The 2008 New York Auto Show comes a month earlier this year and just two weeks after the previous stop in Geneva, thanks to the early coming of Easter. The last stop on the first leg of the annual auto show world tour, the NYC show is never an epic event in the vein of Detroit, but there's always plenty to look at in the Big Apple.

Debuts:

• Ford Transit Connect Taxi concept
• Mercedes-Benz Diesel SUVs
• Nissan Denki Cube Concept
• 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
• 2010 Pontiac G8 Sport Truck

2010 Pontiac G8 Sport Truck


"Sport Truck," or ST, is just a placeholder. It's the generic name for the El Camino-style 2010 Pontiac G8 variant based off the Holden Ute. GM is holding an online contest at www.pontiac.com/namethiscar to pick a name. The result will be announced on April 15.

It could've been Caballero, after the late-1960s/early-1970s GMC version of the Chevy El Camino. It wasn't the cost of a new nose that made GM pick Pontiac over GMC. It was, to quote product manager Brian Shipman, because of the Ute's sportiness, and "it probably wasn't the best fit for 'Professional Grade.'" The two-door, he says, is a better fit for Pontiac.








Mercedes-Benz Diesel SUVs


Mercedes-Benz is revving up its U.S. market diesel push by offering its ML320 BlueTEC, GL320 BlueTEC, and R320 BlueTEC diesels to American consumers before any other market gets the vehicles. All three Benzes are powered by a 3.0-liter, 211 horsepower turbo V-6 generating 398 lb-ft of torque. Mated to Benz's seven-speed automatic transmission, all three people-movers will meet the U.S. Bin 5 standard as well the European EU6 standard, Mercedes says.

The diesel at the heart of the efficient trio utilizes Mercedes' AdBlue technology, which involves injecting an aqueous urea solution into hot, pre-treated exhaust gases. The process helps reduce nitrogen oxides -- a harmful exhaust gas found in high levels in diesels -- into nitrogen after the exhaust gasses pass through the catalytic converter. The tank carrying the solution is monitored by the engine management system. Since the tank only needs to be refilled at regular service visits, no extra maintenance is required for a GL320 BlueTEC over a GL450 or any other Mercedes SUV.






2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class


Mercedes knows the midsized luxury SUV segment is bursting with competition, and if attacked properly, high profits as well. To keep its M-Class moving out of dealerships, Mercedes has refreshed the SUV, making exterior changes that bring it in line with its boxy GL and upcoming GLK siblings while interior upgrades are subtle unless you go for the two-tone leather and the two huge eight-inch screens for watching DVDs in the backseat.

Powertrain options remain the same, although Mercedes notes that fuel economy is marginally improved with most engine options. The easiest way to tell if a refreshed M-Class is following you is to look for the "smiling" lower grille which is especially apparent -- for better or for worse -- on light-colored models. The refreshed grille is framed by fog lights pushed to the edges of the SUV, enhancing its presence. Larger side mirrors that follow the new C-Class design have been added and in back, smoked taillights (clear lenses are available) and reflectors integrated into the rear bumper again emphasize the M-Class' size. 19-inch wheels, standard on V-8 models, won't hurt that impression either.



Ford Transit Connect Taxi concept


Add taxi to the list of Transit Connect's potential uses here in the U.S., with a special livery of the van debuting this week in the Big Apple -- the nation's No. 1 taxi town. The Transit Connect Taxi concept makes sense as a potential replacement for the Crown Victoria (Ford's omnipresent taxi), with its high roof, ample rear space for tourist luggage and three passengers, and its relatively frugal 2.0-liter four banger that is rated at 19 mpg city and has lower tailpipe emissions than most present taxis. Being a concept, the Transit Taxi also features an innovative 13-inch, touch screen designed to provide a variety of entertainment and other services for the customer, not the least of which is an automated payment function.





Nissan Denki Cube Concept


The Nissan Denki Cube Concept is a lithium-ion battery equipped take on the much-discussed Nissan Cube designed to showcase Nissan's green initiatives. The Cube's 1.3-liter fourbanger makes way for an electric motor powered by laminated batteries that the Japanese automaker says provide twice the energy of traditional "cylindrical" batteries along with safer operation. To accomodate the electric powertrain, the car's wheelbase has been stretched by 9.4 inches and the interior, which has only two rows instead of the production car's three, includes a new steering wheel, new door panel and cargo area trim, and a redesigned instrument panel.



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