19th Jan2011

Dispatches From A Small Market Auto Show

by Michael Chandler

On Martin Luther King Day I took in the final day of the Salt Lake International Auto Show. It happens every year, and I always go so I can put my ass in the seats of some of the cars I’ve been reading about. I say some because not every car is there (Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger) and some are locked (ZR1). This isn’t a huge show, like Detroit, LA or New York, but it’s an opportunity for us (the public) to get some time inside the new models.

With that in mind, I grabbed my ancient Nikon point and shoot, hopped in the Subaru, and made my way to the Southtowne Expo Center to sit in cars I can’t afford at the moment.

Mazda didn’t have anything new. The 2 was there, a smiley speed3 was there along with a new smiley RX-8. There was also something I had no idea they were still making: the Tribute.

Scion always brings the party… Sort of. They have a stylish booth anyway, and a new tC. Moving on…

Ford had a Fiesta on a platform, and a Boss 302 and a Raptor in their mysterious blue circle. By the way, the common man has no idea what the hell a splitter is.

Nissan was pretty busy, only because everyone was flocking to see and hear about the Leaf. Meanwhile the 370Z convertible was but a speed bump.

Honda had the usual Honda fare, and a CR-Z. I sat in it, and now I really wish this thing was a sporty little car instead of a confused hybrid.

Dodge had a furious fuchsia (mad magenta?) Challenger R/T, the good looking new Durango, and a hideous Nitro.

Chrysler had a 200. It looks like a Sebring and an S class had a drunken, dirty, regretful encounter in the alley behind a bar.

Hyundai was my favorite. The Equus is one of the nicest cars I’ve been in, the Genesis Coupe feels like it’s begging to be driven, the Genesis Sedan is still a solid car and very nice, and the Sonata will make Toyota and Honda wet themselves. They also had an iPad giveaway, so double plus good.

Lexus was alright, no ISF but an ISC. They also had a CT200H on display. It’s a four door, front wheel drive hatch with a 1.8L, 134hp four cylinder gas engine and an electric motor jammed in. To me it looks like a WRX wagon with an IS front end grafted on to it.

Audi brought out an S5 convertible and a new A8. The former looks good (although my 6′ tall self feels small in an A/S5 coupe), and the latter looks odd. I’m still liking Audi though.

Porsche had a Boxster Spyder (complete with scout tent!) and a 911 Turbo S. The kept the 911 behind a velvet rope and the Boxster was locked.

Cadillac had a CTS V wagon AND coupe alongside non V CTS models. The V wagon was open to the public, so I hopped right in. It felt good. The CTS coupe on the other hand was a mixed bag. Looking forward and out the sides was fine, but looking out the back was like looking through a key hole. The giant rear end has made the rear window tiny.

Chevy trotted out a Volt (sharp looking), five Camaros (including a drop top, that you couldn’t sit in), and two Corvettes (a Grand Sport convertible and a Carbon Fiber roofed, locked ZR1). They also had the Corvette Sting Ray concept. The concept was a throwback to the concepts of old: striking, but had no chance of being built unless a lot of changes were made.

Outside of the main hall were the high dollar cars, Jaguar, Ferrari, Maserati, and for some reason Volvo.

Before leaving I went back into the main hall and stumbled upon a Subaru 360. Seeing that, then sitting in a new STI made me realize how far Subaru, and the automotive industry, has come in just a few decades.

-Michael Chandler

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