NEW YORK - The annual auto show here always must exist under the shadows of the Detroit and Chicago extravaganzas, which come earlier in the year. But the 1998 New York auto show is nonetheless awash in significant introductions and industry news.

Unquestioned masters of the show are Ford Motor Co.'s new Lincoln LS6 and LS8 sedans. Their premiere here is the first public unveiling of Ford's by-now-well-known DEW98 rear-drive platform. The two 2000-model Lincolns, as well as an all-new, midsize Jaguar, will be the first products to spring from the wide-ranging DEW98 program that also will provide a new Thunderbird and who knows how many other future rear-drive models.

Lincoln's LS6/8 are slated to go on sale in the first quarter of 1999 as 2000 models. Little else you haven't already read in our early LS6/8 preview (see WAW - April, '98, p.59) was revealed in New York.

General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Div. launches a thoroughly revised 1999 Tracker. It will be available as a 2-door convertible or 4-door hardtop. But, the new Chevy mini sport/utility vehicle (SUV) - built right alongside its equally new Suzuki Vitara counterpart - won't have the new, all-aluminum DOHC V-6 the Grand Vitara enjoys. Although the V-6 is a distinct product-differentiator in the compact SUV segment, Chevrolet says for now it will track demand for a more powerful engine and if customer demand warrants, it will negotiate with Suzuki, its supplier, for the bigger powerplant.

GM makes less controversial engine news with a surprise showing of the long-discussed 6-cyl. version of the Northstar DOHC V-8. The engine is the exclusive property of the Oldsmobile Div. for the first year - model-year 1999 - after which it will crop up in many a GM product. (For a complete rundown of the 3.5L Twin Cam V-6, see p.155).

After being out of the Infiniti lineup for two years, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s prestige division unveils a new G20 at New York. It will be priced under $25,000, and Infiniti chief Tom Orbe says he expects to sell 15,000 to 20,000 this year; the car's only weak point may be its 2L DOHC engine, which produces motivation with an un-upscale four cylinders.

The car is sold in Japan and in Europe, where, badged Primera, it is highly regarded as a sporty handler. The car is built in the same plant in Japan as Infiniti's I30. The G20 is aimed at entry-level customers who will be satisfied with a 4-cyl. engine.

Curiously, Nissan has a 6-cyl. engine in the VQ range (the U.S. already gets the sparkling 3L VQ engine in the Maxima and I30) displacing the same 2L, but apparently nobody's asked Infiniti why this engine wasn't selected for duty in the entry-level Infiniti.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. expects to sell about 60,000 of its as-yet-unnamed new minivan in its first full year. The minivan will be built at Honda's Alliston, Ont., plant (home of the Civic) on a new assembly line. Honda has yet to decide whether the new van will be a replacement for the current Odyssey, says Honda executive vice pre-sident Dick Colliver.

The new Honda minivan is as large as any on the market, with an overall length of 200 ins. (508 cm). Mr. Colliver promises Honda's V-6 will be the most powerful engine of all minivans to still meet California's low-emissions vehicle (LEV) standard for light trucks. The new minivan has sliding power doors on both sides. (Look for Ford to offer the same on its '99 Windstar). Mr. Colliver says the price will be in the $25,000 to $26,000 range.

Hyundai thinks it has a better idea for the midsize passenger-car segment, dominated by stodgy, appliance-grade styling. The Korean company is betting future buyers will be looking for bolder styling, and proves it by unveiling the Avatar.

The show car is larger than the Sonata and more technically sophisticated than offerings typical of Korean automakers; the Avatar has a completely new V-6 linked to a 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, traction control, 4-wheel ABS, depowered front air bags, side air bags and seat belt pre-tensioners.

Despite financial troubles at home, Kia Motors Corp. continues to hum along in the U.S. Hoping to boost sales of its Sportage, the Korean automaker shows a 2-door convertible SUV that goes on sale in late spring.