four-banger will produce 161 horsepower and 161 lb-ft of torque. Though pricing and fuel economy figures are not yet available, we're willing to bet the offering will trade a little power for improved gas mileage and a lower MSRP.

Beyond the new engine option, Mazda has revised the CX-7's styling both inside and out. Most noticeable is the new five-point front grille that is quickly becoming an integral part of Mazda's current design language and is also visible in the redesigns of the Mazda3, MX-5, and RX-8. Inside, the gauges get a refresh with three-dimensional dials and a Multi Information Display. The passenger's seat receives power adjustment, while a three-position driver's seat memory and Bluetooth compatibility are also new. Mazda says that overall, the 2010 CX-7 is refined greatly over the current version and that improvements extend all the way to the build quality. The body rigidity has reportedly also been improved, with it lower noise, vibration, and harshness levels are readily apparent -- even wind noise has been reduced, according to the automaker


2010 Mazda CX-9

The updated 2010 Mazda CX-9 is the latest Mazda to get a version of the automaker's new signature design cues, including most prominently the smiling wide lower grille (the CX-9 gets a strake through the middle) and updated fog and headlamp designs. Mazda also promises interior updates for the seven-passenger CX-9, along with slight tweaks to the ride, and additional options and safety features.



BMW X5 M and X6

With the intro of the BMW X5 M and X6 M at the New York auto show, BMW is giving in to competition from the Porsche Cayenne GTS and the Mercedes-Benz ML65 AMG. In more certain times, the X5/6 Ms would be surefire profit-makers. Instead of the M5's 500-horse, 5.0L V-10, the X5/6 M are powered by a new, 555-hp version of the 4.4L twin-turbo V-8, this one featuring a new exhaust manifold set in the engine's vee. The manifold has one turbo inlet for every two cylinders (normally, it's one inlet per turbo scroll) and swaps out cylinders to get a pulse every 90 degrees. The two Garrett twin-scroll turbos work both sides of the vee, not one per bank. The new M twin-turbo V-8's max engine speed is 6800 rpm (with turbos spooling to about 16,000 rpm at maximum turbo boost) and the engine produces a heady 502 pound-feet of torque from 1800 rpm on. BMW claims both vehicles will sprint to 60 mph in 4.5 sec.

The X5/6 M set another BMW precedent, as the first M models with an automatic transmission. The X5/6 M's "sport" mode speeds up shifting among the six gears, and the "M" mode speeds them up even further. Click on the X5/6 M's M mode and all-wheel-drive bias shifts heavily to the rear wheels, making them great drift competition candidates, BMW says. The rear bias is well past 20/80, although BMW says it's not pure rear drive. Both the X5 and X6 M go on sale late this year.



Hyundai Nuvis Concept

The Hyundai Nuvis Concept is yet another hybrid-crossover dream machine designed to blend utility with small-car fuel-economy and sci-fi futuristic styling. Powered by a parallel hybrid system backed up by a 270-watt lithium-polymer battery, the Nuvis delivers an estimated 34 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, according to Hyundai.

The Nuvis employs Hyundai's Hybrid Blue Drive system, which operates on a principle similar to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive setup. In this case, Hyundai's 228-hp Theta II 2.4L inline four-cylinder engine is mated to a 30 kW electric motor that can get the vehicle moving from a stop and provide extra power for accelerating and passing.

Its six-speed automatic transmission has seen its fourth, fifth and sixth gears extended for better highway fuel-economy. Hyundai says its lithium-polymer battery pack, which is stored under the rear cargo floor, is more space-efficient and durable than nickel-metal hydride or lithium-ion battery packs found in other hybrids.

Blue Drive is a styling influence as well. To drive the point home, the color blue has turned up all over the vehicle. It's in the headlights, it's trimming the brake ducts in the lower front fascia, it's hiding in character lines behind the front wheels and it's lighting up the Hyundai logos at either end of the vehicle. Pull open the massive gullwing doors and you'll find plenty more where that came from. On the floors, you'll find blue accent lighting running from front to rear that looks like a river flowing beneath your feet and pulses to emulate moving water. That is, if you notice the floor. Most people likely won't be able to take their eyes of the alien-space-ship dash and center console.

While Hyundai says that the Nuvis serves as a platform for a new styling direction for the brand, it's likely most of its extreme lines and features won't see showrooms, although we wouldn't be surprised to see a Ford Edge and Toyota Highlander-fighting hybrid CUV from Hyundai employing cues from the Nuvis in the near future.




Mitsubishi Outlander GT Prototype

To be shown in Diamond White paint, the Mistubishi Outlander GT Prototype's most prominent exterior feature is up front where the automaker has grafted on the menacing "Jet Fighter" snout from the Lancer Evolution. And the fun doesn't stop there. Mitsu is planning to use the sportier Outlander to showcase a host of technological goodies including Idle Neutral Logic, a system that automatically shifts the Outlander's six-speed Sportronic automatic transmission into neutral when at a standstill to conserve fuel. Under the hood, the 220-hp 3.0-liter MIVEC V-6 engine from the top-line Outlander XLS will be linked to Mitsubishi's Super-All-Wheel-Control drive system.




Acura ZDX crossover

The Acura ZDX prototype shares many design cues with the controversial TL sedan, though the execution is thankfully much less cartoonish. In fact, the production version, which will differ on in minor detail, will arguably be the best looking vehicle in the Acura range when it goes on sale this fall.

In the ZDX function is secondary to form. The C-pillars have been pulled dramatically inward to give the ZDX a pronounced shoulder over the rear wheel.The B-pillar has also been moved rearward compared with Acura's MDX SUV. (It's built on the same platform and shares its powertrain, all-wheel-drive layout, and high seating position with the MDX.) As a result, the rear door aperture is relatively narrow, and tall passengers will find the rear seat headroom a little tight. With rear vision likely to be somewhat restricted, its no surprise to learn the production ZDX will come standard with an all-new blind spot warning system and a multi-view rear camera that will offer wide angle and top-down views. It's a big vehicle. Overall length is 192.4 in. and overall width is 78.5 in. It rides on a 108.2-in. wheelbase and stands 61.8 in. tall. The rakish roofline is key to the ZDX's sports coupe pretensions. The rear door handles have been hidden to emphasize the coupelike profile. The roof features black-tinted glass panels, which continue right through the backlight and onto the vertical surface of the rear hatch, just like an old CRX. The through bumper exhaust outlets are a first for Honda.

Honda officials won't confirm all details of the production version yet, but logic suggests this range-topping, sporty Acura will be available with the punchy 305-hp, 3.7L V-6 offered in the TL. The engine will be mated to an all-new six speed automatic transmission with a sequential sport-shift mode. All weather traction is courtesy of Honda's complex, heavy but effective Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.




2010 Land Rover LR4

The 2010 Land Rover LR4 is powered by Jaguar Land Rover's all-new 5.0L, direct-injection V-8 -- a significant increase in size from the outgoing LR3's current 4.4L engine. With the new engine comes more power: 375 brake horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque, up from 300 and 315, respectively. The new engine (also employed in the Jaguar XF) uses variable camshaft timing, which works independently on all four camshafts, improving engine response. It also boasts lower fuel consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, and is ULEV2 compliant. It's backed by a revised ZF HP-28 six-speed automatic that should help improve fuel economy (not yet rated) and make quicker, more refined shifts.

Underneath, updates were made to the suspension, including new knuckles, new shocks, and a stiffer anti-roll bar, and the LR4 also receives larger brakes (now 14.2-in. at the front as opposed to the LR3's 13.3) and an updated traction control system. Terrain Reponse now offers a sand launch control, and Hill Descent Control now uses Gradient Release Control, which reduces initial acceleration on extremely steep grades.

Styling has been refreshed, with smoother, more aerodynamic lines, a new two-bar grille and LED headlights with high-beam assist. There are now side vents and new wheel styles. The interior has been completely redesigned. There's a new center stack and the Terrain Response control now sits above the shifter. There are new seats for the first two rows, new leather colors, and the addition of ambient lighting. There's also a new five-inch TFT driver information screen, flanked by redesigned gauges. For those who felt the LR3's stack was too cluttered, the number of buttons was cut nearly in half. To make the LR4 easier to park, buyers can get a five-camera system -- also handy when towing and in off-road situations. With more than 1300 new parts in all, Jaguar Land Rover engineers did as much as possible without creating an all-new platform. Their efforts will no doubt make the LR4 a more capable, powerful, and fuel-efficient vehicle than the outgoing LR3. Expect it to go on sale in October.




2010 Land Rover Range Rover

As is the case with the rest of the 2010 class of new Land Rovers, the 2010 Land Rover Range Rover receives as its base model the 5.0-liter V-8 designed by Jaguar Land Rover (the first engine designed with both brands in mind). This engine uses torque-actuated variable camshaft timing on all four cams, cam profile switching, and a variable-length inlet manifold. The supercharged version has 510 bhp, the standard 375, which is only 25 horses shy of the outgoing Supercharged Range Rover. Estimates put 0-to-60 times at 7.2 for the normally aspirated Rover and a speedy 5.9 for the Supercharged. Both use a revised ZF six-speed automatic, revised for improved response to driver input and reprogrammed for better fuel efficiency. The supercharger is a sixth-generation Eaton twin-vortex Roots-type unit, which uses twin intercoolers. This entire setup is packaged within the engine's vee.

The manufacturer also made revisions to the vehicle's suspension, integrating Adaptive Dynamics. This system, which also works off-road, optimizes shock settings based on current terrain. It uses DampTronic shock valves, which are continuously adjustable, and wheel monitors that take measurements 500 times per second to provide the ideal ride ranging from comfortable and soft to a firmer, sportier ride. The sport/utility also has new, larger brakes -- front 15-inchers for the Supercharged, 14.2 for the standard Rover -- plus improved stability control and DSC. It now also comes with Roll Stability Control.

Styling has been redone inside and out, with subtle changes to the front end that make it look cleaner and also make it more aerodynamic. New for 2010 and not offered in any other SUV, the gauge cluster is now entirely made up of a TFT screen -- there are no actual gauges here. Between the virtual tachometer and speedometer is a customizable driver information center. When driving off-road, the speedometer shifts to the right (odds are you won't be driving over 100 mph off-road), and the space created with this move provides more space for detailed information while on the trail.



2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

This smaller Range Rover, based on the LR4 platform yet with the panache and features of the Range Rover, receives many of the upgrades and improvements of its big brother. It gets the new 5.0-liter engines (all 5.0-liter-equipped Land Rovers now have 15,000-mile service intervals) and revised transmission, improved suspension and steering, larger brakes, sand launch control, RSC, redesigned interior, Towing Assist, surround camera system, and a new center stack. It still uses real gauges with a five-inch TFT display for the driver, and high-beam assist. On the outside, two-bar side vents and side marker lights help differentiate the Sport from the larger Range Rover. Also, for now, the Sport (and Sport Supercharged) are the only Land Rover models to include a new option in the Terrain Response system -- Dynamic Program. This mode, like the others in the system, optimizes suspension and shift points for agility and ride quality. But there's no way an automaker creates something like this without offering it through the rest of the line -- we'd be shocked if it wasn't available on the Range Rover in the next couple of years.



2010 Mercedes-Benz ML450 Hybrid

Mercedes-Benz is ramping up its BlueTEC-laden 'responsibility' platform with its new 2010 Mercedes-Benz ML450 Hybrid model that's said to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 60% compared to its own ML550. Key to its efficiency is a two-mode hybrid system powered by a 3.5L Atkinson-type V-6 and a pair of twin electric motors. The motors are charged thanks to a 288 volt high-capacity nickel metal hydride battery system. Depending on driving conditions and speed, the ML450's complex computer control unit utilizes "system matching" to determine which mode to use to best enhance fuel economy. The SUV has the ability to run solely on its electric power, combustion engine, or a combination of both.

Together, the powertrain develops a healthy 335-hp and 381 lb-ft of torque and distributes its power to the 4MATIC all-wheel drive setup via an electric continuously variable transmission. The gearbox comes complete with three planetary gear sets and four clutches and allows for the near seamless transition between hybrid, electric, and gasoline drive modes. Mercedes-Benz officials claim their newest hybrid can get 21 mpg while perusing the city and 24 mpg while cruising on the highway. It can travel up to 520 miles on a single tank of fuel too. For comparison's sake, the new ML's combined 22 mpg fuel economy is 47% lower than the V-8 powered ML550.

In true Mercedes-Benz fashion, the ML450 Hybrid is replete with luxurious accommodations. Identical leather trimmings, COMAND infotainment, and other appointments found in the ML-Class range can be had in the hybrid version. Active and passive safety measures are also standard. As the new powertrain needs no extra room, all cargo and passenger space is maintained. No word on pricing, but don't expect it to come cheaper than the ML320 BlueTEC's current $48,600 price tag.


2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The 2011 Grand Cherokee is the first Chrysler product to make use of the new Phoenix V-6 engine family, in this case a 280-horsepower, 260 pound-foot 3.6L unit. The 360 horsepower, 390 pound-foot 5.7L Hemi V-8 will still be offered and Europeans will be able to check a box labeled "diesel." Suspension is all-new, independent at the four corners.

Three 4x4 options remain: Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II with electronic limited slip. A new Selec-Terrain system with Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II has five terrain settings, automatic, sand/mud, sport, snow and rock. The 4x2 will have the highest tow rating, however, at 7,400 pounds.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has also long been one of the most handsome SUVs on the market, and the new 2011 model is no exception. With Chrysler design's newfound emphasis on what's on the inside, the interior may no longer be a disappointment. The company touts the crossover's "premium soft-touch interior materials for all price classes," and even a leather instrument panel for the top-of-the-range Overland trim model.



Dog Friendly Honda Element Concept

Starting with Volvo's dog safety accessory line, automakers have been quick to jump on the dog-friendly bandwagon with their own versions of products that enhance a vehicle's ability to haul Fido around town. The latest entry to the growing market segment comes from Honda with dog-friendly products tailor-made for the Element. The accessories would be sold as a package, resulting in a production version of a special Dog Friendly Element model this Fall.



2010 Subaru Outback

A week after unveiling its bigger and better Legacy, Subaru is now letting the other shoe drop. Or should we say letting its hiking boot drop. Since 1994, the Outback has been the Legacy's rough-and-tumble alter ego. Their Indiana Jones to the Legacy's tweedy Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr. And like Harrison Ford himself, the Outback has gained in both savvy and physical size since his swashbuckling debut, though neither one appears to be any less willing to tackle genuine adventure.

As with the Legacy's architecture, the 2010 Outback has swelled in size. Its wheelbase has added 2.8 inches, it's been widened by 2.0 inches, and its height has been elevated by 4.0 inches. The consequence is an interior that's ballooned by 8 cubic feet of passenger room (up 7.6 percent), while cargo volume (with folded rear seats) is up 8.4 cubic feet. Aging whip-crackers will appreciate its additional 3.5 inches of front hip room (1.3 in the back) and 4 extra inches of rear legroom in which to straighten arthritic knees. Although the Outback's overall length has actually contracted by nearly an inch, those gains in width and height give it a much more imposing visual presence.

As the Legacy and Outback share much sheetmetal in common, the styling of either one has always been a delicate compromise. In this case, we think the Outback has gotten the better end of the deal; here, the thick eye-browed wheel arches, wide-eyed headlamps, and general musculature, make a lot more sense. Adding to this wagon-ized Legacy's bodywork are such bush-whacking filigree as a toothy lower front valance, side rocker cladding, and a standard roof rack featuring pivoting cross bars which either link the side rails or fold back to reduce wind resistance and aero-noise. Underneath, ground clearance has risen to a lofty 8.7-inches.


Ford Transit Connect Family One Concept

Ford's designers are taking the brand's newly introduced Transit Connect van in another, more personal, direction that's slightly askew from its original commercial-only focus. Meet the Transit Connect Family One Concept. It's Ford's latest family friendly van that's pegged at helping out parents by engaging the kids while trekking on long roadtrips or during stints at the rest stop.

As a main attraction, young whippersnappers have ample room to stretch their legs in the Transit Connect's capacious interior. As it was originally designed primarily for cargo carrying, the van sports a roomy 135 cu.ft. of space -- more than enough to seat the kids and stow their stuff. In Family One form, there are two rows of seats behind the front passengers and storage below the rear floorboards for extra capacity. Hidden there are a folding stroller and other compartments.

While hanging out at a rest stop, kids can enjoy their folding scooters that are attached to the rear swing doors or play under an available attached overhead awning. When they arrive back to their seats, there's an integrated hand sanitizer to clean them up.

Also incorporated into the Family One Concept's design are a first-aid kit, sunscreen dispenser and family walkie-talkies. Designers also installed radio frequency identification technology (RFID) to keep tabs on otherwise easily losable equipment, instruments, gear, etc. Cool, tech-hip parents sitting up front can keep everything organized via the van's in-dash computer system.

Just as in the regular commercial model, powering the front wheels is an efficient 2.0L four-cylinder capable of achieving a Ford claimed 22 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Of course, should some sort of production model get the green light, the smaller four-banger could be replaced by many of Ford's Ecoboosts.