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Best Cars of the 2018 New York Auto Show: Motor Trend Favorites

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 3/29/2018 Motor Trend Staff

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This year's New York auto show had a little something for everyone. From hot sellers like the Toyota RAV4 crossover and Nissan Altima sedan to cool concepts like the Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak pickup truck and the Genesis Essentia electric coupe. But which vehicles stood out the most to Motor Trend editors? Read on to find out.

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2019 Toyota RAV4

It's a looker, whether in base, hybrid, or Adventure trim. The interior has ditched its acres of cheap plastic for a futuristic, clean look with tons of functionality and a much-improved infotainment system. The superb TNGA architecture should improve its handling immeasurably, and 200-plus hp under the hood should make it a snappy performer. Plus, there's dynamic torque vectoring. More wheelbase, track, and length mean more room for people and cargo. Smart packaging of hybrid batteries means no loss of cargo room. Toyota has really raised its game. -Mark Rechtin

We occasionally complain that Toyota is too conservative, too stodgy, too protective of its customer base to make substantive changes. After all, when you have had the best-selling vehicle (that isn't a truck) for as long as Toyota has, why rock the boat? Well, we can no longer make such statements after seeing the follow-up to the eyebrow-raising Camry, the all-new RAV4. By adding serious good looks, a new hybrid system, and a massively improved interior, Toyota should retain its sales leadership (in one of the most hotly contested segments) and capture even more market share. -Ed Loh

We applaud the fifth generation's step up in design with different looks for the top end, hybrid, and off-road trim levels. Giving the crossover some cues from the Tacoma just works, especially on the Adventure model. Of the nine trim levels (down from 11), Toyota is making the XSE hybrid the performance model. Toyota created the image of hybrids as poky vehicles with Prius, so they might also be able to further the growing movement to hybrids as performance vehicles. The lineup also has an all-new 2.5-liter I-4 with direct and port injection, and all ride on a new platform that should enhance performance. -Alisa Priddle

With a new aggressive design, Toyota is trying to attract younger buyers to the RAV4. It's a good move for a brand that traditionally has been more conservative with its core products. As bold as it is on the outside, the inside is refined and clean. Moving the screen to the top of the dash created more space to place the HVAC buttons, and it looks more modern and simple than the current interior of the RAV4. Contrast stitching, ambient lighting, and a fun orange trim in the cabin make the RAV4 younger and more attractive. -Miguel Cortina

Research the Toyota RAV4

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Lincoln Aviator Concept

On the heels of the excellent Navigator, Lincoln introduces the smaller three-row Aviator, filling a hole in the lineup and showing the brand is capable of more than one hit. We like the idea of a plug-in hybrid with a twin-turbo-we're thinking it might be the 2.7-liter—so the vehicle will have some performance to go with its ability to glide on electricity alone. The tweaks to the now-signature grille further refine the overall look, and the cabin has a spacious feel with high-end materials and an overall sense of calm. And we applaud the return of the Aviator name and Lincoln's decision to replace its confusing series of letters. -Alisa Priddle

Watch out, Cadillac. Lincoln's quickly getting its swagger back. While Cadillac focuses on introducing its third SUV and is rumored to be consolidating its large sedan lineup, Lincoln's stunning Aviator "concept" joins a large SUV lineup containing the new Navigator, 2019 Nautilus, and updated MKC. Riding on a new rear-drive platform, the Lincoln Aviator not only looks the part of a proper luxury SUV with a Jaguar-like nose and Range Rover-esque profile, but it should also perform like one, too. -Christian Seabaugh

From its beautifully sculpted profile to its sharp front end design, the Lincoln Aviator concept is a very good-looking SUV. Lincoln surprised everyone last year with the Navigator in New York, and this year it's doing the same with the new Aviator concept. Designers paid close attention to every little detail, and the execution of their design looks fantastic. Step inside and you feel a sense of luxury all around. An electronic button replaces a traditional door handle in the cabin, and the clean design of the center console shows how refined this product is. Lincoln is playing the luxury game very well. -Miguel Cortina

Like many, I was surprised at Lincoln's gorgeous Aviator concept. Finally, Lincoln gets some love from the Ford mother ship—the first to unveil a new rear-wheel drive platform with real substance and style. If it makes it through to production looking 85 percent as good (and sources indicate it is very close to production as it sits), Lincoln should have a winner on its hands—and a one-two punch with Navigator that would be tough to beat. -Ed Loh

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Genesis Essentia Concept

Concept car fantasy at its best. Long, low, wide, sleek—it's everything a concept should be. That would be enough, but Genesis decided to thrown in some silly doors and a see-through hood anyway, and it's all the better for it. Would they ever build an electric super car? They ought to if it would look like this. They won't, but that's OK. I'm glad they're dreaming, and I'm always glad when a car company shares a dream instead of something practical or predictable. -Scott Evans

The Genesis Essentia is another reminder to all the doomsayers that the future of the automobile need not be boring. And though it's pure auto show eye candy, the Essentia also hints at what a true halo vehicle for the Korean luxury brand could be like.

The Essentia's lead designer, Genesis advanced design chief Sasha Selipanov, worked on the Bugatti Chiron, carefully teasing surfaces around a giant, mid-mounted, 8.0-liter 16-cylinder engine. But as the Essentia is envisioned as a car powered by compact electric motors, Selipanov had the freedom to create a low-slung, extravagantly proportioned coupe that cleverly riffs on 1960s gran turismos from Ferrari and Maserati in a thoroughly modern manner.

Parent company Hyundai doesn't want to talk too much about the BEV platforms it has under development. But the Essentia shows how the technology could be used to create a visually spectacular high-performance halo vehicle for the Genesis brand, something that would be a genuine alternative to offerings from the German luxury car establishment. -Angus MacKenzie

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2019 Acura RDX

The redesigned 2019 Acura RDX has so much potential to impress loyal Acura buyers, but with this new generation, it might even convert a few more Lexus and Mercedes buyers, too. As before, the RDX feels spacious for people and cargo compared to its competitors, and the rear seats can still be folded down easily from the cargo area. Add to that a more engaging design inside and out (too bad about the awful rear visibility), and I'm excited to see whether Acura can keep a lid on pricing to maintain one of its remaining brand qualities, value. -Zach Gale

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1979 BMW M1 Procar Championship Race Car

Tucked away at the BMW booth was this BMW M1 race car. It raced in the Procar Championship, a series that supported several European rounds of the 1979 Formula 1 season. It's 40 years old, but the M1's design still holds up against all the hot new sheetmetal on the show floor. -Carol Ngo

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Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Concept

I've got mixed feelings about Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak concept. On one hand, it's a remarkably compelling pickup. By using the front half of the Atlas SUV, its engine, and its versatile MQB platform, VW shows that its engineering prowess was the key reason why it was the world's largest automaker last year. As for the Atlas Tanoak itself, it's handsome, probably drives well, and looks like it'll check all the boxes lifestyle midsize pickup buyers require. It also looks remarkably production-ready; slap on a new tailgate and different front and rear bumpers, tone down the interior slightly, and it's good to go. All good ,right? Wrong. According to sources, VW probably won't build the Atlas Tanoak; it'll claim it can't find a business case. Yet it continues to peddle slow-selling sedans and a four-door "coupe" that 12 people want. (I'm being slightly facetious, but there's no chance in hell the VW Arteon outsells a pickup. Any pickup.) That's a shame because the Atlas Tanoak is compelling enough of a pickup that it could be among VW's best-sellers. If VW really understands Americans as well as it says it does, it'd be wise to quickly give the Atlas Tanoak the green light. -Christian Seabaugh

VW was never going to re-engineer the Amarok for the U.S. market, and you can forget about the diesel. This, though, could work. Honda has already written the formula, and VW has the capacity at its Tennessee plant. There's even precedent in the form of the Rabbit pickup. Sure, it'll be a niche in the market, but midsize trucks are hot right now, and it's a lot better-looking than the Ridgeline, which sells well enough. All it needs is a better name. I'm thinking Ridgelas. -Scott Evans

Research the Volkswagen Atlas

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The 2019 Mini Hardtop's Taillights

Although I can't believe it took so long for Mini to introduce the feature, these Union Jack taillights are so endearing! They're the absolute perfect piece of design punctuation for a car people are already familiar with. Good thinking, Mini. -Zach Gale

Research the Mini Cooper

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Volvo Partnership With Petfinder Foundation

Volvo is offering new official accessories to keep your four-legged friends safe in their vehicles. And what better way to showcase its pet accessories than to bring out some furry friends to its booth? The automaker partnered with the Petfinder Foundation to help raise money and pet adoption awareness, and it will donate $10 from every Volvo pet accessory sale to the charity. At the auto show press days, you could even adopt a pup on the spot and take it home that day. Hands down, the puppies are the real winners of the New York show in my eyes. -Carol Ngo

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