Each year, the North Carolina International Auto Expo brings in thousands of new car shoppers and car enthusiasts to get first-hand looks at automaker’s lineup for the new year. Hosted at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds by the Wake County New Vehicle Dealers Association, automakers like Ford, GM, Toyota, Fiat-Chrysler, Nissan, and many more bring out their newest cars for display and even test drives. Spiffy attended the event to get a glimpse of what’s to come in 2018. We put together a few of the vehicles that caught our eye, and a couple that missed their mark.
Eye Catcher: 2019 Ford Ranger
Ford confirmed the revival of the much-loved Ranger lineup after a 7 year hiatus in the American market, and went as far as bringing a pre-production 2019 Ranger CrewCab FX4 to the Expo. Because this is a pre-production model, Ford would not allow the same free range given on its other vehicles and kept the doors locked. While that was a bit disappointing, peering through the windows gave car enthusiasts just enough to satisfy their curiosity. With the long-awaited Ranger back on the market, it threatens the Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma in the midsize truck segment.
Missed Mark: 2018 Ford Ecosport
Ford built up quite a bit of hype debuting their newest compact crossover, the Ecosport (incomprehensibly pronounced echo-sport), especially with an attractive starting price under $20,000 and claiming impressive fuel consumption from an Ecoboost engine. Unfortunately, it feels as if they’ve missed their mark. Fuel economy doesn’t exceed 30 MPG, and if you want sufficient passing power or the versatility of all wheel drive, the top of the line SES trim is your only option at a whopping $27,000. Additionally, a cramped rear seat that doesn’t quite fold flat does little to complement an equally underwhelming cargo area. Our conclusion? For the same amount of cabin space, better fuel economy, and such luxuries as a spare tire, you’re better off purchasing a Ford Fiesta.
Eye Catcher: 2018 Lexus LC500
There’s a simple question you can ask yourself to determine a car’s success at the Expo: how hard is it to get a picture of it without someone inside? That was certainly the case with the 2018 Lexus LC500, and it’s more than understandable. With LFA inspired lines, a throaty 8-cylinder power plant, and an interior where the only negative that comes to mind is its hefty $92,000 sticker. Regardless, it was a privilege to experience this monster in silk first-hand.
Missed Mark: 2018 Nissan Sentra NISMO
Many automakers offer performance variants of its entry level vehicles, from the Fiat Abarth 500, to the Ford Fiesta ST, Nissan joins the ranks with its new Sentra NISMO. It features the same 188 horsepower as its lower trim levels, but does get upgraded dampers, a more aggressive stance, and quite a lot of the color red. On paper, this should be a good car, but in contrast to its competition at the expo, it falls short. It’s more expensive at $26,000 than its competition, yet slower, heavier, and commits a crime against performance cars altogether: the CVT transmission is standard. The interior feels dull and the quality of materials is questionable, and while the NISMO gets a red contrast front splitter, bigger wheels, and is wider than its lower trim levels, it feels big and round. If a sporty appearance and performance is what you’re looking for, this may not be car for you.
Eye Catcher: 2018 Kia Stinger GT
Much like the Lexus LC500, it was nearly impossible to snap a photo of the Stinger GT without attendees in the car, proving once again that this performance saloon is winning the hearts of the general public and car enthusiasts alike. Kia made a bold statement with this car at the expo, as it was nearly unrivaled by any other attending automaker. In a striking yellow that set it apart from anything on the display floor, crowds hovered around this vehicle from the moment the Expo opened, until it closed. Kia set hopes high for the Stinger GT, and we’re more than satisfied with the results. A well equipped interior feels like it belongs in an AMG Mercedes, rather than a Kia, and the blistering performance rivals that of a BMW M4. At a substantially lower cost, a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty, and better fuel economy, we’re left wondering what else we can ask for out of a car, let alone a Kia.
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