I don't know how long the New York Auto Show has billed itself as "international," because I don't pay much attention. What I do know is that until the last couple of years, the New York Auto Show has been viewed by journalists as, at best, a top-line national auto show - largely because the event usually boasts only one or two decent new-vehicle "premiers."

But if New York's '99 palette of introductions is an indication of a trend, the Big Apple's gala may be on its way to big-league status after all; the early April New York show this year brimmed with significant introductions.

Consider that New York offered the all-new General Motors Corp. 2000 Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon sport/utility vehicles (SUVs) - the Suburban is the granddaddy of utes - Ford Motor Co.'s significantly redesigned Taurus, Saturn's long-needed, long-overdue midsize car, the all-new 2000 Oldsmobile Aurora and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s official confirmation that it will produce a new-generation "Z" sports car. And more.

GM's new Suburban and Yukon enjoy the changeover to the lauded GMT800 platform, but they're actually marginally smaller than the vehicles they replace, and GM's making noise now - in a clear reposte to the castigation Ford endured over the mammoth Excursion - about the "right" sizing of these vehicles. GM execs claim their new SUVs remain "garageable" for most households.

The 2000 Suburban/Yukon carry over the Vortec V-8s from the new GMT800 pickup line; the Suburban also will offer its traditional diesel option. Suburban's nifty features include a minivan-mimicing rear seat that folds flat into the floor and a "traction assist" setup for two-wheel-drive models - a first for full-size SUVs.

The company's Saturn division endured a lukewarm rollout of its midsize LS sedan/LW wagon duo - lukewarm because hardly anybody's interested these days in non-truck items, and lukewarm because the LS styling isn't exactly risk-t aking, although there are some smart lines.

The LS cars are the first users of GM's new "global" L850 all-aluminum DOHC 4-cyl. engine (137 hp), in 2.2L displacement. And at least on paper, the optional Opel-derived 3L DOHC V-6 should provide meaningful thrust. The base sedans get 5-speed manual transmissions, the base wagons a 4-speed electronically controlled automatic. The 2000-model LS and LW go on sale this summer.

Oldsmobile presents its 2001 (yes, that's 2001) Aurora, substantially reskinned and re-targeted now that a 6-cyl. variant joins the line to bolster the 4L DOHC V-8 model. Olds officials hope the 6-cyl. car - carrying the 3.5L Twin Cam first used in the Intrigue - will broaden the Aurora's appeal. The new Aurora - 6 ins. (15 cm) shorter than old but with more interior space, says Olds - sees showrooms next spring.

Finally, GM also shows up at New York with the "new" 2000 Cavalier/Sunfire J-body cars - both sporting look-hard-or-you'll-miss-it exterior and interior refreshenings.

Ford likely will catch some heat about the 2000 Taurus. Not on the safety angle, however, because Ford has loaded the new model with the latest, greatest protect-you hardware, led by its ARS Advanced Restraint System (see WAW - Feb.'99, p.63). Unfortunately, Ford didn't choose to equip the new Taurus' ARS with a headliner-mounted sledgehammer to bash out the brains of cell-phone yakkers, a move we suggest would be the industry's single most effective automotive safety advance.

No, Ford will hear it about the new Taurus' skinned-back styling. Ford's return to Taurus normalcy already has offended Editor Drew Winter's impeccable aesthetic sensibilities (see p.13), but Ford believes the broad market may see it differently. We can't see the sense of trying to look like a Lumina when the Lumina never sold that well, either.

As mentioned, Nissan, in a splashy New York show event, announced it will build a new version of the hallowed Z car. As proof that somebody at Nissan is listening, sources there confirm the car will employ a 6-cyl. engine, not the I-4 the company delinquently fitted in the first concept Z shown in Detroit. Not yet known is if Nissan will make the fully proper decision and insure that the Z's engine is an inline unit.

The New York show also hosted unveilings of the Infiniti I30 (handsome) and Mazda Motor Corp.'s new MPV (a yawn, but at least incorporating all the latest minivan innovations) and SaabAutomobile AB's juiced up version of the 9-3 coupe, the questionably named Viggen.