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2012 Auto Show Shows Off Fun, Flamboyance

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The 2012 New York International Auto Show is perhaps the most exciting in years, with debuts ranging from breathtaking supercars to handsome family sedans.

The biggest crowd pleaser at the show is the Chrysler Group’s reborn Viper, now badged an SRT. The flamboyant supercar benefits enormously from Chrysler’s tie-up with Ferrari owner Fiat and now boasts a gorgeous aluminum and carbon body modeled after a woman lying on a beach.

The Viper’s closest competitor for the audience’s attention is the Terrafugia Transition, a flying car that looks set to enter production later this year. Despite a price tag of about $279,000 and a $10,000 deposit, the Terrafugia—designed by several MIT graduates may be the leading contender in the flying car market.

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At the other end of the upper floor of the Javits Center is an amusing foil for the flying car: BMW’s cheeky Mini subsidiary unveiled a belated April Fool’s prank, the amphibious Mini “Yachtman”.

There is much on display for car buyers of more modest means as well: For the first time in recent memory, the most handsome mid-size and full-size sedans are American vehicles, with the new Ford Fusion and Chevy Impala overshadowing both their bland predecessors and the newly revealed Nissan Altima and Toyota Avalon replacements.

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As with last year’s motor show, hybrid and electric vehicles are a common sight, but interestingly the use of electric motors in the car has become almost as much about augmenting performance as cutting gas usage. Toyota unsurprisingly lead the charge: The mini-Prius concept of last year’s motor show has evolved into the production Prius C, and Lexus’s upgraded ES sedan now has a 40 mpg hybrid variant.

Ford is close behind, with an all-electric Focus, a 40 mpg Fusion hybrid, and Chevy Volt-style plug-in hybrid variants of the Fusion and C-Max minivan. BMW’s i subdivision brought two concepts, the all electric i3 compact car and the stunning plug-in hybrid i8 sports car, that preview its planned zero-emissions production cars.

Acura’s stunning NSX concept foreshadows a hybrid successor for the car that outperformed the Ferraris of its day, while the new RLX sedan will use a pair of electric motors on the rear axle to provide on-demand all-wheel drive, improved performance, and sharper handling.

Several classic cars are on display: Edsel Ford’s personal 1934 speedster can be found by the Lincoln booth, while Chevy brought a 1966 Impala to celebrate the 2014 model’s debut. The LeMay car museum brought a plethora of classics as well.

Significantly for New Yorkers and tourists alike, Nissan’s NV200 taxicab was on display: The minivan-like vehicle will begin replacing the city’s aging Crown Victoria cabs in 2013.

The New York International Auto Show runs through Sunday April 15 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under (those 2 and under are free). Discounted combo tickets for a round trip ferry ride and the show can be purchased at the show’s web site.

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