Hollywood's Next Big Car Stars

PRNewsFoto/Porsche Cars North America, Inc/Anatol Kotte

The New York International Auto Show gives clues to standout vehicles you'll be seeing onscreen and on L.A. streets.

The hits of this week's new york international Auto Show could be the stars of Hollywood's next blockbusters. The increasingly important annual event, which has long been overshadowed by Detroit's North American International Auto Show, takes place April 22 to May 1 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. It features a slew of eagerly anticipated cars making their stateside or international debuts, including new production models -- ranging from honking turbocharged sedans to fuel-sipping hatchbacks -- from the likes of Porsche, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. So which cars will Hollywood embrace? The Hollywood Reporter checked in with automotive product-placement expert Cat Stone, a partner at Los Angeles-based Stone Management, for her take on the cars likely to find their way onto the silver and small screens.

♦ Porsche Panamera S Hybrid
The Hot sedan's v6 will deliver 380 horsepower -- and the promise of true green cred

Starting at $95,000 and on sale later this year, the Panamera S Hybrid will add eco bragging rights to a car that's already become Hollywood's "It" ride. While fuel-economy data has yet to be released, the hybrid is expected to comfortably best other Panameras at the fuel pump. (The most fuel efficient existing model gets 18 mpg city, 27 highway.) Lest anyone think Porsche has gone soft, it is also debuting a higher-performance turbo model. The $173,000 Turbo S will pump out 550 hp, good enough to rocket it to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds.

Casting Couch "I'm thinking sexy car, big action," Stone says. "Shows like CSI: Miami and Entourage."

Lexus LF-GH
The hybrid concept car offers a glimpse at the next generation of the gs sedan

This aggressively styled concept car, making its world debut at the show, is a thinly veiled version of the new GS sedan -- a car in need of a makeover. The current GS, which competes with the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, has been around since 2006 -- ancient history in the car world. Elements of the concept car's styling are expected to be incorporated across the luxury automaker's range; in particular, its spindle-shaped grille will be inherited by other future models. No word on when it will debut.

Casting Couch "I could see this as a powerful woman's car; you see a woman getting out of this car in a suit," Stone says. "It's sexy, but it looks powerful. I could see it on shows like Celebrity Apprentice or Desperate Housewives."

Volkswagen Beetle
The third iteration of the iconic ride comes out this fall

The new Beetle, which debuts days before the show begins, has big shoes to fill: The Bug first appeared in 1938 and VW went on to sell 21.5 million of the vehicles until it was discontinued in 2003. A second-generation model, which ends production this year, will be replaced by this eagerly anticipated two-door. If there's a single biggest change, it's the emphasis on a newfound sporting nature: The car tops out with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower. Pricing hasn't been announced, but it's expected to start in the $19,000 range.

Casting Couch "There is just something about VW and fun; it'd be great to do something with a movie like Zookeeper or Kung Fu Panda 2," Stone says.

Mercedes-Benz c63 AmG Coupe
The coupe packs 451 horses and a price likely north of $60,000

Mercedes' new C63 is a direct shot at BMW's M3, the reigning king in the high-performance luxury coupe segment. The car, available in the fall, offers a massive 6.2-liter V8 that should propel it from zero to 60 in about 4 seconds. The exterior is spec'd out with black wheels, spoiler and trim for an aggressive look that differentiates the car from the more sedate C-Class coupe. The C63's interior can be spiffed up with optional carbon-fiber trim and two-tone leather seats. And if 451 horsepower isn't enough, Mercedes will offer an upgrade that boosts output to 481 hp -- nearing supercar territory.

Casting Couch "I could see an equal number of men and women driving it. It's sexy," Stone says. "For TV, it would skew more toward dramas than comedies; it'd be driven by a character you'd want to emulate. Same for film -- I'm thinking a franchise like X-Men." Mercedes is doing well on the product placement front: Its lust-worthy SLS AMG Gullwing will appear in the next Transformers film.

The New York Auto Show Goes Hollywood with a Thor/Acura Deal

Acura's not just in Thor, it's hitting the car and comics circuits with its tricked-out rides from the movie. The company, which struck a deal to make its cars the official vehicles of S.H.I.E.L.D., a fictitious law-enforcement agency in the film, will bring a S.H.I.E.L.D. recruitment center to the New York show. The booth, which has made stops at a handful of comics expos, will feature S.H.I.E.L.D.-styled Acuras and personnel from the agency. Acura declined to reveal the financials of its Thor deal, but Susie Rossick of Acura National Advertising says the company's plan to promote its role in the Marvel Studios/Paramount tentpole also includes a TV ad and website. "It's not so much the time you have in the movies; it's what you do with it," she says.

With the hybrid Panamera 4 yet to debut, THR's car correspondent, actress Lake Bell, got behind the wheel of Porsche's standard V6 model in New York, where she's shooting Season 2 of HBO's How to Make It in America.

You're either a Porschephile or not. It's like people who grew up with pugs. They'll swear that their dog is not ugly and the snoring doesn't keep them up at night. But I didn't grow up with pugs, or Porsches. My dad's favorite child was the antithesis of all things Porsche: a lean and mean Ford GT40, housed next to his best friends, a Shelby Cobra 427 and a KR 500. [Editor's note: Bell's father, Harvey Siegel, owns the New Jersey Motorsports Park.] Perhaps because of my limited exposure to Porsches, the (mostly) rear-engine, curved-backed speed machines have never really done it for me. And for the record, I have a pit bull.

That said, my three-day test drive of a slate-blue Panamera 4 was nothing short of a revelation. Manhattan's cratered streets aren't the sexiest environment for spirited driving, but there were benefits. For one, the city provided a test of the all-wheel-drive car's suspension. It handled the pothole-laden mess surprisingly well, offering superb grip while maintaining a smooth ride. Despite being Porsche's first-ever sedan, the two-ton V6 manages to feel light -- like a sports car. It acts like one, too.

Its effortlessly powerful pickup made weaving through a maze of manic taxis feel like playing life-size Tetris in 3D. I'm most impressed by how damn quiet the Panamera is in relation to the power it packs -- 300 horsepower, which is good for a top speed of 159 mph. The sedan's grace and elegance is punctuated by a somewhat subdued, respectable exhaust note.

This is a modern car that's meant to be driven everywhere (on errands, long distances, to and from work) and by a diverse demographic -- the rich, the well-off and the wealthy (it starts at nearly $80,000). With four butt-hugging bucket seats and a cockpit-like interior, the Panamera is flawless inside. The placement of every knob and button (including the precious "sport" button) is ergonomically seamless.

And for all the Porsche purists who have to go to therapy to cope with the Panamera's bulbous back end, I will say this: Porsche wisely introduced us all to their now-ubiquitous Cayenne SUV first, thus preparing us to deal with this bump issue -- and, of course, four doors on a Porsche. Haters should just drive this car before they comment on its physique, because its impressive performance will shift your opinion of the exterior. (By the way, that's relationship advice, too.) Apart from mediocre windshield wipers and a unsavory blind spot, I think the Panamera has converted me to a Porschephiliac. In other news, I'm still so-so on pugs.