Maxima plays up sportiness, a sexy Hyundai and more

The New York International Auto Show is the last major auto show in the USA until November. It opens to the public March 21 with a sneak preview; the media get an early look starting Wednesday. Here are a few models show-goers will see.

Nissan Maxima

What:A near-luxury flagship sedan. Pedigree:Nissan always throws some of its best into the Maxima even though it's a heartbeat away from the automaker's separate Infiniti luxury brand. Personality:Nissan is trying to play up the sedan's sportiness, including a cabin "imparting the feeling of a sports car" and new "drive-sport" position for the shifter for its continuously variable transmission. When:On sale in July. Why:Because just as some buyers opt for the bottom-level luxury car, others are happy to avoid paying the luxury brand premium and take the full-featured top of the line from the mainstream brand. Marquee features:A little shorter, but a little wider than the current edition. The standard 290-horsepower V-6 engine has 35 more ponies. The dashboard got an ergonomic redesign. How much:Likely to be a bit more than the current version's $28,270 base.

Acura TSX

What:Luxury sedan for the nouveau riche. Pedigree:Acura, Honda's luxury division, has aimed to attract younger buyers. So the TSX, as one of its least-expensive models, is critical to that goal. Personality:Sporty, for a luxury sedan. The new TSX has a smidge less horsepower, but more torque than the current model, giving it a feeling of more power across a wider range of speeds. When:In showrooms next month. Why:Entry-level luxury cars are the perfect place for automakers to capture the affluent as they begin to reward themselves. Marquee features:Real-time weather from XM Satellite Radio as a option. The 2.4-liter aluminum-block four-cylinder engine meets the latest EPA regulations for "ultra-low emission" vehicles. To underscore its sportiness, a six-speed manual transmission is available, in addition to the five-speed automatic. How much:About $28,000 to $35,000. The current model starts at $28,190.

Audi A4 Avant

What:A sport wagon. Pedigree:Derivative of the A4 sedan shown in January. Personality:Saucy looks yet plenty of room for those massive economy-size diaper packages from Costco. When:On sale early 2009. Why:Because mom wants the world to know she's successful, well-educated and had to trade in the BMW 3 Series sedan that she dearly loved in the name of becoming a responsible parent. Marquee features:About four inches longer than the current model, yet 10% lighter with a more rigid body for safety. The 2-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 211 horsepower, 11 more than the current version. Has lots of high-tech touches inside like a parking assist feature and warning systems to prevent drivers from drifting out of their lanes or to let them know if another car is in their blind spot when they attempt to change lanes. How much:Unclear, but the current model goes for about $30,000.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

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