Highlights from the New York International Auto Show

SUVs, American muscle cars and a stunning new entrant to the luxury market were hallmarks of New York's auto show.

The renowned Geneva International Motor Show is a tough act to follow. Hosting an exhibition after it (the Switzerland show took place in early March) is like trying to awe spectators with a Diet Coke and Mentos eruption a few minutes after they've watched a NASA rocket launch. Sure it's fun, but where are the flames?

Despite this seemingly monumental disadvantage, the 2016 New York International Auto Show, running from March 25 to April 3, has still managed to thrill. From the nostalgic classic to the out-there futuristic, from brawny American muscle to refined European elegance, New York's extravaganza left plenty for auto critics and car enthusiasts to chew on. 

To help narrow the focus from the hundreds of cars on display to only the very best, we've chosen a select few that really stood out: 

American muscle shows its strength

Remember the golden age of American muscle, back in the 1960s to mid 1970s (purists will insist things started falling apart the moment GM and Chrysler recalibrated their engines to run on regular-grade gas rather than premium, in '71), when cars were above all else about fast and loud performance? Maybe not. But Ford and Chevrolet sure do.

According to TopSpeed, Ford's Shelby Hertz GT-H and Chevy's Camaro ZL1 were two of the most impressive vehicles to roar onto the New York International Auto Show scene. The Shelby feels like '60s pedal-to-the-metal philosophy brought to modern life, with a new exhaust system for the 5.0-liter V8 that is a welcome throwback to the potent burbling sound so dearly missed these days. 

Chevy's updated muscle, meanwhile, is officially the most powerful Camaro the automaker has ever produced. Just how powerful is the ZL1, you ask? Try 640 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque on for size and see how it feels. Combine this incredible output with the Camaro's responsive handling and you're forced to wonder if maybe we're in a new golden age of American muscle. 

Hyundai leaps into the luxury race

We wouldn't blame you for thinking the new Genesis concept to be one of Aston Martin or Bentley's latest. Hyundai has gone in a radical new direction with its luxury brand, enlisting the distinctive vision of Luc Donckerwolke (the man responsible for the Gallardo, the best-selling vehicle in Lamborghini history) to give its concept car eye-catching appeal, according to Business Insider.

Donckerwolke has certainly succeeded. Talk of the Genesis took over the show, earning ecstatic reviews from critics and proving that the Korean automaker didn't overreach when it announced its plans to go after luxury giants like Lexus and BMW back in November 2015. The German car company's dominant 3-Series seems especially to be in Hyundai's sights. The celebrated Genesis concept is a not-so-subtle signal to the luxury car market that Hyundai is here to play. 

SUVs make a splash

Americans have been crazy about sport utility vehicles for decades. When gas prices started tumbling a couple of years ago, our country's love for SUVs only grew. Affordable financing, improved fuel efficiency, and cheap car insurance quotes only made bigger vehicles more enticing. Automakers haven't failed to notice their surging popularity.

At the New York show, every company seemed to be offering new SUVs and crossovers. Voice of America reported that the Navigator, Lincoln Motor Co.'s new SUV concept, drew the most attention from attendees. And it wasn't just because Matthew McConaughey was in attendance to help promote the vehicle alongside Lincoln President Kumar Galhotra. 

"The segment of large premium SUVs is very strong. It's about 170,000 units here and globally it's much bigger," said Galhotra. "These are customers who need a lot of space to move their friends and family and cargo. And this is a customer that also needs a lot of capability." 

Most concept cars never arrive in dealerships. Instead they influence the look and flavor of future production models. That will likely be the case with the Navigator, a vehicle whose grand luxurious features – including concertina steps – Lincoln is hoping will help separate them from the pack in an increasingly competitive SUV market. 

Other SUVs, like Cadillac's striking XT5 and Volvo's hybrid XC90 (advertised as one of the most-fuel efficient SUVs ever), were nearly as popular as the Navigator. It's clear from the buzz that any drivers looking for a crossover or SUV in the next few years will have their pick of a high-quality litter.