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State of the Affair

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Please post your impressions too, if you have some!

Line up the troops

Impressions never cease to cement a picture in our minds. My picture of GM after attending the auto show in the biggest market in the US, Los Angeles, is of an improving, yet ailing automaker, desperately in need of shedding a stodgy, outdated image and of growing appeal outside of a core market of nouveau rich, the truck market, and conservative traditionalists. Demographics of those around the GM stands could easily be generalized into those three categories, but it would be ignoring the fact that GM’s latest slew of product is drawing in new clientele: I even saw a group of Asians looking at one of the Lambdas! Outside of China, and in LA, that is a big deal!

Looking over the product……..at GM’s stand, it is incredible to think of what kind of a product hangover we GM fans have had to endure. No offense to the Malibu buyers of the world, but in the landscape of today’s midsize market this car can be categorized as nothing but a dismal failure with a duck face. So much potential, so much storied history, so many loyal consumers….all gone because of product that consistently and triumphantly failed to entice. Who thought of the Envoy XUV? Why, in 2004, would anyone think smart consumers would look at this plasticky garbage interior and laughably discombobulated exterior and think there would be a market for this? It’s so ridiculous it’s ridonkulous. And wait, there’s more. The G6 with its cartoonish interior that harkens back to the Grand AM, when in 2003 the Accord debuted with an interior the blew the G6 out of the water, 2 whole model years before the G6 would debut. There’s more. HHR, while a short-lived success and perhaps a continuing incentivized-unit-whore, has almost no gas mileage advantage over the much larger and much more useful Equinox, needless to say the competition, like the Scion XB which offers similar room, but in a smaller exterior package, and obviously a cheaper price and less powerful engine. What about the Lacrosse, the car that came ten years late? Or the redundant G5, why stop there, what about the whole Pontiac line, which can't figure out who it wants to excite, or if it even wants to excite at all.

Now that I’ve stuck a knife or three into GM’s heart……forcefully and purposefully to get my point across about what went wrong……I can get to the positives of the GM show. The new GMT-900s seemed to have poor reception among the public, or it could have been the day I went, Friday, or the time I visited the Chevy/GMC stands, around 4 o’clock. Most people were going to the show on the weekends. However, the execution on the trucks, at least in the fully loaded SLT and LTZ [or whatever, they were fully loaded with sat nav], is nothing short of first class. As evok argued against me, the luxury interiors really are deserving of the “luxury” title. As I sat in a $39,000 GMC pickup truck, I felt like it was worth all the money. Coming from a diehard critic, that is a huge point in GM’s feather cap. I think the Silverado exterior is really so damn conservative, but charming. Every redesign of the Chevy pickup grows on me with time, and I believe this one will too. The Sierra exterior requires no warming up to, it’s already classy, if only a bit too safe as well.

Lambdas were literally all the rage! The Acadia and Outlooks that were on the floor were being visually and physically inspected by many different age and ethnicity groups, along with people who seemed more traditional and some more cutting edge folk who could possibly work in the city. That is all good news. Now for the bad……the Outlook is an impressive machine, and very good looking, at least from the outside. The problem is there are too many competitors to try and play it safe on the inside. The B9 Tribeca has an interior that causes people to buy it. The MDX/RDX have interiors worth salivating over. A new Pilot and Highlander are looming on the horizon….the Outlook’s interior seems like GM yet again playing it safe and only trying to equal the competition. All of the cars I mentioned are either direct competitors or within shooting range. Do not doubt that Outlook intenders could be the same buyers as MDX class, they are smart consumers and they look around and figure out what is the best deal out there for the money, combined with which satisfies their needs for style and features.

The Enclave seems beautifully detailed and is easily on the best looking SUVs of the show. A hit, I promise. There is nothing more need be said about it.

The Aura was good to look at, but the interior is a sore disappointment. GM will not manage to capture serious shoppers at Honda and Toyota with the flimsy armrest and poor center stack design. Cadillac’s stand was dominated by, excuse me while I duck for cover, older, people looking less up to date and more lost in space, affluent minorities, and a few scatterings of what looked like potential MB, BMW customers. Bottom line is they weren't attracting the hipsters, the in crowds, except for maybe with the Escalades. Cadillac’s stand was no where near as prolific as MB’s or BMW’s, but they had a neat light show and display for the Escalades, which, of course, were the most popular…amongst affluent minorities. Just kidding! [not totally] MB’s stand was also positively packed in comparison to Caddy; it was like comparing the opening of 007 Casino Royale to some movie that only made $1 million. Caddy was at least trying to play with the big dogs being situated next to Acura and BMW!

On to the impressions of the cars rather than arrogant editorializing……I got my first chance at sitting the STS V and XLR V, and both were very impressive, much more than I could have hoped for. The minimal but substantial changes bring upon a totally classy and rich feel in those cabins. I especially liked the XLR cabin with the great wood inside, that was hot. Unfortunately, I mind priced the cars and came up with something less than what Caddy charges. Going by the interior luxury only, [and exterior] and excluding engine or suspension specs, the STS was only worth about $60k and the XLR closer to $90k. Bear in mind, at the prices these cars fetch, there are much better designed interiors to be had, and that’s all I’m trying to say. Cadillac, and GM as a whole, need to start setting the trends, not falling behind, and not relying on copying others. The SRX was very pleasing, very high quality, and overall a solid package in its class. It is near, or at the top for me. The X5 is still the only SUV I would choose over it [more on that one later]. I still think the SRX interior is bland though; again an example of Caddy following the pack rather than leading it.

Chevy had nothing appealing besides the TB SS, the Silverado, Corvette, monstrously beautiful Camaro, and maybe that’s it. Buick Enclave does not deserve to be in the same setting as its lesser brethren. Pontiac had a stylish group of G6s that have been bungled and mangled…..on that note Solstice’s are becoming ubiquitous in LA. And what other cars does GM make?

On to my favorites, and the speakers of the show. The ones that make an impact that lasts. The ones that stole the show, imo, and in the opinion of showgoers. BMW 3-series coupe is my favorite car at the show, pretty close to my favorite car of all time, and I would just nut all over it. Ooops sorry. Hehe. The 3-series is a fantastically designed car, with not a single line out of place. It is dramatic, stealthy, classy, elegant, superb, everything you want it to be. And that interior! That interior is SO right. The colors, and the coordination, and the Teutonic flavor.

But why the pug face on the X5, BMW? And why did none of their other cars excite me, now that I see how perfect they can get it, and that the others are missing something [except maybe the 330 sedan, but even that doesn’t liven me up like the 3er coupe]. I think the new X5 is worse looking than what was there before, but those taillights are freaking killer, and most of the car is pretty damn fine.

Being so close to BMW, Infiniti’s new G failed to impress, even with its tight quality interior. I just couldn’t help but feel like I was among wannabes, that were Japanese design heavy, and therefore somewhat alien-looking. Suddenly, I lost interest in Infiniti. Do I think it will be a success? Damn sure it will be. Should everyone in their right mind own a BMW 3-series coupe? Damn straight they should.

Then there was Acura with their stylish spacey interiors. The cars themselves are very impressive, and so I know Acura will make inroads. However, the exterior design has to catch up to them, as they still don’t know how to properly execute an SUV. The MDX screams so many different trucks, including of all trucks, the Suzuki XL-7, it just seems muddled and lifeless. On the plus side, the grille is made of really high quality plastic!

Lexus is a bore, next! Okay, so the IS is cool, and the interior is tres fab, but the LS is riddled with renditions of other cars and winds up looking like a defined version of a Hyundai trying to steal BMW cues. The GS is blah. The trucks are blah. Anything I forget?

At MB, the new G-class interior embodies old world class. The colors are so creamy and delicious and luxurious. The materials are great, not amazing, but the whole collection of everything together when you get in most MB’s is of dignified luxury. For the haters, the R-class was disgusting inside, and the most ignored car of the stand. The new SL works incredibly in AMG mode, but in non AMG guise is pretty damn boring and derivative almost. The new C will heat things up even more, and complete the makeover, one of the most successful line makeovers I have ever seen. [The G grew on me somewhat, but I still prefer the beefier Escalade and Land Rovers.]

Speaking of Land Rovers, they are f*cking cool.

Jag had the amazing and sensuous XKR, which I cannot get over how sexy and reasonable it is.

Audi is still a triumphant leader in interior design/comfiness/warmth/material quality/awe-inspiring qualities. Their cars are among my favorite designs, and this extends to the lesser brethren at Volkswagen, and the Touareg, which still has an unbelievably rich and classy look inside. That’s how you lead, GM!!!!!!

The new Volvo C30 is the answer to a question nobody was asking, but if they can price the bigger wheel version around 25k, it might find an audience. Still, I think it’s a cool design. I would own one, if it didn’t make me feel so preppy, the thought of driving a Volvo. They do make some very classy looking cars with really f’in great seats though!

Aston Martin, Ferrari, Bentley are as ever unmentionable, unattainable, unrivaled in their beauty, and simply unreasonable. Why would I spend so much damn money on one car? I could save a country with that kind of money. Although a cheaper Aston might do…….$80k, you say, why that’s the magical number of maximum price logic, where do I sign?

And that, ladies and gents is my report. Signing off, I’m turbo200, and have a classy day San Diego!

P.S. please forward angry commentary to Flybri.....hehe jk

Edited by turbo200

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