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Seven Vehicles from New York Auto Show That Will Be Important

After having spent a couple days at the New York International Auto Show media days, I've come away with a few impressions. OEMs are really focusing on fuel efficiency, design, and technology like never before. Here's a look at seven of the most important models from the show, which is the last major auto show in the U.S. until the Los Angeles Show in November.

Chevrolet Impala

This is an important new model for Chevrolet because the Impala is a popular car. The Impala was America’s best-selling full-size sedan in 2011, with sales of more than 171,000, which also made it one of the 10 best-selling cars overall in the United States.

Normally, it would be risky to makeover such a high-volume car but Chevrolet needed to do something. The Impala had a bland exterior and interior. Improvements to both will, I hope, remove the rental-car-fleet stigma from the Impala, truly an iconic nameplate, and make it a car people want to park in their driveways and not just in hotel parking lots when traveling for business.

Here is more info from the launch of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala.

Lincoln MKZ

The Impala isn't trying to resuscitate the Chevrolet brand but the Lincoln MKZ is. Time will tell if the American buying public embraces the new MKZ, which has stunning touches like a front grille inspired by a bird's wings and beautiful wraparound LED taillights.

This is a car that is going to look beautiful coming or going but is it going to be enough to stand out from a crowded pack of competitors? Lincoln needs it to. As one auto journalist I respect put it, "Why buy a Lincoln when you can buy a Ford that looks like an Aston Martin?" One Ford exec I spoke to didn't entirely refute that claim.

Read this interview with chief Lincoln designer Max Wolff.

Nissan Altima

This is another big seller for Nissan. Make that Nissan's biggest seller. Also, it was the second best-selling car in the United States in 2011. (Silver Nissan Altimas are the unofficial car of Connecticut where I live.) So, what does Nissan do with this big seller? They turn it into an amazingly fuel-efficient sedan that gets 38 mpg on the highway from the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine.

It also features something called NASA-inspired "zero-gravity" seats, whatever that means, as well as next-generation Safety Shield Technologies, including blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection systems. All for what seems like a great starting price of $21,500. Read more details on the 2013 Nissan Altima.

Hyundai Santa Fe

I'm including the Santa Fe on the list because I think it's one of the more comfortable crossovers on the market. Now the good news is there are two versions: five-passenger and seven-passenger. Hyundai has introduced a long-wheelbase version of the Santa Fe that should be an absolute monster when it comes to interior space.

The standard Santa Fe will have 108.0 cubic feet while the LWB version has 146.6 cubic feet. Total interior volume is going to be 143 cubic feet vs. 160 cubic feet. This is going to be a massive five-passenger crossover for the family that likes to it the road for vacations.

Here's news from the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe launch.

Mazda Mazda6

Mazda got a good whack with the unlucky stick when it introduced the Mazda6 back in 2008 when the second generation was introduced. The economy started to tank and then competing car companies like Hyundai and Kia introduced midsize sedans that were better looking and more fuel efficient. A great sedan soon became overlooked.

That's going to change. Mazda showed off the Takeri concept at the New York show that is going to be the 2014 Mazda6. Sure, that sounds a long way off but according to Mazda, the new Mazda6 is going to be debut early in 2013. That's not that long to wait for what is going to be a stunning sedan. Put your deposits down now.

Here's another look at the Mazda Takeri concept.

Honda Crosstour

About the only mistake Honda made when it first introduced the Crosstour was calling it the Honda Accord Crosstour. That was just confusing for buyers who thought it was some kind of inflated Accord. It's not. The Crosstour is actually a distinctively styled crossover that is comfortable to drive.

For the 2014 model year (it goes on sale this fall), the Crosstour features a more capable, SUV-like styling direction for Honda's mid-size crossover. The revised tailgate sports a more horizontal design to add visual width to the sculpted lines at the rear of the Crosstour. Plus, the V6 engine gets better fuel economy. Maybe this styling refurbishment and better fuel economy will finally get the Crosstour the respect it deserves.

Toyota Avalon

In an earlier review of the current-generation Avalon, I said it was a car I could live with for the rest of my life. It has a roomy interior, good-size trunk, and sufficient power for 99 percent of my driving needs. Unfortunately, it's perceived as being efficient and not engaging transportation.

As Toyota puts it, "The new Avalon is re-conceived for the premium mid-size sedan segment with a progressive and emotionally styled exterior design." On the inside, the front seat’s hip point has been lowered by 0.4 inches to help create improved headroom. The new power front seat design with increased side bolstering is more supportive and offers an expanded range of downward adjustment. In addition, the structural components of the sunroof and the headliner design have been optimized to help increase the cabin’s roominess.

More information on the 2013 Toyota Avalon.