Automakers Unveil More Economical, Fuel-Efficient Models at New York Auto Show

We’re coming to you from New York City, a place Sean Hannity has called “the greatest city in the world.” But from the gloomy atmosphere at the show, Wall Street’s pallor seems to have stretched up to the Jacob Javits Convention Center. There are no fireworks blasting new models onto the scene — there are hardly any turntable models, even — and Ford isn’t holding a press conference. But the theme of the cars at the New York International Auto Show is clear: a little efficiency and a heck of a lot of horsepower.

General Motors carefully avoided any discussion of restructuring, bailouts, or bankruptcy, focusing instead on its new economical GMC Terrain midsize crossover. Large wheel arches are indicative of the tough and truck-like demeanor GMC wants to project, even though this crossover is, like its competitors the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, based on a car. Those sedan underpinnings enable the 4-cylinder version to return an impressive 30 miles per gallon on the highway, though one worries that the 180 horsepower engine will struggle to propel the heavy 3800 lb Terrain. A more powerful (though less economical) high-tech V6 will also be available.

Click here for photos of the show.

Naturally GM has also brought a fleet of Camaros to New York, a sports car with undeniable charisma. With 306 or 422 horsepower on tap, buyers will have no trouble cracking smiles — or speed limits.

Chrysler’s big New York debut is the redesigned 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. In addition to a much improved interior, more space and better off-road abilities, the SUV gets a new V6 engine with 280 horsepower (a Hemi V8 will be optional).

Mercedes trotted out a new fire-breathing E63 AMG with over 500 horsepower and also proudly touted a 12 percent gain in fuel economy (which means a whopping 14 mpg city now), whereas BMW showed its first-ever M SUVs, the ubersporty X5 M and X6 M. They both will feature a 550 horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 engine.

The British-cum-American-cum-Indian SUV company, Land Rover, announced it too would be sharing the 5.0 liter V8 from sister company Jaguar. It will slot into the refreshed Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and LR4 (previously called the LR3), and delivers either 375 or 510 horsepower, the latter coming from the optional and expensive supercharged versions.

Had enough with the stratospheric power ratings yet? While formally introduced previously, Ford’s new European subcompact Fiesta garnered ample attention and praise, a tall order for an economy car. The sleek design and high quality interior should attract customers when the model goes on sale in early 2010.

Volkswagen also debuted its new Golf (replacing the Rabbit, which replaced the Golf, which replaced the Rabbit). The high quality small car will offer a highly efficient and clean TDI diesel engine.