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SUVs in NY - Is That Your Final Answer?

Okay, here's one easier to answer than the $100 question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire:What type of new vehicle dominated the unveilings at last month's New York Auto Show?a. Inexpensive 300-hp sports carsb. The '01 DeLoreansc. Boldly styled Toyotasd. Sport/utility vehicles (SUVs)You don't need a "lifeline" to answer that one, we hope.The New York Show is emerging as a nice little waypoint between

Okay, here's one easier to answer than the $100 question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire:

What type of new vehicle dominated the unveilings at last month's New York Auto Show?

a. Inexpensive 300-hp sports cars

b. The '01 DeLoreans

c. Boldly styled Toyotas

d. Sport/utility vehicles (SUVs)

You don't need a "lifeline" to answer that one, we hope.

The New York Show is emerging as a nice little waypoint between the big international auto shows, a springboard for showing production-ready, near-term product that might otherwise get lost in the sturm and drang of the mega-shows.

This year, the "product," as it turns out, is almost exclusively SUVs.

Judging from its bumper crop of upcoming SUVs, one might think Toyota Motor Corp. was a veteran to the SUV game, rather than a company that not long ago had a single, long-in-the-tooth ute, the 4Runner.

Toyota suddenly has a clear strategy for flooding the market. First is the Highlander, a version of the all-conquering Lexus RX300 car-based ute, now carrying a Toyota badge. Look for a little decontenting to go along with the badge, but otherwise the basic mechanicals and structure of the upscale RX300 remain.

Then there's a brand-new RAV4, reputedly on an all-new platform that's longer, wider and much more refined. To keep pace with the new Ford Motor Co./Mazda Motor Corp. Escape/Tribute, the RAV is propelled by a 2L 4-cyl. engine with a meaningful power boost.

General Motors Corp. doesn't appear to be ready to let up on its recent auto show momentum, introducing an '02 Oldsmobile Bravada that boasts being the first GM midsize ute to ride on the all-new GMT360 underpinnings, replete with hydroformed big bits like the larger GMT800 trucks and SUVs. It's hardly a secret that Olds is deeply hurting for an SUV, but the wisdom of retaining the Bravada nameplate has been questioned because of its under-performing past.

The GMT360s feature the first of GM's all-new inline 6-cyl engine lineup. On paper, it looks like a dandy, with all-aluminum construction, dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and around 250 hp from its 4.2L. There's also GM's first North American use of variable valve timing (exhaust valves), and the engine enjoys a fully electronic throttle.

New, too, for GM is the 2001 GMC Yukon Denali, also astride a new platform, moving from the "old" GMT400 fullsize truck platform to the new GMT800 architecture. More GMC action comes in the form of the '01 Sierra C-Series, which wears a high-tech grille/headlight treatment.

Yes, Virginia, cars still do exist. The most important to show up in New York is the all-new Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. Infiniti Q45 flagship, once again sporting a real 4.5L V-8 and decidedly more assertive sheetmetal. Reaction to the new Q may be an important bellwether for the progress of Nissan's "revival" program.

DaimlerChrysler AG gets plenty of mileage out of an all-new 2001 Sebring lineup of coupe, sedan and convertibles. The cars' styling now fits more closely with other Chrysler-badged vehicles, primarily the 300M. Only the coupe is still built at the Mitsubishi Motors Ltd. plant in Normal, IL, and DaimlerChrysler has thrown out the old Mitsu 2.5L V-6 in favor of the Chrysler 2.7L DOHC V-6 or the newer Mitsubishi 3L SOHC V-6. Base engine is Chrysler's 2.4L I-4.

And BMW AG is back in the all-wheel drive game. No, not with its new X5 quasi-SUV, but with an all-wheel drive option for the 3-series, driven by a new, 3L inline 6-cyl. to replace the current 2.8L I-6 to better fight off the growing cadre of 3-series competition.

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