By Jeff Gilbert

NEW YORK  (WWJ) – SUV’s and sports cars rule at this year’s New York Auto Show, with much less of an emphasis on small cars and hybrids. But, it’s not that car companies have abandoned environmentally friendly vehicles.

“I think green has gone mainstream,” says Consumer Reports director of auto testing Jake Fisher.

Fisher says car companies are putting fuel efficient technologies in all of their vehicles. That, he says, can have a bigger impact on the environment.

“It doesn’t matter what you get, you can get green in your car, whether or not it’s a sports car or an SUV.”

Take, for example, the new Dodge Durango. It has more capability than the vehicle it’s replacing, and better fuel economy. Dodge brand CEO Reid Bigland says a new 8 speed transmission helps, by making things more efficient.

“By operating in a more efficient manner, you get an improvement in fuel economy,” he said. “So the new 2014 Durango will see close to a 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency.”

The Durango is one of several new SUV’s being introduced in New York. Jeep has replaced the Liberty, with a vehicle that once again carries the classic name Cherokee.

“Cherokee has been a very famous name for us,” said Jeep brand CEO Mike Manley. “Cherokee is known for capability. This vehicle has more capability than the outgoing Liberty. So, it was natural for us to bring the name back.”

The New York Auto Show also features a new Toyota Highlander, and an updated Acura MDX. But the SUV that got the most attention is the Range Rover Sport, introduced by Daniel Craig, the current James Bond.

That was typical of the grand introductions that had been absent for many years, but are now back, as car companies try to get attention for their new vehicle.

“The big unveils are back,” says analyst Jeff Schuster with LMC Automotive. “There’s more emphasis put on this as an event, which is going back to more of a Hollywood type of a feel. It really feeds into the fact that the industry is back and starting to make noise again.”

One vehicle is making so much noise that reporters were given earplugs.

It’s the Z/28 version of the Camaro, introduced as a surprise when GM North America President Mark Reuss rolled out an updated Camaro.

“This is something that we have longed to do, and now we have done it.”

The Z/28 harkens back to a version of the Camaro that came out in 1967, aimed at racing enthusiasts. The audience remains the same, with a 500 horsepower engine, and other racing cues. Reuss says they also got rid of a lot of things to save weight.

“We ripped out the trunk carpet and the insulation. Not bad. We installed thinner glass for the rear window. Not bad. We made air conditioning optional. And, we removed all the speakers, except one.”

Meanwhile, Chrysler is showing a special “TA” version of the Viper, aimed at those who are serious about racing the vehicle.

Karl Brauer, who runs the web site says this is a good time to enjoy seeing all of the new products that are being introduced, and realize how quikly the fun has returned to the car business.

“So many years ago, it felt like it was never going to get like this again.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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