Saturday, November 26, 2011

Car Show Leaves Me Exhausted

I attended the 2011 San Francisco Auto Show yesterday. As a huge dealer showroom (plus more), there were lots and lots of cars there, and plenty of people looking at them.

We arrived just when it was opening, hoping to minimize the crowds on Black Friday. We needn't have worried--it never got too bad. Descending the staircase, we saw the Fisker Karma--a remarkable and expensive plug-in Hybrid vehicle--and the powerful and very expensive McClaren.

It was the 1959 Autobianchi near the stairs that really appealed to me, though (a similar car is shown in the photo).

We opted to turn left and start our tour at the Lexus stand. The brand new 2013 GS was on display and a young man was describing its wonders. Looked nice, with its spindle grille, but not particularly exciting.

The Ford/Lincoln display had some new models worth considering, including two important Fords--the 2013 Focus BEV all-electric vehicle and the 2013 Escape compact crossover SUV. The electric Focus, due early in 2012, will give the Nissan Leaf some direct competition with its estimated 100-mile driving range. The all-new Escape replaces an aging bestseller with the more stylish European Kuga.

At the Hyundai stand, the new Equus looked huge and over chromed--and overpriced. It's surely contains all the right stuff, though, so we'll see who goes for it. The new Hyundai Veloster sports sedan/coupe was there with its oddball four-door sedan left side and two-door coupe right side. It looks better than that might sound, and in bright colors, should be another hit for the rising Korean brand. The Hyundai Elantra Touring could be a nice ride. It comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission and starts at $16,000.

Speaking of Koreans, the new Kia Rio hatchback looked like a shrunken little brother of the remarkably appealing new Optima. So much going on with those two brands now.

GM had some fresh merchandise, with Buick's compact Verano--the smallest Buick in a long time--and the new full-size Cadillac XTS. I think both could be successful, but Buick is still struggling to entice folks used to buying import brands. At least at a car show people can get a feel for the new iron--although these two cars were perched up on stands away from the future buyers to sit in them and check out the interiors. Chevy's new 2013 Malibu sat right next to the 2012 model, showing the big changes--while keeping a smooth, handsome overall shape. This is a volume car and needs to be excellent to battle the dominant Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

The 2012 Camry, by the way, was there, ready to check out. The problem is, it's so subtly redone that buyers may not be aware that it's new. As a mainstream midsize (virtually fullsize) sedan, it needs to not upset anybody, but it may not entice anyone either.

As I kept moving through the show, I realized that I was getting tired. There were lots more cars there but they didn't move me. The new Subaru Impreza looked good but they still don't know how to draw a pretty face at that company. VW had a couple of new Beetles there, and that was fun. I've already driven one for a few minutes so it wasn't my first look, but the future of that model is probably in good hands with the new, sharper, lower, modern interpretation. With it's hatchback and drop down 2nd row seats, it could be a practical choice too.

There were loads of classic cars from the Academy of Art University collection and you could drive the Nissan Leaf in a short loop.

Oddly missing--Mercedes-Benz.

What to buy? I need a small wagon or hatchback with a folding rear seat. There were numerous options, with the Mazda3 with SKYACTIV technology looks promising, especially in bright blue paint. The grin up front is a little toned down now.

Exhausted, now I'll review my hoard of brochures and think about my favorites.

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