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Restrained exotics are the rule at auto show

<div>Old money, less beatific roadways and a pre-existing limousine and livery culture don't make New York the most natural spot for automakers to debut the lowest-slung, low-to-mid six-figure muscle cars </div>
New York Auto Show Previews New Car Models
The Bentley Continental GTC convertible appears at the New York International Auto Show in New York City. The GTC will carry an MSRP of $189,900 when it reaches dealers later this year.Chris Hondros / Getty Images
/ Source: Forbes Autos

Generally speaking, when the purveyors of the most ostentatious exotic supercars use an auto show venue to introduce their most look-at-me, volcanic vehicles to the gathered media and the assembled pubic, the purveyors tend to choose a city as similarly flashy as the automobiles themselves. In these cities — like Los Angeles, Geneva and Frankfurt — money mingles comfortably with flash and dreamy driving roads, such as the Pacific Coast Highway or the Autobahn, exist.

Those conditions do not particularly describe Manhattan, home of the 2006 New York International Auto Show, going on this week and next.

Here, old money, less beatific roadways and a pre-existing limousine and livery culture don’t make the borough the most natural spot for automakers to debut the lowest-slung, low-to-mid six-figure muscle cars — Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the like.

On the other hand, springtime in New York makes an apt time and place for Volkswagen-owned Bentley to debut the 2007 Bentley Continental GTC, a 2+2 convertible version of the Continental coupe, which itself is one of those rare vehicles that manages to maintain major credibility with both captains of industry and hip-hop heads alike.

The GTC will carry an MSRP of $189,900 when it reaches dealers later this year, said Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, Bentley’s chairman and CEO.

Paefgen labeled the vehicle, “the world’s fastest four-seat convertible,” capable of achieving 194 mph with the top up, or 190 mph with the top down. A twin-turbocharged six-liter W12 engine produces a monstrous 552 hp. The car reaches 60 mph from a standstill in 4.8 seconds and features Formula One style paddle shifting.

The GTC is a restrained and elegant piece of rolling modern sculpture. While obviously the progeny of the closed-top car, the convertible has been newly engineered from its A-pillar back. Its dampeners have been lowered, and its front windshield is angled slightly more upward than on the coupe. The body is stiffer, as well, to permit a quieter ride when the roof is closed. That roof folds up in seven panels, as opposed to the typical five. In addition to being a style choice, this also permits 18 more inches of headroom in the convertible than in the coupe.

“I have always believed that convertible Bentleys have been among the most stunning cars on the road,” Paefgen said. This is the second top-free Bentley in the brand’s current range, following the Azure.

Bentley wasn’t the only high-end boutique with new products on display. Spyker brought its concept D12 Peking-to-Paris SUV to the show floor.

The new Spyker Car D12 super SUV is shown, during the press days of the 76th Geneva International Motor Show, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006, in Geneva, Switzerland. The show, featuring large numbers of World and European premieres, will be open to public from 2 through 12 March and is expected to attract over 700'000 visitors, including some 6000 journalists. (AP Photo/KEYSTONE/Salvatore Di Nolfi)Salvatore Di Nolfi / Ap File / KEYSTONE

The vehicle, introduced six weeks ago in Geneva and due to enter production in the fourth quarter of 2007, is a four-seat, four-door (including rear suicides) beauty riding on 24-inch wheels. The P-to-P’s B-pillar is a striking silver sculpture, metal carved with negative space with seat belts affixed. While larger and tougher-looking, the vehicle is in its own way every bit as lovely to behold as its stunning stablemates — purer sports cars such as the C12 LaTurbie and the C8 Laviolette.

Holland-based Spyker’s promotional literature says the prefix “S” stands for “super.” At the auto show, company CEO Victor Muller said the letter means “sports car.” Either way, the vehicle is far more of a crossover than an SUV; although neither does it justice. “It’s a four-wheel-drive sports car,” Muller said. “It’s not a traditional SUV.”

The Peking-to-Paris — its name that’s a mouthful of proper nouns, hyphens, a WWI-era rally race reference and, presumably, an unintentional shout-out to Proof, Eminem and company’s hip-hop collective — is powered by a six-liter Volkswagen W12 engine that generates 500 hp and goes zero to 60 mph in five seconds flat.

The vehicle will cost about $287,000, Spyker said. Muller noted that 250 will be built, and since the Geneva introduction some six weeks ago, almost half have been pre-sold. The P-to-P will arrive to buyers in Europe and the Middle East in late 2007 and in the U.S. in early 2008. Muller noted that the prototype doesn’t even have a fuel cap.

A few meters away from Spyker, Lotus exhibited a pair of limited-edition vehicles of its own, the 2006 Sport Elise and Sport Exige. Fifty Elises and half that many Exiges will be built. The former is street legal and will cost $54,995, plus delivery fees; the latter is based on the European racing version and is for track use only in the United States. Its supercharged 1.8-liter engine produces 243 hp; its list price will be $78,990.

Both of the Lotus vehicles have been souped up (in-house, to keep the profit from seeping to aftermarket firms) with Lotus’ sport package and track package, which includes adjustable rollbar, adjustable dampeners and improved suspension. The Exige — the racing car — has a functional roof scoop that resembles a portable CD-ROM drive, as well as stern window netting and no passenger seat.

Speaking of race cars Saleen introduced a 2007 Saleen/Parnelli Jones Limited Edition Mustang, a back-to-the-future bouquet from one famed performance-car driver and builder — Steve Saleen — inspired by a similarly famous name in performance-car driving, Indy Car champion Jones.

Saleen plans to build 500 of the orange-colored, temporarily-decaled, rear-windshield-slatted, rear-spoilered throwbacks. Jones gets the first, Saleen said. Production begins in October; the price point should be in the high $50,000s. The car carries a V8 engine that generates 370 hp and 370 pound-feet of torque.

Maybach, Rolls-Royce, Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati also have exhibition space at the auto show, although none made any significant product news announcements or debuts during media previews.

Amidst the Maserati’s three-car display consisting of a GranSport, GranSport Spyder and Quattroporte Sport GT — and steps away from neighboring Ferrari’s three-car exhibit consisting of a 2006 F430 Challenge, 612 Scaglietta and F430 — James Selwa talked about the importance of New York to the company’s bottom line. Selwa, Maserati’s president and CEO, was standing next to a 2006 Quattroporte Sport GT.

He said Maserati sold 2,100 vehicles last year and that the Quattroporte is “on fire” in New York. Why? Because of the low-key nature of this particular exotic, he said.

“This kind of car represents a little bit different demographic,” Selwa added, citing people who work in real estate and on Wall Street as archetypical owners. Put another way, apropos of the Big Apple, he said: “It’s an Armani suit on an athlete.” will be providing daily coverage of the media previews for the 2006 New York International Auto Show. for more news and photos.