Thursday, December 3, 2009

New England Auto Show

After attending the New England Auto Show, I thought I would share a couple thoughts on the experience. Manufacturers do not reveal their latest concepts in Boston, in fact, Mercedes, Porsche, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, and Smart chose not to show anything at all. While disappointing, most of the no-shows don't have new products to display.

GM had a large presence at the show and their new models glowed. GM appears to have made a huge investment in interior quality. I was particularly impressed by the new Buick LaCrosse and the GMC Terrain. Both of these cars had high perceived quality, with stitching on the dashboard. My favorite GM car would have to be the CTS-V, given its performance credentials, it seems like and incredible value. The Camaro looked great, but the steering wheel was terrible. I mean really awful, there it no way I could drive it comfortably, I would much prefer the new Mustang, especially with the 300+ HP v6 that is in the works.

The SAAB stand was pretty depressing. I have always liked SAABs and feel that they are just starting to really figure things out. They did have the new 9-5 and 9-3X on display however the doors were locked and all I could do was look in the windows. Both looked good, its too bad it took 5 years too long to get the new 9-5 into production. On the other hand, the Buick LaCrosse looks just as good as the 9-5, and being based on a the same platform, with proper tuning could probably drive similarly.

We then moved on to Mazda and Subaru. The new Mazda3 felt extremely small and cramped inside. My sister also commented on how ugly it was. We briefly stopped at a Mazda5... Bad mistake, the Representable said it was a great car, to which Melissa responded. "If you have no legs and are crazy." It really had no legroom for the three rows.

I was eager to sit in the new Subaru Legacy and Outback. I was impressed. They have terrific build quality and I am glad that Subaru has ditched the frameless doors. On the other hand, I was disappointed they Subaru not longer offers a large sunroof on the Outback; it seems like a step in the wrong direction. Additionally, despite being a larger car, the back seat still seemed short as if designed for smaller people. I wish Subaru would be a little more flexible in their option packages, it seems a little too restrictive to not be able to get a manual in the turbo Forrester. I also wish they they didn't have a CVT.

BMW and Audi were the only German representatives. The 5-Series GT was actually pretty cool yet also made me question why anyone would choose the X6 over it. (the X6 was interestingly absent from the show) The new Z4 looks great, definitely would be my choice over the TT or SLK. Audi didn't really have anything new to show. The R10 V10 was cool, but locked. The S5 looked great, but there is absolutely no room for rear seat passengers.

I pretty much skipped Acura, the new ZDX does look a lot better in person. The rest of the range was pretty boring. I headed to Lexus to check out the new RX and HS, both featuring the new Remote Touch. It seemed to work pretty well, but I'm not sure if its better than a touchscreen. It also it a little counter intuitive having to press an enter key on the side like a mouse rather than click. The RX was really boring, a complete evolution of the previous car. I had previously disliked the concept of the HS, thinking it a waste of money over a comparative Prius, but I think in the end it was pulled on pretty well. I tried to hold back the unintended acceleration jokes...

Nissan had the Cube, which in premium "Krom" trim actually seemed pretty nice. It was interesting contrast to the Kia Soul which really felt like a car from 10 years ago. I think that KIA are looking a lot better, but they still feel like economy cars on the inside.

Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury were next. The stand was definitely bustling. The new Lincolns look nice, and I can't wait to drive one with an ecoboost engine. I wish that Lincoln could build a RWD car off one of the Jaguar platforms. It seems like it would give their range a lot more credibility. I was really excited to see the new Taurus, it looks great! I gave the interior a hard time because while it looks good, it didn't seem as nice as and Audi or BMW. Then I realized that I was comparing the Taurus to cars that carry much more cachet, so Ford must being doing something right. The Fusion looked good as well, I can't wait for a Mondeo based Fusion to come to the United States though. Speaking of the Mondeo and Kinetic design, the new Fiesta looked awesome. I hope it drives as good as it looks. It looks infinitely better than the similarly small Mini and I appreciate how instead of going retro, the car had a thoroughly modern appearance. Too bad I couldn't sit in one.

Onto VW. The new Golf and GTI are great. Its hard to believe that this one is cheaper to make than the old one because just about every surface looks and feels great. I particularly liked the chrome accents on the window controls. The new touch screen stereo interface also works particularly well, it seemed a bit like an iPhone actually. Otherwise the rest of the models were pretty much the same as last year. I wish that VW would offer AWD on more models. Ford and GM are definitely pulling ahead of then in regards to the availability of AWD. I would love an AWD Jetta Sportwagen!

Chrysler was basically a carryover until the new Fiats start rolling in. I can't wait to see what American/Italian collaboration brings to Chrysler.

The final stops were Honda and Toyota. Everything was boring as would be expected. Toyota was particularly lacking. It seems like the quality of their cars has gone downhill in the past couple years. The new 4Runner did not seem nearly as nice as the old one was. The Accord CrossTour is also just weird.

Thats all.

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