With a little Big Apple flash and dazzle, automakers typically promote their luxury and high-performance models at the New York International Auto Show. But among the standouts amid the flashing lights and thumping music this year are three favorites of budget-conscious buyers.
Two of these three redesigns at the show -- the Toyota RAV4 and the Subaru Forester -- are from the hottest segment of the auto market, small SUVs. The third, the sleek 2019 Nissan Altima, aims to stand out with new styling and technology in the fading midsize sedan segment.
Even beyond the RAV4 and Forester, this year's show, which is open to the public until April 8, is all about SUVs large and small. "The New York show has a clear focus on utility vehicles, with some top-selling products arriving in all-new form and luxury brands continuing to expand their portfolios," said analyst Stephanie Brinley of consulting firm IHS Markit.
As if to prove that the New York show hasn't lost all its upscale habits, two American luxury brands -- Lincoln and Cadillac -- are introducing new SUVs. Lincoln is reviving the Aviator name for a stylish midsize SUV with three rows of seats. And Cadillac is showing the XT4, a compact SUV aimed at competing with European entries such as the BMW X3 or the Audi Q5.
Here's a closer look at these five introductions being seen for the first time anywhere at the New York show.
Toyota seems determined to shed its image for making boring -- if popular -- vehicles. The RAV4, which often tops U.S. sales of compact SUVs, has been seen in the industry as a dependable, bland commuter vehicle. But the new 2019 RAV4 "looks dramatic, edgy, aggressive," Edmunds.com analyst Ivan Drury told CBS MoneyWatch at the show. Toyota itself billed the new RAV4 as having the "charisma of a bolder, tougher SUV."
To go with this new image, Toyota's executives emphasized the off-road capabilities of its optional all-wheel drive with settings for various terrains like sand or mud. And the all-wheel drive on the higher-trim levels will come with "rear driveline disconnect" that will let the RAV4 be propelled by the front wheels only in highway driving, thus enhancing gas mileage.
In addition to its 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine, the new RAV4 will also come in a gas-electric hybrid version with a drive system that increases torque to the rear wheels. That helps boost acceleration from a standing start.
"The hybrid is the quicker one," Jack Hollis, group vice president of Toyota North America, told the press preview of the RAV4. "I like to say it has the meaner demeanor."
The RAV4 will come with advanced safety features as standard equipment. That includes automatic emergency braking to avoid a collision with the car ahead and a system to keep the SUV in its lane that includes steering assist. The gasoline version 2019 RAV4 will go on sale late this year with the hybrid to follow in early 2019.
Subaru Forester has a devoted following among owners. So it's no surprise that the 2019 third-generation Forester looks a lot like the older model. But the new version adds more passenger and cargo room and some advanced safety features. And of course it comes with standard all-wheel drive, a major attraction for Subaru buyers.
New technology will help protect against drowsy drivers. It uses facial recognition to "identify signs of driver fatigue or driver distraction" and sound an alert. Subaru is the first nonluxury brand to offer this technology, said Tom Doll, president and CEO of Subaru America. The Forester also has automatic emergency braking to avoid a collision with the vehicle ahead and an alert if you drift out of your lane.
The new Forester is powered by an updated 2.5-liter, four cylinder engine, which the company says will increase gas mileage to a rating of 33 MPG in highway driving. Going with that engine is a continuously variable transmission.
And for those who want to go camping or hiking well off-road -- as those handsome young families are always doing in the Subaru commercials -- the Forester's ground clearance has been increased to 8.7 inches. The new version goes on sale late this year.
Nissan is hoping its new 2019 Altima's sleek styling and new technology will attract buyers who might have deserted midsize sedans for small SUVs. Altima will offer optional all-wheel drive -- a feature not available on its two major competitors, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Nissan executives said their research showed that some buyers, especially in northern states, had chosen SUVs over sedans because they wanted all-wheel drive for bad weather.
The 2019 Altima improves fuel economy by replacing the V-6 engine in past models with a choice of a standard 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine or a turbocharged four-cylinder. Inside, the Altima sports an eight-inch infotainment screen with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for easier syncing with your smartphone.
Altima also has the latest safety gear -- including its driver assist system, which can hold the car in a single highway lane with minimal effort from the driver. Automatic emergency braking comes standard with all models.
And with the higher-trim levels you get automatic rear braking, which stops the car as you're backing up if it senses an object or person behind you that you can't see in the rearview camera. The 2019 Altima goes on sale in the fall.
While other SUVs try to show how tough they are, the new Lincoln Aviator aims to make your life easier and less stressful, according to company executives. Part of that goal is the technology. You can lock, unlock and start your Aviator with your smartphone. And so-called heads-up display shows you crucial information on the windshield without having to look away from the road.
The stylish design of the Aviator is new, but the name is a revival. Lincoln had an earlier model called Aviator from the 2003 through 2005 model years that was then discontinued. "Different market conditions and the appetite for utility vehicles may prompt a different story for this Aviator," said analyst Brinley of IHS Markit.
The Aviator is a midsize SUV with three rows of seats aimed at luxury competitors like the BMW X3 and the Audi Q7. It will be available as a plug-in hybrid as well as with a standard gasoline engine.
Lincoln executives also emphasized the luxury services that come with the Aviator. Valet pickup and delivery of owners' cars when they need service (with a loaner in the meantime) have proved extremely popular, they said.
The Aviator on display in New York was a preproduction model. The SUV will go on sale next year.
For years, Cadillac had only one SUV -- the very large Escalade. Now it's joining the fast-growing compact luxury SUV competition, pitting it against European competitors like the BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC Class.
The XT4 shown in New York -- just smaller than the previously introduced XT5 -- is an all-new compact mechanical platform for Cadillac. It's powered by a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The sculpted design is part of Cadillac's push for younger buyers.
Cadillac executives said the XT4 was designed to be exceptionally roomy for a compact. Notably, they added, it will have more legroom for its rear-seat passengers. The XT4 will reach dealers in the fall.