When compared to the Geneva and Detroit shows which occur earlier in the year, the New York Auto Show, isn’t known for making major waves. By April, what news was to be announced has already been announced in the automotive world. [TL;DR: SUVS are back.] Instead, the show is a crowd-pleasing affair, built for public gawking at the monstrously large Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side. On a recent rainy Tuesday, I was there, among the gawkers.
For a non-car guy like me, auto shows have the same pleasure as something called the Final Four which is about baskets-ball. I appreciate that people feel intensely about it one way or the other but I approach the thing dispassionately. Cars are fast but not sentient. Therefore my interest in them limited. I gather my apathy for luxury vehicles rests from being subjected to my father’s love of Corvettes as a young fatso more than any inherent disdain for automotive achievement. And my son, of course, loves Maseratis with more tenacity than he does me. However, there is one aspect of the New York Auto Show that gets my nips hard: sensible sedans.
When I was a punk-ass snot-nosed twenty-something brat, I made fun of middle-aged ass-clowns in their New Balance sneakers driving Toyota Corollas, Ford Fusions, Honda Sonatas, and Nissan Altimas. I felt like they had given up on living.
When I was a punk-ass snot-nosed twenty-something brat, I made fun of middle-aged ass-clowns in their New Balance sneakers driving Toyota Corollas, Ford Fusions, Honda Sonatas, and Nissan Altimas. I felt like they had given up on living. What toilet-licking nonsense was that? Now that I am one of those middle-aged men — though car-less — I’m drawn to sensible sedans and hatchbacks with an ineluctable acquisitive make-it-rain desire I once reserved for covert visits to titty bars.
When I first laid eyes on the all bodacious curves of the all-new Toyota Corolla hatchback in baby blue, it was like the first time I had pancakes. Such joy, such crazy wild joy, overcame me. As I circled the thing, amongst a noticeably large contingent of Orthodox Jews* I could see that the vehicle was a six-shift manual, a first for the Corolla. And what this meant is that the car by all accounts should be a joy to drive.
I am not the only father to know that there’s something about driving a manual transmission that augurs well for the future well-being of the driver’s children. When the apocalypse comes, only those who grow their own food will be safe but I bet guys who can drive stick are going to last maybe half-an-hour to 45 minutes longer than those who can’t. What’s nice about the Toyota Corolla is that it signals Toyota’s continued dedication to the sedan, a type of vehicle whose death has long been presaged, but whose expiration has not yet come.
But the Corolla wasn’t alone in awesomeness. As I wandered the Javits Center, I was bowled over by the brand-new Nissan Altima with AWD as beautiful and sexy as Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s bone structure; a Ford Fusion whose grill scowled pleasingly and whose hood bore animalistic lines; and a brand new mid-sized sedan, called the Honda Insight, a sleek, roomy hybrid that will replace the Civic Hybrid in the garages of the eco-conscious family men across the nation.
But men like me, men in the prime of their lives, we realize it isn’t so much the car one drives in but the direction of the road on which one drives.
More saliently, what I noticed that the attendees at the show — an extremely male demographic — broke along easily discernible lines. The childless and children themselves gravitated towards heavy-duty Ford and GMC trucks, to the SUVs like Buick’s brand new Enclave Avenir, an SUV that masquerades as a Brobdingnagian sedan, or massive gleaming Lincoln Aviator that trundle on the road like executive suites on wheels. The young men and the old men, however, huddled around the shiny sports cars like the new Porsches, Maseratis, and Jaguars, not to mention the truly far-out concept cars like the Genesis Essentia.
But men like me, men in the prime of their lives, we realize it isn’t so much the car one drives in but the direction of the road on which one drives. The entire lower half of the Auto Show, for instance, the part devoted to trucks and SUVS, represents a fuck me?-no-fuck-you! mentality in which one houses one family in comfort while the world is driven to a hellish geothermal apocalypse. The sports cars represent a deeply narcissistic Weltanschauung in which one drives as fast as one can while leaving ones family on the roadside.
But dads, well, we clustered around the sedans like it was a camp-fire and we were the protectors of our broods. And as we peered over the sexily curved roof of the Honda Accord at each other, we nodded in silent brotherhood, and knew, that when the end finally came, we’d let the boys and geezers have their fancy fun, while we’d be keeping the world safe in a sedan.
* It turns out the Auto Show overlaps with Passover which means Jews with big families have a lot of time to kill and the auto show is a good family outing plus, you know, the insatiable thirst for minivans.