The Auto & Truck show hit town last weekend, so I made my annual pilgrimage down there to see what was new in the world of automobiles. Despite a few head-scratchers, I thought there was a fantastic number of great cars and trucks at this year's show. Allow me to share some of my impressions on the various exhibitors in attendance.
Kia is killing it. I have seen nothing but steady improvement from them in all regards. From the Macan-inspired projector head lights on the Sportage, to the opulence of the $80K+ K900, Kia is emerging as a tour de force.
I was kind of feeling the vibe at Volkswagen. Things don't seem to dramatically change at VW, but I was extremely impressed with the Golf R. That thing is awesome, but I'm not sure I'd part with $50k for one.
The Hyundai line up didn't excite me much. They had the sporty version of the Sonata on display, but it didn't do much to inspire my boy racer side. That said, I do appreciate the bang for buck offered by the Genesis coupe and the understated luxury of the flagship Genesis sedan.
Mitsubishi is the new Suzuki. Many of their vehicles are homely, and I learned that the company is pulling the plug on the ever-popular Lancer, along with its performance-oriented EVO cousin. I give them a year.
Chrysler is a mixed bag for me. They have some legit muscle cars, so why would they churn out a "MOPAR" performance version of the pedestrian 200? It had a cheesy decal running the length of the body along with some other desperate accessories including a tinted bug deflector. Nothing says performance like a bug deflector. The Pacifica minivan was an unexpected breath of fresh air, but the rest of the lineup is showing its age.
Ram is in desperate need of an update. The design seems at least 20 years old.
I wasn't thrilled with the Toyota line up. My friend is a huge Tacoma fan, and even he expressed his disappointment in the current Tundra compared to the other big trucks. The company insists on marketing the Camry as some sort of performance vehicle, I think Toyota needs to fire its entire design team and start from scratch.
Buick baffles me. What is a Buick these days? They had a superior looking concept car, but even if it made it to production, who would buy it? If I want an American luxury car, wouldn't I buy a Cadillac? It doesn't help that their advertising continuously drives home the point that they have a lame reputation.
GMC is solid. They had a beautiful Denali pick up truck on display. I think they are making trucks that hit a high level of sophistication that the others just can't match. Well, I don't think Dodge is trying to rock a sophisticated vibe, but the new F-150 (in certain trims) is. I'd consider a GMC Sierra or Yukon if I was in the market for a truck.
Chevrolet showed off two variations of the Camaro along with a Corvette Stingray. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for both of those legendary machines. Apart from them, the rest of the Chevy lineup was lacklustre. The ad for the new Malibu suggests it resembles an Audi, but let me assure you, it does not. At all.
Honda has lost it. Their entire display was dead. Both times I walked past, there was not a single person perusing their line up. I took a look at the new gen Civic, but it was overdone in so many regards. It looks like the designers were desperate. "Look boss, the kids won't believe their eyes". I don't know what they can do to breathe some life into things, but the people were not feeling them, and neither was I.
Audi was awesome. That said, the current Q5 was looking like aged. It pains me to say that since I own one, and It didn't help that is was sandwiched between the new Q7 and A4, both of which are really growing on me. They had a sweet R8 on display (dream car), as well as a white RS7. But, the Audi that really spoke to me was the S6. In black, it was subtle, yet sexy. If I was in the market to spend $100K, it would be hard not to drop the wad on the S6.
Subaru was Subaru. Even when they change, they don't. I didn't spend too much time there. Lots of roof racks on display, though.
Ford had a huge variety of new trucks at the show. The F-150, in Platinum trim, was very nice, but pricy. Not that anyone pays full price for a ford, of course. They had the Focus RS on a rotisserie, and it looked menacing. The Shelby 350 Mustang was pretty cool, but 50 years of the 'Stang has them all looking the same in my eyes. The most action was around the Explorer, Edge and Escape. They are pretty nice, but they aren't as cheap as people think they are. Did you know a nicely equipped Edge runs north of $50K? I didn't. It shouldn't.
Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren, Ferrari, and the rest of the super class cars were all roped off like the prima donnas they are. Like most kids, I obsessed over the exotics, but they are just eye candy to me now. If I had to pick a favourite, I would go with a Maserati. Those things look wicked.
Porsche had five or six cars on display but they were all locked and no one was working there. It was like they didn't care. I was curious to check out the Macan, but no dice. At $66K, there was no way they were going to let Calgarians sit in one. (that was sarcasm) They had a base level Cayenne with the worst wheels I think I've ever seen. They looked like 14's. That was next to a Cayenne Turbo that cost over $150K. Ouch. I love Porsches, but they didn't win any fans with their elitist approach to the show.
Mercedes Benz impressed me more than I thought they would. They came strong this year with, what appeared to be, thirty or so cars. They have put together a comprehensive line up with lots of options for people at any price point. I was enamored by the AMG models as well as a super cool E-Class wagon. I was also glad to see they dropped the GLK from their line.
I like me a Lexus, but they were really trying to show off their new "We're hip and happening" attitude. They had the tackiest RC coupe on centre stage in disco yellow. It's like they are really trying to reshape their image, but I never had a problem with their image. They have a lot of cool cars and I could see why they were attracting a lot of attention from show-goers. Their redesigned RX was a hit.
You have to give Lincoln credit. They are trying. They had a Continental Sedan on the stage that made a bold statement. It was retro and modern at the same time. The interiors are pretty decent, too. I was curious as to why they had the Navigator sequestered in the Ford section, but it would have looked woefully out of date among its stable mates.
BMW was packed both nights I was there. None of their cars stood out to me, so I ended up just sitting in a X5 and the ever-popular M4, or was it M3? I can't keep track of their confusing nomenclature.
Jaguar was probably my favourite exhibitor at the show. Besides the overly indulgent XJ, every model on display appealed to me in some way. The new XE is a handsome mid-size package as was the long-awaited and highly anticipated F-Pace SUV. They had a menacing XF-R on tap, and they permitted the public to get cozy in all of them. I'd definitely buy a Jag.
There was a lot of action at Infiniti. I'd say a few nice things about the various models if I could actually figure out any of their names. What used to be the FX is now the QX-something, and what used to be the JX is now the QX-something, and what used to be the G35 is now the QX-something, and then there's that monstrous QX that is still a QX-something. There are all quite nice, but I didn't fall in love with any of them.
I love Range Rovers. They had the Autobiography big boy there, and that thing is beyond impressive. I felt like Beyonce up in that thing. They also had a gussied up RRSport in the SVR trim. Very pleasing to the senses. I was actually impressed with the updated entry-level Discovery, and the Evoque still manages to turn a few heads.
Volvo had an array of safe and sensible vehicles on display.
Cadillac came correct, this year. The new flagship XT6 is what you would expect from the company that defined a century of automotive luxury until it all fall apart somewhere in the 90's. Well, they are back. The ATS-V and CTS-V took centre stage and comprised the perfect 1-2 punch of luxury and performance. The both looked incredibly fast, standing still. A CTS-V or Audi S6 would be a touch choice. The soon-to-arrive XT5 crossover was on display, and it looks poised to take over where the SRX leaves off. Everything they make seems to have swagger and purpose.
Nissan had the most amazing concept truck on display. I just stared at it like a little kid in a candy shop, and I'm not even a pick-up truck guy. The new Maxima was there, but I don't care how much accolades this thing receives, it just looks weird. Way too much going on in the design department. I'd say Nissan is ahead of Toyota and Honda, though.
Mazda seems to know what they are all about. There was a steady crowd of show-goers around the CX-3 compact ute. A car that I didn't think would impress me was the new MX-5. I sat in that thing and instantly wanted one.
So, those are some of my impressions of this year's show. Take them for what they are worth.
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