With new 164-mph SUV, Maserati is latest to say 'vaffanculo' to climate regulators

Hundreds of people attended the press preview of the 2017 Subaru Impreza in Manhattan on Wednesday, but as soon as an executive invited them to approach the stage and take a closer look at the new cars, many turned around and rushed for box lunches that had been concealed under a large black tablecloth, above and below.

I enjoyed my hummus-and-feta-cheese wrap on the trunk of a Subaru WRX, which was on display during the first press day of the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center.


It's an annual spectacle few members of the public ever see.

First, the world's automakers ship their newest models and wildest concepts to Manhattan, where they are displayed in a show sponsored by the region's auto dealers.

All are hoping to win glowing reports, millions of dollars of free publicity and a spring sales boost from hundreds of members of the media during a two-day schmooze-and-booze preview.

On Wednesday, the first of two press days, I sipped bourbon, sake and champagne, and stopped for free lattes (with almond milk) at espresso bars set up by the automakers on the show floor of the cavernous Jacob Javits Center.

I started the day in the North Hall with a box lunch after Subaru showed its all-new 2017 Impreza, and returned there at 5 p.m. for a cocktail party for members of the New York-based International Motor Press Association.

The sponsors freely poured wine, beer and other alcohol, and served such hors d'ouvres as sliders and rare ahi-tuna sushi.

At the New York International Auto Show, this artwork was on display at a cocktail party the industry threw for members of the International Motor Press Association. Is the artist saying the media are in bed with the automakers?
The Maserati Levante SUV will be available with a Ferrari-built engine producing 345 horsepower ($72,000) or 424 horsepower ($83,000). They have top speeds of 156 mph and 164 mph, respectively, just what we need when Governor Christie closes the George Washington Bridge again. 

Multi-media events

Most of the domestic and foreign automakers stage elaborate, multi-media events to announce new vehicles, such as the Maserati Levante, a 424-horsepower SUV that is even louder than the Italian automaker's annoying Quattroporte.

As with Levante, the world could do without 99% of the cars shown.

On Wednesday afternoon, the media saw a Maserati film made on the cobblestone streets of Bologna, at the famous Monza racetrack; and, presumably, on an autostrada, showing a Levante roaring along at what could have been its top speed of 164 mph.

An executive with a thick Italian accent ignored a shouted question about gas mileage.

When the Levante goes on sale, it will eclipse the Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne and Cadillac Escalade as the most environmentally irresponsible vehicle on the planet.

Levante refers to "a warm wind," though some observers might think of its tailpipe emissions as similar to the kind of huge fart you'd experience after a bowl of pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans).

A rumor circulating on Wednesday had a large family in Sicily placing an initial order for 250 Levantes.

See: First drive in Toyota Mirai

You could wander from one display to another, and sip fine bourbon, above.
Three sakes also were available for sampling.
Leave it to a German carmaker, BMW, to serve a pale, unappetizing pork sausage, above, with pretzels, below. Other automakers held invitation-only cocktail parties and lunches.

Mercedes-Benz served cups of a salad made with quinoa, and wine glasses filled with cut fruit.
I live in northern New Jersey and have become sick and tired of seeing BMWs, Audis and Mercedes-Benzes. At the auto show, those German carmakers have some of the biggest displays, above and below.
Mercedes introduced three more cars the world doesn't need. Even those outrageously expensive AMG versions are no match for the fastest Tesla Model S. The California-based upstart isn't taking part in the show.

Lexus, Toyota's luxury division, showed a production model of a gas-electric hybrid sports coupe, LC 500h, above and below.

Meanwhile, Audi unveiled a hardtop R8 V-10 Plus, which is probably noisier than earlier models.

Getting there

The auto show opens to the public on Friday. Web site: 

Largest auto show in North America

This year, I was able to take an NJ Transit bus to the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, and walk underground to connect to the No. 7 subway.

That line has been extended one stop to 34th Street-Hudson Yards, and the station is about a half-block
from the Jacob Javits Center on 11th Avenue and 34th Street.

In the past, the trip was far more expensive:

I drove to Port Imperial in Weehawken, parked and took the NY Waterway ferry, then walked a long two blocks to the convention center entrance.

The 34th Street-Hudson Yards subway station in Manhattan opened last September.

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