I talked my friend Steve Gunsior, into becoming a Wanderonomy associate by giving him an opportunity to share his thoughts on cars, driving, engines and more. His first assignment was an interview on the New York International Auto Show.
Wanderonomy: What got you into cars?
Steve: That’s about lost in the mists of time I think. I always remember liking cars and mechanical things – trains were my first love. I remember liking all the low, sleek sports cars in the late 1970s/early 80s. My first car (famously) was a 1980 280ZX that I’d bought off of my cousin. I remember fondly car shopping with my family when I was young. It was one of the few things I really enjoyed. I always loved the new car smell.
W: What’s your dream car show/event?
S: Can’t say I really have a single dream car right now. I have a five-car plan I’m working on realizing, even if it’s bit by bit. There are some cars I get more excited about than others though:
- Maserati Ghibli
- 2019 Cadillac CT6 VSport
- 2020 C8 Corvette (the mid-engine)
- 2020 Cadillac CT5
- E46 M3
- Ferrari Testarossa
- 2007 – 2016 Aston Martin Vantage (the first generation I think)
Generally, I think sports car fans are divided into Ferrari people and Porsche people. I’m a Ferrari person. I think Corvette people are really Ferrari people on a budget.
As for dream events – well, any day spent doing high-performance driving at Summit Point is a good day. I’d like to drive the Nürburgring again, though honestly, I find the Nordschleife a little limiting because I wouldn’t really have my own car and because of the time it’d take to really learn the track.
In the US, the best track for streetable cars is arguably VIR (Virginia International Raceway). That’s relatively close to me and I’d love to drive it someday at a HPDE (High Performance Driving Event aka track day).
W: Followup: Do you ever plan to go to that dream event?
S: Oh certainly. I’m scheming of ways to get a track-capable car again and I’ll certainly be back out a Summit. I’m also going to make plans to go hit VIR.
W: What is the most fun car related event you’ve ever done? (Bonus points if it was The ‘Ring w/CJ!)
S: Haha. The Ring with CJ was fun. The most fun car even I’ve been to though was the last BMW CCA track day I did at Summit Point. We were on the Jefferson Circuit. They’d just put me into one of the intermediate groups and we did passing drills on the track. That was a ton of fun.
Also, when I was driving those Summit track days I had a 2013 BMW 335i, whereas at the ‘Ring we just had a little Toyota 86. The engine in the BMW was/is considerably larger and more powerful. As somebody once told me, size matters. 😀 [COMMENT: It does matter, but when we go back to the ‘Ring we can rent a bigger car!] One other important point here – one of the joys of a track day is learning the track. One of the ideas is incremental improvement every lap. At somewhere like the Nürburgring you’re limited here to as you’ll only get a handful of laps as a tourist. [COMMENT: The ‘Ring has track days too or an annual unlimited pass for €1900.]
W: Why do you go to car shows?
S: I love window shopping. Also, it’s a chance to see offerings from the entire industry at once, take close looks at them, and not get harassed by salespeople. Also, if you’re a real car nut like some of us, it’s a chance to assess (and obsess) the entire industry in one spot all at once.
W: Why the New York show?
S: The three biggest auto shows in the US are New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Out of those three, NYIAS is now probably the biggest. Overall, the show is close enough to reach easily but still much bigger than my local auto show (Washington DC Auto Show).
W: What are you most excited to see in NY?
S: That’s a bit of a tough one this year. There aren’t any major new sports cars debuting. There are a number of other very new vehicles that I found interesting that I was looking forward to, however:
- 2019 Buick Regal GS
- 2018 BMW X2
- 2019 GMC Sierra Denali (yes, a pickup)
- 2019 Ram 1500 (yes, a pickup)
- 2018 KIA Stinger GT
- 2018 Genesis G70
- 2019 Cadillac XT4
- 2019 Cadillac CT6 VSport
A few observations from the above – You couldn’t really get near the GMC Sierra Denali, Cadillac XT4, or the Cadillac CT6 VSport, so I have nothing really else to add about those.
- 2019 Buick Regal GS – the interior is good, the seats are very, very comfortable. The red paint the car was in looked simply brilliant.
- 2018 BMW X2 – nice looking little car, I especially liked the BMW roundel on the C-pillars. But OMG is it cramped inside. Hard pass because of that.
- 2019 Ram 1500 – in the upper trim levels (Limited and whatever the Ram Rebel was in), the interior of this truck is a very, very nice place to be. Would genuinely compete with luxury cars. The exterior looks the business as well.
- 2018 KIA Stinger GT – I’d call it a genuinely well-executed car. It’s big, which people state in reviews but you don’t appreciate until you get near the thing in person.
- 2018 Genesis G70 – From the pics and description I was genuinely excited to see this car. That said, my initial impressions on seeing it are that the car photographs better than it looks in person. Also, I’m not sure if the build quality is all the way there to compete in its class.
W: If you had to drive one car for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
S: 2019 Ram Rebel. The apocalypse is probably coming and Stevie needs a GTFO vehicle.
Seriously, I’d probably take a hard look at another E46 coupe, either an M3 or 330Ci. T’was the only car I ever got so comfortable with I just didn’t feel a need to go looking around.
At or after the show:
W: What did you see that was jaw-dropping and why? Looks, power, cost, etc?
S: This is a fair question, but I don’t necessarily see anything I’d call jaw-dropping at every show. Recently, I’d only seen two vehicles that I’d call show-stoppers: the Range Rover Evoque when it debuted, and similarly the Jaguar F-Type when that debuted in 2014 or so.
I attended this show with my friend Kevin, and he and I agreed similar to Clarkson, May, and Hammond the next best thing is to find a car that gives you “the fizz.” The only car that came close to that this time was the Ram Rebel. A great looking truck that looked very comfortable inside. Kevin also got very excited about the Jaguar E-Pace. The Porsche GT3 RS looked all the business but you couldn’t get close to it. But there was nothing at this show that impacted me like the Evoque or F-Type.
W: What was the best in show?
S: Personally, I’m going to have to go with the Porsche GT3 RS. [COMMENT: There’s hope for you yet.] The car just looked spectacular in its green paint. I wish we could’ve taken a closer look.
I’m going to add a couple of thoughts here as well – one of the reasons I go to car shows is to see things that I might not have otherwise seen, vehicles that might surprise me. The New York International Auto Show debuted new Mazda 6, a pleasant surprise. Mazda doesn’t have a luxury nameplate, so they have to compete with the luxury brands through their “Signature” trim line. I sat in a Mazda6 with this Signature trim line. What a nice place to be – the dash had leather on it and the cabin featured good-looking open grain wood accents. The IP (Instrument Panel) was great, and it even offered a heads-up display. The MSRP for this car was around $36,000, for that it’s a handsome 4 door sedan with an interior that could – well, that could punch a Lexus right in the face and even enter a conversation with BMW. Were I in the market for such a car (mid-size sedan), I’d certainly take a test drive. The interior, layout, and general look of the BMW X3 M40i also impressed me much more than I thought it would.
W: What was the worst in show?
S: Well, it’s 2018. There are truly very, very few bad cars on the market right now. If I had to pick a loser of this show? The 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Average looking, derivative, and worst of all besmirches an otherwise hallowed nameplate. [COMMENT: Preach!]
W: What is the most over-hyped option the manufacturers were promoting?
S: I can’t point to any one option the manufacturers are pushing right now. One thing I did notice this year was all of the SUVs and trucks – the second floor is dedicated to them, and more are sharing space with the actual sedans and coupes on the second floor. If there was one technology I’d say is being overhyped right now in the automotive world it’d be the self-driving technologies, but I didn’t see much of them at this show. The two leaders in the tech I’d say are Tesla and GM via Cadillac. Tesla didn’t make the show and Caddy was focused on showing off their new SUV (the XT4) and other cars.
W: What is your favorite bar/restaurant nearby?
S: The Javits Center hosts the NYAIS, on the West side of Manhattan facing New Jersey and I’m not very familiar with that area. Whenever I’m in New York I try to make it to Del Frisco’s Steakhouse off of 6th Avenue. It’s a great, simply classic steakhouse.
For a more reasonable dining experience, I’d recommend Ashley Fine Food at 500 Lexington. It’s a café with a good selection of tasty food for what I’d consider fairly reasonable prices in New York around $20 for lunch.
W: What is your next car event
S: Likely the BMW HPDE at Summit Point in June.
W: What could you tell us about getting to and from New York on the US East Coast?
S: I’m DC-based, for years I thought the best way to get to and from major cities on the East Coast was Amtrak. The trains run regularly, go from city center to city center, are much more spacious than airplanes, are reasonably quick, and don’t require TSA checkpoints. That said, I was disappointed in my latest trip up to NYC via Amtrak. The train left late, was crowded, and the meal car didn’t open until around 45 minutes into the trip. Additionally, the wifi on the train was so spotty, I wound up using my Verizon Wireless service instead.
I took a nighttime Metroliner train to NYC at a cost of $186.00 and 3.5 hours. Next time, I think I’m just going to take a Megabus or similar service for around $40.00. The seats are smaller and there isn’t a meal, but there’s a huge price difference and supposedly only a 45-minute difference in travel time.
W: Where did you stay in New York? Any suggestions there?
S: My personal value pick for staying in New York City is The Lexington at 511 Lexington Avenue and 48th Street. I seem to be able to find rooms there at around $180 – $200 or so a night, which is pretty reasonable for Manhattan I think. The hotel and lobby are very clean, and there’s even a decent bar there as well. The hotel bar makes a very good Revolver cocktail.
My favorite hotel in New York is probably the Marriott Marquis right in Times Square. Great location, outstanding fitness center, and a couple of great bars on their 8th floor. “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.”
W: Any other thoughts on attending auto shows?
S: A few last pieces of advice on going to car shows. Think about why you’re going. Is it just to browse cars or are you actually in the market? Comfortable shoes, of course, help greatly. Check your coat, it’s worth the cost. Bulky clothing won’t help with ingress/egress of the cars and worse, might interfere with your evaluation of the seating. And the Javits Center is climate controlled, you don’t need to worry about leaving your coat somewhere.
If you’re taking pics you may as well have a good camera, or a smartphone with a good camera. The pictures in this article were shot by my Galaxy S8 Note, which has a good reputation for its pictures. I’m reasonably happy with the shots although I think I should master the camera a bit more. Bringing along a notepad or note-taking device never hurts, particularly if you’re in the market and looking to compare a few vehicles.
Lastly, car shows are famously crowded on weekends and last Saturday at the NYAIS was no exception. If you can, I’d take a day off and go in on a weekday.